Interview with Kaneda Masumi
By: Hydra Darkwings
(26/08/04)
Sources: Transformers Generations
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Interview with Kaneda Masumi(Translated from Transformers Generations text)

 

Q: Mr. Kaneda, how was it that you became involved in the planning for the Transformers anime?

A:  Well initially, America’s Sunbow Productions received orders from Toei Douga (now Toei Animation) and they worked at it, but with the completion of 2010, it was decided that the next series would be produced by a Japanese crew. Up to that point, on the TV Magazine staff I was in charge of the treatment of all sorts of TV characters, and for Transformers, the original line comprised by remnants of Microman, I dealt with the planning/development, and the writing for the comics. With the progression of things, the original planning with Toei was put in my hands. Together with Magami Ban, who also drew the comic, I took part in the character design.

Q: Do you have any particular reflections on the first series you were directly involved in, “The Headmasters”?

A: What I intended was for the word “transform” not to only signify change, but also to try and bring to it the meaning of “growth.” That’s why the Headmasters aren’t established as professional soldiers so much as ordinary citizens, and I envisioned it as depicting the changed form of young people, as they grow through battle.

(Hydra’s note: I interpreted this as meaning that being normal robots who “grow” to engage in combat, the Headmasters themselves signify the transformation of youth into adulthood?)

Q: Any anecdotes from the stage of planning you were involved in?

A: In the actual work, the most challenging factor was by and large the number of characters. Allowing all the characters involved through 2010 to make a showing while needing to create original plotlines was certainly very difficult. So, I recall that the Targetmasters, who were originally planned to have an early appearance, were shifted to the later half of the series.

Q: Since Chromedome wasn’t a major item for production overseas, why was it that he became a lead character?

A: At the point planning for Headmasters began, those decisions were made by laying out the toy line-up, and choosing among them which would be the lead character. From among them, we chose the car, since it was an extension of Convoy and Rodimus Convoy having been automobiles. We chose for our lead, Chromedome, to be a fiery young character. That’s what you’d call a progression of the classic “Space Battleship Yamato” image.

Q: On the subject of Yamato, famous anime writer Fujikawa Keisuke was also involved.

A: That’s right. He had previously been involved in such works as Mazinger Z, Space Battleship Yamato, and Galaxy Express 999. Therefore, particularly in the later half as the stage shifts to space, it seems like really gave off the atmosphere of a Matsumoto Leiji work. About Matsumoto Leiji and character designs, at one time Magami Ban worked in Matsumoto’s studio, and in the show “Planetary Robo Danguard Ace,” he had a hand in the design of the character Mecha Satan. Now that I think of it, the producer was Yokoyama Kenji of Mazinger Z, Iron Zeeg, and 999. That’s really why Transformers is just soaked with the feeling of Toei’s sci-fi robot anime from years past. Ando Toyohiro and Araki Yoshihisa, both veterans from this field, were also involved.

 

Q: In establishing Masterforce with a present-day feel, it altered a lot of aspects of the show, didn’t it?

A: I’d say so. Perhaps it’s best to say that it founded a “Transformers” unique to Japan. Hoshiyama Hiroyuki, of Mobile Suit Gundam, was involved in the planning. The theme was, “You too can become a Transformer.” Among all of Toei’s Transformers, Masterforce was by a long shot the closest to my original vision. But in planning, in order to contrast with Shuta, a scientist’s son from the city, I had intended Cab as a more wild and enigmatic character. To have him as the last descendant of an ancient civilization, tying into the Bomber Project…that’s the plotline we were thinking of. Cab really lead to the character from Toei’s program GeGeGe no Kitaro: Jigoku-hen that was broadcast around the same time, “Hell kid.” I believe Imazawa Tetsuo, the chief director of Masterforce, also directed the first season of that show.

Q: In regards to Ginrai, at that point what was his intended connection to Convoy?

A: Just as you’d expect, he was initially planned to be a new Convoy. But, since the popularity of his character exceeded our expectations, his connection to Convoy was de-emphasized in the show. But just to make sure, in the “Chojin Masterforce Encyclopedia” video, we established in the script, “Ginrai was intended to be used as Convoy’s new body.” Also, there’s something of a secret about his naming, that being that the powered up “God Ginrai” is pulled from “Godzilla.” For that reason, I think the name echoes a strong feeling. In the naming process, Guts Ginrai was also a compelling possibility. Now thinking back on it, it seems like in having Ginrai combine and power up with other robots, something that became a standard for robot toys, we showed a lot of foresight with the character.

Q: So, what were the themes of Masterforce?

A: Well, they were basically just as depicted in the anime, but essentially “Super-god” (cho-jin) meant that in surpassing the gods, you return to the human being itself. This topic also relates to the ending. You see, Black Zarak changed into a serpent mode. Imbuing it with the most sinister meaning, we named it “Scorpention” (dakatsu), a snake/scorpion in both name and shape. With Giga and Mega as Adam and Eve, we likened Earth to the apple. And likewise, Black Zarak was the serpent that cast Adam and Eve out from Eden. That was the concept we placed in the snake form. Incidentally, the last scene for the final episode that I planned, “You too Transform with the Masterforce,” was supposed to be used as an eyecatch, but something from the cutting room floor got put in there instead.

 

Q: And so you continued into Transformers: Victory…

A: The victory indicated by the title—that was about whether this “victory” is really just defeating your foes. It seemed like more than in the anime, this theme was strongly expressed by the comic version I wrote. Comparing the relationship of Star Saber and Jan to that of birds, the theme was how a lost infant bird (Jan), rescued by a migratory bird traveling the wasteland of outer space (Star Saber), would continue to grow. That’s why I used a bird’s feathers as the motif for Jan’s hairstyle. Except the Jan of my planning and the character design for the anime version ended up differing a bit. The Jan I had thought up was a pure, innocent young man raised by robots in space. You might say, someone not raised amidst nature, but in an inorganic environment. Finally, that image emerged in the comic with the appearance of Jan’s rival, Solon. Also, I had plans to imbue the Brainmasters with a certain character, which ultimately came out in the comics in the form of the Victories.

Q: Why was it that only Minerva didn’t appear as one of the Victories?

A: Don’t you think we’d have been buried in female characters? (laughing)

Q: Then after Victory was Transformers: Zone, which moved from the stage of TV to OVA?

A: I thought of Zone as a tale themed around the creation of the galaxy. I regret not being able to continue it with Roadfire’s appearance. In my own plot, the climax was the birth of a new planet on which Transformers and humans could coexist.

Q: Finally, would you say a few words about the Transformers series as a whole?

A: Well in any case, it was a work that various aspects of anime were appropriated from.  The concept of using transforming robots as characters in creating a drama was one that exerted a major influence over later robot anime. And also, motifs like having a rescue squadron, which might otherwise have been the basis for one show or so, became a widely used phenomenon. Not surprisingly, in that story is the roots of this kind of production, one has to form the ideal seeds. By that standard, the fact that Transformers was a major hit at this time and continues to be supported to this day indicates to me that those seeds grew up strong.

 
Hydra's comments:

To me this is one of the most interesting interviews held with Kaneda Masumi, creative mind behind many of the major themes in the Japanese-only Transformers shows. He confirms a lot of the notions I had about the allegories in TF shows, such as the biblical dimensions of Masterforce. The idea of Victory characters stemming from birds was certainly a new one to me, although come to think of it, Deszaras’ alt-mode and helmet resemble a giant bird far more than any typical dragon or dinosaur. The relation of God Ginrai’s name is pretty funny, since taking the first sound of each component of his name in Japanese, goddo jin rai, it straight out spells “Godzilla” (gojira). It’s appropriate in more ways than one, since with the inclusion of Taoist forces, Ginrai too became something of a “force of nature.” I’ll be translating other articles on Kaneda’s work in Transformers, so keep your eyes open for it!


 
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