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
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
A: Don’t you think we’d have been buried in female
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.
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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