Head on! Head on! HEAD ON!

Today we’re taking a look at the second three heads out of that Headmasters box I snatched up — the three beasts. To get in the right frame of mind, here’s Hironobu Kageyama’s highly energetic opening theme to the 1987 TRANSFORMERS anime, THE HEADMASTERS. Remember, this is the version where the small Headmaster guys are all robots that combine with lifeless robot bodies, which is why we didn’t get it over here in the U.S.; in the U.S., the robots were all living Transformers whose heads were removed and reengineered into power suits for humanoid aliens called Nebulans. It was really weird, and never really made any sense. Heaven only knows how Hasbro would’ve tried to explain the animal Headmasters we’re looking at today …

Weirdwolf in beast mode, with Lione, Trizer, and Shuffler.

Weirdwolf is a weird looking wolf. Next to him: Lione, Trizer, and Shuffler.

Here’s Weirdwolf in his weird beaky wolf mode — again, note the lack of a tail, as the robot’s sword becomes the beast’s tail, a frustrating trick that BEAST WARS would repeat time and time again a decade hence — alongside the three beast Headmaster heads: the lion Lione, the tiger (yes, it’s supposed to be a tiger, despite the color scheme) Trizer, and the elephant Shuffler.

Another view of the three beast Headmasters.

A side view of the three: Trizer, Lione, & Shuffler.

Trizer for some reason reminds me of the BEAST MACHINES Night Slash Cheetor figure, and it’s not just the dark color scheme; I think it’s the large “shoulders” and the big cat paws. Lione is odd looking, with that big crazy erect crest on his head and a mane that hangs down like weird sideburns, but of course it’s all in service to the transformation. Shuffler is an awfully boxy elephant, but all in all he’s a cleverly designed figure. He even has tusks. I just wish he had a tail.

Lione perched atop Weirdwolf's body.

Lione stands ready to "HEAD ON!"

Lione makes an effective head for Weirdwolf.

Lione is one smart jungle cat.

In head mode, Lione has weird slanted blue eyes and a long face, though the crest that looks odd in lion mode is very striking and works well with the contours of the helmet top formed by the mane and the swept back points formed by the back paws. The cat face in the center of the “helmet” brings to mind Voltron, though in this case the lion’s face overlooks the robot face, where Voltron’s robot face is hiding inside the Black Lion’s mouth.

Hey, why the long face?

The net effect is that it looks like he's wearing a cat on his head.

The blue eyes (how very Autobot) have an even more pronounced slant than Megatron’s original animation design, and they’re very high up on the long face, which makes it look a bit odd. But I do like the shape of the head overall, and for one of these beast Headmasters the back doesn’t stick out too far.

Trizer stands ready to spring into action.

Trizer! HEAD ON!

Trizer turns into a very familiar looking head.

Trizer wears his sunglasses at night so he can, so he can --

Trizer’s head mode is very, very familiar looking. It bears a striking resemblance to Autobot Headmaster leader Fortress Maximus’s U.S. animation model, specifically Maximus’s sunglasses-shaped visor and pronounced chin, neither of which appear on the Fortress Maximus toy. He also bears a strong resemblance to the animation model for the following year’s Autobot Headmaster Nightbeat, who similarly had a sunglasses-like visor and, under certain artists, a similar pronounced chin. Mind you, Nightbeat was the one I thought of first when I saw Trizer’s head mode, but that’s because Nightbeat was a major character in the stories of long-time TRANSFORMERS comics scribe Simon Furman, whose writing for the character made him a fan favorite.

The stats don't match the visage.

He may have Fort Max & Nightbeat's shades, but he's got neither the former's vast strength nor the latter's detective wits.

Given that he looks like two of the more iconic Headmasters from the animation and comics, I do find his look appealing, though I’m a bit lukewarm on the color scheme. It’s awfully monochromatic. On the other hand, I do like how while he bears a strong resemblance to two Autobots, he’s in very Decepticon colors. I understand why he’s not a more obvious tiger color — that was reserved for Lione — but why dark panther colors? Why not more of a sunny yellow? Or maybe green? Regardless, I think this is the most successful of the three all around.

Shuffler shuffles to the top.

Mr. Shufflupugus, HEAD ON!

Too clever by half, and too long by the same amount.

There's a lot to admire about this design, but there's also a lot of stuff sticking out the back.

I like this guy’s face. I like the pointed eyes, not overly slanted like Lione’s, more like G1 Megatron’s animation model. I like the little “whiskers” on the faceplate; they give him character. I also like the G1 Galvatron toy-style crown, which also looks even cooler if you swing it down to the position it starts off in when he’s in beast mode. This also has the side effect of making a very boxy head more three-dimensional.  What I don’t like is the box of body-kibble sticking off the back of the head. This is what happens when you take a large animal like an elephant and try to ball it up into a robot head; you wind up with a whole lotta leftover elephant.

That speed rating is the lowest stat in the whole box.

I'd have thought his intelligence would be higher. After all, an elephant never forgets.

Still, the colors are nice in a 1987 sort of way, and would match well with some of the other Decepticon figures, especially the 1988 small Headmasters like Fangry and Squeezeplay, though good luck getting something this big on their shoulders. I don’t dislike Shuffler, I’m just a little disappointed in the highly awkward depth of the head mode.

I’m probably not going to take a serious look at the four “base commander” heads, but for sheer value it’s great having them in the set, especially Black Zarak’s head, since the original was cast from the sort of gold plastic that crumbles terribly over time, and thus is extremely rare in any sort of workable condition, on top of being part of a Japan-exclusive toy that all-around suffers from the same problem. That would probably be the most expensive of the four on the secondary market, but even the most common one, Scorponok’s head Zarak, can fetch something like sixty bucks on eBay; that’s over half of what I paid for the whole lot of ten guys. Sure, they’re bootlegs, or “reproductions” if you’re feeling charitable, but for someone who just wants the joy of playing with these toys, who cares? As I said at the outset, they’re very high quality knockoffs, and given that the bootlegger filed away the copyright information, they only destroy the value of the real thing by virtue of being a workable alternative for just the sort of person I just mentioned — someone who wants to open that box, take ’em out, and pop ’em on some Headmaster figures. If you can find one, it’s almost worth buying just to provide some noggins for Headmaster figures with missing heads. Definitely one of my favorite toy acquisitions of the last year, and once I can scrounge up some more cheap Headmaster bodies I’ll be even happier with the lot of ’em.