Transformers, Japanese Style06/10/2008
The first of these is The Headmasters, which follows directly on from season 3 of the US toon (ignoring the three-episode season 4). As such, it brings back many of the characters from season 3 and introducing alternate versions of characters who were introduced in season 4.
While the Headmasters in the US version involve existing Transformers combining with smaller humans (or at least Nebulons, who are humanoid), in the Japanese version the heads are small robots who combine with large non-sentient robot bodies called Transtectors. They're pretty much the focus of the series, with many of the older characters barely appearing.
The second is Super-God Masterforce, which doesn't have any characters returning from the original series (although there are a couple of links to Headmasters). SGM introduces the concepts of Pretenders and Godmasters, the latter being the Japanese version of Powermasters.
Like the Headmasters, the concept is switched around so that Godmasters are humans who combine with large non-sentient robot bodies. In fact, most of the characters in SGM are humans rather than robots, including their leader Ginrai (who's currently the featured article on the Transformers Wiki). And it all takes place on Earth, while The Headmasters was more spacey.
The DVDs for both series include a very dodgy English dub done in Malay. One episode in The Headmasters starts out by announcing that Mars is the fourth largest planet in the solar system and over 50% larger than Earth. I stuck to the Japanese soundtrack with subtitles, and I usually hate reading subtitles.
And now that I've watched those, there's still Transformers: Victory!
One amusing thing I noted was that both series had a trio of Decepticons who seemed to exist solely for the purposes of comedy relief. In Headmasters it was the three Decepticon Headmasters: Mindwipe, Weirdwolf and Skullcruncher. In SGM it was the three Decepticon Pretenders: Blood, Dauros and Gilmer. Similarly the Robots in Disguise cartoon (translated from the Japanese series Car Robots) had Slapper, Gas Skunk and Dark Scream. I'll be interested to see if Victory includes any comedy relief..!
Source: Alden Bates