X. New visions and changing landscapes
1990 was not the best time for Japanese animation or the transforming robot genre. During the anime boom of the late '80s, many Japanese animation studios overextended themselves by producing expensive feature films that didn't provide enough return at the box office. Although there were a few exceptions (notably the famous Studio Ghibli
started by Hayao Miazaki), most of the anime studios were hurting and had to scale back their releases. The direct-to-video animated features became a main focus of the giant robot genre, but there weren't any real breakthough hits until well into the '90s. The Gundam franchise continued with moderate success, including the continuation of the comedic SD (Super Deformed) Gundam
anime series, the serious Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
(1991-92) and Gundam Victory
(1993). Also continuing into the early '90s was the mecha police series Patlabor
, which began as an OVA and spawned a movie and TV series. 1990 also brought an OVA continuation of the transforming animal robot combiner series Dancouga
SD Gundam video and Dancouga OVA
Certain classic robot series from the '60s and '70s were given a makeover and had updated "re-imaginings" released as OVAs during this time period, with varying degrees of success. These included Getter Robo Go
(1991), Giant Robo
(1992) and Ambassador Magma
(1993). An alternate-timeline sequel to Macross
was also released as a 1992 OVA series titled Macross II: Lovers Again
. This Macross sequel series bore little resemblence to the original TV series or movie, and was generally not well received either in Japan or in the US, where it saw limited theatrical release as a condensed feature film.
VF-2SS Valkyrie II
Also continuing uninterupted into the 1990s was the unstoppable live-action Super Sentai TV franchise, which has introduced a new series every year since 1979. Bandai continued to produce the toys of the color-coded combiner robots from these shows, but no longer as the diecast metal "chogokin" toy line. The 1992 series, Dinosaur Squadron ZyuRanger
, is noteworthy as the first Sentai series to be edited into the first US season of Power Rangers
Giant robots from ZyuRanger
, later to become Power Rangers
in the US.
Of interest to Transformers
fans is the 1990 Japanese direct-to-video anime Transformers: Zone
. This was intended to be a new TV show to continue the Japanese-created TF anime series, but the series was canceled before airing and it was merely released as a 30 minute OVA. This is considered the final Japanese contribution to their "generation one" Transformers anime series. In spite of this, there two more small waves of Transformers toys released in Japan from 1991-1992 that had no anime series to support them.
The Japanese were quick to replace the G1 Transformers anime series with the new and unrelated Brave Exkaiser
, which used some similar TF-type plots and robot designs, including slight variations on the Dinobots
. The show and its related Takara toy line was popular enough to spawn several similar but unconnected sequel series referred to as the Yusha ("Brave") series
that ran from 1990-1998. A few other Transformers designs were used in the following "Brave" series as well, including the six-changing Decepticon "Sixshot".
Transforming "God Max" combiner robot toys from the Brave Exkaiser
The 1987 Decepticon "Six Shot" remolded as "Shadow Maru" in the 1994 series Brave Police J-Decker
Back in the United States, the Transformers toy line known as G1 came to an end in 1990 with the release of the Action Masters
line of figures. The figures were smaller, more faithful depictions of the G1 cartoon robot forms, but without the abilty to transform. Transforming weapons and vehicles were included to make up for this, but the concept of non-transforming Transformers didn't catch on and the toy series was short-lived.
Hasbro was not content to let the Transformers toy series lie down for long however, and 1993 saw the release of the "Transformers: Generation 2"
toy line in the US. At first, the G2 toys were mostly just brightly colored repaints of selected G1 toys with additional weapons and electronic sound accessories. However, completely new robot designs were soon commisioned from Takara and some popular redesigns of G1 characters were introduced from 1993-'95. Possibly the most notable redesign was that of Megatron, who was given the new form of a tank. Other new toy molds of various sizes and types followed, including a group of small vehicle Transformers called "Go-Bots", courtesy of Hasbro acquiring Tonka and the "GoBots" brand name in 1991. Unfortunately, this new wave of Transformers didn't really take off. The so-called Transformers: Generation 2 cartoon
was merely the old G1 episodes framed with new computer generated opening credits and introductions. The G2 toy line was canceled in 1995, but Hasbro's recent purchase of Kenner toys would bring in a new design team and a new vision for the next Transformers concept.
Generation 2 Grimlock and Megatron
Next: Beast Wars and a new "Genesis" in Japan