Foreword to Transformers: Zone, by Kaneda Masumi

“Foreword to Transformers: Zone, by Kaneda Masumi”
Article: Hydra
Formatting: Might Gaine
Sources: Zone DVD liner notes
Kaneda Masumi, Transformers: Zone Planner/Writer
In the beginning, we had various plans, such as releasing a number of videos, and then editing them together for TV broadcast form. That’s why the opening and ending were done in the general TV format. Zone ended up being just a one-episode anime, but it was assembled as the first part of a feature-length film, or possibly as the first episode of a half-season. Even as a short work, being a video it could be viewed repeatedly. Those were the kind of plans we had for this production. Rather than the first episode of a TV show, I suppose it took on more the feel of an original drama from the “Toei Manga Festival.” Comparing it to previous series or other robot anime, the quantity of highlight scenes and depth of information were particularly high.
Although the serialized Transformers comics ended with Victory, the simultaneously published “Transformers Secret Notebook” series continued to be issued including original comic stories that were drawn by Magami Ban. As the anime production ended up continuing into this, I think overall story and character designs were essentially the same.
Since the setting was a planet of Transformers, the “Z” in the title (Z=ultimate) took on the meaning of this world of Transformers, in a word, “Zone.” Since Microtransformers had already been established previously, I don’t believe there were any particular restrictions or demands, except the request that hit character Victory Saber put in an appearance. The Powered Masters were new Transformers who, traversing the vast galaxy, watched over the evolution and culture of living beings: Star warriors with the power of genesis. The new Cybertron chief commander Dai Atlas was a figure who watched over and protected both the Transformers’ planet, built with the accumulated chic of science, and the Earth, blessed by bountiful nature. As Planet Feminia was ruined in the prologue, we envisioned a story where in the final episode a new world is given birth to.
In the later episodes, facing attack by the titanic Destron Metrotitan, Earth would be in a state of crisis, on the verge of becoming another Feminia. Just as the flower from Feminia and that of Earth allow flowers to bloom on new ground, Big Powered (combined form of the Powered Masters with new warrior Roadfire included), bathed in the light of the galaxy-creating Zodiac, carry out their attack on the Destrons. We had planned that thereafter, a Zone with no distinction between Cybertron, Destron, Transformer, or human would be born into the galaxy, and with the united thoughts of all of them, a new flower would bloom. We envisioned Kain and Akira in the role of divine children, thus spiritual mediums (miko). If I ever had the opportunity, even for just the project itself, I’d like to see it come to fruition.
[Hydra’s note: It’s unclear from any angle what exactly Kaneda means by suggesting that Kain and Akira would have become akin to miko, basically the Shinto priests/priestesses that tend to shrines. He doesn’t elaborate. Conceivably, given the birth of this new world, their relationship to the “creators” of this world would afford them some spiritual power?]
Early design sketches
Early sketches of Dai Atlas, where he was envisioned as the chief commander for the 1990 line. Designated as a B/O (battery-operated) robot, the original premise was for him to include various battery-powered gimmicks. The right chest section opens, becoming a gun platform specifically for Microtransformers. Additionally, in the planning stages the chief commander was called Motormaster Titan, a name later transposed to enemy commander Metrotitan.

A drill tank designed with a large gun on either leg. It finally was made into the basic transformation of Dai Atlas, but was originally planned as a combining robot.

Airplane formed by the top half. This model of the main wings was carried over into the final version. The back of the robot head is behind the canopy.

Zone Mode. The robot’s left chest section was to convert into a command center. Also significant is that the wings were mounted on the rear. The gun could be placed on the left leg.

Battery-powered rolling mode reminiscent of Diaclone’s Robot Base. The legs are equipped with treads. With the drill on his arm, there were plans for an automated rotating gimmick.

The leg sections could be played with as vehicles in which Microtransformers would ride.

The directly pre-final design for Sky Powered. The bird design elements incorporated into Sonic Bomber are a major point of difference. The wing area of Dai Atlas also changed considerably.
Hydra’s comments
At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of Kaneda’s plan that the Powered Masters would be these godly Transformers that eventually give birth to a whole new world. Even by Transformers standards, it’s kind of strange, and seems to echo the Dragonball mentality that each main character has to inexplicably surpass the previous in terms of power. Still, he’s kind of giving out the final plot twist in what ought to have been at least a decently long mini-series, so it’s a little out of perspective just having it all laid out. I think if I hadn’t seen all of Masterforce, and someone said, “It’s about a bunch of Transformers who pretend to be humans and humans who pilot robots, and then all the robots become Transformers,” I wouldn’t have initially been sold on the idea, although it’s actually one of my favorite TF series. And of course, I’d really like to know why they just tossed in the Zodiac and all these resurrected Destron generals, but ah well…
Like Kaneda, I hope that Takara could finish out the series someday outside of what they did in TV Magazine, since that only described the vague outline of a story. Actually, It’s too bad the Zone DVD doesn’t have a commentary by Kaneda, because I’d like to hear his explanations for some aspects of the first episode, most conspicuous among them being the overwhelmingly gay, not-even-slightly-in-the-closet yaoi sexual tension between two boys, Kain and Akira. Thought Gundam Wing was the first anime from a boys’ series to play that card? Apparently not.
Personally, I would have liked to see the Dai Atlas toy resemble the early designs more closely, since his separating and recombining feature seems cool, with the way his legs can be attached as either legs or a mobile tank base. At least with him splitting into various distinct vehicles, he’s not combined to his main “drill thing” vehicle mode, which I always found to be laughably ambiguous on the actual toy–it’s a tank, with huge jet wings and a drill on the front… got a kitchen sink on there somewhere too?
Keep an eye open for more interviews with Kaneda Masumi to be posted to the site