Review: The Transformers: The Movie 30th Anniversary Steelbook

Release Date
Blu-ray Steelbook
Studio / Publisher
Toei / Manga Entertainment
Audio / Subtitles
English 5.1, English 2.0 / English, Spanish
Run Time
84 Minutes

The Transformers: The Movie is an interesting release from Mange Entertainment. It’s a 1986 American animated movie based on the American animated TV series of the same name, but the anime production is entirely the work of Toei, the studio that brings us such beloved anime as Digimon, One Piece, and Sailor Moon. The good old rule of “if it’s animated in Japan, it’s anime” applies here, so this title falls under Japan Curiosity’s jurisdiction. It doesn’t hurt that it’s even listed over on MyAnimeList. Manga’s release of The Transformers: The Movie comes to the UK as a 2-disc blu-ray SteelBook™.release, offering us both the theatrical widescreen version of the movie and the open matte TV broadcast version, on separate discs. Also included is a digital copy, redeemable through iTunes.

The war against Cybertron isn’t going well for the Autobots. The Decepticons have conquered the planet, with the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, hiding on the planet’s moons and an old Earth base. Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, arrives on an Autobot shuttle with some other Decepticons and kills four Autobots. The Decepticons then arrive at the Earth base, resulting in a war with casualties for both sides, including Optimus. Unicron, a sentient all-devouring planet,  is disturbed by the Matrix of Leadership that was once Optimus’s. Unicron regenerates Megatron and other weak Decepticons, forcing them to hunt for, and destroy it.

This all-new transfer is truly a sight to behold; I always enjoy watching cel animation that hasn’t had every last instance of grain scrubbed away. Transformers: The Movie looks amazing, with fine detail that won’t have ever been seen by anyone that didn’t work on the animation production before this restoration. The animation is fluid throughout, but ranges from incredibly detailed art to simple drawings, though always looking great in this release. The soundtrack is exactly what you’d expect from an 80s animated movie – 80s power ballads and rock, all making for an enjoyable auditory experience. I’ve never watched the movie before, so I’ve no idea if the audio has been upgraded compared to previous releases, but the 5.1 track was clear throughout, even if it’s use of the rear channels was sparse.

The two discs of this release feature the theatrical and the open matte versions of the film, though we were only provided with the widescreen version for the purposes of this review. Toei animated the film in 4:3, as was the norm for TV productions of the time, with the majority of the action taking place within the 16:9 safe zone, and the cinematography keeping that in mind. This meant VHS releases and TV broadcasts could be pulled off without having to stretch the footage or crop any of it away.  When screened theatrically, the projector would be used to matte the film and project only the 16:9 image. The widescreen release fills our modern TVs, while the open matte version is pillar boxed to preserve the aspect ratio. Nothing is missing in the widescreen version, as that’s how the film was planned to be screened, the open matte version just provides extra image around the edges. I’m impressed Shout! Factory put in the effort to create the restoration for both versions and give us the choice of what to watch, and glad Manga Entertainment didn’t just decide to make it a single disc release using the widescreen version. The widescreen version looks brilliant, but I cannot wait to give the open matte version a try when I pick up the retail version.

This release contains a wealth on on-disc extras that any Transformers fan is sure to enjoy. The first of these is the ‘Til All Are One Retrospective Documentary. There’s also “Transformers: The Restoration”, a 7-minute overview of the process behind the all-new restoration for this, and Shout! Factory’s, Blu-ray re-release. “Rolling Out The New Cover” takes a look into the new cover art for the re-release. The audio commentary for the movie features Director Nelson Shin, Story Consultant Flint Dille and Star Susan Blu. Making the leap from the earlier 20th anniversary DVD release, three featurettes are included – The Death of Optimus Prime, The Cast & Characters, and Transformers Q&A. There are three sets of Animated Storyboards – Fishing Scene, Battle, and “One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall” With Deleted Sequences. To round off the bonus features, the original theatrical trailers and TV spots are included, albeit upscaled rather than recreated from the restored footage.

This was my first time watching The Transformers: The Movie, and I was thoroughly impressed by both the movie and the presentation. This release is well worth picking up if you're a Transformers fan, a Toei fan, a traditional animation fan, or any combination of the aforementioned. If you've owned the VHS or DVD in the past, you'll be blown away by the quality of this blu-ray. Manga have outdone themselves with this release, and I just wish they'd bring us more cel animation on blu-ray in such amazing quality.