Nov 1, 2012

[TV] Transformers Animated: Season 1

As a Transformers fan, I have to admit that I'm a bit of a "purist" when it comes to my particular brand of fandom. I primarily pay homage to the original 1984 cartoon series, more typically referred to as Generation 1 (G1) among Transformers enthusiasts. My love for the G1 period of Transformers has pretty much defined the type of toys I collect and has only fueled my disdain for what Michael Bay has done to the franchise.

And when Transformers Animated first came out, my kneejerk reaction was to hate the show if only because it represented the first efforts to have a new generation of kids embrace a more Michael Bay aligned brand of Transformers. Or at least that's how it appeared to me at the time. Plus it was ultra geared for much younger audiences, thus it made it a lot easier to dismiss offhand.

But over the years, the show somehow managed to earn the respect of many Transformers fans. Plus even I have to admit that the Transformers Animated toyline is pretty impressive and I've collected a number of those figures just for the visual appeal alone.

And so I finally decided to give the show a shot, although this first season was a pretty weak initial offering.

Synopsis: Transformers Animated is (naturally) an animated cartoon series following an independent version of the Transformers franchise. Sam Register served as executive producer for the show while the writing was primarily handled by Marty Isenberg.

In this version of the Transformers, Optimus Prime (David Kaye) leads a small maintenance crew consisting of Ratchet (Corey Burton), Prowl (Jeff Glen Bennett), Bulkhead (Bill Faberbakke) and Bumblebee (Bumper Robinson). In the course of their activities they stumble across the legendary Allspark on some asteroid. But before they can bring the Allspark safely back to Cybertron, they are attacked by Megatron (Corey Burton) and his fellow Decepticons. Similar to the G1 cartoon, the Decepticons pursure the Autobots and they eventually crash land on Earth. The Autobots remain in stasis while Megatron ends up in pieces.

We fast-forward to the present day where a man known as Professor Isaac Sumdac is now the CEO of a highly successful robotics corporation. His advancements are largely from examining the remains of Megatron that he had found many years ago and now Megatron once again functions, albeit just as a head. Around this same time, the Autobots finally awaken from stasis and help defend the future city of Detroit from a monster, thus establishing themselves as heroes. Together with their new friend Sari, Professor Sumdac's daughter, they commit to protect the city from all threats - including the inevitable return of the Decepticons.

Now the show naturally conveys a rather light and whimsical tone given the strong Japanese anime influence in the art style (which is really because it was animated by Japanese studios) and the need to have a young girl present all the time. But Sari generally redeems herself through the simple fact that she happens to have an Allspark fragment for a keepsake that works to repair Transformers or animate certain electronics.

And beyond the weird styling and oddball humor at times, the show does present some rather interesting angles to consider in terms of how they reimagined a number of the characters. This time around Ratchet seems to have picked up the old soldier routine normally handled by Kup. And they presented some interesting origin stories for the likes of Blackarachnia (Cree Summer), who was originally a Beast Wars character.

At the same time, this first season's focus on human criminal activity that is only remotely influenced by Megatron's head meant a lot of weird metahuman characters who just didn't really make sense in the long run. Thus you have the quirky Headmaster (Alexander Polinsky) managing to get toe-to-toe with the Transformers and the Flash-wannabe Nanosec (Brian Posehn), who really didn't contribute much to the overall story.

The first season of Transformers Animated is quite the mixed bag that has some random gems for G1 fans but for the most part is busy trying to establish its own path in life. To be fair, it doesn't exactly follow the Michael Bay continuity either and thus it manages to keep a little respect for itself. so at the very least I can rate the season as 3 subtle nods to the G1 cartoon out of a possible 5.


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