Growing up I thrived on Transformers. They were my life — the toys, the show, the movies. Admittedly, I don’t remember much of the first season in order to make an honest comparison. However, after several years' worth of absence, my nostalgia wasn’t enough to save the majority of my time with Transformers: Season Two, Volume One from being a Unicron-sized letdown.
First, the technical stuff. We’re given two whole channels of audio that doesn’t sound too bad at all. Dialogue is sharp and shows off the cool effects infused with the bots' voices. The video quality is the best I’ve ever seen the show look, albeit inconsistent. Black lines are sometimes dark and defined, but often can be chalky. Mostly there is great color restoration and contrast all around, but from scene to scene, it jumps to a soft, grayish wash with lots of dust and flecks consistently spotting the transfer.
The package design is way cool with a polished retro look and foil embossing. Each disc sports a different character's image. Even the slim cases separating the discs have individual Autobot or Decepticon artwork. The set also comes with a small booklet containing a small summary of each episode as well as its own splash of colorful backgrounds and characters.
This four-disc whopper packs virtually no special features except the episodes and a useful option to play multi-part episodes seamlessly. The only other option you really have is to dive in. And so we shall.
The first stand-out episode is the second in this collection (18th in the series), entitled “The Immobilizer.” Autobot inventor Wheeljack creates a dangerous weapon that can freeze its targets. Proving just as useful for good as it is for evil, it becomes a subject of interest for the Decepticons. Ironhide is written particularly well in this episode, showing genuine resentment for his distraction during important guard duty, inevitably leading to his temporary resignation.
One of the best episodes in the collection follows closely after in episode 21, “Traitor.” Mirage, accused of treason, sets out to prove his innocence with a clever plan to turn the Insecticons against the other Decepticons. Mirage’s character is written in a way that makes it both challenging to side with or against him. Prime exudes the “innocent until proven guilty” attitude that is true to his character while Megatron and Starscream share their most frictional dialogue in the collection.
Another great entry, episode 25, “Atlantis Arise,” sees Megatron siding with the evil lost civilization of Atlantis, that is, until he can harvest their world for its precious energy. It’s a nice change of scenery to see some battles take place somewhere other than mountains and dirt. Here you’ll find one of the better composed action sequences in the collection as the bots tear apart Washington D.C. Sadly, this is a missed opportunity for an epic multi-part series when much worse conceived stories like “Dinobot Island” benefit from that treatment instead.
One of the few episodes that actually delivers a sense of intrigue, episode 27, “Microbots,” introduces an ancient Decepticon ship found crash landed on Earth. Megatron sets out to find its energy source and use it for himself. Taking on a surprisingly subtle pace, Megatron eventually reaches the ship and steals its power and in one of the more detrimental battles, it genuinely looks bad for the Autobots for the first time. Meanwhile, Brawn and Perceptor clash in some interesting brains vs. brawn dialogue (no pun) that shows great personality from both Autobots. By far, the very best installment of the set.
The rest of the episodes on the first two discs range from painfully bad all the way up to decent. Then disc three stumbles in with an outright disgraceful batch of hack writing and animation. What happened? Not a single episode that isn't downright scary in its awfulness exists on this disc.