Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
The Transformers are back on the small screen with the new Transformers Animated series. Season One collects the first thirteen episodes of the series (minus the pilot which was sold separately) on two discs. The new series falls somewhere in-between the old Transformers cartoon and the wildly successful movie, adding a few new elements to create a continuity all its own.
This version of the series finds a motley crew of Autobots once again trapped on earth, this time in Detroit 50 years in the future. They’re befriended by an eight-year-old human girl named Sari who is the keeper of the Allspark, which has taken the form of a key and acts as a power-supply and healing source. Naturally, a few Decepticons show up to nab the Allspark for their own evil purposes.
When I say “a few Decepticons,” I mean it. The focus of this new series isn’t the war between the Autobots and Decepticons; in fact, that war has been over for centuries. In a move that’s sure to upset old-school Transformers fans, the Autobots operate right out in the open, acting as superheroes. Rather than spending their time trying to get back to Cybertron, they protect Detroit from a variety of human and robot menaces including a supervillain or two. While I certainly don’t find this new story aspect offensive, I do find it to be a bit confusing. I mean, doesn’t operating out in the open for the world to see sort of defeat the whole purpose of being “robots in disguise”?
Confusing alterations aside, I found this series to be a lot of fun. Fans looking for the animated equivalent of the Michael Bay blockbuster or a grim ‘n’ gritty update of their favorite ‘80s cartoon should look elsewhere though. This cartoon seems to have been created with the intent of bringing in a new, younger generation of fans. There’s almost as much humor as there is action, and there’s definitely a focus on bringing girls into what was previously considered a boy’s toy line. As the father of a baby girl, that’s cool with me: I’d rather see her playing with fighting robots than dressing up dolls when she gets a little older.
But don’t let the jokes and softer animation style fool you: this show still packs a punch and doesn’t shy away from big-time smash-‘em-up action. They also don’t shy away from the consequences of such action, which I found to be a welcome change from the old cartoon. The show features plenty of flashbacks from the days of the Cybertronian War which focus on the tragic side of the conflict. There’s a lot of war stories about lost friends and lost lives, without getting too dark or dreary. It’s a far cry from the old days when laser blasts flew everywhere and nobody ever got hurt. Themes of teamwork and responsibility also feature prominently on the show. I have to admit that sometimes it gets a little annoying, but I’m not the show’s target audience. I’ve got a six-year-old nephew who is a huge fan of the show and neither I nor his parents have any problem with that. There’s some actual lessons hidden underneath all that robot carnage. What more can a parent ask for?
Long story short: Transformers Animated is definitely a show I would recommend to parents and kids alike. Long-time Transformers fans will probably want to stay away, as this version is definitely not made for them. Unless, of course, they’ve got kids of their own and they’re not too hung up on continuity. The two-disc set features full screen format, English and Spanish language tracks, and a Season Two sneak-peek photo gallery.