Shout! Factory has been going full steam with their newly deployed fleet of Transformers cartoon DVD box sets. The final installment of the Unicron Trilogy, a Japanese-produced series of Transformers cartoons, was unleashed in the form of Transformers: Cybertron.
For me, Cybertron was a mixture of all the things I didn’t like about its previous installments, Transformers: Armada and Transformers: Energon. Here’s a short list of things you can expect to find in Transformers: Cybertron:
- Annoying human characters
- Unrealistic writing for said human characters
- CG-animated Transformers that don’t blend well with the hand-drawn backgrounds and humans
- Lots of battles, not a lot of substance
If your craving for more Transformers anime lets you see past all that, then knock yourself out. Cybertron wasn’t as much of a disaster as Energon was. While I’m not a fan of the CG-animated autobots/decepticons, I’ll admit the action was a lot better (probably because the CG models were more advanced) and the enhanced character designs really passed into the anime realm – some of the Transformers resembled Gundams more than the traditional Transformers designs from the past. Also Jetfire, one of my favorite autobots, has his sweet British/Australian accent. And there’s no Alpha Q. Thank Spark for that.
Shout! Factory also sent in the Transformers: Animated (2007-2009) complete series box set. This is the real “cartoony”-looking one. I was put off by the simple, abstract character designs but I eventually fell in love with the art, along with several other elements:
- More interesting human characters
- Awesome voice cast, including Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke, Tara Strong, Phil LeMarr, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Kevin Michael Richardson, and George Takei
- More variety in story line (threat of Megatron, the All-Spark, Cybertronian government, etc.)
- More humor and more authentic Transformers-centric dialogue
I was totally absorbed in Transformers: Animated, mostly because the plot didn’t involve an unending series of space shootouts. It was released shortly after Michael Bay’s Transformers, but has next to nothing to do with it story-wise. I also learned to appreciate the artwork of Animated, despite its more abstract approach. I think it made the Transformers more emotive and gave them more life than what we saw in Energon and Cybertron. After all, the Transformers have souls and feelings of their own.
Also, you should note that the Animated series was presented in 16:9 aspect ratio and featured creator commentary for most of the last season. The whole of the Unicron Trilogy was in 4:3 and it’s just not as fun to watch on a widescreen TV. There are zero special features whatsoever on the Armada, Energon, and Cybertron box sets.
My bottom line? If you want to see a Transformers anime, check out Armada. But I highly recommend you spend your money on a better series like Transformers Animated.