History of a Transformers Fan – Part 2

The previous post ended with me watching the first season of the Beast Wars series on TV, which reignited my interest in the franchise. This was around 98/99 (the series only started airing in 98 here in Germany, 2 years after it was originally released) and stores here at the time had “Robots in Disguise” toys on display. I did buy a few of those, mainly Autobot figures (Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Prowl and Sideburn to name some). Thanks to the internet, I managed to catch up on a lot of the series. I loved the rest of Beast Wars, especially when the connections to the original series were added and enjoyed Beast Machines very much as well, even with how different it was and with some of its inconsistencies as a direct sequel to Beast Wars. Due to the delay in release of the TV series, I didn’t find any of the toys for those series in stores and this was before online shopping was an alternative for me, so I was out of luck there. Robots in Disguise was decent as a series as well, though it had far less of a serious tone to it compared to the two “Beast” series. As I learned several years later, there were significant changes made during localization both to the dialogs and some of the characters (among others Megatron), increasing the contrast to the previous show even more.

Unicron Trilogy

A bit after that, the “Unicron Trilogy” started, which was a mixed bag overall. Like the previous Robots in Disguise, the three cartoons for the trilogy were produced in Japan (though the toys etc. were made in cooperation between Hasbro and TakaraTomy) and then dubbed for the US release. That in itself would not have been a problem, but once the series released, it became apparent that they rushed it out the door. The dialog was full of bad writing, naming errors and badly matched what was on screen quite a few times. To add insult to injury, the animation quality fluctuated significantly, with lots of badly drawn segments present in both the American and Japanese releases. There was some cleanup done for the Japanese release, but it was far from enough to make it good. While I still watched the show and there were some good characters and story arcs present, I wasn’t a big fan of the overall series. The kid characters especially were just annoying. As for the toys, I didn’t have a lot of them, due to them being hampered a lot by the Minicon gimmick (which resulted in very simplistic transformations more often than not) and me not being a big fan of the overall look of most of them.

Energon, the second series of the trilogy, changed things up by mixing CGI Transformers with hand-drawn animation. While this meant that the characters would look more consistent, it also had the drawback of not blending in greatly and making the faces of the characters very unemotive (though this isn’t inherently a limitation of CGI of course, as the two “Beast” series showed rather well). To counteract the “unemotive” part, they used hand-drawn sequences for several important moments. While I don’t remember disliking the show, I overall don’t remember much of it and I do know that reception of the show was really bad due to multiple reasons. The toys of the series that I had were decent, I liked their overall look much more than the ones from Armada. This time, the main gimmick was “combination”, a lot of the figures could be used to combine with another one (down the line there were even a few 5-figure-combiners). Transformation wasn’t as simplistic as with Armada, from what I remember. And not to forget, my Unicron figure is from this toy line (a recolor of the Armada figure).

Last, but not least, Cybertron (or Galaxy Force as it was called in Japan) came around. This was my favorite out of the three series, story-, character- and design-wise. The series still made use of the “CG-TFs with hand-drawn animation for the rest” mix, but I preferred the look of the TFs to Energon. The Japanese version (that I watched, with subtitles) wasn’t connected to the previous two series contrary to the original plans which was probably for the best, to be honest. At the time, I definitely enjoyed watching the series both for its story and the characters, though it has been quite a while, so there are bound to be significant parts that I don’t remember anymore. The Cybertron toys are also by far my favorite ones from this trilogy. The ones that I have just look so much better to me design-wise.

With the Unicron Trilogy over, the popularity of the Transformers was about to get a boost. But those years… are a time for another post. Until then: roll out!

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