Monday, June 26, 2017

Transformers Car Robots / Robots in Disguise (2001) anime series review - 39 episodes



The Good: detailed character designs, vibrant colours, decent voice acting, overall fun atmosphere

The Bad: Juvenile story and dialogue, flat humour, limited animation, generic music, little stakes except until the last few episodes

If Beast Machines was "Transformers on philosophy" this show is "Transformers on happy fuel". From the get go, Transformers:Robots in Disguise came across as more of a comedy than any other Transformers show ever was.
Now, i am not lambasting this show for being funny. The original cartoon had its funny episodes and so did Beast Wars. This show's humour however is not only overdone and terribly handled, but it is in all the wrong places, ALL THE TIME. This show was obviously written as a comedy series first, and then had elements of sci/fi robot action thrown in. Seeing the Autobots and Predacons duke it out in this series is less like seeing the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons in the original cartoon, and more like Bugs Bunny Vs Yosamite Sam. 
The first few episodes were perfect in keeping with the sci/fi adventure feel of Transformers, but after than, everything descends into a laugh-a-minute. An autobot flirts with a red sports car every episode, Predacons whine like schoolgirls and over-the-top lameness typical of comedic Japanese anime(see huge sweat drops and super deformed characters/chibi) get thrown into even the most serious and emotionally charged scenes, thereby ruining whatever impact those scenes were meant to have.
If the humour works, i would have no qualms. Problem is, it doesn't work. This show cannot seem to decide if its a serious sci/fi adventure or a slapstick comedic spoof with the genre going into either extremes multiple times(and at all the wrong times) in a single episode. The scripting is very juvenile, more in line with Pokemon and Powerpuff girls than Transformers. In attempting to give a more serious tone to the series halfway through by the addition of the Decepticons and Scourge and an entire story arc involving some ancient Transformer, it in fact causes the entire series' already meandering plot to get even more convoluted.
The humorously and sometimes painfully childish story is not the only thing that does not quite work. The animation is only mediocre; the bright vivid pastel colors and limited frame rate make it on par with other Saturday morning kids' anime like Digimon or Beyblade. The character designs for the humans also carry that typical "for children" anime art style. Thankfully, the usual animation short cuts are only used sparingly and the series maintains a consistent level of art detail throughout.
To add to the overall childish look and feel, the transformers now sport "special powers" akin to the special powers in digimon or Dragonball. They shoot, laser/missiles/fire/plasma etc, while SHOUTING OUT the name of their attacks and striking "cool" poses. 
Even doing something as normal as taking out a gun and shooting at the enemy requires the autobot to proudly declare "LASER BLASTER!!!" before striking a stock footage pose and shooting a laser beam. Later characters sport such ludicrously sounding "attacks" as "Hurricane Kick" and "Tsunami blast".
Thankfully, an excellent cast that delivered spot on professional voice acting, saved this show from spiraling into down the drain hole. Too bad about the material they had to work with, or this series could have been so much more than it currently is.
Fans would enjoy the sleek re-designs of many classic characters. Plus, the bright pastel colors, slapstick(though misplaced) humour and good clean action would no doubt make this a hit with the younger crowd. But compared with what came before(Beast Machines, Beast Wars, G1 and the comics) this show falls short on many levels, never really living up to its potential. There really isn't more to this than meets the eye.

Entertainment: B+
Art: C-
Animation: C
Story: B
Voice Acting (English): B+ 
Characters: C+
Music: C-
Replay value: A-
"Brains": C-

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