Transformers Cybertron The Complete Series Review and Retrospective (August 5th Release)
Transformers Cybertron The Complete Series releases tomorrow, August 5th, worldwide and as of this review it is still on sale for $28.39 US (37% Off) on Amazon.com. You can purchase it by clicking here. Check out the full review after the bump!
The DVD set contains all 52 episodes of the third tier in what is now know as “The Unicron Trilogy” comprised in a 7 disc set (sans any special features or commentary). Out of all the Unicron Trilogy, Cybertron is by far the most coherent and cohesive of the 3 series. That’s not necessarily high praise if you’ve seen Armada and Energon, but at a time in Transformers fiction when there were no blockbuster movies, and in fact, no North American produced TV series since Beast Machines, it holds up pretty well in comparison. In fact, you could easily watch Cybertron with little or no regard to the previous two installments. This is for a few reasons. The first and foremost being that the animation studio who produced the series ignored Hasbro’s directives to make it a continuation. The Japanese version of Cybertron, known there as Galaxy Force, was created as a stand alone story. As a result, the first episode was recut for Cybertron to give it a bit of a different narrative and occasionally lines of dialog were added in the dub to put it in the same story framework as Armada and Energon (Specifically the destruction of Unicron). This makes less sense in the series than leaving it be since Energon took place in the “future” but Cybertron clearly takes place in the “present day”. In fact, the entire first arc involves the Autobots arriving on Earth while attempting to stay hidden from the human population, while a shadowy government agent (Complete with X-Files style mystery music) investigates and pursues them. Later, in the final episode, new animation was added to the US version to show the kids from Armada all grown up to further cement the series as part of that trilogy.
In essence, whether you enjoyed Armada and Energon or not, they are not required watching to enjoy Cybertron. In fact, many fans skipped Cybertron altogether due to the lackluster quality of the previous two series (but make no mistake, Armada and Energon have a loyal following of fans). This is a shame because it really is the best of the bunch. Better animation, fewer (if any) dialog and dub errors and the voice actors seemed to genuinely enjoy working on this series compared to the phoning-in of the previous two.
There are of course human kids in this series, as there almost always are. They are not very annoying and the youngest, Bud, is actually quite endearing at times as his sense of imagination and adventure is often illustrated.
Like many dubbed anime series, the pacing seems to drag along at times as the story is padded out to fill 52 episodes worth of time. This is especially noticeable in the early arc on the Speed Planet (aka Velocitron) in which the race for the Planet Cup idles for far too long.
The art is a mixture of hand drawn animation for the world and human characters and CGI for the Transformers and their special abilities. This works for the most part, but the animation models for the robots are extremely stiff and the method they use for mouth movement is awkward. And the models themselves are modeled based on the toys. Slavishly so. They went a little too far with that aspect of the designs to the point that even the back of Optimus Prime’s head contains the lever used on the toy to flip his faceplate up and down as well as the ports for the “Cyber Planet Keys” that activate their gimmicks (both in the show and on the toys). The only thing missing are the screw holes.
All that said, this is a decent story that introduced a lot of elements to the Transformers universe that were both interesting and could certainly stand up in some of today’s stories. The very premise that in ancient times colonists left Cybertron before the wars to settle on other planets isn’t necessarily a new one, but this is the first time we really get to see first hand what happened to these colonists.
The story goes that 4 great ships took a segment of the Spark of Primus with them to the outer reaches of space and settle down and populate other worlds. Gigantion, Animatron, Velocitron and Earth. In each case the Transformers aboard those ships evolved and developed their own unique culture on each of these planets and over time forgot their origins as colonists.By doing this, Cybertron really had something for everyone in terms of aesthetics.
Velocitron was a culture that developed out of racing so with them we were brought futuristic space age cars that used some unknown materials for wheels. Their distinct style is easily recognizable and this translated into the toys as the clear plastic with emphasis on rolling across smooth surfaces.
Animatron, the jungle planet wasthe beast planet. Members of this subspecies adapted to the harsh wilds and their modes were fierce animals, both real and imagined. Like the laws of nature, their culture revolved around who could best who in one on one combat.
Gigantion was a planet of giants, even by Transformers standards. These enormous builders created city upon city with no inhabitants. That might seem silly, but there actually is a real world precedent for such activity in China. Maybe they were building in the hopes that one day someone would come colonize their own planet.
There is no concept of Autobot and Decepticon on these planets, although some characters did align themselves with the Autobot or Decepticon causes depending on their motives and personalities and were marketed as such on their toy counterparts.
There are of course other planets in the series, such as Cybertron, where styles like Vector Prime, Starscream and Megatron kept their own alt modes, and Earth where characters were meant to be hiding out in their traditional earth modes such as concept cars and construction equipment. Planet X is another place of interest towards the end of the series but I’ll leave some things up to viewing the series itself to explain.
With a cohesive and somewhat unique overall story, Transformers Cybertron really stands on its own as the best of the pre-Animated and pre-Aligned continuity stories. If you already have the previous two installments this one is a must have — but even if you only get a single set, this is still the one to get.
The toy line was also one of the best to come out of the 2000’s. The toys are very substantial, from a time when Voyagers were bigger and still cheaper than they are today, filled with Electronics and tons of other accessories. You might even find yourself browsing Ebay after watching the series to pick up a few of the characters to add to your collection. And prices on these guys overall aren’t that bad.
So pick it up and give it a chance, especially while it’s still on sale at Amazon.
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