I've made it abundantly clear elsewhere how I felt
about Transformers: Armada. Having seen the conclusion now, I bear a
little less acid towards the series but still cringe at the though of
the stiff animation, minimal-violence battles, and oh yeah- those damned
kids. So you can understand why I would go into a sequel to the show
with caution. Especially the way things wrapped up a little too
So, it's been a few years since Megatron took the big plunge into Unicron's
maw and the war ended, with Autobots and Decepticons skipping through
flowery fields and working for the betterment of mankind. Also, the
Transformers have all spontaneously grown shiny new 3-D computer generated
bodies. But some of the former Decepticons aren't so happy with the
energon-mining business. Add to this unrest the sudden appearance of
hordes of Terrorcons who devour Energon and carry it back to feed to
Unicron (baby bird style, ugh) at the behest of their master Alpha-Q.
New characters this time around include Ironhide, a rather conspicuous
SUV with a surfer's accent, and Kicker, a Token Human unique in that
he really hates Transformers. But there is more dimension to the kid
than that- on close observation he's a lot like a self-insertion character
by an author trying to make himself out as a badass. (Special body armor
given to him by his father via Optimus' chest, rides Arcee later on,
has the Minicons that form the totally new and original Energon
Saber following him at all times...) There are also cameos by the old
Terrible Trio, who now work at the floating city/mining stations as
supervisors or something since they're all growed up now. Alexis matured
nicely into a sort of stuck up yet cryptic Ristuko type. Rad's on Cybertron,
helping with the mechanics and so on. Carlos is making sandwiches for
the Minicons or something. Fatass and Richie Cunningham are nowhere
to be seen as far as I know. Also returning is Hot Shot, who's established
himself as a real warrior instead of a spunky upstart (Fun fact, in
Japan his name was Hot Rod, just like the whiny upstart who would later
become the largely unpopular Rodimus Prime.) Optimus has had a huge
makeover, though whether it's for better or worse is up for debate.
Now he has an enormous gut and a trailer that looks like it was built
by the architect of the Leaning Tower. This is of course, all a front
for his NEW SUPER COMBINATION! which involves a quartet of odd vehicles
sticking to his arms and legs to become more powerful (and more proportional.)
Including that perennial staple of all that combines, a drill tank.
What's up with drill tanks, anyway? They're not real as far as I know.
Yet the majority of mecha shows out there seem to embrace them as readily
as cars and planes. Even the Contructions came with optional drilling
attachments. It's a conspiracy, I say. Half these things couldn't really
even drill through stuff with all the parts sticking off the sides to
There's a lot more to like about Energon than its predecessor. The
storyline is darker and not so much a fetch quest as it is about protecting
what they need to survive. Loyalties are made, changed, and strained
as the former Decepticons pick sides (note that you don't see all that
many of them among the Terrorcon droves even after Megatron revives.)
In addition, there are tons of references to the classic series that
older fans will just eat up, like the return of familiar characters
like Scorponok, Inferno, Rodimus (cooler than the old one), Shockwave
(or Shock Blast in this version) and Prowl. And as always, Unicron and
the many-faced Alpha-Q (who is obviously a Quintesson as seen in the
original, though he seems to be missing a face.) The Minicons have been
pushed into the background though new forms of the skateboard, bike
and scooter appear now and again with Kicker.
So, we have a grittier story where they aren't afraid to show mass
casualties on both sides, homages to old series, and next to no Minicons.
What's the catch? It's the CG. Especially toward the beginning there
are blending issues as tends to happen when computer-modeled characters
are matted against still painting backdrops with 2-D humans running
around at their feet. In particular, the facial animations of the Transformers
are pretty lacking. That normally wouldn't be so bad if they didn't
ram the camera in the faces of them in tense scenes.
There's also the fact that most of the characterization apparently
happens off-screen. The 'coming of age' thing they seem to be trying
with Ironhide doesn't really seem to be very forthcoming- when all's
said and done he still can barely function without direct orders. Even
when he does 'act on his own' it's pretty much due to Kicker chewing
Then there's what happened to Cyclonus, the stupid wisecracking trigger-happy
chopper from Armada. He is reformatted into Snow Cat, a mildly retarded
robot with a pot belly and a strange tendency to YODEL when excited.
Demolishor at least gets to keep his name when he goes from being something
that looks like a top-down shooter mid boss.
The last episodes I've seen on Cartoon Network leave off on a sort
of cliffhanger when everyone gets sucked into a dimensional rip. If
Armada could salvage an entertaining ending (it's a good ending if you
try not to think too hard it) I hope that Energon doesn't lead up to
a really lame conclusion, as per the beginning of Armada.
To end on an even geekier note, I like some of the toys from this series
even better than my old Constructicons (BLASPHEMY). I splurged on a
he's a pretty good example of an old character concept given a new spin
(his vehicle mode is updated to a YF-22 Raptor, the whole 'ghost' concept
owes to numerous incidents in the cartoons where his essence went around
possessing people in a power bid beyong the grave, and he just plain
looks like his old self transformed.) The Powerlinking Autobot
gimmick is alright, they don't look too flexible and so far most of
them don't even look right as a SINGLE robot. Still, it's a cool idea.
The whole line has an emphasis on interchanging and combining weaponry
between characters, even going so far as to leave those Minicon attachment
bits so the kiddies who splurged on Armada crap can get a little more
play out of 'em. Viva los Cybertronians.