#215e : The Transformers (Season 4)

Three episodes! Just three? How can this be considered a season? …that sounds more like a miniseries to me. And alas, The Transformers here in the west would receive a proper finale and in a hurry as well with a trilogy of episodes. Better this than nothing at all, but seriously who cheapened out on the potential here? Then again here is another perspective, maybe The Transformers here in the west were running out of gas? Perhaps ready to retire? In any case let’s properly finish this classic show!

TF_S4_11987, the fall… oh I remember it very well. New episodes of The Transformers were ready for viewing except this batch would be the very last. For real?! Coming in at a total of 98 by the end of this fourth season, The Transformers was a long ride I enjoyed viewing during the prime years of my childhood. This final trilogy would be known as The Rebirth and how does it clean up all the loose ends, while leaving the ending a little open ended. Fun and action packed, being another new season we get another grouping of more characters to watch… I am beginning to lose count here. We get a double spy, twins, the Throttlebots, the Targetmasters, the Headmasters and even one who can transform into six different modes. SIX! Kinda makes me miss the good old days of robot becoming a car, or an airplane. Still, these new types of characters are very creative and innovative.

TF_S4_2Don’t expect too much plot here besides saving Cybertron and restoring the plasma energy chamber. Remember this is only three episodes. The first release of DVDs here in North America from Rhino had an interview with the writer of The Rebirth, David Wise, who gave his take on the process of making this last season work. Originally this was slated as five episodes, then cut to three. If you can find this interview it is a great watch to see the nuts and bolts behind making a show like this. What to expect then is a run and gun approach by bringing in a character, or several, to cameo for maybe a couple seconds then moving on to the next scene, etc. etc. It is very watchable and entertaining, but wow talk about a rush to promote the entire 1987 toy line. At least we get a true and proper ending for The Transformers, a true “That’s all folks!” for us fans. Very few cartoons ever get this type of treatment. The Transformers not only got to walk away at the top of its game, but it also did it in a polished way… that was also rushed.

TF_S4_3And now for something completely different, Japan would release their own version of the season depicting the 1987 toyline. An alternative version of The Rebirth and yet not quite. The Headmasters would have a full 35 episodes telling a completely different take on the mythology which begs the questions, which one is canon? Take your pick… I say both… alternate universes as a theory. I slightly prefer The Headmasters in terms of the larger plot line and direction it took, but The Rebirth is still entertaining. Japan, Toei and Takara would pick up the torch abandoned by Sunbow, AKOM and Hasbro to continue the G1 animation outings for a few more runs showing that The Transformers were far from dead at the end of 1987. Then again, either way you look at it, the beginnings from way back in 1984 were completed in both series to a certain degree. Time to ride out into the sunset. ~ FIN

Introduction Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4

#215d : The Transformers (Season 3)

The Transformers: The Movie was a game changer for me. I got to see my beloved Transformers in a high quality presentation, set in the then future and with some intense drama. Of course I considered it the greatest movie ever made at the time; I was very young then. Now I see it as a beautiful example of traditional cel animation. The fall of 1986 would bring yet another season of The Transformers with elements from this new movie. Exciting! Time for some totally new changes in the mythos of The Transformers. Yet at heart this is still the same show, just continuing on during a new era.

TF_S3_1Remember when the year of 2006 seemed like a far off future? Decades unreachable at one time, but when viewed now that year is more like a distant memory. I am sure some of you may not have been born yet? The film ended, but there was more to tell in terms of what was introduced in the summer of 1986. With all of these new and older elements in place one can see season three as a mixed bag. I am sure many do not like this season for the fact of all the changes and the unfamiliarity… and some characters. Yet the more that we change we stay the same. The third season would continue the more imaginative sci-fi and fantasy that was introduced the previous year except now we are in the future (that has past us now) with many new characters including the first full-time female Autobot lead (we love you Arcee!) and stories. The downside in some ways was the writing and characterizations which at times are not the strongest in certain episodes, but there are some things that this third season did very well.

TF_S3_2Darker themes would begin to creep into some of the plots lines. Rodimus Prime being the new leader of the Autobots lacked the confidence of Optimus Prime. He was more human and vulnerable and as a character I appreciate him sometimes more than the idolized Autobot champion. Death also plays a heavy role as seeing the ghost of certain fallen Autobots and Decepticons from the movie make their presence as well. Dark Awakening being one of the more unpolished episodes visually is perhaps one of the best episodes that expressed the heavier mood. Even the Quintessons are creepy and always so super serious! Not to say there was not humor as well. Think Grimlock’s New Brain, which is a favorite episode of mine for the fact that the Technobots were born during this half hour.

TF_S3_3Our new cast is vast and many get only a handful of showings that are short lived. Many new faces did however get some time in the sun to show themselves. None more so than Cyclonus and Scourge who only got brief moments to even say a line, or two, in the movie. Cyclonus is a particular favorite of mine. He has a nobility and a sense of honor that lacks in many of the Decepticons. Almost like the dark twin of Ultra Magnus? Talk about a departure for the Decepticons second in command, almost like an inverse of Starscream. Sadly some of the new characters are just kind of dull, or overly cartoonish, and can be seen as window decoration. Marissa Fairborne of Earth Defense Command is a welcome addition to the human group of characters. Is she really Flint’s daughter, from G.I. Joe? And speaking of G.I. Joe, there is some guy who looks and sounds way too much like Cobra Commander… a nice cross over moment.

TF_S3_4Highlighting this season are the opening and closing episodes, which are multi-parters. The quintet of Five Faces of Darkness (could this be a pun? Five and five?) and the double episode finale of the super obvious The Return of Optimus Prime both give this season a proper start and finish and flush out more of the mythology of The Transformers and Cybertron. Plus fans were pleased to see Optimus Prime return at the end. I see that now as a nice gesture, but really? Why not bring back Tracks, or Sunstreaker too! While season three may not be the most popular, or even consistent, it is sometimes my favorite. Pull a good dozen episodes as the pillar of what this season could have been collectively and I am quite satisfied as that selection is watched often.

Introduction
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4

#215c : The Transformers (Season 2)

This could be the quintessential season of The Transformers, the height of it all. The classic that many would put on a pedestal and say this is the definition of what the original G1 series represented. Season two commenced in the fall of 1985 adding the original 16 episodes to the new 49 created to allow The Transformers to be shown in syndicated markets weekdays. That’s 65 if we do the math, a lot of episodes, but those were the rules back then for broadcasting in the States. This was the season and year that I first saw The Transformers and as part of my after school activities, I included this daily ritual like clockwork.

TF_S2_1Season one was a trial run to get The Transformers started which now brings us to the newer, bigger, more action packed, super freakin’ rad season two. … oh the marketing speak… Season two took what worked for the first go round and added many new elements with additional characters being the obvious one with a new line of toys needing promotion. Second was a more expansive presence with more inclusion of sites across Earth’s globe and at times other planets besides Cybertron. …and don’t forget time travel! Plus, the mythology of who The Transformers are and where they came from was greatly amplified. And we find out there are female Autobots as well… so how do robots procreate? Yet much was the same with Optimus Prime and Megatron still leading their respective factions and all our familiar faces from before still from time to time make appearances.

TF_S2_2Interesting note is that this was the first grouping of episodes to be redistributed back to Japan. All 65 episodes were packaged as Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers while renaming characters to their native Takara names and having a Japanese dub. I consider this similar to the 1960s when British bands came over to America to play rock n’ roll to the native audience. America re-conceptualizes Japanese toys having it brought back to Japan. Japan’s version had a nice opening theme too. Speaking of opening themes, season two has the best (my opinion) in terms of the musical arrangement and animation. It’s iconic and definitive! The Transformers may have debuted in 1984, but for 1985 it exploded and for good reason, it had a very strong animated presence with more action and adventure than before.

TF_S2_3Now here is something interesting… season two is the only season without a proper beginning and ending storyline. Every other season in their own way do, which leaves me baffled. Perhaps since these were included with the season one episodes these new 49 are somehow to be shoehorned in-between the original sixteen? The Transformers never had a proper serial story line, like many shows then, and yes some episodes are multi-parters, or lead into others, but there is really no consistency for season two. You could theoretically jump around, but mind when you get to certain places where I mentioned previously when there was some sort of continuum. It’s like the ultimate grab bag season, choose your own adventure so to speak, where you can pick and decide which way to go… of course that could be true for most of The Transformers? I guess having the higher episode count gave room for more random stories ad creativity, which is what makes this season really fun.

TF_S2_4I was lucky as a kid to have a VCR in the family and was able to record many episodes from this season on a blank tape. City of Steel, Dinobot Island, Part 2, Enter the Nightbird and Microbots were the standout episodes mixed with She-Ra and ThunderCats as well as one-offs from M.A.S.K. and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors becoming one of my golden treasure tapes that I played endlessly over and over again for years. They may not have been the best of the season, or the worst either, but they are a quartet that I have seen so many times that I could watch them blindfolded and on mute. The Transformers were a key element of my childhood, along with many other shows that attracted me to not only science fiction and animation, but also the stylings and talent of the Japanese animation industry. And although a portion of the episodes of this season were also animated in Korea, including a portion of season three and all of season four, The Transformers would eventually lead me down the rabbit hole of Japan’s proper animated work. My fandom and this site owe a major debt to this show. Thank you universe for me being at the right place and the right time to experience season two of The Transformers!

Introduction
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4