Recently I just finished the Transformers mini series that followed the war between the Autobots and Decepticons (War for Cybertron Trilogy). This is another cartoon series that I have grown up with and I’m glad to say is finally starting to make some sense. Don’t get me wrong. Most of the Transformer series are good. But I’m glad to see some good continuity dating back to the classic series.
Background: On the planet Cybertron Sentient robots that can transform into vehicles live in harmony until war breaks out among its people. Two factions form from the war. The Autobots who are trying to defend Cybertron and help the cybertronians. The Decepticons who want to conquer the planet and rule it under their dictator-like leadership. Their battle makes it to earth and makes earth a primary stage for their war. As of today it has one of the most number of episodes of any American cartoon series.
To keep this simple we will not be focusing on the live action movies or hardcore anime off shoots . I also will not be mentioning Gobots. That’s just a rabbit hole I refuse to go down.
Transformers (Generation 1) (1984 – 1987)
Of course like any cartoon made in the 80’s this was used to sell products. Probably one of the best toy products ever created. Unlike Most cartoons of the time Transformers came in with a heavy story. Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, battles Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots every week for energon (it’s like robot food and drink all in one) and power. They literally brought their war to Earth. The show had a nice 4 seasons and one of the best animated movies ever. As I’m writing this I can hear the song of the movie play in my head:
You got the touch,
You got the Poooowwweeerrrrrrrrr,
Dear God! That song was like the epitome of 80’s rock.
The show was pretty basic but it had many elements that kept it alive for so long. Between the movie, the toys, the clothes (I was 2 when the show originally aired and I remember having autobot underwear, LOL), and the sound they made when they transformed, it was instant gold.
This space is reserved for the many iterations that aired in Japan. Did not see them. I know they were awesome but again to make things simple we will stick to the American shows.
Beast Wars (1996 – 1999)
When this series came out I lost it. I remember certain channels would do an episode of the upcoming shows coming out in the fall. I remember seeing beast wars pop up and was like “what is this, I don’t know but I need it in my life”. It had been almost 10 years since I had seen any Transformers on TV. I remember my mom buying me one of the toys around my birthday and I was hooked.
The show followed Optimus Primal as he led the maximals against the Predacons led by Megatron. They had to adapt their transformorming technology to animals due to there being no vehicles on earth during the time after the Ice age. Also earth was saturated with raw energon so the form protected them from overloading due to over exposure. Yes the same song but to a different beat and new drums. Both groups were desperately trying to get home. By the later seasons. Continuity began to be established and we were introduced to the crashed ship of the original auto bots and decepticons. It got into this whole time travel thing and as a 12 year old it was a little confusing. But it was great. It had it all. Tiger loved Airazor. Dinobot battled with his conscience and his honor as a warrior. Cheetor went through robot puberty and they all ended up evolving, opening the door for the transmetal season. In short they became cyber animals. They looked bad a#$. It was also one of the few shows out that was CG (Computer generated) and actually looked good for the time.
Beast Machines (1999 – 2000)
The follow up to Beast wars, Beast Machines was a good conclusion to the beast era. This show was the definition of an action cartoon in the 2000’s They all finally get back to Cybertron and evolve again. Cybertron is going through a weird metamorphosis and the Maximals have to help the planet. BUT, the planet is under martial law by the Vehicons Lead by Megatron. The Maximals evolve again into techno organic bodies. (I also had these toys). This show was also not lacking drama. Rhinox became corrupted, Optimus got all zen, Cheetor was all grown up, responsible and leading, Rat Trap struggled to find peace and admit his love for Botanica, and Megatron became a super dictator. It was probably one of the shortest series to run but they did a lot story wise in that short time.
Ok, here’s where we get a little interesting
Transformers: Armada, Energon and Cybertron (2002 – 2005)
These shows had heavy Japanese influence. I remember watching them with my younger brothers on Cartoon Network. At this point my middle and younger brother were addicted to the toys. I vaguely remember watching it with them. I can say it was visually appealing and it explored the Transformers universe better than any other show before it. I remember they had the mini cons, the beast bots, the giant bots and the combiners. It was like they literally said let’s take these shows and put everything from Transformers lore in them. It was a clear introduction to a younger generation and it worked.
Transformers Animated (2007- 2009)
I have tried to watch this series of transformers, I really have. But I couldn’t. You can’t give me all these decades of animation and story evolution and go backwards and expect me to accept this. I do understand that this particular show did not follow any continuity and that it was for a younger audience. So I will say this, treat this series like an anime filler episode. Meaning if you get bored enough and need a Transformers fix go and check it out.
Basically this show makes Optimus the head of a maintenance crew on a ship that crashes on earth. They wake up in the future and battle a monster on earth. From there the whole anybody can become a hero theme is shown if they just stand up and fight.
Transformers Prime (2010 – 2013)
Ok so I will be honest, Transformers Prime was very very good. It added to the lore of Transformers and it also had a very good story. BUT, it was kinda forgettable. I remember the kids that were helping the autobots and of course the kids got older. I remember how the show really took the fight between Optimus and Megatron seriously. Beyond that I don’t remember much of it. That does not take away from how good of a show it was. I’m actually going back to watch it again.
Transformers: Rescue Bots and Rescue bots Academy (2012 – 2016, 2019 – 2021)
A road I do not want to take but since we are here let’s go. So this series was extremely child friendly. It deals with a group of bots who specialize in rescue. THe follow up to the series was the Rescue Bots Academy. Both shows taught the lessons of teamwork and friendship.
All shows eventually get a super child friendly spinoff. This is it.
Transformers: Combiner Wars, Titans Return, Power of the Primes (2016 – 2018)
One of the shortest series time wise that are part of the transformers as a whole. Each episode was about 6 – 12 minutes long. The series is a bit slow, drags a little, and it lets the visuals do the talking.
The Combiner Wars focuses on the combiner transformers (Transformers that come together and make bigger transformers) and their war across the other planets and moons of the Cybertron.
Titans Return focuses on the aftermath of the combiner wars. In this series the Titans (City sized transformers) have been awoken from the actions of the Combiner wars and begin to battle on Cybertron.
Power of the Primes focuses on the return of Megatronus and his crazy plan to kill like half the cybertronians to bring back Solus Prime, his love.
I do like how the series grew up with the characters of Megatron and Optimus. They were banished for having old warlike ways and a new generation of bots ran cybertron. I also like how they built up Windblade as a character and told a very good story.
Transformers: Cyberverse (2018 – 2021)
Sssoooooo, this show, um, well, I recently watched it and it was really fast paced. Total opposite of the prior series. It was animated and out the gate just action. The episodes are short, 10 to 12 minutes long and over the course of the show a bigger story is being told. The show starts with Bumble Bee and Windblade and slowly adds more to the roster of bots as the show progresses. I did like how it actually showed cybertron before and after the war. Out of all the shows I think this one showed more than just the war. In all my years watching these shows I can only think of a few times where I actually saw other cybertronians. I always thought “um for a planet of millions of bots why do we only see like 10 ever on screen, LOL”. I also like that they dipped into the multiverse. Very nice. All and all I think it’s an ok show.
Transformers: Siege, Earthrise, and Kingdom (2020 – 2021)
These 3 series have 6 episodes per series The story is set in the height of the Cybertronian War between the Autobots and the Decpticons. The main plot evolves from fighting a war to finding the all spark after it was lost during the war.
Siege follows the war and shows how devastated Cybertron is from the war. Energon is scarce and both sides are suffering tremendously.
Earthrise continues the story. During the war the allspark was lost and both sides made a way to try and go find the allspark. With resources almost gone on Cybertron getting a ship off the planets makes each side use up everything they have.
Kingdom concludes the series on earth with the Predacons and the Maximals adding to the continuity and the mythos of the beast era. The allspark is located on earth and every group wants it. There is even betrayal in the decepticon and predacon ranks. It ends with the autobots winning (of course).
Out of all the shows that Transformers had I have to say the GI series, Beast era, and the War for Cybertron series are my favorites. Transformers Prime comes in a very close second. I would be remissed if I did not mention the movies, the Japanese shows, the awesome games and the comic. All good stories in their own right.