The sequel to Transformers Armada and the second installment of the Unicron Trilogy, Transformers Energon (Transformers Superlink in Japan) was concerned with the search for energon, the source of both Cybertronian factions' power. Although previous series had followed the integral plot of Autobots and Decepticons searching for energy, Energon was quite heavily obsessed with it.The show begins with Cybertronians living on Earth with humans and on the lookout for more energy. Although Megatron is supposedly dead and the Decepticons and Autobots are allies, an undercurrent of shakiness pervades the Autobot cities. Meanwhile, deep inside all that remains of Unicron, the planet-sized Transformer, sits Alpha Q, prince of an ancient planet that was eaten by Unicron in ages past. Alpha Q plans to re-activate Unicron to recreate his own planet (Unicron can do that in Energon) and so sends out Terrorcons to find energy to power Unicron. They immediately head for Earth, and while the Autobots and Decepticons battle the Terrorcons, an old enemy lurks in the distance...The series-wide gimmick was 'energon stars', little translucent plastic things that slotted into holes on the Transformers. The star acted as a magnifying glass, revealing a faction sigil at the bottom of the hole.In addition, most of the Autobots took the form of combining toys, which the show called Powerlinxing. In most cases, one robot formed the head, arms, and torso, while a second formed the legs and abdomen in a manner reminiscent of ''Victory's Multiforce. In-story, it was explained that this made the combined bots 10 times more powerful.One episode, "Distribution," was meant to commemorate the 500th episode of Transformers. However, it was aired as a special in Japan, non-canon to the actual plot.Unfortunately, the anime series received intense flak from Transformers fandom for its painfully mangled translation (following Never Say "Die" rules worsened it even further), filled in dead air the dub failed to cover with stock phrases or pointless confused groans, low-caliber CGI renders of the Transformers that rarely emoted beyond Dull Surprise, excess Padding, and the fact that the US dub was so rushed. The copies of the episodes that aired in the states weren't even finished, and a major episode plot-wise wasskipped, replaced by the non-canon special at a completely absurd moment in the series. The point being, that if you want to watch the show in a coherent form, seek out the complete animation-wise Japanese version of Superlink with subtitles. However, the original is not considered to be Shakespeare-class, either, with poor pacing, much padding, character development introduced then suddenly dropped, and a lot of focus on toy gimmicks that don't actually make the bots any stronger. But, as TF Wiki puts it, "at least the conversations make sense."Followed by Transformers Cybertron.
This show provides examples of:
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Much like his original predecessor, Six Shot frequently shifts between openly insulting and defying Galvatron, to snivelling desperately before him (usually when the latter decides to handle their desputes in a more physical manner). He attempts this again to save his hide during a failed coup (it doesn't work).
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Galvatron explodes to colossal size after raking in a second dose of Super Energon, then proceeds to suck it dry through an energy tether on his back like a straw, growing progressively bigger and bigger while yanking Cybertron out of orbit and dragging it with him.
Art Shift: Whenever there's a scene where CGI just won't cut it, they switch to normal cel art because it actually looked better than their CGI.
As You Know: A common form of Padding is for characters to tell each other past events as if everyone hadn't been paying attention for the last 20 episodes.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: In spades. The dub was just plain bad, but notable technical issues include constant inserting of stock phrases and "Um?"s solely so there'd be noise where there was none previously, characters having their names and lines switched up, and some episodes (seemingly picked at random) edited to remove any references to Primus. Emphasis on "some", others kept it in.
Butt Monkey: Ironhide, klutzy rookie, frequently repremended by his peers and often subordinate to Kicker and thus the most constant victim to his nasty attitude (which is never repremended and treated as being Actually Pretty Funny by the others). Almost all of the Decepticon mooks act as this.
Captain Obvious: Mostly it was due to an incomplete translation, though. Time would often be filled with Optimus saying to people who probably have some idea as to why they came to some dangerous place locked and loaded, "Remember, our mission is to protect the planet/Energon/injured character." Also, the first third or so of the series consists of episodes in which bad guys will steal a cache of Energon that the good guys just discovered. Every single time, someone (maybe more than one someone) will say "They're after our Energon!" Similarly, the bad guys would talk about their plan and say "We need more Energon!" as if they'd just come to the conclusion. In fact, all of the repetitive dialogue that plagues the series is delivered as if it's something that's just dawned on the person who has said it twice already.
Character Development: Carefully subverted. Should a character start to have it, they will be damaged and reformatted and do nothing but blandly follow orders for the rest of the series. Starscream gets it worse. His whole arc is about remembering nothing of his former life since Alpha Q revived him in a new form. How is it resolved? After about five episodes he tries to attack Megatron, gets mindwiped again, by Megatron this time, and... does nothing but blandly follow orders for the rest of the series. Humans can't be reformatted, so Kicker simply stops having a beef with Cybertronians by episode three-ish. Only Ironhide has his character arc seen through. That, by the way, is not down to the dub.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the 10 or 20 years since Armada, several characters don't seem to be around anymore, and will not return or be mentioned- Fred and Billy (traveling the world), Blurr, Sideswipe, Scavenger, Wheeljack, and the large force of Mini-Cons, the partner Mini-Cons, and the ones who form the 3 legendary weapons, the Star Saber (the Energon look-alikes forming the weaker Energon Saber are unrelated), Skyboom Shield and Requiem Blaster) prominent in the series are gone. Red Alert, however, will turn up again in Cybertron. Also notable: Crumplezone and Blackout, Cylconus and Demolishor's Mini-Con partners show up for a very brief moment in episode 4, then are never seen again. Later, the Street Team Mini-Cons, High Wire, Sureshock and Grindor, all but vanish from the story- they don't even have speaking roles or plot relevance!
Parodied twice in a row during a filler episode. Once with both robots transforming into an upper half, and the second with transformers who can't even combine.
Conspicuous CG: The Transformers, to the point where 2D animation for the occasional complicated shots is far less jarring.
Continuity Nod: Megatron's body, still entombed inside Unicron's, has his body design from Armada, since all of the 'Bots and 'Cons now have new robot modes and tranform into different vehicles due to them all being upgraded, Megatron is immediately upgraded once he is revived.
Kicker: Don't argue with me!/This is MY planet, MY rules!/I don't care what you think!/DO IT!
Converging Stream Weapon: Optimus Prime when combined with Wing Saber. "Meteor Attack Mode" consists of him firing a Chest Blaster at the same time as his normal beams, which absorbs them to create a massive stream of plasma.
Crossing the Burnt Bridge: Shockblast attempts to overthrow Megatron, who is quite amused when he later needs to be rescued from the Autobots. Sixshot also attempts to assassinate him later in the series, complete with a lengthy "The Reason You Suck" Speech. It ends as expected for him.
Curbstomp Battle: Scorponok attempt to silence a reviving Megatron by stabbing his spark chamber with his own sword. Instead, Megatron comes alive just fine, with a new body, and proceeds to batter the living daylights out of Scorponok, tearing him apart so badly, he gets robotic swollen cheeks.
Dull Surprise: The most common word for filling in the blanks where the dialogue doesn't fit the mouth-flaps is a lobotomized-sounding 'uuuuh?' Also, the poor CGI allows for few expressions beyond "mouth sorta open."
Energon, along with the Dreamwave comics coming out at the same time (Pat Lee's range is also limited to mouth open vs. mouth closed) were responsible for the "dull surprise" meme migrating to the Transformers franchise.
Even Evil Has Standards: Most of the Decepticons (particularly Tidal Wave) despise Shockblast due to his arrogant, and borderline psychotic attitude towards his comrades, and lack of respect towards their leader. His first mission ends disastrously after the others turn on him, enraged after he attacks Tidal Wave.
Evil Gloating: Megatron does this a lot. Granted he is also saved by it when Sixshot attacks him in a coup, only to stall the final blow to mock him long enough for Scorponok to intervene.
Exact Words: After being repeatedly pointed out the penalties for making plans against Galvatron's orders (in both a verbal and physical manner) Six Shot decides to follow this through to a tee, refusing to supply any assistance whatsoever to the Decepticons unless a usually rather irate Galvatron gave him his approval. Taken to extremes in a heated dispute over setting the Energon towers to a dangerously high level. Eventually a frustrated Six Shot submits and deliberately lets them overload, almost destroying the planet.
Face-Heel Turn: Tidal Wave ditches the Autobots at the first news Megatron survived, Cyclonus leaves when he spies Megatron's sword being wielded by Scorponok, and Demolishor betrays the Autobots when he sees Megatron alive and well, but cautiously. After his brush with death and subsequent rebirth, Megatron wipes out the morality in Demolishor, and this reduces him to a gibbering moron blindly following Megatron. Starscream becomes Megatron's right hand after being hit with a dose of Mind Rape to break Alpha Q's control over him, but Megatron has ulterior knowledge not to restore Starscream's memory or risk another Heel-Face Turn and an insubordinate soldier.
Hulk Speak: Tidal Wave! His upgraded form Mirage too, albeit less consistently.
Inconsistent Dub: Is it Shockwave or Tidal Wave? Mika or Misha? And just who is Cliffjumper? Also, Armada's habit of occasionally referring to people or things by their Japanese names (which have not been used in the show previously) continues. Basically, the dub is so bad, hardcore Transformers fans will cry afoul and inevitably bellow "Ruined Forever."
Invincible Hero: To an extent, there are usually over a dozen Autobots consistantly throughout the show's run compared to what is usually less than half that amount of Decepticons. The Decepticons cannot use Powerlink, the main premise of the show (despite being able to in Armada) and the large majority can't even aim straight. By the finale, only two Decepticons are suggested to have survived, while every single Autobot that was previously killed is revived. Oh, and of course the Autobots have Kicker.
Killed Off for Real: The real Scorponok, Alpha Quintesson, Shockblast, Team Ironhide, Six Shot, Construction Maximus, Bruticus Maximus, the imitation Scorponok, Unicron, Galvatron, and presumably, Starscream and Mirage.
Any time a Transformer gets a combination spark or learns to Powerlink. Some are unique.
Episode 13: Cyclonus begs Megatron for repairs after a battle when he really doesn't need them. To shut him up, Megatron hooks Cyclonus up to Energon cables and they reconstruct him into Snowcat. Though this might be considered a downgrade, because though he gets a rarely-utilized freeze ray, he loses his aerial capabilities and arguably Took a Level in Dumbass, no longer a cackling loon, but a yodeling one.
Demolishor is destroyed in Episode 15, then promptly brought back in a seemingly tougher body. In reality, he looks less threatening. He's not a badass battle tank anymore- he's a blasted dump truck who hoots like an ape and pounds his chest, because Megatron stripped his sense of right and wrong away, reducing him to a simpleton.
Wing Dagger and Tidal Wave are crushed under an Energon Tower. Tidal Wave is crippled, but Wing Dagger is dead. In episode 24, Tidal Wave returns as the smaller and "smarter" Mirage. Oh, and he no longer combines with Megatron, but lusts for him. Next episode, Rad finishes rebuilding Wing Dagger and Primus revives him as Wing Saber. Wing Saber becomes Optimus Prime's new combining battle armor with two modes.
Constant Energon supply to Unicron finally restores his body and gives him a brand new armor color scheme. Then he gets the outer layer of his armored exterior shredded off by an energon implosion and spends ten more episodes resurrecting back to par. His head, however, takes a while longer to revive- Alpha Q keeps it in his possession until Megatron takes it by force and kills him.
Megatron's repeated brainwashing leads to Inferno's death, but his spark is rescued, and he's rebuilt and modified into Roadblock- not much different than before.
Optimus Prime and Omega Supreme learn their combination sparks are compatible and combine into Optimus Supreme.
Shockblast absorbs Unicron's power and doubles in size, but turns into an Omnicidal Maniac. It doesn't end well...
Landmine, Cliffjumper, Hot Shot, Ironhide, and Jetfire are given new armor by Primus (really recolors) and Optimus Supreme grows to Unicron's size. He then kills Unicron and the super-sizing power crops up every now and then. Unicron survives as just a spark.
Megatron discovers the Super Energon and uses it to first become Galvatron, then an ever-growing giant, then planetary size, eventually on par with Unicron's might. Starscream also gets an upgrade- though Galvatron forces him to enter the Super Energon as a test of loyalty.
Galvatron and Optimus Prime Deus ex Machina the crap out of their power. But it turns out all Transformers have the primal nature of Unicron inside them, and it takes over. Both bots try to overcome this madness, where they keep one-upping each other in size, and the most egregious example? Prime somehow manifests the equivalent of Omega Supreme's armor, and his little Prime Force drones are equipped just for added good measure, without combining with Omega Supreme.
Galvatron accidentally lets the disembodied spark of Unicron steal his body and reaches his ultimate size. Unicron takes over and plans his rampage anew. Primus's spark itself decides to absorb the Super Energon and become a massive star, which fully ignites into a new sun for Alpha Q's planets after Galvatron regains control and plows into it to destroy Unicron. The living sun ploy doesn't end well- one series later, it collapses into a black hole and Galvatron and Starscream come back to life even stronger, further bonded to Unicron's powers.
The Ultimate Powerlink formed by the Autobots uniting sparks with Optimus Prime in the Grand Finale.
Merchandise-Driven: Well, it is Transformers. With energon weaponry, Brute Modes, combination, and a few lingering Mini-cons, we may have a record for most toy gimmicks in one series.
Mind Rape: Megatron uses this to brainwash Starscream and Scorponok into being loyal to him, and attempts to do it to Inferno.
Misapplied Phlebotinum: The series has a metric buttload of powerups, but they were almost never used in a way that would give the user an advantage. Even transformation itself, with characters who turn into cars running on foot in the majority of Outrun the Fireball type situations. Also, combining usually served only to halve the number of troops in a straight firefight. Optimus' Super Mode tended to be activated and then not used, as he continued firing with the same gun he has in his normal mode. Also also, energon weapons tended to run out of power after being fired two or three times.
Ms. Fanservice: TAKE A WILD GUESS!
Never Say "Die": Transformers has long preferred "offline" or "slagged" to "dead" when it actually happens (or could happen) to someone, but only Energon tries to pretend that dead characters are actually still alive - making you wonder where the hell any given character whose death was smoothed over is if we didn't see it directly. Ironhide's fanboy trio are "down..." and Ironhide leaves them behind? This is not the only such example.
Additionally, when Demolishor dies, what was a Tear Jerker in the Japanese version becomes... Ironhide screaming at everyone to "GET IN THE SHIP!" And he isn't even fazed when Demolishor forces him aside to rescue Megatron. He just.. keeps spouting stock phrase lines from a rotten apple dub!
Out of Focus: Surprisingly, Alexis and Carlos fade away into the background and eventually disappear from the storyline until the final episode of the US dub of Cybertron. Also- ALL Mini-Cons except the ones who create the Energon Saber- and even they rarely show up outside weapon form. That includes the, Street Action Team, High Wire, Sureshock and Grindor, who form Perceptor- they become mindless transport for Kicker- not participating in combat whatsoever. Heck, Perceptor now washes cars.
Palette Swap: Sixshot, of his older brother Shockblast. Also, the trio of Ironhide fanboys, of each other. Also, Cyclonus is sporting a new black color scheme, while Demolishor has borrowed Scavenger's, apparently, becoming green and purple. Tidal Wave gets a new paintjob when he's fried by touching raw energon. Ow. Obviously, this is to sell toys.
Parent Service: Kicker and Misha usually wear skin-tight spacesuits. No, the fact that they're teenagers does not count.
Quirky Miniboss Squad: Snowcat (formerly Cyclonus), Mirage (formerly Tidal Wave), and Demolishor (who doesn't get a new name. Tough luck, pal.)
Redshirt Army: As in Armada, generic, unnamed Autobots in the larger battles tend to get blown to shreds like they're made of Kleenex. Nobody seems to care. On the other side, Terrocons are nothing but cannon fodder, barely getting even speaking lines. By the end of the series ALL of them are dead.
The Decepticons aren't much better.
Rouge Angles of Satin: In the episode titles. Seriously. "Scorpinok"? "Improsoned Inferno"? Jesus Christ.
And those are the two that weren't corrected for the DVD release. "A Tale of Two Heroes" and "Decepticon Army" originally aired as "A Tale Of Two Heros" and "Deception Army." Also, while spelled right, "Ironhide Team" is about Team Ironhide.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: "Solar system," "Galaxy," and "Universe" are used in ways that make you wonder if the dubbers knew what any of those words mean. Rushed translation explains lines not matching Superlink, but it doesn't explain "We warped into another galaxy on the outer reaches of the solar system!" or "I could annihilate the Decepticons by deploying the energon grid. But then I run the risk of destroying the entire universe, because it's loaded with raw energon!" (Uh... no, that could never happen. At all.)
Scars Are Forever: In the third episode, Tidal Wave's foolish mistake to touch a raw Energon star laying on a battlefield etches lightning-shaped scars onto his body. However, this is only shown in the Japanese version- the rushed American doody dub and its incomplete craptacular CGI doesn't actually show this happening- it just fills in the unfinished patch with stock footage and the scars are demoted to a Noodle Incident.
The Starscream: Shockblast and later Six Shot. In the ultimate form of irony, Starscream turns undyingly loyal to Megatron.
Stock Footage: Compared to most other instances of this trope, these ones are horrible animation-wise (See Conspicuous CG above).
There Are No Therapists: When he was a child, Kicker once found himself adrift in space without any support, only to land on a dark, isolated asteroid, where his father radioed him and told him to search it for energon by himself while the Autobots were looking for him. This apparently wasn't anything new. His father never got him any help for this, and it really shows.
Unknown Rival: Six Shot makes a personal vendetta against Optimus Prime for supposedly killing Shockblast. However, since he stays at his control booth to monitor missions leaving only once to attack fellow Decepticons Galvatron and Scorponok, Prime seemingly has no idea of Six Shot's revenge or even his existence whatsoever. It's a side effect from being Galvatron's chew toy whenever he disobeys him.
You Killed My Father: Sixshot allies with Megatron to get revenge on Optimus Prime for killing his brother Shockblast. In reality, he was killed by Megatron himself. Poetically, so is he.