Reviews: Transformers Animated

A great reboot for G1 fans and newcomers to enjoy

I'll have to admit, with some regret, that I didn't catch this show in its original runtime in Cartoon Network. I wasn't that great a fan of Transformers to begin with, and I didn't find the overall look of the series all too impressive (but this was when I was being a bigger nitpick than now and didn't know that the character designer of the Teen Titans series was on as art director). I didn't pick this up until later last year, and I certainly found lots of things to enjoy here.

There's really not a single main character I can bring myself to not liking; they all face their own unique conflicts, have a balance of positive and negative traits, and I think I'm more endeared to this incarnation of Optimus Prime than the more common messiah figure in the other series. The character designs are also very clever and distinctive, and are certainly an update from the blockier molds of old. The great humor and entertaining stories are helped by the talented cast of voice actors, most all of them fond echoes from my childhood.

If there was a legitimate complaint, it's that some characters are a little sillier than the story might require and that the pacing for the unfortunately last season was evidently screeching to the point you could see the skid marks on the dangling plot threads. But otherwise, it's an entertainingly light-hearted and action-packed series that might even get you a bit misty-eyed at the end, and can be enjoyed as a reboot as well as a work of its own.

The right way to do a reboot

To me, Transformers is one of those timeless series that shaped me growing up as a kid, and thus hold a special place in my heart. Now, though, I find the original Transformers (G1) impossible to watch as an adult: corny, repetitive, and the plots have more holes than a sieve.

Animated is a much-needed refresh for today's kids... and the grown-up children of the nineties. Way too many modern takes on Transformers take a Darker And Edgier direction, and I think it's a mistake. It's a concept that's hard to take completely seriously — but Animated shows that you can take worldbuilding seriously while the actual plots retain the goofy-fun atmosphere with likeable characters that once defined G1. It recreates the spirit of G1 while surpassing it in practically every way: be it animation, characterization, season-arc structure, or tightness of continuity. Animated plays fairly liberally with the worldbuilding elements created by previous series, but in doing so it weaves its own fresh pattern that gives a surprisingly deep portrayal of the Transformer society.

It really is an Adaptation Distillation of G1: all the good stuff is there, without the random detritus and questionable continuity mess that plagues too many Transformers series to count.