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Anime / Transformers: Robots in Disguise

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Robots in Disguise was the first dubbed Transformers show ever broadcast for a US audience. (English dubs of Japan-exclusive G1 cartoons like The Headmasters were produced in Asia for markets like Malaysia, but those dubs never aired in the US because they were really, really bad.)

Transformers: Car Robots, the original Japanese series from which it was adapted, premiered in Japan in 2000. Originally the series was not going to be imported from Japan, but when Hasbro scrapped the planned Transtech line at the eleventh hour, the Car Robots line and its attendant cartoon were imported to fill the void until a new replacement could be designed.

Robots in Disguise was produced and dubbed by Saban Entertainment, and aired from September 2001 to March 2002 on Fox Kids (which had also aired Beast Machines and reruns of Beast Wars prior to this). It was something of a return to roots for Transformers fiction, in the sense that many characters transformed into realistic, modern Earth vehicles instead of animals or abstract/futuristic vehicles, as was standard in the Beast Era. It also marked the return of the Autobot faction and sigil for the good guys. The villains were initially called Predacons as they were in Beast Wars, but the Decepticons were added later as a sub-group. The show makes a contrast between the bumbling antics of the Predacons and the professional, sinister Decepticons.

Most of the voice actors were veterans of other Saban properties (basically, everyone from Digimon) but had never worked on a Transformers series before. Michael McConnohie, one of the series' voice directors and the voice of Hot Shot, had voiced Cosmos and Tracks in the original cartoon.

All 39 episodes were scheduled to run during the afternoon Fox Kids programming block. The third episode, "Bullet Train to the Rescue", was scheduled to air on September 11, 2001, but was not aired in most areas because of the terrorist attacks in America that day. Later episodes were edited to remove scenes that were considered similar to the events of that day, such as buildings being blown up.

For its all its action-packed adventures, there was an equal amount of emphasis on gags and humor. For all its emphasis on stand-out characterization, the plot could at times be equally as kiddy (Omega Prime powering his Matrix Blade with the happiness of children). However, attempts to compare Robots in Disguise to Beast Wars or Beast Machines may prove fruitless in the long run as the show was made in Japan for young children. But all in all, Robots in Disguise was ultimately meant to be a transitional/filler series from the end of Beast Machines to the start of Armada, and it did its job quite well.

Disney is now believednote  to own the cartoon through their acquisition of Saban. DVDs for this show are only available in the UK, much to the annoyance of US fans. The Japanese continuity received some form of follow-ups as toy packed-in comics to promote the Transformers Legends toyline.

Not to be confused with the American-produced Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) cartoon.

This cartoon provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The Autobots and Megatron in the Japanese opening animation are CG in several shots, and while better than what would come later. The models themselves are heavily based on the toys, resulting in some very stiff animation.
  • Ascended Extra: Remember that bike-character from the toyline, Sideways? No? How about now?
  • Anti-Hero: Ultra Magnus is technically a good guy, but in his earlier appearances he is rather self-centered and is angry at his brother Optimus Prime for getting the Matrix instead of him.
  • Anti-Villain: Sky-Byte becomes somewhat of a reluctant ally to the Autobots as the series goes on and is somewhat less malicious than the other villains. He's the only one of the Decepticons and Predacons that managed to escape being imprisoned forever at the end of the series, as Optimus Prime was convinced he had completely reformed. He was right.
  • Big Bad: We know, Megatron (known as Gigatron in the original Japanese version).
  • Bowdlerise: Not as notable in most cases of anime being dubbed for English-speaking audiences, but there are some examples.
    • In the 11th episode, Wrecker Hook (known as Tow-Line in the English dub) boasts about how the drivers of the vehicles he tows will be punished for their sins by God. The English dub changes it to Two-Line being obsessed with enforcing traffic laws because many consider it taboo to discuss religious concepts in children's shows.
    • The 30th episode has a scene where Build Typhoon coerces Build Boy into getting back to work by sitting in front of him and threatening to commit harakiri. Because references to suicide obviously won't fly in a children's show, the English dub instead has the dialogue altered so that Heavy Load was blocking Wedge's path and refusing to budge until he stopped slacking.
  • Breakout Character: Sky-Byte and Scourge. The latter popularized the concept of evil Optimus clones, and since then, there's been at least one in nearly every series (to the point that there was a fan movement to change the more common "Nemesis Prime" to his name). The former received an incarnation in Transformers: Animated's post-series comic, was considered for a Universe toy until Botcon came out with an awesome Sharkticon remold (before being added to the Generations line later on, as a completely new mold), and even managed the rare feat of retroactively being added to G1 in two separate continuities (and a later one).
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Kelly, whose day is eternally ruined by either the Autobots or the Predacons.
    • Also applies to Sky-Byte and his Predacons whenever they try to foil the Decepticons' plans.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Prowl has very little patience for lawbreakers and often tries to arrest the Predacons.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Most anime involve a degree of this, but RID is high even in comparison, especially in translation.
  • Canon Immigrant/ Retcon: Kiss Players retcons Car Robots into the G1 continuity family, both series take place in between the movie (set in 2005) and Season 3 (which is set in 2010 in Japan as opposed to one year after the movie). Brave Maximus time travels, arriving on the Planet Master, becoming the inspiration for the construction of Fortress Maximus from Transformers: ★Headmasters anime. This caused problems when Hasbro didn't follow through with this to the point where in Fun Publications' works, Robots in Disguise has it's own separate universal stream called "Viron". Ask Vector Prime stated that due to the events of Cybertron is in Grave Danger! in Transformers: ★Headmasters, portions of Viron overlapped Primax thus causing the same basic events to occur in Primax.
  • The City: Tokyo in Car Robots; the city is named Metro City in Robots In Disguise
  • Clip Show: Three of them, despite the series only being 39 episodes long.
    • Saban even redid the clip shows; the third one, which in Car Robots was about Sky-Byte's reflections on recent events, was completely scrapped in favor of Megatron reviewing the arrival of Ultra Magnus, even though Megatron had become Galvatron a few episodes previously, putting the episode out of order.
  • Continuity Reboot: This series was the first to not be a continuation of Transformers: Generation 1 in any way, shape, or form. Japan later on retconned it to be part of the G1 continuity family but Hasbro firmly keeps the series as it's own thing.
  • Cool Train: About the only series to prominently feature a team of train-based Transformers- which due to the series also paying more attention to scale than usual, meant they were much bigger than the other Transformers. In one episode, Midnight Express has become quite attached to a non-sentient steam engine. (Although that's a case of Woolseyism — J4 of Car Robots treats said steam engine as one would treat a revered elder.)
  • Combining Mecha: The Build Team forms Landfill, the Decepticons form Ruination, and Team Bullet Train forms Rail Racer.
  • Cultural Translation: For all its bowdlerization, there ARE quite a bit of examples of this and Woolseyism. For example, in episode 28, Slapper and the Predacons are astounded by Prime's Kirk Summation in the Japanese version, whereas the dub has them mock his speech for being cliche. Check this page for more details.
  • Demonic Possession: A mild version, with Skid-Z being possessed by the "psychotropic energy" of a race driver, and being compelled to join any race.
  • The Dragon: Sky-Byte is Megatron's most trusted minion and often orders Dark Scream, Slapper, and Gas Skunk around.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Megatron is this to the Predacon Council, who are only mentioned in the English dub.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Almost everybody, but some Transformers were renamed in honor of G1 characters (Build Hurricane became Grimlock, Mach Alert became Prowl, Gigatron became Megatron, etc).
    • In addition to individual characters, this also went for the names of the specific groups. While the English dub has the heroes go by Autobots as per tradition with the bad guys called Predacons, the Japanese version had the good guys addressed as Cybertrons and the villains referred to as Destrongers. In addition, some of the sub-factions are known in the English dub as Team Bullet Train, Build Team, and Decepticons, while their respective Japanese names are Team Shinkansen, Buildmaster, and the Combatrons.
  • Evil Counterpart: Scourge, the first of many black repaints of Prime to be popular in America.
  • Evil Is Petty: Several episodes have the Predacons and/or the Decepticons committing evil acts just to show off their power and ruthlessness in the Japanese version. The dub tends to change these so the attacks actually have a point (e.g. in Bullet Train to the Rescue, Sky-Byte's motive for attacking the train is to steal energy from it in the dub).
  • Evil Laugh: The Predacons often laugh evilly.
  • Evil Twin: Scourge is an evil copy of Optimus Prime. Funnily enough, Scourge looks more like G1 Optimus (aside from color) than Optimus does.
  • Fake Defector:
    • Mirage pretends to betray the Autobots in "Mirage's Betrayal" so he can dupe the Predacons after learning that they put a device on him that allowed them to hear his conversations with the other Autobots.
    • Ultra Magnus also tried to play the Decepticons for chumps, but his plan was ruined by the intervention of the Autobot Brothers.
  • HeelĖFace Turn: Sky-Byte. As some follow-up material would reveal, he didn't "escape" the Autobots in the last episode, but was deliberately allowed to remain free because they could tell he had reformed. He would go on to become a guardian of both humanity as well as Earth's oceans.
  • Heroes Want Red Sports Cars: Side Burn has a thing for red sports cars. And it's almost always the same driver.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The English dub marks the return of the classic Transformer style wipes. The original Japanese version also does this, but a bit less frequently and in a different style.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Sky-Byte is smarter than the rest of Megatron's underlings, but still tends to have things go bad for him.
  • Jerkass: Before softening up, Ultra Magnus starts out as being very rude to the other Autobots and only caring about taking the Energon Matrix from Optimus Prime.
  • Kansai Regional Accent: Gusher (a.k.a. Slapper).
  • Kid-Appeal Character:
    • Wedge. He's small, enormously eager to prove himself, young, and towards the end of the series, its HIS courage that inspires Omega Prime to act and pull off a big feat. To top it all off, he's yellow orange.
    • Side Burn is the youngest of the Autobot Brothers, and is the closest friend to Koji out of the Autobots.
  • Lima Syndrome: Sky-Byte, who provides the page quote.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Side Burn's obsession with red sports cars. Disturbing implications arise when his Super Mode is a red sports car.
  • Merchandise-Driven: To be expected, as the Transformers cartoons have always had accompanying toylines.
  • Meaningful Name: In Japan, this incarnation of Megatron was named Gigatron. "Giga" means a thousand units of something, which applies to this Megatron having at least ten alternate modes, quite possibly the most out of any character in any of the series.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Sky-Byte is somewhat nicer than the other villains and even unintentionally helps people on occasion.
  • Mythology Gag: Many episodes of Robots in Disguise featured references to characters and events from earlier Transformers series. These were typically not written by the dub team but, rather, were added by Hasbro employee Andrew Frankel after the scripts were submitted to the company for broadcast approval.
    • One of the strangest is that T-AI, the RiD Autobots' computer/holographic AI, is the daughter of Teletraan-1, the Generation One Ark's main computer.
      • Possibly justified in that spin-off processes are sometimes called "daughter processes".
    • The Episode ''Secret Weapon: D-5" has the Predacons trying to guess what the D in D-5 stands for. One possibility they come up with is "Destron 5", Destron being the Japanese name for the Decepticons.
  • Nominal Villain: In this continuity, the Decepticons are Autobots whose protoforms were discovered and reprogrammed to be evil by the Predacons. They are not villains by choice despite what they believe. While Optimus expresses hope that they can be swayed to the side of good, their corruption proves too strong.
  • No Name Given: Kelly was never mentioned by name in the series but rather it was her name according to the script.
    • Her name is actually mentioned once, but only in the Italian dub.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Megatron in many early episodes - although he is stronger than all of the Predacons combined, he often sent them into the field alone instead of accompanying them.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Considering that they can perfectly change their bodies, the Predacons are a bit too fond of this.
    • In Sideburnís Obssession, the plot is kicked off when Megatron wears a cardboard piece to pose as a red sports car and capture Sideburn. He falls for it hook line and sinker.
    • Skid-Zís Choice has Sky-Byte posing as a race car through some added parts. Only Sideburn sees through it and thatís because the former is the only Red sports car to talk back to him.
    • Commandos has the Predacons disguising themselves as Autobots to try and discredit the Decepticons. But despite all of them disguising as Optimus Prime, the disguise holds up.
    • And one final time in A Real Fish Story, where they pull the same scheme as above. Only this time, they disguise themselves differently (Sky-Byte is Rail Racer, Slapper is Sideburn, Gas Skunk is Prowl and Darkscream adopts a southern drawl to impersonate X-Brawn).
  • Parental Bonus: Sky-Byte reads A Tale of Two Cities and Hamlet in one episode and doesn't think much of either of them.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Neil Kaplan does a pretty awesome Peter Cullen impersonation as Optimus Prime.
  • Power Trio: The Autobot Bros., Side Burn, X-Brawn, and Prowl. Railspike, Rapid Run, and Midnight Express — who comprise Team Bullet Train — also qualify.
  • Product-Promotion Parade: One infamous scene consisted of Scourge describing the abilities of the other Decepticons, for no reason whatsoever (this is due to the fact that it was an invention of the dub, the Japanese scene just has the attack occur in silence).
  • Recurring Extra: Kelly, a human woman who appears in every episode just to suffer a great misfortune.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Scourge and Mega-Octane.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus are brothers in this continuity. Alpha Trion is mentioned as their creator making him the closest thing they have to a father.
  • Robo Family: The Autobot Brothers: Prowl, X-Brawn and Sideburn. There is also Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus who are brothers. Alpha Trion is mentioned as their creator making him the closest thing they have to a father.
  • Running Gag: The mistreatment of Kelly, Side Burn and red sports cars, Transformers in general not seeming to realize that vehicles on this planet aren't sapient.
  • Serial Escalation: Megatron had six different forms (or, at least, his figure did); Bat, Jet, Claw, Car, and two-headed dragon, as well as his normal robot mode. After becoming Galvatron, he gets an extra four modes.
    • We get to see all of his modes during the show, though some are one-scene wonders.
  • Shoulder Cannon:
    • Scourge's Barrage Attack, as well as Optimus' Strafe Attack.
    • Slapper and Gas Skunk have weapons built into their shoulders (Right Laser and Left Laser, respectively).
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the dub, the city is named Metro City.
    • One-shot character Dr. Bridget resembles Dr. Ritsuko Akagi from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • The combination phrase used in the Japanese version is the same as Brave Exkaiser, which was originally planned to be a Transformers series before being heavily rewritten into the first Brave Series anime.
  • Sibling Fusion: Optimus and Magnus are brothers in this continuity and can combine into Omega Prime. In this form, they are virtually unstoppable.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime are brothers in this continuity and initially don't get along well due to the former's jealousy over the latter having the matrix.
  • Smokescreen Crime: In "Landfill", the Decepticons sabotage the Autobots' Space Bridge and launch a series of attacks across the city which the Autobots are unable to respond to due to the bridge taking them to the wrong locations. This is all a diversion to keep the Autobots preoccupied while Megatron and Scourge attack an energy research facility. The Autobots ultimately fix the problem with the bridge and head to the facility to deal with Megatron and Scourge.
  • The Starscream: Scourge at one point attempts to use Fotress Maximus to destroy Galvatron and usurp his position as leader of the bad guys. In fact, Galvatron doesn't stand a chance against Omega until he absorbs energy from Fortress Maximus.
  • Team Mom: T-AI assigns missions for the Autobots and takes on the form of a young girl.
  • Terrible Trio: Slapper, Darkscream, and Gas Skunk are Megatron's three most active minions.
  • °Three Amigos!: Koji is often seen in the company of his friends Karl and Jenny. The Predacon Trio are a villainous version of this trope.
  • Token Mini-Moe: T-AI (pronounced 'tie'). She is a computer generated hologram, but she took an appearance a young woman, resulting in her being much smaller than the Autobots.
  • Verbal Tic: Guildor (the Japanese Dark Scream) ends sentences with "de gozaru".
  • Wacky Racing: The episode "Skid Z's Choice," in which most of the cast (including Megatron, Sky-Byte and Team Bullet Train) participating in a free-for-all to lure out a haunted Transformer...
  • Warrior Poet: Sky-Byte at one point tries to impress Optimus Prime with his poetry, only for the Autobot leader to insult his work.
  • What Does This Button Do?: Subverted: See Funny moments.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: X-Brawn. Despite most people's belief that the X was added to the name because of legal trouble, it was really just added because it makes the name sound cooler. YMMV.
    • Skid-Z, whose name is just pronounced "Skids".

Alternative Title(s): Transformers Car Robots