This one will be short. There’s only two videos.
Transformers Energon was the second toyline in the “Unicron Trilogy”. It’s unifying gimmick was based on the popular fuel supply of the Transformers. Except that the word “Energon” comes from “Energon cubes”, originally just a way to store captured energy in G1. Over time it became known as the actual source of energy for Transformers. For whatever reason, natural Energon in an ore form (throughout the Transformers multiverse Energon has existed as ore, crystals, or just plain old liquid) existed on Earth in this series, set ten years after Transformers Armada. A new group of Autobots known as the Omnicons came with weapons supposedly formed from Energon that could be used by the larger figures, as well as “Energon Stars” that attacked to the Transformers. The Decepticons had this as well through the Terrorcons. The Mini-Cons were still here but only a few Transformers in this line could interact with them and the Star Saber, the most powerful sword in the universe only ten years prior in-universe, was reduced to Kicker’s flying surfboard. More on…him…later.
Additionally each faction had their own separate gimmick. The Autobots became combiners in the same vein as the Multiforce from Japan’s Transformers Victory, just larger. Most of the Autobots could form either the top or bottom (“lovingly” referred to by fans as “shirt” and “pants” modes) half of a combined form, and the gimmick, like the Mini-Cons, was never really explored to their full potential. The reason for using this technique is not really explained well. A few had separate units that they combined with, and Optimus had a scramble type combination gimmick with his four drone vehicles and could later combine with the new version of Omega Supreme (although I got the blue repaint, Omega Sentinel instead–I liked the colors better, he could be a unique character, and I got him dirt cheap–$2 at Walmart! True story!). The Decepticons on the other hand had “hyper modes” that used extra weapons, like the Armada toys before and the Cybertron toys that followed, but didn’t require anything external to activate them. The toys themselves are quite good but this plus a host of other issues brought the series down. The US intro didn’t help much.
Transformers Energon was one of the first shows to air on Cartoon Network’s Saturday night action block of original shows simply titled “Saturdays”, and if Mark Hamill wasn’t doing the narration for this block it sure sounded like him. This was the intro we got for this show.
Granted it’s a step up from anything Armada had as we saw last week. Of course that’s not saying much given those intros. We got the logo, a fairly decent but still somehow bland cover of the classic theme, a look at the okay…ish CG. The problem is that it never meshed well with the 2-D art. The characters weren’t always lit the same, they often looked like they were running over the ground like they were floating, and the overall result just didn’t look right. It didn’t help that the translators were even more rushed. In addition to some of the same odd dialog (the one I always remember is when a giant gun came out of Optimus’s chest
to promote the role play toy and Optimus goes “Hot Shot’s blaster? Why is he giving it to me?” and the gun was never used again) and misuse of names that made Armada suffer all new errors came up. The Transformers Wiki has the full list but here are a few of my “favorites”.
The series takes a very dismissive attitude towards characters and their development. With the exception of Ironhide (who survives the series and resolves his long-running feud with Scorponok), the writers seemed unable to carry personal sub-plots and conflicts through to any conclusion. Instead, they would either quietly drop these opportunities for character development, or (much more gallingly) the characters would die and/or get mindwiped, so the stories would not have to be resolved. Examples:
- Demolishor’s uncertainty in the Decepticon cause? “Resolved” by having him sacrifice himself to save Megatron, then having Megatron resurrect him with no memories.
- Inferno’s struggle against Megatron’s Decepticon programming? Brought to an end by having him kill himself, then be resurrected, only to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the series.
- Kicker’s hatred of Transformers? Vanishes with no explanation after roughly two episodes, save for the occasional kick to Ironhide.
- Rodimus and Optimus Prime’s ideological feud over whether Unicron should be destroyed? Rodimus puts himself under Optimus’s command for the mission to defeat Galvatron, and the argument never comes up again.
- Wing Saber’s dedication to capturing Shockblast? Well, he captures him . . . but when Shockblast escapes again, Wing Saber doesn’t say a word.
Just to name a few. Then you have the Autobots flying through space in AUTOMOBILE MODE because so much of it was set in space and made transforming meaningless even though somehow Earth was still unaware the Transformers were there. It made more sense than the Bay movies but it was still there. And then there’s Kicker Jones. It’s rare for me to actively dislike the human characters but Kicker is basically Nightscream as a human. No character development, a bad attitude, constantly mistreating young Ironhide, and he was only important because Primus turned him into a Energon divining rod for some reason. He’s not even in the intro and outside of his cool suit you aren’t missing anything fun when he isn’t around. Meanwhile his father was a scatterbrained scientist, Rad, Carlos, and Alexis popped up now and then, Kicker’s…girlfriend I think, was smarter than he was (so were those Mini-Cons he treated as Uber rides), and Kicker’s mom and sister were afterthoughts. With the exception of Kicker they were still better than Fred and Billy but low bars are being set all over the Unicron Trilogy.
However, compare the US intro to the Japanese intro. There the show was called Transformers: Super Link. The theme is “Taiyo no Transform!!”, which the Transformers wiki translates as “Solar transform!!”) by Hitoshi Kitadani. This one I found a subtitled version for.
It’s great to listen to and does a better job showing off the various gimmicks of the line…at least for the Autobots. The Decepticons are only represented by Megatron with his new fancy sword. Optimus Prime here isn’t the same “Convoy” from Legend Of The Microns. He was known as Monster Convoy while this is Grand Convoy. At least I don’t think they’re the same guy. This series and the next one has a bad habit of taking cues from MegaGalvatron and giving a character a new name every time he gets a new body. Inferno gets offed and shoved into a new body (same engineering but a different alternate mode) and now he’s Roadblock, although he was supposed to be a new character. Actas, the studio who produced these first two shows for We’ve (and that’s actually the name of the licensing studio, “We’ve”) apparently didn’t get the memo. Not that the company that replaced them for the third series did better…in fact they did worse but we’ll go over that next time.
However you can see what I mean about the 2D and CG not going together well. The theme song meanwhile is again tangentially tied to the series at best. “Transformers” is mentioned and “When hearts connect/You should feel a new power” could tie in to the Autobots/Cybertrons linking up (called Super link in Japan and Powerlinking in the US) and the full version mentions Grand Cross, which I think was one of Grand Convoy’s combination names, but otherwise it’s about dreams and space and whatever the heck “Gan Gan” is since it appears to either be untranslatable or gibberish. I get the impression that Japanese Transformers intros work better when they aren’t translated.
Next time it’s time for the last show in the Unicron Trilogy and it’s probably the worst yet. Will the intros be as bad or are they one of the few things done right? Join me for the intros for Transformers Cybertron/Galaxy Force and find out!