January 1, 2012

Shadowcon Overviews- Transformers Prime Season 1

The last three series I glossed over, making up the Unicron Trilogy, were the three series that I grew up with. They’re also the worst of the Transformers series according to the majority of the Transformers fans, so I came in at a pretty sour patch in the Transformers timeline. This is unfortunate, because after these three series passed, there was much rejoicing.

In my view, Armada and Energon represent the point where the Transformers were really just not doing well. The series were rushed from their Japanese shores over to America, and as a result, the toy lines of each series suffered hugely because of it (I’ve discussed this in greater detail in the individual overviews, so check those out if you want to know the nitty-gritty). Cybertron followed, and it was an improvement both in the writing, and in the dubbing. Nevertheless, it was still week compared to other Transformers shows come before such as Beast Wars or even the Generation One cartoon. However, while the Cybertron cartoon suffered, the toy line blossomed, offering up what has since become a type of ‘catch-all’ series of toys, ranging from ordinary vehicles to awesome futuristic fighters all the way to animal transformers, harkening back to the Beast Wars era. With the release of the feature film the following year, the Transformers brand as a whole was beginning to set itself up for major changes. Some were good and some were, well… not really bad so much as jarring (Transformers fans hate change, you see).

These changes came about in various ways. IDW had recently acquired the Transformers title, and had begun production on its own, original continuity, free from any previous cartoon or comic. The success of the first Transformers film opened up the possibility for a sequel, and several new toy lines had been released in the form of the Classics and Movie lines, the former of which was a toy line which drew inspiration from G1, employing modern engineering to new renditions of famous characters, and the latter an obvious tie-in to the film. The movie’s success also ensured massive brand marketing, and thus Transformers began invading underwear, t-shirts, Slurpee-cups, hell even Google professed its endorsement of the film by changing its logo for a day! The film was a great hit, and while it didn’t do well critically, it nevertheless showed that the Transformers were still alive.

Amid the movie frenzy, there also existed another Transformers television series, Transformers Animated. This show took the most time to get used to up front (Beast Wars was only a curse to the Transformers for some fans only in retrospect), as the animation and the actual inclusion of a story were such that most fans were thrown for a loop. What was the deal with all the melon-head humans with stick-figure bodies? Where was Optimus’s iconic ion blaster? Why weren’t Megatron and Optimus duking it out like old times? The declaration of blasphemy from fans was outrageous, and yes, I was one of them, though, like many, I was pleasantly surprised.

This show had a Point A, which lead to a Point B, which lead to a short-lived Point C. In other words, it had an actual story behind it. This thrilled me, and being that this was the first televised Transformers product since Cybertron, it really gave me hope. The show had characters that I cared about, and I tuned in every week wanting to know what was going to happen to them. And the toy line did an amazing job duplicating such memorable characters. While I personally didn’t care for the aesthetic of the Animated toy line, it too was nevertheless ingeniously engineered, as the toys were now based on the show, and not the other way around. Animated provided the Transformers franchise a breath of originality that harkened back to IDW’s style of writing epic, galaxy-spanning stories and character arcs.

The second and third installments of the film franchise followed, and with them there came a new set of toys for each film. Concurrent to the third film’s production and release was a video game, War for Cybertron, depicting the… well, war for Cybertron, I mean there’s not much else that title could mean, right? Anyway, the game proved a huge hit with gamers both fan and non-fan of the Transformers series, critics praising the effects and story, and while I haven’t played it myself, those whom I’ve talked to love it, so check it out if you can. The purpose of the game was to provide the Transformers franchise with the first game of its kind that was good and had substance. All three movie tie-in games were bad, and the games that had come before were forgettable… so forgettable that I had to look online to see if there were any pre-movie Transformers games out there; there are, in fact, nine entire games for various platforms (the most successful of which has been one based on the Unicron Trilogy released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2). Anyway, War for Cybertron was not only good, but it turned out that the game was also to be the first step in a multi-part planed epic for the franchise scheduled to exist for the next ten plus years.

Now, a statement like that doesn’t just get put out on the Internet and stay there. There have been many people who say that this could last for maybe two or three years, five at the most (the longest running Transformers show has been Beast Wars/Beast Machines, lasting for seven years), but I for one am hopeful of its success, and here’s why: First, the people at Hasbro obviously have something planned, or they wouldn’t have released War for Cybertron and that statement in tandem at all. Second, there have been leaked photos of the massive Transformers Bible, a recently written continuity guidebook that attempts to explain away each separate continuity as parts of a greater continuity, now called the ‘Aligned’ continuity, and the book also is to be the roadmap for the huge plan. Third, the bible itself has been designed and looked over by both professional Hasbro developers and a select few Transformers fans, so the fact that the fans have at least some say in what’s going on is reassuring.

And fourth, Transformers Prime is also part of the ‘Aligned’ continuity, and its expansion into its second season is all the more reason to have faith in this new plan, because, let me tell you, Prime is really, really good!

Shadowcon presents
An opinionated look at Season One of
Transformers Prime

Oh, and pardon me for not putting colons in between “Transformers” and whatever the subtitle is, because otherwise it would appear as though Transformers Animated was trying to be the animated version of Transformers, which would just be redundant, and Transformers Prime was trying to be the franchise’s prime series… which, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense… hmm, moving on.

I’m a huge fan of this show, so there may be some gushing in this overview. Nevertheless, I’ll try to approach this show with the same, hopefully unbiased, attitude that I’ve always carried. This show has a lot going on, from plot to characters to music to voice acting to directing. The direction of the show is fairly dark as far as a Transformers series is concerned, and while it’s not on the level of a morbid, no-hope attitude demonstrated in Beast Machines, it is most definitely darker than its direct predecessor, Animated. It’s also important to note that this show is written by the guys who wrote the first two Transformers films, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, so I was quite surprised when Optimus showed some restraint in battle, rather than outright pleasuring himself in the beheading of others (he is still a complete badass, though, so don’t worry). Likewise, many aspects of the show are far more grounded in realism than in the films, with the film franchise’s bleakness now toned down for the Prime show, which incorporates characters that care about themselves and each other into the movie franchise’s atmosphere. Characters are complex and unlike most other Transformers series, have many shades to them.

Let’s begin with Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobot squadron stationed on Earth, Optimus is as badass as ever, but lacks the completely homicidal fighting mood of the movie Optimus, and looses the preachy-ness of the Unicron Trilogy Optimus. Instead, he gains the characteristics of Optimus Primal from Beast Machines, as he has the sense of having seen many things and knows far more than he lets on, and mixes that with an air of Shakespearian bleakness that helps differentiate him from other incarnations. But most of all, he draws from Generation One Optimus Prime, with his charismatic cry of “Transform and roll out!” being hit with an amazing performance from Peter Cullen, who also voiced Optimus in both the Generation One cartoon and in the movie trilogy. Here, Cullen manages the role with like enthusiasm, though as some have pointed out, he’s also taking on the role of complete antithesis of movie Optimus Prime, as Prime Prime is far more grounded in his motives of spreading peace and keeping humankind safe, instead of completely loosing it and having some weird fetish for the faces of his victims. He is nevertheless able to be brutally awesome, as, on multiple points in the show thus far, he has demonstrated the ability to take out a phalanx of Unicron manifestations on his own, battle Megatron to a draw, stop a moving train from plummeting into a crater, and save Arcee and Bumblebee in one move! He’s scary, and having seen what happens to him at the end of the season, he’s going to grow as a character even more.

Scarier still is Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons. Missing for twenty years, the guy comes back to Earth with multiple plans in mind, most of which are thwarted, but not without their own sense of dread toward the situation, which I love. I also love this iteration of Megatron because he’s completely insane. The guy’s a psychotic battle-mongering dictatorial, profiting off of the weak and his quest for power. And that quest for power is that much more inflated with his discovery and subsequent symbiosis with Dark Energon, and his ties to Optimus and to Unicron, all of which I’ll cover later. And out of universe, Frank Welker’s reprisal of this role is fantastic, with great performance. When Michael Bay said he didn’t want Welker for the role of movie Megatron, he reasoned that Welker’s voice was too weak, that it had too much soprano and not enough baritone. Well, Michael, your loss, because Prime Megatron is very menacing in his voice. Welker’s shrill cries of the original are toned down significantly, offering a far richer, lush sound than before. Welker’s great, and he holds the voice of Megatron with a presence that automatically has a tonic to whichever scene he’s in. In character, Megatron draws yet again from Beast Wars/Beast Machines, in that he’s sinister without being too melodramatic, and also takes a page from Animated Megatron through his ideas of having a massive plan in mind. Animated Megatron’s gravitas and debonair linguistic skill set are also sharply reflected in this Megatron. A lot of the other Megatron incarnations felt either too evil or too small to be considered threats (Cybertron Megatron and Robots In Disguise Megatron are excellent examples of each of these traits in turn), but Prime Megatron manages the scare-factor and menacing calculative nature perfectly, his design, paying homage to both his movie and Generation One incarnations, doing nothing to dissuade the dread that his character invokes upon his Autobot enemies when he’s on screen.

Ratchet, the medic of the Autobot team, is voiced by the awesome Jeffery Combs whom you may know as Weyoun from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, or as the Question from Justice League Unlimited. Ratchet is less grumpy than his other versions, but still maintains that same character archetype. Now, though, he’s able to reflect age without having to constantly remind us of that fact, (something that the Animated Ratchet could not, I’m sorry to say, perfect) offering examples of his age through his knowledge of Optimus’ past and history with Megatron, as well as displaying growth of character through development of his initial uncaring attitude towards the Autobot’s human aids turning into toleration of the three of them, which in turn grows to compassion towards the end of the series. Noble is his attitude towards a crisis, mixed in with a substantial helping of skepticism toward the situation. Ratchet’s usually the one Autobot who says behind to work the GroundBridge, the device that allows the Autobots to travel instantaneously from one location to another; its like a transporter, but green. His role is fairly shunted to make room for the more active characters in the show, but he nevertheless is an awesome addition to the cast, and Jeffery Combs’ voice acting really brings the character to life.

Bumblebee and Raf are perhaps the least-developed characters in the Autobot ranks. They deliver their best certainly, though that isn’t saying a whole lot. Bumblebee himself draws from the movie continuity heavily, from his design to the fact that he only speaks in beeps and squawks. As such, there’s really not much for him to contribute aside from being a badass fighter. Likewise, Raf, while not being mute, has done the least out of the three human characters. Character development is sorely lacking for both he and Bumblebee; all we know about Raff is that he’s got a large family and that he’s a very good hacker, so good he’s able to hack a government mainframe and manipulate an entire fleet of satellite dishes and keep Soundwave, a robot from outer space at bay for a time. He has a good relationship with Bumblebee, but that’s about it for them. Hopefully when Season Two gets going, we’ll see more from this duo.

I’ll cover Bulkhead and Miko next, as they’re the pair that everyone hates, and I for one can’t blame them: as fun as they are, they can get grating. Bulkhead had one episode to star (two if you count his joint episode with Arcee, “Metal Attraction”), and it was almost all wasted. Outside of that, Bulkhead is strong, steadfast, and caring, but that isn’t demonstrated to the audience as much as it should be. Miko on the other hand, is a complete pest. She’s the Kicker Jones of Transformers Prime, having reckless behavior and rash decision-making down pat. One of her first actions is following Bulkhead into danger after being told to stay. Now, sure, this was her first venture with the Transformers, so I’ll give that a pass. But she does it again about three minutes later… in the same episode!!! And this is after she’s witnessed her human compatriots almost get killed. Her naughty behavior continues throughout the series and she never learns her lesson that out there when giant robots are fighting it’s dangerous. And what’s worse, no one (save for one instance) even mentions her behavior. Optimus keeps on insisting that the humans’ safety is the Autobot’s concern; well he sure has a funny way of showing it when you have a human running out into the heat of battle just to get a goddamn photo!!!!!! Sorry… better now… Anyway, this pair is assured some form of redemption in Season Two, and I have hope. Let’s move on to a far more exciting pair of characters.

Arcee and Jack are the pair that everyone loves, and so do I (expect much gushing)! Let’s start with Arcee, who takes almost a completely original form, both in design and in character. Throughout the Transformers fictions there has been no character resembling Arcee’s. In fact, the closest character whom she homages is her IDW counterpart, but only in her completely awesome fighting style. Otherwise, she’s a completely fresh slate, which is awesome. In all other Transformers fictions, if a female is even included, their role is either really minor they could be male and not have to change, or they’re a romantic interest, so I’m glad to see that Prime Arcee is neither of the two. Her character is tragic, and the more I learned about her and what she had been through as a character, the more glad I felt that this show was taking a great amount of artistic license with their characters.

Arcee’s the most rounded character of the Autobot cast (and no, that’s not a comment about her feminine looks, though the design teem obviously had a field day with that). No, this is about her as a tragic hero, who has lost several Autobot partners whom she has obviously had an intense relationship with. The most recent of these partners would be Cliffjumper. She and Cliffjumper have a very intelligent relationship, one where one questions if there could be some sort of romance between the two, or if they’re just really good friends. Well, if it’s the former, Arcee’s out of luck, and the guilt over losing him haunts her, and the writers never shy away from letting the audience know that Arcee is always guilt-ridden. Her relationship with the rest of the cast is great as well, as she and Starscream have a great chemistry on screen. See, Starscream killed Cliffjumper, and when Arcee figures this out, she’s naturally pissed about it. What’s great is that the two don’t just fight about it, but talk about it. Sure, Starscream plays coy, but at least there’s actual dialogue being exchanged here. Arcee’s angry, and she often lets that anger get the better of her. Her character on her own is awesome, and it’s only strengthened by her human protégé.

Jack is voiced by Josh Keaton whom you’ll recognize as the voice actor over on The Spectacular Spider-Man series, and who plays a similar role here. If Miko is the Kicker Jones of Prime, then Jack is the Alexis figure for the human cast. He’s levelheaded, kind, and he tries to be responsible to those around him. Just as an aside, I like that, for once, the female human isn’t the level-headed one; not that I’m opposed to it, but we’ve seen that done far too many times. I’m glad that a male lead is also a competent human being for once. When Jack and Arcee meet, we don’t just get the usual ‘discovery of robots on earth’ banter. In addition to that, we also get some personal quips and jibes, which help to flesh out Jack and remind us of Arcee’s past and of what she carries. Arcee, like Ratchet, initially dismisses her guardianship over Jack, but he grows on her, as she’s able to talk to him (albeit in bike form) and find comfort in his care and generosity, while he’s able to be convinced to come back after he, in a startlingly realistic move for a Transformers human, leaves the Autobot base, saying he doesn’t want anything more to do with them after having been almost killed. Both of these points are contained to the five part opening for the series, but I’m thrilled that the writers put them in there.

Arcee’s care over Jack is only that much more prevalent when Jack’s mom is brought onto the team as returning guest-star. When Jack’s mom, June, is introduced to the Autobots, Arcee’s responsibility to Jack is lessened considerably. One may think this a burden that she’d be willing and thankful to part with, though the opposite happens, which I’m glad about. Being able to retain character continuity is often where any Transformers shows stumble (hell, even Animated did that, and by the end of that series, Prowl had advanced to the point of using his ghost thoughts to stop a thermonuclear bomb), but Prime manages to keep its characters in check, which is great. Arcee and Jack are a great duo, and arguably carry the show by themselves. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, I could watch Arcee/Jack-centric episodes all day, but I also want the other characters to shine more. Hopefully we’ll see this in Season Two.

Back in my Armada overview, I mentioned that Starscream was the saving grace of that show in that his character was the most complex of the entire cast (meaning that his character was the only character worth giving a damn about). While this Starscream conforms more to the Generation One aspects of his character rather than taking on a fresh persona, he nevertheless is still a far superior Starscream to most, though the Armada Starscream, surprisingly, remains my favorite. This one, however, is still really cool. He’s manipulative, cunning, and manages to take command away from Megatron… twicein the first season of the show!!! (Hell, even Cybertron waited a little while before making Starscream usurp Megatron, up until now the only time that Starscream’s reign has lasted for more that a minute on television).

This Starscream’s also without mercy, killing Cliffjumper in the first ten minutes of the show’s premier! Damn! On Armada, a character would be lucky if they were wounded in battle, but here, the war aspect of Transformers is very real. Awesome. Sadly, though, Starscream’s cunning and guile are undermined slightly by the, in my opinion, over-exemplified character trait of groveling respect toward Megatron, to Airachnid, to Arcee, hell, to pretty much anybody who has power over him. He’s very whiney, and while that trait can work, here I find it just a little too exuberantly displayed. His last appearance in the series was in episode 20, in which he wanted to redeem himself and join the Autobots. At the end of the episode, he left and has not been seen since. I find his abandonment of both the war and the Decepticon cause to be within reason for his character, as he’s never liked serving under Megatron, but he’s never really saw success when leading he Decepticons ether, so his taking off is a nice change of pace, and was, like many things on the show thus far, unexpected and welcome… the plot twist, not him leaving the show; on the contrary, I would have liked to have seen him be with the Autobots for a couple more episodes before abandoning the show altogether, though I can see where the time constraints cut into this, having to make room for Unicron and all…

Oh, yes, Unicron is back, and what a twist he presents to the story and to the overall tone of the show! Despite being a plot device from the beginning, Unicron nevertheless is still a welcome addition to the cast. His presence had been hinted at all the way back in episode one of the show in the form of Dark Energon. Dark Energon, introduced in War for Cybertron, is exactly what it sounds like: dark, purple Energon, as opposed to the yellow/pink color of the normal stuff. This Energon has the power to revive the dead, make people control the dead, have the user have complete telepathic contact with Unicron… in short, Megatron infuses himself with the power to make him go even more crazy, and he wastes no time in utilizing it to first raise an undead army, and then once that fails, reanimate his own body with it by taking control of Bumblebee’s body and, well, suffice it to say it gets complicated. The main point here is that Dark Energon is indeed a prevalent plot device, and plays a major role both at the beginning and at the end of the series.

Unicron too plays a major role in the last four episodes, as it is revealed the he’s sheltered himself against his nemesis, Primus, the creator of the Transformers race itself. That so far is not surprising; we’ve seen this first in the original Transformers comic book, and again in Armada, but the twist here is that Unicron is the Earth. Yeah, how’s that for a plot twist! Now, once again, people are going to have contentions about this, and let me remind everyone that this is just my opinion (with some cool trivia thrown in). However, I love this development, and was very surprised when it was originally revealed to me. Because he’s the Earth, he’s able to take control of rocks and form miniatures of himself, which he uses to fight the Autobots, intent on killing Optimus, the last of the Prime lineage. To me, Unicron doesn’t represent the Transformers’ worst nightmare (that honor goes to IDW Galvatron and to what he did just recently), but Unicron is the Transformers’ biggest threat, and that certainly isn’t skimped on here. Unicron’s presence in the story was great, and with two helpful backstories presented first by Optimus himself and then by Ratchet, we get a good feel for the direction of the show, and incidentally, the new Aligned continuity.

One of the many things that this show does really well is paying homage to iconic Transformers moments, but giving them a substantial twist in some way. Here, the Autobots and Decepticons must unite to defeat Unicron. Now, that in and of itself is not surprising; like Unicron, we’ve seen this done before in previous series. What’s different is that it’s Megatron who actively seeks out the Autobots instead of the other way around like we’d expect. This is great because it allows the Autobots to act rationally: they’re concerned about their human friends’ safety, the security of their base, etc. Optimus even voices the question of how legitimate is the alliance? How long will it last? To which Megatron responds that he only intends to work with them “as long as is mutually beneficial”. This is excellent character action and helps solidify the fact that the show cares as much if not more about its characters as the action.

Optimus’ and Megatron’s pasts are now truly intertwined, as we discover Optimus having been tutored by Megatron after the former’s realization that the political center on Cybertron was corrupt, and the latter took to warfare. This relationship is great; it gives us insight not only into Optimus’ character, but also into Megatron’s, which we don’t often see (and even when we do, we don’t see a flawed person, we just see evil megalomania). Megatron’s character is actually pretty shaded, as he was once in favor of peace, and at one point served either under or alongside Optimus against the Decepticons, which is the first time in any Transformers fiction that Megatron has started out on the Autobot’s team. Megatron’s relationship with Optimus should be expanded on in Season Two, as now that Optimus has lost his memory prior to Megatron’s turn to evil, he now believes that he and Megatron are allies again and has sided with the Decepticons, much to Megatron’s twisted pleasure. Optimus’ memory loss came at the very end of the finale, when Optimus dumped all the power of the Matrix of Leadership out in order to defeat Unicron, in turn causing his memories to be (at least partially) released as well, and it was a really shocking surprise. Though Unicron’s defeat was a little too hasty (I say that, though the show did sacrifice four episodes to deal with him), the shock of Optimus siding with Megatron made up for it in spades!

Alongside the main plot, we have subplots involving the human organization MECH, run by Silas, who is voiced by Clancy Brown, whom you may know as the voice of Lex Luther over on Justice League and Superman: TAS, or, to the non-superhero enthusiast, as prison guard Byron Hadley from The Shawshank Redemption. MECH is pretty cool, popping up here and there to remind us that humankind actually matters in this show and isn’t something that audiences should be complaining about. Arcee fans such as myself are also awarded with yet more insight into the female’s past in the form of Airachnid (voiced by Gina Torres of Firefly fame) who is NOT Blackarachnia or ‘Arachnid’; the ‘Air-’ is intentional! Arachnid is sneaky, and plays an interesting foil for both Arcee and Jack.

Characters like Knockout and Breakdown (the latter of whom is voiced by Adam Baldwin, also of Firefly fame) are fun, but like MECH, the writers know when to reel them back in service to the plot. Human characters like Agent Fowler, the Autobot’s liaison to the human government, and, as mentioned before, Jack’s mom, June, are also nice guest stars, often servicing the plot, but also have enough character in them both to not be boring.

But plot and character centricity and development aren’t the only thing that this show excels at. As you can probably tell (even with horrible screen caps taken by me), the artists of the show spend time on every frame to get things just the way they want them. I read online that a single episode of the show takes a year to produce (they work on all of them at once, see; it’s not like they’ve been producing the show since 1987), and the work and effort shows in every corner of the show. The animation used is once again CGI, but it actually looks good for once. Unlike Cybertron’s blocky movement and aesthetic, Prime boasts a tremendous amount of texture and layer formulae for each of its models, which really helps to make the show that much more real.

The Transformers themselves supposedly have three individual model sheets: one for their robot mode, vehicle mode, and their transformations, which just shows how much effort and care is being put into the visuals as well as the writing. From the robots to the landscapes to the lighting, nothing is skimped on here. The robots move as naturally as they do in the movie franchise, which is really just a dirty middle finger to ILM. According to Jose Lopez, lead character designer, the robots have transformations based on personality: Optimus Prime usually transforms with substantial fierceness, Bulkhead with a blocky quality, Bumblebee with the natural motions of a person walking, while Arcee has her transformation tailored to fit her sleek and (dare I say it, sexy) nature.

Every time I watch an episode of Cybertron (the only one of the three shows of the Unicron Trilogy that I return to), and see transformation stock footage, I always get irritated not only because it’s a scene that we’ve seen several million times over, but because I always wonder what the rest of the people are doing while this scene is going on. When Optimus transforms and we see his transformation footage, is Megatron just examining his badass gun until Prime finishes (what makes this even weirder, is that in Cybertron, they had dialogue or a monologue overlaid the stock footage itself, meaning that either the person transforming was either speaking really fast, or the rest of the people were just yawning in boredom; that’s certainly what I was doing).

Fortunately, the Prime show lacks any sort of cut-away transformation sequences for any of the characters. Gone is the anime style of the Unicron Trilogy, instead favoring Generation One and Beast Wars style, keeping the characters in their environment when they change form. I’m thrilled about this, as it allows more time to develop other things instead of sitting around while one character transforms outside of what’s really going on. Here, it’s all integrated, and makes for a much more believable and realistic atmosphere.

The music is another highlight for me. Brian Tyler, composer of various video game scores, composed the themes song and the various background tunes, which are all as good, if not better than the movie scores by Steve Jablonsky. Prime’s movie-inspired themes utilize a full orchestra, and give the show a majestic quality, as well as servicing the battle sequences with vigor and excitement.

One thing I like about this show is that it treats the Autobots and, to a lesser extent, the Decepticons, as a team as opposed to most series where they’re a bunch of people who don’t really seem to coordinate together very well. Despite Armada’s claims of teamwork, Optimus’ men could be surrounded by a group of Yeti and he’d have no idea what to do. Likewise, even Generation One had its episodes where Optimus looked like he was in command of a group of people who couldn’t hear or had mental problems, or both. In Prime, however, the Autobots are coordinated, concise, and efficient. They take care of each other, and know how to do battle together.

On the flip side, the Decepticon forces tend to employ a vast (possibly infinite) number of cloned drones to take most of the heavy hits. They too are coordinated, and are surprisingly hard to take down some of the time. Most of the important Decepticons are rarely seen doing battle in unison, so it’s hard to judge how good they would be in a fight. Then again, if Megatron’s fighting style is any indication, it’s probably best for the Autobots that the Decepticons stay separate for the battle scenes.

Yes, the battle scenes are such fun! These, like most Transformers cartoons, take up a substantial part of an episode, but that, for once, isn’t a detriment. The fights are phenomenal, offering up a good mixture of melee and firefighting, which conform to the environment and the character in question. For example, Arcee favors bladed weapons when on her own, but will use her arm cannons when with the other Autobots. All the Autobots have either a melee weapon or a gun at their disposal, except for Bumblebee, who instead sticks with his twin wrist-mounted double-barreled cannons. Optimus’ fighting style is brutish, but not without a sense of flare, while Arcee falls back on sleek melee and gymnastic showmanship. Optimus’ fights with Megatron are just brutal, but present a good dynamic that the movie fight scenes lacked.

Here is an example of how awesome the fights can be:

And here's another example of just how much damage Optimus can do when he's royally pissed off!

Final score for Transformers Prime Season One is 9/10: Overall, Transformers Prime is pretty much (thus far) a twenty-six episode apology for the film franchise; for those who despise the end result of the films now have Prime to fall back on. I don’t quite fall into that category, but I will say that Transformers Prime is miles above the film franchise, and is a close contender for best Transformers series thus far, only beaten by Beast Wars, and that’s only because this show hasn’t fully developed (though I personally think that this show will replace Beast Wars as the best Transformers show).

That 10-year long plan of Hasbro’s is off to a fabulous start, with both War for Cybertron and Transformers Prime showing different aspects of the future for Transformers, and from the looks of things, it’s looking really good. So here’s hoping for a great 2012, and a great second season of Transformers Prime!

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