Queen of Robots: The Podcast!

So I’m running a new experiment now with podcasting. Let’s face it, blogs are kinda dead. And with a blog, it’s hard to stand out in a crowd amongst a zillion other bloggers without something really new to offer. The thing that makes me unique in this is my particular voice. (It may not be the greatest voice, but it’s mine!)

Ever since I was a kid, when I watched Pump Up The Volume a few too many times, I always wanted to have my own broadcast.

Of course, since we are all about robots here at QoR, that’s what the QoR podcast is about too! It’s starting simple – I’m just picking some of my favorite robot-related TV shows, movies and series, and am creating running fan commentaries for them. These work just like the RiffTrax or other fan commentary podcasts you might have used or purchased. I have cheap equipment right now as I’m just getting started out, but if it turns out that people like my test podcasts, then I’ll continue and try and get better equipment, and so on.

I’m floating four episodes right now as a trial to see if people like it/find it interesting, and can stand my scratchy old lady voice. I’ve commentated the first three episodes of Transformers G1 and the Mega Man X Day of Sigma OAV. Right now the QoR podcast can be found in two places:

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/queenofrobots
and Shoutengine: shoutengine.com/QueenOfRobots

I’m still really open to ideas and suggestions at this point as I am just getting started. I would love to continue on with this if people are enjoying the samples. If there’s enough interest, I’d like to establish a modest GoFundMe or Patreon to fund the purchase of better equipment, more storage space for the podcast, and more materials for commenting.


More Than Meets The Eye 28: The Guilt of the Author

So, of course as soon as it was humanly possible to do so, I went out and gobbled up my copy of More than Meets the Eye 28 – the One Where Megatron Is Suddenly an Autobot. I read it through once last night just for the enjoyment of reading it, and to get an initial feel of the issue. It turned out I ended up having some surprisingly personal reactions to the issue, more than I expected, so here – as usual in no real order – are my thoughts about this issue.

1. The Guilty Authormegtowardpeace

Roberts presents the idea that Megatron is, at heart, a disillusioned writer. Naturally this particular angle of characterization hits me where I live, because I certainly struggle with my own work, what I consider a “life’s” work, and the motivations for trying to continue said work. I have more than once struggled with issues of silence versus speech. So for me, this aspect of the character is heartbreaking.

It’s not just about what Megatron said, it’s about what happened after he said it.

This is, in some ways, dangerously close to meta. We all build characters from pieces to ourselves. I don’t think ‘guilty author’ Megatron could have existed in season 1 of MTMTE, because Roberts needed the time to see the reaction to his work.  Any artist is going to be both impacted by outside reaction to, and also responsible for, the responses that come in answer to a work. Every artist struggles with issues of culpability and influence, and yet it’s also a fact that audiences often take things from our work that we never intended to put there.

From what we’re presented here, Megatron has (and it’s still not entirely clear how, but it has happened, so we may as well roll with it) connected to the responsibility side of being an artist . And, given his particular “life’s work” invoked a genocidal intergalactic war, it really sucks to have to own that. His failure to communicate well – to be a good enough author – had gigantic, life-altering consequences.

But Megatron-as-author is also someone who lost his own plot. He created from rage and from being backed into corners, and the work quickly got away from him. So not only did he lose control of the work, his intent in creating it was completely misinterpreted. Then he was carried along on the ‘audience’ (Decepticon) reaction, riding the wave of their furious feedback until he became convinced of his own rightness. He forgot about his original intentions in creating and he stopped giving a shit what the audience thought. This position is death to an artist. He further backed himself into the ultimate corner: defending a position that wasn’t the one he started on.

Anyone who’s ever written a blog post and had it launch a flame war can see his problem in miniature. (See also: Hideaki Anno and The End of Evangelion for a particularly brutal author-to-audience response)

What he wants now is to edit the Megatron-that-was out of memory, just as much as Chromedome wants to edit out the pain of losing Rewind. I’m pretty sure that out of all the graffiti painted on Megatron’s door, the word that hurts the most is “Pariah”.

2. And The Rest

So, Nautica and Brainstorm’s conversation is meant to poke us about “moral absolutism” and how we really shouldn’t apply that to our thinking about Megatron. It sets the stage for the larger themes of the issue, of course. I’m just still not bought into Nautica yet. She doesn’t feel quite there to me, and her interview with Swerve gave her, I think, one too many traits that push things a little too close to Mary Sueisms. We’ll see.

Rung is, apparently, a really terrible psychologist. Really, is that his best couchside manner? No wonder Megs wouldn’t open up.

Having Ravage on board is a no-brainer, so I can’t wait to see how that plays out with Soundwave and the remainder of the Decepticon faction later on.

Optimus is walking a tightrope here, and while I want to be sympathetic for the fact he has to play against a variety of bases and try to please everyone, it ultimately just makes me want to punch him, because he doesn’t seem to have the balls to just Make Decisions.   This is even pointed up where Rodimus is allowed to be the one saying what everyone’s really thinking anyway. The fact that Roddy’s getting sidelined (or it sure looks that way) from MTMTE is a pretty hard blow in this respect – I’m going to miss him, but as long as he’s not killed off I’ll deal with it – but I suppose Swerve can fill in that role?

Speaking of, LOL ‘crewditions’ I did appreciate the girls are basically snickering their way through the whole thing, though.

Also, way to be a dick about the Matrix, Prime, when YOU were so very careful with your ownership of it, huh?

FU LF  R  ACE – worthless detail or hint? I am intrigued.

Pretty sure Chromedome is going to end up erasing his memory of Rewind, because otherwise he’s not going to be able to go on. I think that’s what that whole sequence of overlays with Megatron’s dialogue, and the ‘missing 8’, is meant to clue us in to. I really like the idea of exploring this more. Human partners who have to deal with one of them dying is hard enough, but semi-immortal robots who have the capacity to completely obliterate something causing them emotional pain at the relative flick of a button would surely struggle a million times more with the idea of keeping or deleting.

Also, how and why is Magnus still SECOND in Command? Poor bugger, I guess he just can’t deal with that now. ;D

And hey,  now we can never ever again say that Transformers doesn’t have any literary merit – would you have expected to see Dostoyevsky quoted in an issue of a toy-based book about giant robots who punch each other?

Optimus Prime is Boring Now

Something’s gone really, really wrong with the characterization of Optimus Prime over the years. Even admitting that every continuity is its own continuity, in my mind I’ve seen a gradual decay in the character. I have come not to praise Optimus, but to bury him.

Optimus Was Once Everyone’s Cool (and Kinda Dorky) Dad

Way back in the forever-ever-ago days of GEEWUN, a generation of latchkey kids found a substitute Dad in a honkin’  truck the color of AMERICA. This was an era when both men and women were working, when women really embraced careers, when the family shifted toward truly requiring two incomes to keep up with the Joneses (that coke wasn’t going to buy itself, kids!)

A lot of kids were slogging through dealing with divorces and family split-ups: when boys and girls needed role models and there was nobody around to be them. There was confusion all around. So we turned to the one thing that was always there for us – television. I know that a lot of guys at 13 and 14 looked at Optimus Prime as Their Big Damn Substitute Dad, for a lot of reasons.

Why not? G1 Prime was about as positive a male role model as you could hope for on television at the time. He was Red, White And Blue – the American Flag given an awesome honkin’ truck body turned into a 50′ alien robot. He was kindly, but not soft, and while he didn’t always know what to do, he tried his best to figure it out. He was as affably puzzled by certain aspects of Earth culture as Your Dad would have been. He was even kinda a dork like any good Dad should be –  embarrassing you and everyone around you by trying to Be Cool. Remember the scenes of him surfing, playing basketball, and misusing Earth slang he picked up from one or the other of the WAY HIPPER Autobots? He was a little bit of a nerd too, and he had, at times, a bone-dry sense of humor. (“I have a delicate lock-picking technique“). He got irritated under pressure – particularly at Jazz and Blaster, because You Damn Kids Should Turn Down That Noise.

Megatron Must Be Stopped, No Matter the Cost

Then Optimus died.

This was widely regarded as a Bad Move, and was retconned almost before the paint finished drying on the cels for Season Three. But Optimus had already taken a downturn from Your Fun, Dorky Dad to The Serious Man of War in Transformers: the Movie. Of course, the Movie’s situation’s awfully grim, but there’s no more Wisecrackin’mus Prime here – he’s all business. TF:TM also gave us Serious Prophet Prime, in his death, which set up a bunch of versions of the character that would follow – not a visionary necessarily, but Knowing Important Things And Very Connected to the Matrix. A Man Of Great Importance. The Most Important Autobot Ever. The Cult of Optimus was beginning to form even before the Movie was over.

Season Three made this worse this by the writers choosing to write Rodimus Prime as carrying a vicious inferiority complex from the leader that came before; by default, that position elevated Optimus Prime further toward godhood. We saw Prime in a Serious Mausoleum, and he came back as a near literal Deus Ex Machina to end Season Three by divesting Rodimus of the Matrix and returning the Transformers universe to status quo. (How Rodimus Prime Was Set Up To Fail is an entirely different post I’ll write later.)

Skip A Bit, Brother

So we don’t see “the true Optimus Prime” again for a while because the Beast Era happens, and then RiD happens, and Animated happens, and then the Cybertron Trilogy happens, and none of these guys are That Exact Optimus Prime. There’s a lot of guys carrying his name, but they aren’t him. They either aren’t voiced by Peter Cullen – a requirement for being A True Optimus Prime – or they’re from a different continuity, or whatever.

In Beast Wars and Animated, we get strong Primes who are, once again, a bit younger, a bit more flexible, a bit more able to embrace chaos. But these are Optimus Primes in name only: homages, references; the G1 Optimus is now a long-faded legend to them. We won’t see “the true Optimus Prime” again until 2007, in the Michael Bay movies.

Freedom Is The Right of All Sentient Beings, Unless I Feel Like Killing You Anyway

Now all of a sudden Optimus isn’t just The Most Important Autobot In Recent Memory, he’s been retconned into a position of demi-godhood: Being One Of The Thirteen Most Important Cybertronians Ever, last of the Legacy of Primes and all this other self-righteous stick-up-the-tailpipe hoo ha. Now Prime is all ‘scarred by his brother Megatron’s betrayal” and all this faux-Shakespearean keep-the-war-in-the-family nonsense, and he’s basically giving lip service to the ideals that once defined Optimus Prime as The Goodest of the Good Guys. When he’s allowed to speak at all, it’s in cliches defined by his former self; catchphrases the Audience can’t let go of. And then he turns around and acts in defiance of those cliches by callously and ruthlessly slicing open anything in his path.

As Peter Cullen gets older, so too does the tones he brings to Optimus when he’s recast as The Voice of the True Prime – sorry, but he’s sounding OLD now. And as he sounds old, and because his “sons” from the G1 era still can’t let go of the idea that Peter Cullen is the One True Prime, we get Old Man Optimus – the characterization that now dominates all current versions of the character.

No One Wants To Hear About Your Latest Midlife Crisis

Optimus is Old Now. In IDW, in Transformers: Prime, in War For Cybertron, all aspects of his former youthful self are gone. He’s an old man with no sense of humor whatsoever, no ability to bend or be flexible; he just looks tired. He complains a lot, about his ‘place’ and his ‘legacy’ and what decisions he may or may not have made. .  Prime’s version of Prime doesn’t crack a joke. He barely ever smiles. He wears this tired, tight look of concern. He would never play basketball with the kids.

IDW’s Prime complains about how the Matrix gives him pain, how he’s not sure if it’s him or the Matrix making important decisions. He ran away for a while, feeling ‘rejected’ by the NAILS on Cybertron, and threw away his legacy as a Prime to become “Orion Pax” again and wander around blithely in space.

He carries on more than Rodimus Prime ever did, now, and yet the fanbase hasn’t rejected him because Optimus Prime Is Still Everyone’s Idealized Pretend Dad.

Optimus Prime, whoever he was back in G1, has been completely lost under layers and layers of Audience Expectation that Optimus Has To Be The Perfect Leader; it makes him rigid, weirdly colorless, and flat.

It’s time for Optimus to die again, or retire. The Transformers universe is no longer served by propping up an increasingly boring, monotone, disillusioned and spark-deep tired Optimus Prime as the end-all-be-all Leader. IDW putting him back into the spotlight with RiD is a backward move. Letting him come back into the universe at all is a backward move. If he’s that old and that tired, let him go to his rest; let him go to the Matrix/AllSpark/whatever; if he can’t be killed, let him become something totally and completely different. Megatron is becoming an Autobot, for Primus’s sake.

Optimus Prime needs to either die for good or be allowed to be something other than a broken old war machine kept on life support by fanboy nostalgia.

Let him live, on his own terms, or let him die.

GUEST POST: Why Beast Machines Was Great [onslaughtsix]

Today’s guest post comes from my buddy and fellow Transfan Onslaught Six. I knew he was a fan of one of the “less popular” Transformers series, and I figured his take on Beast Machines would be an awesome read.

Take it away, guest poster Onslaught Six!

I: Beast Wars; How Did We Get There?

In 1995, the Transformers toyline was in the pits. The “Generation Two” subline (launched several years earlier, and the very reason we refer to the classic series as “Generation One”) was flailing on toy shelves. Transformers needed something to shake it back up and once again bring it to the forefront of the boy’s toys marketplace.

Enter: Hasbro’s recently acquired Kenner division. Kenner was best known as the original progenitors of the Small Action Figure with the original Star Wars toyline. They did numerous licensed toylines including Real Ghostbusters, Batman TAS and Jurassic Park. These guys knew their shit. So Hasbro dumped Transformers onto the Kenner division. “We don’t know what to do anymore. You guys figure something out.”

Beast Wars was born. Kenner retooled the toyline to entirely focus on Cybertronian characters turning into furry mammals, oversized insectoids, and goddamned dinosaurs. The iconic warring factions, the Autobots and Decepticons, were completely retooled into the heroic Maximals and evil Predacons (no relation to the 1986 subgroup). The packaging headlined the Beast Wars logo instead of Transformers–I know that I personally was not aware of a connection when I first started to pick up the toys. Also, I was 7.

Originally, the series was a direct continuation of the existing Transformers mythos. In those days, it wasn’t uncommon for an entire year’s worth of toys to be brand new characters. Unlike today, it was very rare for a character to get multiple toys–Optimus Prime only had seven domestic toys in the span of a decade, and Bumblebee only had four. The Maximals were led by Optimus Primal and the Predacons were led by Megatron, both implied in minicomics and packaging bios to be the original leaders from G1.

Now, Beast Wars took off. Some of that was surely the bold new direction of the toys–they weren’t just entirely new characters and designs, but they were also vastly more articulated and detailed than some of the originals. G1 toys are best described as “bricks with arms” while many Beast Wars toys had fully articulated arms, legs, hips, neck joints, and plenty of personality to them.

But if you ask any Transformers fan to talk about Beast Wars, and the first thing they’re going to bring up is the cartoon by Mainframe Entertainment. Well, “cartoon” may be stretching it. It was a computer-generated animated series, which at the time was groundbreaking and impressive. Beast Wars initially turned off a lot of GEEWUNer “my childhood is the best” types, but a lot of the hatred died down as these people gave the show a shot and saw that it was actually pretty decent. By the middle of the first season, it went from “actually pretty decent” to “actually really awesome.”

The show’s writers elected to take a different approach than Kenner. Rather than have their Beast Wars be a direct continuation of the eternal Transformers war, theirs actually took place 300 years “after the war,” and that was about as much as we ever got on the subject. Optimus Primal was a low-ranking captain of a science & research vessel and Megatron was a petty criminal with delusions of grandeur that included taking his name from the Cybertronian equivalent of Hitler. Megatron had stolen an experimental “Transwarp ship” which allowed him to travel through space and time very quickly; Primal and his crew happened to be the closest ship and were ordered to track him down, chasing him through the Transwarp portal that stranded them on an unknown planet that was eventually revealed to be planet Earth, where their sleeping ancestors lay dormant in the Autobot starship The Ark, waiting to be awakened in our 1984.

Beast Wars eventually came to be hailed as great. For a while, you couldn’t discuss Transformers if you weren’t going to discuss Beast Wars. The people who thought it disrespected the original show’s continuity were quickly shut up when the second season’s finale showed Beast Wars Megatron attempt to assassinate a comatose G1 Optimus Prime. The show rewrote Transformers canon in ways that we’re still feeling today–although it doesn’t come up much anymore, it originally introduced the concept of a “spark” as both a “heart” and tangible “soul” of a Transformer. For over a decade afterwards, concepts and terminology that it established became hardcoded into Transformers jargon–CR Chambers, stasis lock, protoforms, The AllSpark, Transwarp, and tons of other little things were all established in this show. Hasbro’s “toy continuity” of the original packaging bios was tossed aside in favour of toy bios that reflected events on the show.

Everybody remembers Beast Wars. Almost everyone loved Beast Wars. It became a phenomenon. It only made sense that, in 1999, when the series was coming to a close, Hasbro and Mainframe would want to do a sequel.

If anybody remembers the sequel, they don’t talk about it much. If they do, they never talk about it positively. For the better part of the 2000s, the phrase “Beast Machines sucks ass,” was pretty commonplace. Some people said it was as much of a betrayal to Beast Wars as Beast Wars was to G1. For a while, it was claimed it was the worst Transformers cartoon ever.

That’s right, the worst Transformers cartoon ever. In a world where Armada, Energon, Animated and Prime exist, I can’t just sit by and let that slide. I call bullshit.

II: Beast Machines

It’s hard to see why this show became so hated without going into a full episode-by-episode breakdown, without making a bunch of lists and graphs and saying “They said this thing here but as established by this episode on Beast Wars…” So I’m going to try and not do that. I’m going to paint in some broad strokes and see if that gets the point across. There’s also a lot of spoilery stuff that I could mention, so I’m going to try and avoid that, because honestly–if you’ve never seen the show, you owe yourself to check it out.

Beast Wars ended with the victorious Maximals having slaughtered all the Predacons except Megatron*, who they strapped to the back of their escape shuttle as they flew back to Cybertron. I honestly don’t remember how this was supposed to work–maybe they had installed the Transwarp machinery from Megatron’s original stolen ship. Whatever. The point is, they’re going home, character arcs are resolved, everyone who isn’t going home is dead and everyone is happy! The End. If there was never a sequel, this would be a great send-off. Everything is neatly wrapped in a package with a pretty bow on it. Lots of shows, especially children’s cartoons, tend to get cut off in the final season and they have to quickly wrap everything up, so Beast Wars is kind of unique in that you can watch the entire series and feel pretty good about the ending.

*Okay, Waspinator is still alive and ruling as King of the Protohumans. If you haven’t watched Beast Wars, you don’t understand a word of this sentence.

So Beast Machines opens up with Optimus Primal (in his original body, instead of the upgraded form he had at the end of Beast Wars) being chased by some tank robots on what looks an awful lot like Cybertron. Anybody who watched Beast Wars will instantly wonder what the hell is going on.

Eventually it’s revealed that the surviving Maximals–Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Rattrap and Blackarachnia–have amnesia and don’t remember how they got to Cybertron, barely remember each other, and don’t know why they’re being chased by robot drone armies. They also can’t transform from their Beast modes. Oh, and Megatron is ruling the planet.

Wait, what?

It’s a great setup. As is revealed later on, Megatron somehow escaped from the back of the ship mid-way through the time portal and arrived on Cybertron way earlier than the Maximals. (How much earlier is never explained.) With a new lease on life and a lust for revenge, Megatron takes over the entire planet and converts all of its citizens to lifeless, soulless drones, designed to do his bidding. (How he managed to do this is never explained.) When the Maximals arrived on the planet, they started to be hunted, and were affected by a planet-wide virus that somehow turned them back to their original beast forms. (Almost all of the remaining Maximals had become upgraded over the course of the show, to sell newer toys of them.)

The Maximals end up in the core of Cybertron, speaking to a giant white void known only as The Oracle, perceived by Optimus Primal to be a direct link to The AllSpark and possibly Primus, who reformats all of the Maximals into new, weirder-looking bodies and gives them the ability to transform again–only this time, it’s more like “morphing” and they have to “concentrate” and almost meditate into doing it. Meanwhile, Megatron’s got a planetwide army of tank, jet and motorcycle drones called Vehicons, led by three Generals, Tankor, Jetstorm and Thrust, who seem to have retained their sentience and independence.

So, Beast Machines. Furries against jets and tanks. Maybe somebody at Hasbro took the “TRUKK NOT MUNKY” thing too seriously.

Detractors of the show will say a lot of things. They’ll say that characters from Beast Wars act “out of character” compared to how they acted in BW. They’ll say that some things aren’t explained well enough for them. They’ll say that the character designs look stupid. They’ll say that a certain amount of every episode is literally just “Maximals running away from Vehicons.” They’ll say it’s confusing and hard to follow. I’m going to refute all of these points.

III: Why It’s Good

The entire show is stylized magnificently. Beast Wars came out in 1996, the same year as Toy Story, on a pretty small budget. (BW’s cast size never got above a dozen characters at a time, because the character models were so expensive to create and render, and it was difficult to render many characters at one time on-screen.) That said, it attempted to look fairly realistic, and as such, seems primitive and dated in 2014. (Hell, it seemed primitive and dated in 2004.) It takes a while to get used to.

Conversely, Beast Machines still looks fantastic. The stylized art keeps things from looking weird or outdated; it looks miles ahead of other CGI TF shows like Cybertron or even Prime. The Maximals are strange looking and alien, but they’re all distinct and have designs that play off their characters. Blackarachnia is a spindly spider lady, Cheetor is a slender adult (opposed to his excited teenager personality in BW), Optimus Primal is a huge hulking gorilla sage bastard. Megatron is plugged into the entire planet like he’s Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic. The Vehicons are all angular and smooth, perfect machines built for destruction. The action is frenetic and highly stylized, with fights happening in dark city streets and in alleyways.

But it doesn’t just look great. It’s the first TF series that, from the outset, has one story to tell. Most TF series, especially up to that point, are working on an episode-to-episode plotline. Even the character arcs in Beast Wars were mostly isolated to a handful of episodes each. Beast Machine’s story is about a violent mechanical dictator obsessed with the eradication of all organic life–especially the techno-organic life of the people who messed up his original plans to change the future. It’s about a misguided youth who’s outgrown his commander. It’s about a leader who, for the entire first half of the show, downright misunderstands the dogma he’s fulfilling. It’s about someone who lost their lover and wants to get them back, at any cost. It’s about a guy who loses his planet, his friends, and his ability to do his job.

Beast Machines covers a lot of ground that Transformers cartoons–or any children’s cartoon, for that matter–usually doesn’t cover. Especially in the early 2000s. If BM were an action movie, it would be The Matrix. Super slick, stylized action, lots of questions and deeper shit underneath. And given that BM only came out in 2000, the year after The Matrix was a huge hit, it’s not exactly a big jump to make the comparison.

Furthermore, BM does something that no other TF show has done well before. It lends itself perfectly to marathoning. The first season is almost more like a five-hour movie than it is 13 episodes of a series. Watching the series in one go, or very large chunks, is preferable to watching isolated episodes weekly, and in the age of Netflix, YouTube and DVD box sets is usually the way you’re going to see the show. Watching the plot slowly unfold over several episodes in a row is great, whereas a lot of people complained about the pacing of the series during its original airings, because they had to wait an entire week to see what the series was going to do next. The early-to-mid-2000s “anime” TF series, RID, Armada, Energon and Cybertron all try to do this, but none of them quite captures it the way BM does. (RID is more episodic and doesn’t have much of an overarching plot, while the other three barely have plot to begin with, and are basically unwatchable drivel.)

The plot twists are also excellent. I don’t want to spoil anything, but in short: Someone turns out to be someone else you weren’t expecting, the Generals are independent for a reason, Megatron rules, Tankor makes a throw for power, and Optimus Primal becomes a bigger screwup than Rodimus Prime, only to redeem himself.

BM holds up super well, and if you’ve never watched it before, you need to, because of everything I just said. It keeps things interesting, it throws some great plot twists at you, and everything is always great.

IV: Why They Say It’s Bad

Beast Machine’s detractors will immediately point out any number of things they hate about it. Some of these, I can understand or even agree with. Others, not so much.

One of the first things people will complain about are the designs of the characters, but as I said above, I think they’re fantastic. They’re very much different from BW’s fare, sure, and they might be a little too extreme for some people’s tastes. They were certainly unique and different for Transformers in 2000, but in 2014? We have the Michael Bay universe where there are dudes who consist of two wheels and a face, a flat guy made up of balls, and Devastator looks like this. I think Cheetor’s legs being long is the least of our worries for this franchise. Besides, nobody ever bitches about the way the Vehicons look. They’re great. They’re big, chunky badasses. Tankor looks like he would wreck your shit on any day of the week. Jetstorm is sleeker than a new Corvette. And I’d hate to be the dude on a Harley who has to race Thrust.

Another thing they’ll complain about is a new character named Nightscream, who turns into a bat and, in robot mode, has…a tuft of hair hanging over his face, like an emo kid in 2005. The less said about him, the better. His voice is pretty annoying. His character is abrasive, and he’s just not a fun character to be around. He doesn’t add much to the Maximals other than numbers. They seem like they initially add him to the team because Rattrap is functionally useless for the first handful of episodes, but then he gets better so Nightscream becomes pointless. And he never gets “better,” although his screen time as the series goes on becomes less and less, and he seems to get less annoying in the second season. So, okay, BM haters, you win this round.

Some people also complain that some elements of the storyline are not very well explained. Rather than bring all those up and try to explain them away with reasoning or anything, I’m just going to say…does it bother you that much? It’s not Beast Wars Season 4, it’s Beast Machines, it’s very clearly a Separate Entity, and compared to the giant plot holes of any single live action TF film (let alone trying to piece together a “continuity” from any of them collectively) the problems with the series are basically niggles.

Megatron inexplicably wants to eradicate any trace of organic life on Cybertron, which includes both the Maximals and himself. (Megatron still transforms into his Transmetal 2 dragon mode from the end of Beast Wars when he gets angry.) He spends as much time in the first season trying to kill the Maximals as he does trying to figure out how to get this scaly shit off of him. And they’re right–they never explain it.

Optimus Primal gets pretty fanatical about what The Oracle tells him, and he pretty much turns into a believer right away. Some people will argue that Primal was more of a cynic and wouldn’t turn to (basically) religion so quickly, but I’m going to argue that if you actually heard and saw the voice of God, you’d probably turn around pretty quick too.

The biggest complaint about the show fixates on an early episode called The Weak Component. This is only episode 6 of the first season’s 13 episodes, and the series’ 26 episodes overall. If you ask a Beast Machines hater to name specific episodes they hated, they’ll mention The Weak Component, and…not much else. What is it about this episode that pisses everyone off?

As I said earlier, in this series, the Maximals have to “learn” how to transform, by meditating, concentrating, or other methods. This is, in itself, not a bad idea, especially for the radical new ways the Maximals transform. (It’s implied that their earlier transformations were automatically triggered; the equivalent of pushing a button to execute a complex sequence of movements.) Everyone else (even the new guy, Nightscream) picks it up basically over the course of an episode, except for Rattrap. If you’ve never seen Beast Wars, Rattrap is the cynical bastard who doesn’t believe in any of this mystical crap and favours a good gun with a big clip of ammo. (None of the Maximals in Beast Machines had guns; they all had “energy attacks” or something like that. This was at the behest of story editor Bob Skir. This was also a huge deal for some people; personally it never bothered me.) So for several episodes, we get Rattrap openly complaining about not being able to transform, and basically being kind of useless on the combat front. When he finally learns how to transform at the beginning of The Weak Component, he is dismayed to learn that his robot mode does not have any guns. He also doesn’t have any legs, instead he has giant wheels. Yeah–Rattrap’s robot mode is essentially a giant wheelchair.

So Rattrap’s pissed. And nobody seems to give a shit.

So Rattrap goes up to Megatron’s front door and says, “The Maximals suck. You have guns. Give me guns.” Megatron, conveniently, needs to shut down his base of operations for the night to repair some damage done by the Maximals that morning. Megs and Rattrap work out a deal: Rattrap gets a spiffy mech suit with guns (and legs), and all he has to do is guard Megatron while he’s incapacitated. The Maximals are already tired from the day’s activities and don’t have any sabotage planned; they surely won’t recognize he’s gone, right? So Rattrap agrees.

The wrench comes when the Maximals show up to rescue Rattrap, because they think he’s in trouble and they’re worried about him. Aww. This puts Rattrap in a shitty position, and he ends up shooting on the Maximals before Primal talks him down. The morning comes and Megatron offers to let Rattrap keep the mech armour because he didn’t turn around and blast him in the face; Rattrap tells him to stuff himself because he’s better than that and doesn’t need it.

So what’s the big deal? People say Rattrap would never turn to the enemy like that, and never fire on his allies. But you have to take into account the kind of guy Rattrap is. In one BW episode, he says he feels naked without a gun. Throughout the series, he’s the crewmember who is most excited, and most concerned with, getting back home. That’s all he wants. So imagine his feelings when he finally gets there and finds out the Maximals’ greatest enemy is running the show, and the Cybertron he knew is dead–possibly forever–and also, he has to re-learn how to transform, and when he does, he’s a paraplegic with no guns. And everybody else seems fine with this. He feels betrayed. He feels useless. He wants his old home and his old usefulness back. And by the end of the episode, he learns that he didn’t need all of that, and that he’s still Rattrap underneath it. And then, for the entire rest of the series, he’s just the same old regular guy he always was. Hell, by the end of the series, he gets to mack it with a sexy plant lady Transformer. (Wait, what? Yeah I dunno either.) If this is the biggest complaint people have with the series, then they’re reaching.

V: Conclusion

Beast Machines is far from the worst TF series. It’s never boring, it looks fantastic, it has an actual point and a story arc (even if you don’t agree with its viewpoint), and its biggest flaw is, arguably, pushing some characters into situations where they might act strangely because that’s what the story is trying to do. I don’t mind that. I think it’s a good thing. I don’t mind if every minor change isn’t explicitly detailed. (I liked All Hail Megatron. I’m starting to see a pattern form.) I mean, the very few problems with Beast Machines aren’t even that big

If it were a sequel to any other TF show it would be hailed as superb, but because Beast Wars was such a success, the fans of that show can’t even begin to imagine anything else altering their fiction. They, for some reason, cannot accept anything even remotely diverging from their Holy Canon.

It’s worse than the GEEWUNners over here. Maybe this is why the IDW Beast Wars comics were a weird mishmash of “This is taking place concurrently with BW but the characters are all in a time displacement field so they can’t interact with the original BW characters. But also, they show up in panels here and there so we can say it has the original BW cast.” Maybe I’ll do a whole article on that next.


Thanks again to Onslaught Six for another great guest post! I love this kinda thing, so get in touch with me if you have an idea for a post too!

On MTMTE Season 2

Okay, now that I finally finished that monstrous chunk of a post about the stupid Robotech movie, I can finally sit down and knock off some quick thoughts, in no real order, about what I’m hoping to see in MTMTE’s “second season”.

General thoughts, before reading the preview pages for MTMTE 28
Naturally, the Big Draw for me is going to get to be seeing Megatron get his ass handed to him over and over for being a moron for several million years. Roberts has already promised on Twitter that the first three issues are going to be a Megatron-centric storyline called “World, Shut Your Mouth”, and the advance solicits STRONGLY imply that the Lost Light itself is going to have a physical reaction to the presence of the former Decepticon.  We know that Blue(silver)streak is coming on board this time around. We know that Rodimus is backing down from command- although maybe not willingly.  Megatron has NO friends among the Autobots that aren’t already leaving for Earth (maybe you could say only Optimus Prime counts as a “friend”, at least as his closest frienemy)

Who’s gonna lead the ‘cons now? Soundwave would be a reasonable guess, though we can also guess that Galvatron is taking control after the end of Dark Cybertron. However, Megatron ALSO spared Galvy’s life when he wasn’t inclined to, and Galvatron did say a vague thing about “maybe it’s time for a new way.” Is the whole Decepticon FACTION going to disappear? How will the faction cope with the splitters who want to follow Megatron even if he’s wearing a ‘bot sigil? Somehow I DEEPLY doubt that the “Dawn of the Autobots” is going to be a species-wide conversion. Hell, even if every ‘con DID switch, there’s still the NAILS out there…

.And of course I hope for and imagine most or all of the following, in no particular order:

  • The return of Drift (please?)
  • Megatron versus the DJD
  • Fulcrum and the Scavengers ending up on the Lost Light -it’s so time for this.
  • Megatron getting blitzed off his aft at Swerve’s, sobbing about how nobody understaaaands him.
  • Megatron reading terrible emo poetry at Swerve’s while being drunk off his aft.
  • Megs once invited Hot Rod to join the Decepticons. Let’s follow up on that shit.
  • Ultra Magnus reading Megs the riot act for his new Autobot badge being .00001 micrometers off true. Conversely, the newer and more ‘trying to be relaxed about things’ Magnus is the only one who’ll even bother TALKING to Megatron.
  • Bluestreak was all too recently acting as Megatron’s guard during the restoration of Cybertron. He got shot when the ‘cons broke Megs out.  Bluestreak and Rodimus also have a bit of history together- let’s pick that up. I think Bluestreak may going to be the Season Two Cyclonus – kinda moody, kinda reclusive.
  • Megs snarking all the way through his Affiliation Ceremony. (Who’ll do the honors? Optimus?)
  • Nobody wanting to be Megs’ roomie on-board.
  • Cyclonus and Tailgate Adventures, Continued
  • More strange new planets and new civilizations!
  • More Decepticons than just Megs climbing on the Lost Light, too?

General thoughts, after reading the preview pages for MTMTE 28

  • Hm. Nautica. Do we have to? Win me over on this one Roberts, because I’m not quite feeling it yet. Maybe I still have a lot of lingering resentments about how much G1 Arcee was clearly a ‘token female’ Autobot…
  • …but ahahah Brainstorm. I love that he makes stuff that is almost literally impossible, like that tourth-wall breaking weapon in S1. It should seem cartoony, but somehow it doesn’t. It’s just fun.
  • How long before a Tumblr gets made called “The Lost Light Insider“? … Who am I kidding, there probably already IS one.
  • I forgot about Rung. OF COURSE Rung talks to everyone. OF COURSE he’ll talk to Megs. DUH.
  • That is very definitely a new Autobrand on the Megster.
  • Magic: Science that Rodimus doesn’t understand. So, that’s like, MOST of it? ;D
  • Yeah. Rod is NOT going to take this Megatron-as-captain thing well. Potential mutineer. Maybe he’ll rabblerouse the others! Unless he REALLY comes around to seeing Megs as something other than Decepticon skidstain. But Rod KNOWS how shitty he is as a leader, too, sooooo.
  • The look on Ratchet’s face on that third page is priceless.
  • Roddy says the Lost Light can jump all the way to the galactic rim in a single burst. Can we PLEEEEASE have it unexpectedly smash right into the middle of the Weak Anthropic Principle? 🙂
  • “my people”, Starscream? This is bad com… oh. uhm.

GUEST POST: What I hate about Dark Cybertron and other gentle tales of foulness [dKaboom]

We’ve been having a conversation this last week on /r/transformers about the ending of IDW’s Dark Cybertron arc. The arc’s produced plenty of buzz, no small amount of controversy, and a wide range of feelings throughout the fandom. Some of us on the sub nagged fellow user dKaboom to write up his thoughts about the thing and I invited him to send it to me as a guest post. So here’s that post!

Here there be spoilers as this is still relatively new material. Take it away, dKaboom!


We start DC #1 with the crew of Ark-1 reaching the Benzuli Expanse and entering it. Although, in Spotlight: Galvatron we had learned that it plunged towards the Dead Universe (DU) not on Nova’s command as it is now being stated, but because Galvatron had also felt the tug of the DU beckoning him and acted without anyone’s knowledge or approval to direct them there, before proper examination was fully carried. So the events portrayed are inconsistent with those before. Farewell, continuity. Nice knowing you.

From then, Shockwave creates an undead Titan for reasons that remain tenuous to grasp. Seemingly, it’s to create a portal/conduit to the DU. Okay, neat, but every other portal connects directly to the DU, as we’ve seen again and again, from Spotlight: Nightbeat to Heart of Darkness. So why does it just make a hologram teleconference connection to the DU? Why do they need a space-bridge now? And why would the space-bridge inside the titan be destroyed when mixing the two ores? It doesn’t really make much sense other than to draw out the plot. And speaking of not making much sense, suddenly Galvatron and Nova Prime are allies once more and when (righteously) voicing his doubts about this, all Shockwave and the readership get is a short dismissal. Like throwing sand in our eyes, scant lines brush that inconsistency aside like it was nothing. This kind of approach is an affront to the readers’ common sense, in my opinion. Past that, the Necrotitan then proceeds to emit its death waves, but not everyone suffers the same kind of damage, something that’s also pointed out, but never addressed as to why. At this point, it seems like a plot device to weed out the characters you don’t want to work with in the action.

Away from the titans for a while, Metalhawk is revived by one of the death waves to retrieve Megatron, from inside the city. As Metalhawk carries Megatron away, it is again implied that he was dead, like in RiD 21, even though he was merely trapped in a stasis field, from what was shown to us.

Next up, Shockwave tries to talk Megatron (revived, perhaps?) into joining him in his plan, despite having him captured and being able to simply activate the space-bridge within him, without his consent. This makes no sense at all, for a character driven by pure logic like Shockwave. He doesn’t even make a convincing argument and it ends up as just a waste of time that’s never addressed.

Within the DU, another inconsistent point is Nightbeat, who tracked Orion Pax’s party and later betrayed them, acting as though he had been partially brain-washed. But he wasn’t a sleeper agent on his own, he was controlled by Jhiaxus through a remote link, as we learn in Spotlight: Hardhead. No wavering control, no intermittent bouts with his own self, he was completely under someone else’s command, then. It’s also pretty shady that Hardhead went through the portal to the DU moments after he killed Nightbeat and stayed there – or at least in its periphery – until Heart of Darkness (3 years, give or take?), but on DC’s issue #5 he was surprised to see him there. It doesn’t add up.

Back on Cybertron, Megatron is back in action, after being released by a joint Autobot-Decepticon raid on Shockwave’s lair, only to be broken in two like a twig by Galvatron. Really, what an awful characterization. Galvatron was never before portrayed to be as strong as that. It would take a ludicrous amount of tension to break a body as large as his own – a newly, powerfully constructed body at that. And this sends a message of frailty that may fit, say, Guzzle when pitted against Overlord, but definitely not someone as vicious and powerful as Megatron – whom Barber must have some beef against. In my opinion, it’s a distasteful exaggeration, but even so, it doesn’t stay consistent, for a maimed Megatron still has the power to knock out a fresh Galvatron with his fusion cannon in the next issue.

Later, Shockwave directs the Necrotitan towards Iacon to bring it all to hell, despite the considerable damage already wrought by its death waves. Again, and as Prowl himself pointed out, it makes no sense, and we’re never given any proper explanation why. Again.

In the DU, Orion Pax finally goes up against Nova Prime, as expected. And lazily, the fight falls quickly into a cliché, where Pax gets beaten badly by Nova – he himself commenting on how he couldn’t even land a punch on him -, only to make a speedy recovery after a short pep talk from Rodimus that completely changes not only his outlook, but his name. Now, name changed back to Optimus Prime, he tears Nova Prime’s arm off and effortlessly shoves his fist into his chest plate, killing the undead. He couldn’t land a punch before, but call him Jean-Claude Van Damme, because he got his last-minute-bearings back on and it was just that easy, after all.

Despite all the turns of events and the impact set up from the coordinated counter-attack from Prowl and Soundwave’s forces against the assault on Iacon – the hanging suspense upon finding the creature’s weak-point -, it was painfully obvious from back to issue #3 that Metroplex would not only come to fight the Necrotitan, he would be the only one capable of doing so. A great idea, but one that was anticipated 5 issues earlier. So after Metroplex beats the Necrotitan and the day is seemingly saved, Shockwave and his party then begin to reveal his plan:

He needed Nova Prime out of the DU, or simply just dead, so that the dimension could be ungoverned, in order to allow him to use the time-drive to tap into its energies. He also needed a conduit into the DU, which would either have been the Titan or Galvatron, the latter being the ultimate choice. For this, he also needed to bring his ores to Cybertron and combine them to specific purposes, in order to create the physical conditions required to power the time-drive and manipulate reality towards extinction, with Cybertron at the epicenter of the singularity that would wipe creation out.

This is actually a smart angle to play, but it’s not entirely clear why Nova Prime would be a determent to this plan, since the time-drive would harness the energy from the dimension that the DU once was, rendering it devoid of life, and creating the DU as it is now known. That would’ve been BEFORE the Ark-1 even set out to penetrate it. Beyond that, the properties about the ores, the way he uses them and the purpose that is given to each combination in this masterplan is remarkably flimsy. But why explain this to Galvatron, in the first place? It served no logic, as he was entirely at the mercy of the proceedings done to him. It is plain exposition, in order to suddenly make sense of a giant cluster-fuck that had been DC all that time. Also, if all he ever needed was to mix the ores together, why do so in such conspicuous manner? Why not collect the ores without something as blatant as a Necrotitan inviting interference? This is especially relevant, when you consider that the presence of the ore-7 would end the Necrotitan and the death plague, seemingly. And how does a single Cybertronian convince/control/booby trap over 70 billion Ammonites to join his unknown, crazy cause when they have their own war to battle? Most of these answers seem to be left to chance and guess. You can tell the writers were trying to make this arc a massive event, but it seems as though it ended up just being needlessly complicated, instead of a mastermind’s conspiracy, deriving exclusively from logic and strategy.

The last of the clichés, however, is the “final battle” platform that the writers created. Where only a handful of chosen characters may enter the final stage, while the others are left behind by some reason. They tried this one on account of Skywarp’s dwindling control of his power, which fails to register as nothing but an excuse, since they also had the Lost light nearby, which they could have used to orbital bounce to that specific location. Keeping with this RPG/battle anime scenario, one by one, they encounter lesser “bosses” that require a few members to stay behind while the others press on to the “final boss” – first Bludgeon, then Jhiaxus in reactive armor. I can even hear Saint Seiya’s theme echoing as this goes on…

At the end, Shockwave and the time-drive were destroyed by Optimus Prime and Megatron, yet the singularity was still formed, although apparently self-contained. Megatron put it best: “(…) it makes as much sense as anything else…” In my opinion, a needless outcome that served only to grant a final, suspenseful adrenaline rush.

Megatron’s 180º and the perversion of the Decepticon cause

In terms of dialogue and writing, I think Roberts’ end is by parsecs of distance the stronger influence. Even then, I wouldn’t expect such a trite twist of the Decepticon agenda, as what we’ve been fed by Barber, since the prelude to DC with Soundwave. He’s trying desperately to make Megatron more humane, to make his cause more understandable, approachable. To make one feel as though the same line of reasoning could happen to any one of us. But in truth, it’s always been just a vortex of fixed, delusional and airtight ideology that draws the worst and most questionable of Cybertronians, they themselves reinforcing the movement’s evil ways. It’s a promise of a dystopian vision, based on anger, ruthlessness and conquest, and the war is an excuse to exact those urges from those who side with it. It needn’t be called a fight for freedom, a fight against repression, a fight for the people. Megatron understands – and the others follow as a way to weed out the weak – that his methods and the war are oppressing, ravaging and that freedom is an impediment to his vision of a better Cybertron. He may convince himself to care about the people in the longer run, but he’ll gladly stomp on them in the shorter (shorter spanning 4 million years, no less!). We have obtained all these cues from his past renditions, which turn explicit in Chaos Theory. To try and make it something morally superior is a bad joke that urges one to suspend disbelief, reading it from Soundwave or Megatron.

Continuing with Megatron, his sudden turn of personality, while an interesting point to explore, is without solid explanation, without a steady progression and based on a weak foundation. Whimsical in appearance, really, since the last time he was awake, he sought to rule Cybertron through guile and conquest yet again. This overhaul was just dropped out of nowhere.

Miscellaneous rants and the last hate-filled gasp

You know what the comics really needed? Less artist stability, more subpar line artists like Atilio Rojo. And thank Primus we finally have it, because I didn’t know what to do with myself with Griffith and Milne providing excellent work on a regular basis. Not that one couldn’t tolerate different styles and breaking slightly from the quality we had been used to, but Rojo is weak beyond words. He’s making Brandon Cahill – who seems to have legitimately improved his skill, in my opinion – look like Don Figueroa by comparison. And he’s all over the place, across the majority of issues of what’s supposed to be the biggest crossover effort of the last years. Who’s calling these shots?

You know what also really grinds my gears? The constant humanization. Prowl refers to Ravage as a dog, Ravage corrects him by knowing/caring about what a cat is, just for the sake of the old joke. Astrotrain has binoculars with him because he has “bad” eyes, instead of faulty optics which can be repaired. And somehow he hid this fact from Megatron for at least 4 million years. Really? How about having binoculars BECAUSE they provide strategic advantage in war or at least reconnaissance missions? Also, Transformers cough when they’re “sick” or dying, isn’t that nice? And stupid, since coughing happens because your trachea is stimulated by foreign objects to expel them from your respiratory system. Which machines don’t have or need. Then, there’s the sense of smell…

The back and forth shifts between Bumblebee asserting command, then ordering to stand down, to wait and see, seem painfully repetitive, especially with Prowl or others calling him out on how he’s hesitating (again). Same as what’s happened with Starscream being labeled the chosen one, the cursed one, the bringer of darkness over and over, despite his actual involvement in the crisis being remarkably passive. It’s also quite ridiculous to expect anyone to stop a Titan and its unknown, unstoppable emissions of death waves, so this aspect seems to really only tie with the prophecy drivel, in order to aggrandize the event.

Speaking of Bumblebee and Starscream, the body changes are random at best, asinine at heart. Never mind that this is a platform that is mainly based in G1, let’s get him in his Armada body and pretty much destroy the image of Starscream (seriously, even the face and the head don’t match with any type of recognizable screamer/seeker). And this change is brought about despite this visual being comparatively lesser known than his usual traits. And Bumblebee’s alleged damage requiring to change to his older body, in RiD’s prelude to DC was extremely unconvincing. Same with Arcee. Even Slag changing his name to Slug in issue #6 is dropped out in a dialogue that’s only as inconsequential as it is uninspired.

It’s a darn shame when Hasbro’s race to sell toys dictates the fate of the comic, rather than the other way around.

The result is a random and poor insertion of these changes in the storyline.

In a summary note, that seems to be the central theme hauling through Dark Cybertron: arbitrariness. And it’s a shame, because the concept itself had promise, but the writing failed to create a robust and believable progression in the story.

Thanks again to dKaboom for this great guest post!


So I got a chance to actually see the full-length copy of Transformers: the Movie in Japanese the other day. I’d been curious about it for quite a while, since I’ve been an on and off again anime/giant mecha/borderline /m/ nutball for the last 20 years. It’s available on YouTube for the curious so get it while you can;  unsubtitled, which is a shame, because I think this is the kind of material that’s ripe for a good old fashioned game of translation telephone.

I know just enough Japanese to get the gist of things, so I could tell when they went really off script. What ultimately surprised me, however, wasn’t that they went off script a bit- I expected that – but the ways that they went off script. For example:

Missing speech patterns
Major English-based speech malfunctions were hit and miss- unsurprising when you consider the technical difficulties of translating English characters who do weird things with their words. The Insecticons were stripped of their catchphrasey “electrons, electrons” dialogue, and Wheelie didn’t rhyme. Blurr’s particular speech malfunction actually works way better in Japanese though, because of the unique rhythms of the language- he talks fast but you don’t lose the comprehension like you can in English, and it just sounds really natural somehow. The jury is out on Wreck-Gar: I couldn’t parse whether he was talking normally, or whether he was quoting Japanese television: by the tone of it, he was being played  off as very similar to some game show hosts and overly bubbly TV presenters I’ve seen.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen translators just give up when confronted with oddities- really, you only have two options. You can either strip all the weirdness out, or you can literally translate the insane lines.  It seems like the translators for TF:TM took the middle road- where they could get away with it, they tried to keep it, like for Blurr, but gave up on the more complex dialogue of Wreck-Gar and the Junkions and just swapped in whatever the hell they felt like wherever else.

Overly explanatory dialogue and emotional flatlining
One of the problems that used to haunt US cartoon shows – Challenge of the Superfriends from the 70’s is a particularly good (bad?) example of this – was flat dialogue spoken by characters that explains what was happening on screen at the moment that it happened. This happens a lot in the Japanese version of TF:TM as well, and it happens in odd places. One particularly memorable example was the stripping of Megatron’s “Breach their defenses!” line during the attack on Autobot City: Instead, in Japanese, he literally orders the Insecticons to attack. As if we couldn’t figure out that it was part of the plan when they came out on their own. Several small but significant character lines like that seemed to vanish- without them, the drama goes flat, the dialogue becomes terse and goal-driven.

The overall effect, between both the flattening of the quirkier characters toward ‘functional’ dialogue, and the odd and inexplicable tendency of the dub to fill every available space with some kind of noise – mostly extra screaming – led to a weird effect where the movie actually fell emotionally flatter than the original. In the original film, there are moments of silence and pause – Daniel crying silently over Prime’s darkened hand, the moments leading up to Kup’s swing-and-jump attack on Blitzwing before he shoots at Hot Rod. There’s no silence in the Japanese dub. All of those spaces are filled with chatter and “huhs?”

The opening scene on Lithone? Full of needless chatter: “Here’s that stuff”; “Great, thanks!” “What are these vibrations?!” as, you know, we can HEAR the whole place shaking. The added shrieking of the population would have been a little freakier if it didn’t sound like half of it was recorded in someone’s bathroom. That’s something I honestly don’t understand – considering how sophisticated their homegrown programming can be, why the extra gruntiness and space filler in Japan’s TF dubs?

This is actually a larger problem in the whole Japanese TF animated line, though – it’s like somehow they forgot how to build compelling, individualized characters. I’ve watched snatches and pieces of Headmasters and other Japan-exclusive TF material, and it’s just dull as dirt. The characters lack the particular sparkle of unusual voices and accents and speech quirks; they just seem to all be a mass of indistinguishable and grimly stoic, well, machines. We won’t even mention dull surprise.

It causes a moment of reflection about how, even though everyone at Hasbro was just frantically hurling stuff at the wall to see what stuck (and snorting coke off hookers while rolling around in a money pit made from the profits off 1985’s Christmas sales), they somehow managed to actually make things that stuck. We can all identify major characteristics of the G1 line without even batting an eyebrow: evil Megatron, conniving, whining Starscream, deadpan snarker Soundwave, bitchy Ratchet, noble Optimus, bitchy Gears, dimbulb Grimlock, ‘tough guy’ Brawn, etc. (Hm, come to think of it, there are a lot of bitchy old grumps on the ‘bot side in that first wave, aren’t there? Complaining, whiny, irritable bastards all around!)

rod n prime

Rodimus Convoy and the other guy, Somethingimus Convoy? I dunno, I heard he was dead.

Other odd choices in the dub
Due to the aforementioned excessive dubbing, there’s an accidentally hilarious incident right at the start of the shuttle attack where it seems like the shuttle itself screams when the ‘cons blow a hole in it. Nobody is on screen to make the noise – I think it’s meant to be Prowl’s reaction from the previous shot as he turns toward Ironhide- but there’s a piercing shriek right as the wall caves in. Who knew Autobot shuttles were sentient? Starscream has a couple of additional lines while he’s gunning everyone down; more or less “Who’s next, c’mon step up!” The Constructicons talk before they fire. EVERYONE talks more in that scene. “Such heroic nonsense” is gone, replaced by   bitching about “annoying Cybertrons”.

Unicron’s spoken dialogue was dubbed, but his screams were not. Very weird. Meanwhile, the vocoder effect on Soundwave is really awful, obscuring a lot of what he says.

Arblus does not get to scream “Kranix, aaaaa!” as Unicron sucks him in. Instead it’s some dialogue about how he can’t get away.

I know that shouting “transform!” is standard in the Japanese version of things, but MAN that gets irritating after a while to hear over and over again.

“Ow, my foot!” is gone entirely, though there’s a lot of extra babble about ‘becoming a sandwich’.  “Roger me, wilco me, anything, hello, hello Earth?” is also flattened.

Grimlock’s joke about ‘kicking butt’ turns into ‘Kick Attack” – not quite the same thing there, Grimmy… But he still needs a new strategy afterward.

There are a couple of things I really like in the Japanese version that don’t translate well back to English. There’s something mysteriously pleasing about hearing “Destron-gundan” instead of “Decepticons”, and the different levels of honorifics characters use to address each other make great sense and reveal much in a Japanese context. There’s a lot of military language being thrown around on both sides, which perpetuates the idea that these are two combative armies at struggle, not a bunch of ragtag individualist weirdballs from space. So the flatness effect can be both a blessing and a curse in this sense.

The Auto…er.. Cybertrons call Prime “shireikan” or “Convoy-shireikan” – “general” – while Soundwave uses the very self-effacing “Megatron-sama” (because, you know, Megs is so much more powerful than he is and so much more worthy of respect) . Starscream does, too, and it’s harder to tell if he’s being sarcastic about it or not given the voice actor plays it flatter when he kicks Megs when he’s down.  Megatron calls all of his troops by name with no honorifics at all (so does Magnus)- befitting his rank and implying (depending on who you ask) closer friendship or a slight lack of respect. Hot Rod calls Kup “jiisan”, entirely appropriately. In return, Kup yells “bousoku” at him, also entirely appropriately. Since almost everyone ranks someone else in some way, you don’t hear a lot of honorifics thrown around between the individual members of factions.

EVERYONE calls Galvatron ‘-sama’  except Cyclonus and his Armada. Cyclonus, after launching to chase down Kup and Hot Rod’s shuttle, calls Galvatron “goshujin-sama”, which leads to some unintentional comedy. Yes, “goshujin-sama” is an ornate, Seriously Formal way of saying what we’d probably render as “my lord” or “my master” – but it also can be rendered as a subtext of “husband” in traditional Japanese, so, YEAH, I actually had to pause the file there until I could stop giggling like a 14 year old shipper. We always knew Cyclonus was putting up with a LOT from Galvatron, especially in s3 when you could legitimately call their relationship domestic abuse but… really.

The Sweeps call Unicron “sama”, but Galvatron does not. “Me Grimlock” is rendered as “Ore, Grimlock”, which actually works for him (masculine, slightly crude form of self-address)

Anyway, now that I’ve bored you all to tears digressing into the intricacies of Japanese honorifics, I’ll just close up by saying that, overall, you’re not missing much if you haven’t seen the dubbed version of TF:TM … but you’re missing a hell of a lot if you’ve never seen the English version.

Till all are one!