Judge Paul Corupe once transformed into an awesome battle robot, but no one was around to see it.
Robots in disguise.
The 1980s were notorious for clogging Saturday morning with a slew of cartoons that were little more than 22-minute animated toy commercials, and Transformers was no exception. Although the show has transcended its humble, poorly animated origins with over two decades of new series and adventures, it has also kept the torch of crass commercialism torch burning well beyond its welcome. Transformers Energon: Shockblast Unleashed produced by (surprise!) toy manufacturer Hasbro and released on DVD by Paramount, is an anglicized version of the Japanese show Transformers: Superlink, the latest in the long running series that continues to pit Autobots against Decepticons in a deadly battle for the contents of your dad's wallet.
Transformers Energon, which originally aired in 2004, takes place after Transformers Armada, and sees the Autobots and Decepticons working together to rebuild their home planet of Cybertron with an energy substance known as "energon." An entity named Alpha Q, however, sends Decepticon Scorponok and the Terrorcons to steal enough energon to revitalize ousted Decepticon leader Megatron, who can in turn bring back Unicron, a gigantic and powerful robot able to transform into an entire planet. When Optimus Prime and his fellow Autobots learn of Alpha Q's plans, they must stop Megatron and save their home by linking together to create larger, hybrid robots. This DVD, Transformers Energon: Shockblast Unleashed, features four episodes of the popular kid's show.
Episode 21, "Shockblast: Rampage" introduces the character of Shockblast as he contacts Megatron with information about the Autobot's energon grid. When they try to take out the power source, however, Shockblast and a patrol of Decepticons are trapped in Optimus Prime's energon blast, a defeat that causes infighting amongst the villains. An important episode, with some good battle sequences as the Decepticons take out an energon tower.
Jumping ahead four episodes to show #25, "Open Fire!" finds the Autobots hunting down Megatron inside the body of Unicron. When Optimus Prime is badly damaged, WingDagger is revived as WingSaber and is sent to help. Meanwhile, as Shockblast fights with Megatron to gain control of Unicron, Alpha Q begins to reconstruct his home planet. This confusing episode draws heavily from continuity established on episode 24, which isn't included on this DVD.
Space gets, like, totally ripped up and stuff in the following "bonus" episode 26, "Ripped-Up Space." I really don't understand how so much can happen in these episodes, yet the plots really go nowhere. Megatron and Shockblast are still fighting, Megatron is still trying to powerlink with Unicron, and the Autobots once again confront Megatron in an effort to defeat him. More political maneuvering within the Autobot ranks is interrupted when an energon explosion creates a rift in space, pulling Unicron and the Autobots through. Three episodes in, and already I'm beginning to see exactly how redundant this show is.
Skipping episode 27, a clip show (!), the DVD moves on to "bonus" episode 28, "Protection." In the rift, Megatron revitalizes the traitorous Scorponok, but wipes his memory clean. The Autobots find Shockblast, and WingSaber defeats him as Scorponok arrives. Some good action sequences in this episode, but something seems to be slightly lost in translation with the whole Scorponok robotic amnesia thing.
Although a fixture of my elementary school days, I haven't watched an episode of Transformers in well over a decade. I originally gave up on the series around the point where the flagging Transformers and G.I. Joe toy lines were re-invented in theatrical films. In addition to introducing a slew of new figures, these movies took the stories far beyond the half-hour TV show with intricately plotted mythologies that I simply couldn't care less about following.
Not surprisingly, I was also quite lost when dropped into the middle of this season-long story arc, only really able to enjoy Transformers Energon on a purely visceral level. Pinballing from incredibly dense scenes of plot advancement to chaotic laser battles, this show requires a unique mix of Attention Deficit Disorder and intense concentration to sort out exactly what is happening, a problem that could have been remedied had I been watching a season-long set, but this single disc release skips over four episodes from the original broadcast order, which destroys any sense of continuity, and makes the show's needlessly complicated story even more confusing.
That said, the show does deliver on its essential promise on hot robot-on-laser-gun action, and features more robot-to-vehicle transformations than you can shake a plasma blaster at. In this case, however, they all seem like they're trying really, really hard to sell me expensive plastic toy models. I wholly expect shows like Transformers Energon to highlight a wide variety of toys that I can purchase, but this series is pretty shameless in the whole concept of "superlinks" that require not one, but two separate $30 toys to be bought so they can be combined into one $60 monstrosity.
Mixing CGI and normal cel animation, the show is passably animated. Certainly it's better than earlier incarnations, relying on its Japanese origins and incorporating an anime style, but like most kids cartoons, it constantly reuses footage and cuts corners to save on expenses. It all looks pretty good on this DVD however, maybe a touch soft in some spots, but nothing too distracting. Sound quality is good but unremarkable, as clean and dynamic as you would expect from a modern show. The only extra is a short 45-second clip of selected Transformers transforming in CGI, which is the same on every DVD release in the Transformers Energon line.
Just looking at the cover of this DVD takes me back to a more innocent age, a time when it used to take all my imagination to justify the curiously skewed scale of these toys that had jets and big rigs dwarfed by handguns and portable tape players. Unfortunately, on watching the show, I found that any sense of nostalgia has been replaced by an even bigger emphasis on showcasing the awesome toys to be had down at the local mall, a creepy bit of marketing prowess that outweighs some of the admittedly exciting action sequences in the show. Furthermore, the series features an intricate storyline that requires a viewing of every episode in order, making the decision to release Transformers Energon four episodes at a time, usually in the incorrect order, seem like a quick cash-in on the Transformers name.
If you need something to tide you over until the inevitable big screen adaptation, then pick up Transformers Energon: Omega Supreme, the other Transformers Energon DVD released alongside this one, which is clearly a better and more enjoyable release that presents its episodes in order. As a whole, however, Transformers Energon is a TV series that is far less than meets the eye.
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