Transformers: Animated, Cartoon Network
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Well, this series started with a movie, "Transform and Roll Out!" which I thought was fairly good. I was totally going to write up a review of that, but... I put it off, and now I don't remember that much of it. Still, it's important because it sets up the series, so I'll say what I can. Um... but first of all, I'm going to assume you're at least passingly familiar with the history of the Transformers. There've been lots of different series, but the only one with which I'm at all familiar, really, is the first. And even that I don't remember as well as I'd like to. But this new series is probably the least animeish one there's been, the most... intentionally American. And yet still not completely lacking in animeishness. Also I should say, this series came out not long after the movie Transformers, a live-action/CGI adaptation of the whole Transformers concept, or whatever. I didn't see the movie until after seeing this whole series, however... and I noticed some similarities in the plots, as well as some differences. But I digress.
Anyway, somewhere out in space there was a small ship of Autobots assigned to repair work. They were led by Optimus Prime, and the others included Bumblebee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and Prowl. (Prowl is like a ninja, which is pretty cool.) Basically, they find something called the Allspark, which is the source of all Transformers' life, and it's very powerful. Long ago there was a war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and the Autobots had, like, thrown the Allspark into some portal or something, to keep it out of Decepticon hands. But now it was back, and a ship of Decepticons showed up looking for it. They were led by Megatron, and there were some others but the only one I remember is Starscream. There was a fight between the Autobots and Decepticons, but Starscream betrayed Megatron to gain power for himself. However, the Autobots thought they defeated Megatron themselves, I guess.
Anyway, after that, the Autobots crashed on Earth and went into stasis. Megatron also crashed on Earth, while Starscream I guess stayed out in space looking for the Allspark. Which was actually on Earth with the sleeping Autobots. Meanwhile, Megatron was unconscious, when this kid named Isaac Sumdac found him. Then we flash forward 50 years. Sumdac is a famous scientist now, though he bears the terrible secret that his technology has been acquired by studying Megatron. The Decepticon leader has apparently been offline all these years and knows nothing of what's been going on, and currently he's just a giant head in Sumdac's private office. Though in the first regular episode of the series, the head will reactivate and want to get his body back, and to find the Allspark and destroy the Autobots and whatnot, but that's getting ahead of myself.
Sumdac has an 8-year-old daughter now, named Sari. She's pretty spunky, I do like her. Well, for some reason which I forget, the Autobots came out of stasis, and were surprised to find that life on this planet is organic. But anyway, they befriended Sari (she seems particularly close to Bumblebee, who is the youngest and spunkiest Autobot, himself). And they have become like superheroes in the eyes of the human public. But Starscream showed up and there was a big fight over the Allspark, but ultimately he was defeated. Oh, and I need to mention that... Sari got like this key from the Allspark, or maybe it was something she already had and it absorbed the powers of the Allspark. Whatever, I forget. But anyway, it can do all sorts of things like fix Transformers who have been seriously hurt, or control all sorts of technology. And stuff. And in the first regular episode, energy from the key is what unwittingly awakens Megatron's head.
Anyway, in the course of the series, there are lots of adventures, which may involve human villains, as well as other transformers. There'll be some old friends or enemies who show up, as well as new transformers coming online, once the Allspark gets fragmented. Then there's sort of a race to locate fragments, but most of them tend to end up in things that come to life. Such as the Dinobots and the Constructicons. And eventually Sumdac gets kidnapped by Megatron, and forced to help him in his plans to construct a space bridge portal thing, so that he can take over Cybertron. That's kind of getting into season 2, I guess. Meanwhile, Sari ran her father's company in his stead for a time, before she was kicked out by the chairman, Porter Powell, who found that there were no records of Sari's existence, let alone that she was Isaac Sumdac's legitimate heir. Anyway, when she gets kicked out of Sumdac Tower, she has to go live with her Autobot friends.
Anyway, um... I guess I'm rather behind in updating this, and so I've kind of forgotten alot of stuff, and the whole sequence of events. And I'm sure there are plenty of characters I've neglected to mention, so I should remedy that now. Well, eventually some more Autobots show up on Earth: The Elite Guard, led by supreme commander Ultra Magnus. The Guard also includes Sentinel Prime, who is technically the same rank as Optimus, but looks down on Prime and his crew. There's also an Elite Guard named Jazz. And probably there are more I'm forgetting. As for Decepticons, the main ones who are loyal to Megatron are Blitzwing and Lugnut. And eventually the Constructicons, Scrapper and Mixmaster. And there's one who seems to be independent, Blackarachnia, who used to be an Autobot, and friend of Optimus and Sentinal. But... well, it's complicated. She's an enemy now, though.
Well, those are most of the recurring transformers, I think, though we see others from time to time. But eventually, Starscream gets an Allspark fragment embedded in his head, which makes him impossible to permanently kill. So he's constantly trying to defeat Megatron, yet constantly failing. Eventually he makes some clones of himself.... As for humans, the only other major character on the side of Sari and the Autobots is a cop named Captain Fanzone, who dislikes technology and doesn't really much like the Autobots... but at least he likes them better than Decepticons. There are numerous recurring human villains, who sometimes act on their own, and sometimes get caught up in the ongoing story arc about the struggle between Autobots and Decepticons. I don't want to name them all, so... go look at Wikipedia or something if you're interested.
Another plotline that begins to develop in season 2 involves a fugitive Autobot named Wasp, who is believed to be a traitor. But the actual traitor is the supposed Autobot Longarm, who is really Shockwave, a Decepticon loyal to Megatron. Some of Megatron's forces around the galaxy or whatever begin attacking Autobots, and... I kind of forget what happened, but Megatron gets stranded in space, along with Starscream's disembodied but very talkative head. And it is discovered that Sari is actually a robot.
As season 3 begins, Megatron and Starscream take control of Omega Supreme, a giant Autobot that had been constructed long ago as an ultimate weapon against the Decepticons. They want to get to Cybertron, but are ultimately thwarted. At the end of the episode, Starscream is in control of Omega Supreme, but the Autobots have attached a device that keeps him continuously warping to random locations in space. Meanwhile, we learn that Sari is part Cybertronian, though she also has Sumdac's DNA. At first, she had trouble coming to terms with learning she's not human, but soon she started to enjoy discovering her new powers. And then uses her key to upgrade herself. At first she can't control her new power, but Ratchet fixes her. And now I guess she is suddenly a teenager in appearance. There will be some mystery about how she originally appeared in Sumdac's lab, years ago, and I look forward to learning the truth about that. Meanwhile, the Autobots on Earth need to warn their allies on Cybertron about Shockwave, but they have no contact as yet.
But, by the end of the third season (which is apparently the last), the main storyline has pretty neatly been wrapped up. Some pretty serious stuff happened, some of it sad, but on the whole, it was a good end to the series. Though I was left feeling Sari's story wasn't really finished, unfortunately. And... I dunno what else to say.
Anyway, yeah... plenty of standalone eps, plenty of eps that develop the major storyline. Lots of fun, humor, action, drama, mystery. It all gets pretty complicated, as you may have noticed. Definitely worth following on a regular basis, getting invested in....