21 Feb 2015

TeleTalk - Transformers RID (2015) Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2 Review

Before we get started, I have a few quick things for house-keeping.

  • I'm not going to number posts (such as "Welcome to the Internet #1"). It's just tidier this way, even if it makes archiving seems less so.
  • I've redone the Gare logo. I'll eventually redo it again (in a higher resolution to fill more of the top would be nice) but for now, I'm okay with it.
  • I've tidied up all my previous posts and added breaks/jumps. This means that each post will only be shown partially on the front page, giving the front page more real-estate and tidying it up. Some posts have had images added to them. I hope to make this a continuing trend, but some posts, such as TeleTalk (a name which I've decided I don't like and may change in the future), will usually have images added retroactively.
  • I don't actually turn 21 until March 1st, but I'm lazy, so I just updated my profile info now. One day, I'll write a script for it so I don't have to keep updating it manually.
Transformers Robots in Disguise logo and promotional image
Image by Hasbro Studios

Alright, it's 2015 (surprise) and a brand new Transformers cartoon has finally arrived! If you weren't aware, I am a HUGE Transformers fan, and I have been for most of my life. The first series I ever saw was Transformers Robots in Disguise from 2001, so what better way to start this segment than with a review of the NEW Robots in Disguise show?
Yes, Hasbro and co. weren't too creative with the name this time around (then again, I wouldn't call "Transformers Prime" a creative name, either), but does that reflect on the show itself?
Well, the show aired earlier this year over in China. In Chinese. I don't know about you, but I know literally no Chinese. Last weekend, it aired in France. I also happen to be completely fluent in a-language-that-isn't-French.
A lot of people were disappointed that the English premiere was a way off, and if you're in the US, that's true. But if you're in Australia or New Zealand (as I am), you got to see the world premiere of Transformers RID in English TODAY. Oh, but wait, it gets better: Cartoon Network gave the same timeslots for the show in both countries, meaning that by the time it aired in Australia, we'd already seen it hours ago in New Zealand. That means New Zealand got it first, before anywhere else in the world (in English, anyway).
Now, the only other time you'll hear the words "New Zealand" and "first" together is when Winston Peters' political party keep shoving themselves in your face, so either the world is coming to an end (probably) or New Zealand has finally found a way to not suck (definitely not).

"Get on with it, already!" I hear you say. Actually, you're probably just thinking it, which means I am literally reading your mind through the internet. The NSA wishes they had my powers, but they can't have them.

Seriously though, today (or tonight, to be specific), I'm reviewing the first two episodes of 2015's Transformers Robots in Disguise. This review will be spoiler-ridden (and verbose, as usual), so I recommend watching the episodes before you read this review. Whether or not you actually do that is up to you. I'll not only be spoiling the first two episodes of RID but also the end of Prime.
So buckle up, prepare your anus (or other orifices), and join me after the jump, for what is surely going to be a disaster of words, in this first TeleTalk on Transformers Robots in Disguise!

This is your last chance to avoid spoilers - turn back now if you want to avoid them.

Prior knowledge of Transformers (especially the "prequel", Transformers Prime) is assumed going into this review.
I'm going to break this review down into a few parts. I'll give a brief overview, but I don't need to explain the whole story for you. If you want that, go watch the show instead. I'm going to talk about the technical side of the show (music, animation, art style etc), then we'll dive into characters, some of the plot, and a few other tidbits. I want to keep this fairly straight-forward so that you can jump to the section that interests you if you don't want to read the whole review. Without further ado, let's get started!

Episode one of Transformers Robots in Disguise starts on Cybertron, with our (new) Autobot heroes, Bumblebee and Strongarm. We're quickly introduced to Sideswipe, then transition to Earth where we meet humans Denny and his some Russell ("Rusty"), Minicon Fixit and, later on, Decepticons Underbite and Grimlock.
Yes, that's correct - Grimlock is a Decepticon now. At this point, you can chuck your Transformers Prime comics out the window, because the cartoons supersede the comics (apparently) and have retconned said comics out of existence. Don't worry, though, because he's set to change sides very soon (in fact, he pretty much joins the Autobots at the end of episode two).

Sound Design

Let's just touch on this quickly to get it out of the way. The sound design is typically great. The voice acting, as per usual, is fantastic and generally spot-on. Let's be honest, though - Underbite has the best voice. I've been told that he has a "southern" accent (southern USA, that is). I don't know jack about United States geography, but he sounds Texan to me, so I'm going to roll with that.

The music is great. Surprise, it sounds similar to Prime, which in turn sounds similar to the live-action movies (or, as some may call them, "those things that Michael Bay pulled out of his ass"). It's got a more techno vibe to it this time whilst also sounding orchestral.
This sounds like a weird combination (and it is), and I typically don't like techno/electronic music but RID's score really works for me... even if it often sounds like Skrillex is molesting the music. You might also notice a familiar music cue that may or may not be the beginning of the original theme song that may or may not have been rehashed a million times (and should be rehashed another million).

All the usual sounds effects are there, with no real surprises, but they all sound sharp and clean.

Overall, sound design is solid. I can't really see any room for improvement.

Art Design

Honestly, I didn't like it. I really didn't. All the trailers and promotional imagery rubbed me the wrong way. Shading was missing or was two-tone at best, the whole thing looked 2D even though it was meant to be CGI (arguably not a bad thing, but I'll touch on that more in a bit), and the character designs themselves ranged from "trying to differentiate from Prime" to "what is this?"
And then I watched the show and now I LOVE IT.

Let me try to break this down a little: either I'm half-blind (oh wait, I am) or the actual show looks quite a bit better than any promotional material we've seen. Shading is definitely there although sometimes it is indeed two-tone... at worst. Yep, it gets better than that. There are certain scenes where they really nailed the shading, and it makes the whole show look more "alive". It's gorgeous.
The flatter look given by the cell-shaded-looking art style (I'll be honest - I can't really tell if it's cell-shaded, but I don't think it is) works well once you see it in motion, because it helps smooth out some of the rough edges that the CGI can have when moving on the Z-axis (watching the humans turn their heads can be strange at times), whilst allowing the additional (third) dimension to add some more depth that a traditional 2D cartoon can't typically have. Granted, it's not perfect to look at, but it's much better than I was expecting.
Each character has a primary colour, which helps make them stand out from each other, and helps to highlight their different shapes and sizes.

There is one little oddity, though. Well, okay, it's a major oddity, but I'd say it's also a minor deal. Most of the characters in Robots in Disguise are brand new, but some are not. The easiest two to pick on are Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
You might notice that the statue of Optimus Prime looks different to his final incarnation in Transformers Prime. You might notice it a lot more when he appears at the end of episode two. Yes, Optimus Prime appears to have a different alternate mode. Now, as much as I'd love to tell you that it's a Cybertronian alt. mode, we've all seen the toys that look very much like an Earth truck. Regardless, Optimus Prime DIES at the end of Prime, so there's no feasible way for him to change his alt. mode after that. Maybe that'll be explained later on. Or not.
Bumblebee, on the other hand, looks similar but is clearly a different vehicle. He even keeps his Earth form whilst on Cybertron, which seems a bit odd (and seems like a disadvantage when they're all basically hover cars). I'm chalking this one up to "stylistic differences", but perhaps we'll get some more definitive explanation(s) later in the show (possibly in season two, when the Prime cast will apparently appear).

Okay, I know there's one thing that is bugging everyone, but that's for the animation section. So overall, art design is pretty darn good. It's not perfect, but I think they found a successful formula for CGI that feels a bit more like a 2D cartoon.


Yes, I get it. You hate it and so do I. The animation in Robots in Disguise is pretty shoddy. The art design? Good. The animation? Not quite as much.

The animation is choppy at best. Most fans, myself included, refer to the show as having a low framerate. This isn't exactly true. The framerate isn't really too low as much as it is missing frames. The idea is pretty simple: less frames requires less money, but movements in the animation become choppier because those additional frames aren't there to "smooth it out". You could argue that this is a stylistic choice and maybe it is, to some extent, but I'm going to say that the reason this "problem" exists is for budgetary reasons.
I'll be honest: it looks smoother than I expected, but it's still not great. It's not always a problem, but there are two times when the choppy animation is very noticeable. Specifically, close-ups and action scenes. The latter suffers the most. It's still watchable, but then again, you can still play a video game when it's lagging harder than an old man at a supermarket.

Point is, the animation is a weak spot of this show... but it might also be the ONLY weak spot, so if you can tolerate it (it's not that bad), you'll probably enjoy the rest of the show.

One final thing: where's my intro? I feel like now is the perfect time to bring back the original Transformers theme song (remixed, of course). I miss it, even if it is kind of cheesy. What we got instead was some movie-esnque sound effects and credits. It's not bad, but it's underwhelming. And no, the circular code... thing can't be read by the Transformers Robots in Disguise mobile game. It's apparently just designed for the show, and not coded into the game. Which is kind of a shame.

I'm going to make this the last part of the review, because honestly, everything else I want to say is going to fit quite nicely into here, and I think the characters of Robots in Disguise are not only the best part of the show but also have the most to talk about.
I'll go character-by-character to make it easier to read. Well, a little easier to read, anyway.

  • Bumblebee - Yes, Bumblebee is our starting point. You may think this is intentional, but actually, I just ordered the characters alphabetically. I also wanted to talk about Bumblebee first. I can have my cake and eat it too, dammit. Actually, that's a perfect summation of Bumblebee: he's everything I wanted him to be and makes up for some of the rubbish characters of the same name. Let me just say that I don't have Bumblebee as a whole. Yes, most of us are sick of Bumblebee. Yes, he's been the Transformer alongside Optimus for over seven years now. Yet I don't hate Bumblebee.

    I adore G1 Bumblebee, and even though he never learns his damn lesson, Animated Bumblebee is also very enjoyable. The Bumblebees that I don't like are the the ones from the live-action movies and from Prime. I will never understand why children latched onto movie Bumblebee. He is a soulless, speechless character whose personality, apart from being non-existent, is basically "that stupid teenager that everyone loves". In Prime, Bumblebee was more of the same - although he had a bit more personality, he was still speechless. He mainly served as Raf's only friend, since Raf's family clearly didn't care about him (and neither did we).

    Then, Bumblebee got his voice back at the end of Transformers Prime, and became an important character right at the end (particularly in Predacons Rising). Voiced by Will Friedle, Bumblebee was suddenly forced to become a lot more of a character than he'd been for almost three years. My only problem is that he stole Smokescreen's spotlight. Not only did we now have two characters that sounded similar, but we had Bumblebee forcing this fantastic new character of Smokescreen out of his new role. If Bumblebee had filled that role to begin with, it wouldn't have been so bad, but that wasn't the case. I'm still upset about that, because Smokescreen was AWESOME.

    But you're not here for Prime, are you? Fast-forward to today and we have a more mature Bumblebee. He's still a relatively young Autobot, but he's not the teenage scout that he once was. In fact, at the beginning of episode one, we discover that he is a lieutenant in what I assume is the Cybertronian police force. Why he's the only one still around from the cast of Prime, I'm not sure, but we'll probably find out in the future.

    However, it doesn't really matter, because what we have on our hands is a brand-new Hot Rod, and I love me some Hot Rod. Granted, Hot Rod became Rodimus Prime (then later became Hot Rod again. Then Rodimus Prime again. Then became a Micromaster. Then he buggered off to God-knows-where and Japan said "screw this" and G1 ended for good), and he never really became his own character - he was always trying to wear Optimus Prime's shoes, but he didn't realise that the better thing to do would go buy his own new shoes and forget about Optimus'. He might buy the same brand, but they didn't have to be the same shoes. That's a horrible analogy. I apologise.

    Anyway, the point is that Bumblebee is our new Hot Rod (or more so, Rodimus Prime): he's strong, dedicated and dependable, and he's finding his way as a/the new leader (because let's be honest, he's not leading the entirety of the Autobots, but he's leading main cast that we're focusing on). Hopefully, though, he grows to be more than the sum of his nuts and bolts, as Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime never quite managed.

  • Denny Clay - Yeaaaaaah, there was a lot to talk about with Bumblebee. Denny; not so much. Voiced by Ted McGinley, Denny is the father of Russell and who I am considering the spiritual successor or G1's Sparkplug Witwicky. I like Sparkplug, and in turn, I like Denny. I hope he doesn't become too overprotective of his son nor too silly, but for now, I like him.

  • Fixit - We have ourselves a new Minicon. It's been a while since we've seen them in the cartoons - specifically, the last time was in Transformers Cybertron from 2005. Now, most Minicons go "bleep-bloop" (with a few exceptions), and Fixit definitely seems to fit the category of "Micromaster" better, but Hasbro hasn't used that name in a loooong time, so I don't even know if they still can. Plus, "Minicon" is more well-known.

    Anyway, Fixit is basically a comic relief character at this point. Now, why (and how) a single Minicon was manning an entire prison ship filled with over a hundred dangerous criminals is beyond me, but the fact is that he was. Was, because somehow, he managed to crash the ship (on Earth. Surprise), and now we're stuck with him... and I don't mind that. He's an amusing character, with a cute, little ego.

    Because of the crash (assumedly), though, his, uh, "voice box" isn't working properly, so when he speaks, he gets words wrong. This sounds amusing until you realise that there's pretty much only one pattern: he'll say a word incorrectly twice, then the third time, he'll get it right. This will definitely get annoying fast (it's already slightly annoying at the end of the second episode), and they need to add a lot more variation to this if they plan to keep his vocal tic. Still, Mitchell Whitfield does a solid job with his voice. Other than that, he's fun. I want many toys of him. FIXIT ARMY, HERE I COME.

  • Grimlock - Oh look, someone got DC Comics in my Transformers. Yes, Khary Payton, the voice of Cyborg from Teen Titans voices Grimlock. I love that show, but I wasn't so sure about this. I didn't like the idea of big, dumb, strong Grimlock becoming.... well, really, that's still what he is. I was worried that his voice actor would make him sound too different to the original Grimlock. You know what? I don't know what on EARTH I worried about. Grimlock's first line is HILARIOUS. I don't want every character to be comic relief, but I like Grimlock and I want more. Lots more. The only real thing that I'm worried they're going to do is give no depth to him, leaving him to be the "all brawn, no brains" bruiser that he basically already is. I want some Transformers psychology featuring Grimlock! Okay, maybe not quite, but you get the idea. I hope.

  • Optimus Prime - Big surprise here. He's Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen because DUH) and he's back. From the dead. AGAIN. Well, kinda. See, Optimus Prime, at least for now, is a sort of spirit guide for Bumblebee. I use the term "spirit guide" pretty loosely because really, no one knows what the dude is smoking to do the parlour tricks he does in these two episodes, but it's fun watching him do it. Oh, and did I mention he's complete reformatting? Wait, yes, I did, and I wrote too much about it. Okay, I won't mention it again (unless they address it in the show). Optimus Prime is Optimus Prime. There isn't much more to him than that. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Hopefully he isn't shoehorned into the show later on, especially if they decide to give him a proper revival. Still, that'd be more favourable to Buddha Primal.

  • Russell "Rusty" Clay - He's just a kid, and... he's voiced by one, too! Okay, in all honesty, I didn't look into it much, but it seems that Rusty's voice actor, Stuart Allan, is indeed a child. Or a teenager. I dunno. Does it really matter? He does a great job. Good on him, because I like Russell. Or Rusty. Which are we going to call him? I guess we'll see which one they use most throughout the show. There's not a lot to say about him, so far, though. He's a kid in a Transformers cartoon. That basically sums it up right there. Want more? He's not Headmasters Daniel Witwicky, he's not EnergonChad "Kicker" Jones (THANK EVERY GOD EVER) and he's not Prime's Raf (who is just depressing). Good enough?

  • Sideswipe - See that hairdo? Sure, it's made of metal, but no one likes it. Alright, some people do. And now I'm one of them. Sideswipe is awesome. He's got as much attitude as Grimlock and Underbite and he's absolutely a ton of fun.
    Darren Criss just sells Sideswipe. He's like one of those door-to-door salesmen that try to sweet-talk you into buying their crap. Except that you actually want to listen, and you haven't slammed the door in his face yet. And you just know that you're going to buy anything he's trying to sell you.

    A lot of these characters have the potential to be the comic relief character, and Sideswipe is one of the front-runners. Hopefully none of them become such a character, but I hope that most of all, Sideswipe does not become a comic relief-only character. I wasn't really interested in him, but the moment he appeared on screen, I was sold. I don't know why, but I was.
    I just wish that awesome transformation scene could be replicated as a toy because the toy that we are getting isn't quite that cool. But it's still pretty cool. Bring on more Sideswipe!

  • Strongarm - Strongarm confuses me. No, it's not because she's a girl (but - let's be honest - girls are pretty confusing). It's because I'm not sure what type of character she's trying to be. She's part fangirl; part strict, no-nonsense cadet who abides by rules and regulations... and part I-don't-really-know.
    I'm sure you've all seen the screencaps from the Chinese broadcast by now - that is, Sexual Harassment Strongarm. Yes, it's amusing, but although that side of her character definitely seems to be there (such as at the end of episode two), it's very, very subtle (so far). In fact, so far, she's mainly just quoted rules and regulations. A lot. Strongarm, please stop. PLEASE.

    Constance Zimmer provides Strongarm's voice, and apart from a few very (VERY) short lines that feel a little lifeless, she does a solid job in portraying Strongarm... whoever exactly that character is.
    There's a great character buried within Strongarm, and as long as the writers have the skill, she'll be a great character. I just hope they don't bury her with the personality on her surface, which is a by-the-books cadet, the likes of which you want to slap because they're severely annoying.

  • Underbite - He's a purple dog... thing. That turns into a car... thing. What is Underbite? Well, he's a "Chompazoid", which I assume is group or sub-faction similar to the Dinobots (something that he names Grimlock as being one of. Surprise, surprise). Underbite eats a lot of stuff (because he's a Chompazoid. Get it?) and that gives him more strength. The glowing outlines on the model may seem a little silly, but everyone knows exactly what's happening - that's one bad dog, and he's getting a LOT badder...

    Which is ironic, because Underbite is SO DAMN COOL. Underbite has the biggest ego. He's like a safe-for-work Duke Nukem (and Duke Nukem is the greatest of all time, end of story), or maybe a Johnny Bravo that will kick your ass and eat you whole. Dude has muscles (seriously), brawn and the best accent (southern USA, apparently. Is he from Texas? Yes. Yes he is. If you say I'm wrong, I don't care. Underbite was born in Texas. It's now canon).
    Underbite loves eating metal. It makes him stronger. And if that means eating Autobots, he's (apparently) willing to do it. If it's not clear by now, I LOVE UNDERBITE. He is great. Better yet, watching him and Grimlock duke it out whilst laying on insults is great fun. Here's hoping to a powerful rivalry between the two (and more biting).

There you go. I've finally finished my review of Transformers Robots in Disguise episodes one and two. But wait, there's more! Episode three airs in the morning (just ten hours from now), and I'll be back tomorrow with another review!
Not only that, but I'll be writing reviews for every episode as they air, so please make sure to check back every weekend (both Saturday AND Sunday) for more reviews.

Thanks for reading! That's all, folks~

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