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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animated > Action > Robots > Japan > Children > Anime > War > Transformers: Prime – Season One: Limited Edition (Shout Blu-ray Set) + Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising + Transformers: The Japanese Collection - Headmasters + Beast Wars: Transformers – Season

Transformers: Prime – Season One: Limited Edition (Shout Blu-ray Set) + Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising + Transformers: The Japanese Collection - Headmasters + Beast Wars: Transformers – Season 1 + G.I. Joe: Real American Hero Series 2 – Season One (Shout DVDs)


Transformers: Prime – Season One: Limited Edition (Shout Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Episodes: B


Transformers: Prime – Season One proves that the Transformers franchise is alive and well.  Even after three Transformers films and multiple other interpretations of the series since the 1980’s long time fans and newcomers can’t get enough.


Transformers: Prime is a new series created with CGI animation technology.  This series uses the same premise as other Transformer series have, as the Autobots led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen; who voiced Optimus in the Michael Bay films) search for the Energon [The Transformers’ life force].  Again the Autobots live in secret here on Earth, only divulging their secret to a few humans (Jack, Miko, Raf, and Special Agent Bill Fowler).  Interestingly Agent Fowler is voiced by Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame.  The Autobots are battling the Decepticons led by Megatron and must use their human allies to defeat the Decepticons once and for all.


The series has solid animation that is beautifully constructed; though a tad too clean cut for my taste.  The storylines are deeper than previous incarnations, but that isn’t hard to do and though they attempt to heighten continuity and depth the ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’ feel is still there.


Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are the creators/writers for the series and gained much of their experience in the Transformers universe working on (writing) the Michael Bay feature films.  Many B-List celebrities lend their voices to the series; including that of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Noble (Fringe), and Gina Torres (Firefly).


The first 5 episodes of the series are its shining moment as it establishes many of the relationships and gives the most detail.  As the series moves forward that depth and detail are lost and are replaced with ‘story of the week’ adventures; where the Autobots and Decepticons battle it out for an artifact or weapon.   Really how do they keep discovering these things at the same time?!  They must be buying their intel from the same robot…


The weakest parts of the series are the humans.  I find them mostly annoying and whereas they are a crucial part of the storyline, most of the time they are in the way and out of place.  Transformers are the real heroes, why these series incest on adding a human element I will never understand.


I think Transformers: Prime is worth a look as it is not nearly as mind numbing as other takes on the series.  Hasbro’s original intention was to sell toys (and sell they did), but somehow created a generation of diehard fans who will stop at nothing to get another taste of their intergalactic, robotic heroes.


The extras available on this set are as follows:

  • Original Graphic Novel [96 Page paper printed novel]
  • Original ‘Making Of’ Special
  • 14 Audio Commentaries [14 out of the 26 episodes this Season have well thought out, enthusiastic commentaries with a host of voice actors, writers, producers, and toy execs making appearance.  Very well done when you see other big series only getting 2-5 (unenthusiastic) commentary tracks.]
  • Toy Featurette [Don’t be fooled, this is only an extended advertisement for the new toy series, NOT the classics]
  • Season Two Preview


Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising (Shout DVD)

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C-     Episodes: B


Not to belabor the point, this release (on DVD) is merely the first five (5) episodes of Transformers: Prime, which establishes characters, relationships, and what is to come.  As mentioned in the review for Transformers: Prime – Season One (Blu-ray) the first 5 episodes are certainly the best in the Season One.


All in all this is a budget title that is intended to draw fans in and watch more of the series later on; or perhaps it can be for those fans who only liked the first 5 episodes.  Either way this release does not stand up in quantity or quality when compared to the Season One release of Transformers Prime on Blu-ray.


The extras on this set are weak as they only offer fans two galleries featuring some of the characters and sets.  Not worth anyone’s time; stick with the Blu-ray full season release.


Transformers: Headmasters – The Japanese Collection (Shout DVD)

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C-     Episodes: C


Certainly an interesting (odd?) take on the Transformers legend, Transformers: Headmasters takes place after the ‘Return of Optimus Prime’ and ignores all subsequent storylines (i.e. USA’s Season Four ‘Rebirth’).  Whatever, I guess if Hollywood can do it with all of the superhero films, why not here or umm in Japan.


The 35 episode series is presented in its original Japanese audio with English subtitles.  This is a rarely seen series as it was released in Asia exclusively for many years.  Now fans get to enjoy the Autobots battle the Decepticons in a whole new way…well similar, but different!


This series takes place millions of years in the past.  As the Planet Cybertron has fallen a group of Autobots flee with the help of robot named Fortress to a harsh, dangerous planet called Master.  Due to the harsh conditions the Autobots are forced to build large, shell-like/inanimate bodies called Transectors.  Transectors allow the Autobots to change their form into a ‘head’ that when merged with that of the Transectors create one huge, powerful being; hence the term Headmasters.  This in turn makes them commanding beings, who have time to refine their skills.  Some of the Autobots taking on much more powerful forms once the Transectors are in place.


Of course no Transformers’ series would be complete without the Decepticons, so not before long the Decepticons (led by Scorponok) arrive to wreak havoc.  On the planet Master the Transformers (as always) are split in to good and bad; eventually returning to Cybertron and joining the ranks in battle.


Optimus Prime spends the 35 episode season leading the Autobots against Scorponok (the bad Headmaster) and the Decepticons.  The initial premise though odd is quite impressive and establishes a good story arch for the rest of the series to build off of; too bad they don’t.


The series quickly becomes a downward spiral as the episodes are the classic Transformers’ battle of the week format and where as there are some interesting, shining moments; mostly it is merely repetitive.


All Transformer fans MUST add this to their collection as it is canon and seen as an ‘in between series’ that falls somewhere between USA seasons 3 & 4.  Season 4 took a different spin on the Headmasters, but both have their merits and downfalls.


There is only one extra on this set, which is a Conceptual Art Gallery.  This is sad because it would have been nice to hear the original creators give some insight into why they decided to derivate from the USA series.


Beast Wars: Transformers – Season 1 (Shout DVD)

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Episodes: C+


Though they are robots that transform (this time into animals), Beast Wars in my opinion IS NOT Transformers…at least not in the classic sense.


There is a whole new lingo to learn as the good guys are Maximals and the bad guys are Predacons.  Once you got that part down the series does follow in suit with the classic good versus evil Transformers battle stories.  Taking it a step further the leader of the ‘good guys’ is Optimus Primal *rolls eyes* while Megatron *rolls eyes again* is the leader of the Predacons.  So anyone can see the extreme amount of effort and creativity which was put in thus far…


The series was created at a time when CG animation was at its infancy and it shows here.  Whereas I respect the series in a nostalgic way and what it was for its time, by today’s standards the series would be considered a joke.  In fact we often see on TV and the internet jokes centering on bad CGI like this featured here.  We can blame the brilliance of Pixar for that.


Beast Wars: Season One was a clear attempt to one revitalize a dying series (created prior to Michael Bay’s films) and two sell some more cool toys that transform into animals.  Interestingly enough, both of these goals were accomplished as Beast Wars is a beloved series by Transformers’ fans.  Many do think that Beast Wars made the greatest attempt of all Transformers series to make a coherent, meaningful storyline that embraced continuity and larger story arches.  Sadly even with that attempt by today’s standards the series feels over simplified and mostly falls flats.


From a nostalgic standpoint I quite like Beast Wars, but from a pure animation/story perspective it is a failure.


The extras include one almost 20minute featurette entitled ‘Maximized! Creating a New Breed of Transformer.’  It is a nice featurette as it has plenty of information/interviews from a variety of sources including writers, directors, and even Hasbro execs.  The other two extras are an Art Gallery and Original Character Models, neither of which are too exciting.


G.I. Joe: Real American Hero Series 2 – Season One (Shout DVD)

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: D     Episodes: C-


Though the box says ‘American Hero’ the tag line is ‘International Hero;’ why is the world so PC.  Can’t GI Joe just fight for the home front?  Moving on…


Serpentor is picking up where Cobra Commander left off as he picks up the pieces and attempts to make the Cobra organization the evil powerhouse it was once again.  Too bad they couldn’t make this series a powerhouse again!  GI Joe Series Two is pure dreadful.  The series takes place shortly after GI Joe: The Movie but fails to pack the same punch as all of the key GI Joe characters are gone and only a handful of the Cobra team is there.  On top of all of this the storylines are appalling as they are a mix of nonsense and idiotic action sequences.  The animation is also suffering this time around (Dic took over) as the series became a low budget, quick buck venture with little heart or soul.  The color palette teeters between seizure inducing and laughably bright, with uniforms clashing and action sequences being a flat out blur.


This is not the GI Joe I remember and if it wasn’t for a somewhat similar premise and reoccurring characters I wouldn’t know it was GI Joe at all.  The stories leave much to be desired to the point I would call them unwatchable.  Perhaps a younger less critical audience may enjoy this series, but I would say there are better things to watch.


Extras are non-existent, but then again for such a weak series what did we expect?


Technical Features

The older Transformer: Japanese Collection, GI Joe, and Beast Wars sets are very similar in presentation quality.  Each released on DVD they are presented in a 1.33 X 1 Full Frame that has merely adequate colors, contrast, crispness, and clarity.  One reason is due to the low production values to begin with, but secondly no care was taken to preserve or restore these series.  There is a degree of dirt/debris throughout each and many sequences appear washed and/or blurry.  The disappointing picture is followed with adequate sound.  Beast Wars and Transformers: Headmasters are presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo that might as well be the same as the Mono track that is found on GI Joe as all three come blasting from the front.  The presentations are clear enough, but they also have many instances in which they can sound distant or muffled.  Depth just isn’t there and a 5.1 track would have served these action series better.


The newer Transformers Prime series on Blu-ray you would expect to be excellent, but falls somewhat flat.  The picture on both the DVD and Blu-ray is a 1.78 X 1 Widescreen presentation.  The Blu-ray demonstrates the 1080p High Definition nicely, but has aliasing and compression issues here and there.  The colors and black levels are sharp and framing upgrading the image, but not totally helping dismiss its shortcomings.  The sound is a 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio that is ambitious but at times feels off balance.  Not weak or distorted, it just does not pack the power the series should demonstrate.  Clarity is slightly off as well, though fans will not be up in arms by any means.  The DVD is a clear downgrade in its Dolby Digital 5.1 track, being weaker than the DTS track and not nearly as well rounded.


Overall, all of these sets have there own merits; whether it be nostalgia or pure creativity.  I recommend all fans take a look and enjoy; I will proudly display all of these series…no matter how bad they are.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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