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cartoon reviews
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i'm still in the process of seeing every transformers cartoon, so this is just covering what i've seen so far. the final ratings reflect how much i personally enjoyed the show and arent a statement of their objective quality

The Transformers (1984)
rife with animation continuity errors, g1 is about as silly as it gets. since writers would write episodes without consulting each other, it reads like a bunch of kids constructing nonsensical tf lore for their toys, which is perfect. some episodes verge into being weirdly high concept or suprisingly well written. this show spawned a good amount of what can be considered "essential" transformers lore, so it's a must-watch for that alone.
four matrices out of five!

Beast Wars: Transformers (1996)
the second cg animated cartoon ever! this show was incredibly ambitious in its animation, and it still impressive today how lively it is. beast wars' vibes treads the line between "silly saturday morning cartoon" and "heartbreaking sci-fi drama". i love when transformers takes the fantasy direction, but beast wars aims for more straight-up sci-fi, and it pulls it off well. you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll realize half the cast was voiced by one guy the whole time.
four matrices out of five!

Beast Machines (1999)
beast machines is a dark turn for the franchise, and a welcome one in my opinion, i am a big fan of taking transformers too seriously. it is much more story-focused than beast wars, conceptualized as "a novel developed for television". there is no goofing off, no filler, and, shockingly for transformers, a concise ending that the entire thing constantly builds towards and never diverts from. the voice acting has golden moments (the cast graduated from recording seperately for beast wars to recording together, so the scenes where characters talk over and yell at eachother feel very real). this show had me on tenterhooks the whole time, it was very easy to feel invested since the viewer was already given all of beast wars to get aquainted with the cast. (unfortunately, they sort of ruined rhinox, but everyone else was done well in my opinion). it may feel all doom and gloom, but the maximals constantly remind you how much they care for their friends, and all their efforts pay off.
five matrices out of five! (this one is my favorite!)

Robots in Disguise (2001)
an import of the anime Car Robots, it differs in some small ways but is essentially a dub. the dub was meant to feel very fresh even in comparison to the japanese version of itself, and it shows. this show is SILLY. the entire cast is endearing, and skybyte is a favorite among many (including myself). it could have easily tried to be just a robot sitcom, but it has something of a plot, and really ramps up in the last few episodes. this is the sort of show that seems weird at first glance, and even weirder upon close inspection: as mentioned once in the japanese version and once in a toy catalog, the main cast are, inexplicably, from another dimension. it seems like every character is someone's brother, which is cute. the animation, though limited, is expressive and feels inentional (unlike, say, g1 or armada). definetely watch this one if you want something light and funny.
five matrices out of five! (my other favorite!)

Transformers: Armada (2002)
armada was an attempt to cash in on the pokemon-like hype of collecting cute, small, powerful things, and thus focuses on whether the autobots or decepticons will win based on who captures/recovers the most minibots. i didn't find any of them particularily cute. i do like hot shot, but he is weirdly responsible for being The Kid Appeal character (ala bee, rodimus, cheetor...) characters switch sides like you would not believe, which is entertaining if a little hard to follow. it also contains the first instance of starscream redemption, which people have been chasing the high of ever since, which is a mistake in my opinion since this starscream was a far cry from the original incarnation.
three matrices out of five

Transformers: Energon (2004)
the cgi in this show feels insulting considering what it's succeeding. stiff, lifeless, badly shaded, and way too toyetic, it renders the show almost unwatchable for me. my one praise for it is that rodimus wanting to protect unicron because, despite being a force of desctruction, it can also create life, is very interesting especially considering their previous relationship in transformers: the movie.
one matrix out of five.

Transformers: Cybertron (2005)
cybertron was my introduction to transformers, i would occasionally catch it during saturday morning cartoons. i had no clue what the fuck was going on in it, and i didn’t particularly care about it. rewatching it about 14 or 15 years later, it hold up much better than i ever expected it to. it's still unicron trilogy, so some incredibly strange decisions were made (like wanting jetfire to have an australian accent, and firing his previous voice actor, who was from australia??) the voice acting is atrocious especially considering how many of the actors are just fine if not fantastic in others things, including other transformers cartoons. the graphics are far from the best and nowhere near as lively or charming as the beast era, but are an incredibly welcome breath of fresh air after energon. plus, i feel any early 2000s cheap cg robot cartoon (cubix, bionicle..) has its charms, and tons of nostalgic value for me at least. the plot is just as one dimensional and fetch questy as the other two. expanding the transformers' world beyond just earth and cybertron makes the world feel fuller even if the other planets are given less than enough screen time to be convincing.
thee matrices out of five

Transformers: Animated
the next big stylistic change for transformers since beast wars, animated is stretchy, superheroic, and unafraid to be cartoony. being devoloped in conjuction with the toyline (as opposed to one being based on the other with no direct collaboration, which is the usual process) means that these expressive designs are also practical and physically plausible. my least favorite thing about this show is how much focus the humans get, but on the flipside its protagonist, sari, is my favorite human in the entire franchise (even if she only partially qualifies for the title). as something if a tie-in for the first michael bay movie, it makes better use of the allspark, bee’s new cocky kid personality, and basically every other aspect that the movie or any of its sequels did.
four matrices out of five

Transformers: Prime
prime was a massively expensive attempt to be dark, echoing the bay movies that bookended its premiere and finale. the cg is the sort that starts to feel dated surprisingly fast, but without the stumbling-through-the-dark charm that earlier iterations retained. the voice acting and character animation are at times fantastic. some of the characters had charm, but it never felt like any of them had crowning moments that catapulted my investment. really, it feels like there was never any crowning moment, never any story beats that really stood out, never anything remotely interesting that ever happened, just lots of well-rendered nonsense.
three matrices out of five

Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015)
the direct sequel to prime, wherein bumblebee has his comeuppance as a leader. if only he resembled prime bumblebee in the slightest, or had a supporting cast that experienced growth of any kind. it has the sort of perpetual character resetting that shows like the simpsons have, but unlike the simpsons, tries to have a continuous story and concrete continuity, which is just plain annoying when the characters forget what they learned last week, every week. this show looks like kid clickbait. i like the episode where grimlock learned how to make pretzels in a monastery and the crossover with recuse bots, but that's about it.
two matrices out of five

Transformers: Cyberverse (2018)
following cyberverse as it came out was interesting. the first season had a very limited and largely under explored cast and felt so very slow—until they introduced blurr and killed him off in the same episode—and then went back to being slow. season two was much more interesting, but i still wasnt sold. then season three dropped practically all at once and was a total roller coaster that delivered almost everything i could have hoped for, and so much i didnt even know i wanted. season three is split into three arcs (conceptualized as movies, why are the best transformers stories always imagined as another medium?): the autobot v decepticon battle for cybertron, the quintesson invasion, and the quest to revive windblade+spotlight episodes for new toys. the quintesson arc is easily one of my favorite transformers stories ever. the color storytelling, the characterization, the timing, the anticipated payoffs, the weird suprises, its all amazing. cyberverse is a beautiful cg show that looks exactly like its lively concept art and sits neatly between the ambitiousness of the beast era and the cost-effectiveness unicron trilogy: it has the perfect look for its price point, and its appearance feels like a heartfelt homage to the artsyles that came before it (which is a theme throughout the show, its oozing with fanservice and homages in all aspects). its biggest weakness is its stiff voice acting, following the trend of hasbro doing away with union voice actors for a cheaper alternative. the hamminess works for some characters (like the over the top, excessively cartoonish jetfire and skybyte) but is mostly a detriment. despite that, the show still pulls itself off.
four matrices out of five