Cyberpunk in Disguise
- Episodes : 6
- Genre : Mecha, Action, Sci-Fi, Space
- Airing Date : July 31, 2020
- Producers : Rooster Teeth Studios, Polygon Pictures, Allspark Animation
While many of you Transformers fans are familiar with the 2010 game of the same name, this latest original Netflix anime is NOT at all an adaptation of it, but it still lives up to its title. Since this serves as a prequel to the original G1 Transformers, it literally takes place a long time ago (for those that don’t know anything about Transformers, we’re talking millions of years ago) in a galaxy far, far away. The Autobots and Decepticons are still fighting on their home planet of Cybertron, and the Autobots are depleted of men and resources. Megatron-the leader of the Decepticons-considers himself as a liberator when all he wants is control, but Optimus Prime-the leader of the Autobots-is there to guide us that freedom is the right of all sentient beings.
For Transformers fans, there are NUMEROUS callbacks to the original G1 series and the movie, so they can really appreciate it. When it comes to the harsh environment they’re fighting in, War for Cybertron is a relatively dark installment of Transformers, maybe a little darker than the 1986 animated film. Characters do die every other episode on both sides of the war. War for Cybertron truly shows what war can do to not just a nation, but to an ENTIRE planet.
The story of War for Cybertron is always moving and it works as the first act of what is planned to be a trilogy. While it’s easier for hardcore Transformers fans to easily get into it, it’s relatively friendly to viewers who aren’t familiar with the franchise. It does an excellent job of world-building and introducing its characters.
As it is tradition with the Transformers franchise, you’re going to be treated to a huge ensemble cast on both sides of the conflict through the Autobots and the Decepticons. Beyond Optimus Prime and Megatron, every character featured has a role to play and contributes to the progression of the story. Not only do you see them shine as individuals, War for Cybertron also excellently presents their complex relationships. With Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus, we see how they have opposite views of how they want to end the conflict. The series also makes excellent use of Elita One, one of the first featured female Transformers, and you see her being an effective leader.
Through the Decepticons, fans and newbies alike are treated to Starscream’s treachery and his trademark selfishness. Viewers can also see certain characters reimagined! When viewers are first introduced to Bumblebee, he has yet to be a soldier and we see his origin story. War for Cybertron also does this with Ratchet and how he comes to join the conflict as a soldier and does an excellent job characterizing him. Jetfire starts as a Decepticon like in the G1 series but later joins the Autobots. Megatron and Prime are still the same as their G1 counterparts not just with their roles, but how they’re beings that are driven by their principles.
Art and Animation
As it is with some original Netflix anime programs these days such as Saint Seiya and Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, War for Cybertron is animated in CG, but with a cel-shaded edge like you would see in Jet Grind Radio and/or Okami. The designs and color schemes of the Transformers are faithful to the original G1 series. What makes War for Cybertron distinct is that it puts some scratches and cracks on some of the characters (like with Prime and Megatron) to show that they look weary from battle.
However, some of the transformations make little to no sense. For example, when Hound transforms, he becomes a military jeep like in the original G1 series; but keep in mind, they haven’t been to Earth yet, so some characters shouldn’t be able to transform into modern Earth vehicles! Prime also transforms into a semi-truck, but Megatron transforms into a tank. It makes sense to some degree because Transformers is also a toy brand, so they got to promote the toys somehow, right?! As to why it makes NO sense, it is because many of the Transformers can turn into modern day vehicles such as trucks and cars you can see on the highway. War for Cybertron takes place MILLION and MILLIONS of years in the past, so there should be NO concept for modern Earth vehicles, yet.
Lastly, while viewers are treated to PLENTY of action, the animation when they fight in robot mode is STIFF. Considering that they’re 15 metersand 5-ton robots, they should move in a clunky manner, but when it comes to animation, it should be about defying the imagination. Should we expect robots to move like pro-wrestling legend Rey Mysterio? Probably not, but there should be more fluidity to make the action believable.
If you’re looking for the iconic theme song of the 1984 series or something as nostalgic of the 1986 movie’ssoundtrack, then you’re looking at the wrong anime. If you like cyberpunk, this edition of Transformers uses a lot of synthesizing tracks that you’d hear in something like Blade Runner. It does an excellent job of capturing the dystopian atmosphere of Cybertron and the intense nature of the story.
For dedicated fans of the series, they may be disappointed to hear that Peter Cullen and Frank Welker are not back as the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron, and we understand those feelings. Jake Foushee, the voice of Optimus in War for Cybertron does an excellent job of capturing Cullen’s performance. Jason Marnocha as Megatron is no Frank Welker, but he convincingly captures Megatron’s treachery and charisma with his own talent.
What makes the Japanese version unique is that it uses the English naming conventions. For example, in the original G1 series, Optimus Prime is called Convoy in the Japanese version, but is named Optimus Prime for the Japanese version of War for Cybertron. All other names also retain their English versions in the Japanese counterpart, so this might be strange to Japanese viewers.
While we pointed out an inconsistency with the animation, we should remember that Transformers as a WHOLE is filled with inconsistencies. For example, at the beginning of G1, ALL Autobots were capable of flight but afterward, unless they could transform into something that can fly, Autobots, in general, couldn’t fly anymore. There’s more but that’s another topic for another time.
As a prequel to G1, War for Cybertron works excellently well with its storytelling and characterization. We can assume that the stiff animation may have been an “artistic choice,” but as seen with Bayformers, awesome effects don’t always make a great product. If you’re someone who loves substance over style, then we can recommend War for Cybertron. Considering it’s ending, we’re pumped for the second installment and can’t wait to see where it goes next!