Transformers Gen 1 Remastered Complete Collection Review

For many geeks, Transformers was their first foray into the world of Japanese cartoons. Whether we realised it or not, this now legendary franchise was equal parts American cartoon, Japanese anime and universal toy selling monster. This collaboration between Sunbow, Marvel, Toei and Takara spawned 4 direct seasons (97 episodes) and a seriously expansive extended universe. Like it or not, the success of Transformers as a franchise was helped along, and no doubt dictated, by the sale of transforming die-cast robots. While some may see this a slight against the integrity of the series, I didn't and still don't particularly mind.

Some of my earliest memories are of playing with my Transformers toys while watching early morning cartoons before school. Then I'd pack my school bag and sneak in a couple of the smaller bots like Seaspray, Beachcomber or Cosmos. So, to say that this series will be reviewed through rose-coloured glasses is an understatement.

This is where it all began. Back in 1984, The Transformers hit airwaves and in a few short episodes set the foundation for what would become a multi-series TV franchise encompassing comic books, Michael Bay's billion dollar films (don't blame the cartoon for those) and the eponymous toy lines. The first season, which only weighs in at 16 episodes, serving to introduce the main cast of characters and establishing the status quo which endures to this day. In the first three episode story arc, More than Meets the Eye, we learn how the Autobots arrived on Earth, how they came to befriend a small group of humans and why they're all fighting the Decepticons. The rest of the series could pretty much be watched in any order aside from these first 3 episodes and a few other short story arcs, due to the series wide tendency to be episodic in nature. The second season was predominantly episodic in nature and served to introduce each of the series' ever expanding cast of characters. Following the events of The Transformers: The Movie (animated), season 3 continued with the cosmic theme but eventually started to run out of gas before puttering out with a measly 3 episodes the 4th and final season.

Granted, the animation quality hasn't aged particularly well and even Madman's Remastered version suffers from frequently muted tones. At times the characters don't match their voice and colouring doesn't match the character but being a product of its time, these sort of quibbles are generally forgiven. You just have to remember that this series is 30 years old! The backgrounds are reasonably solid, particularly those times in which we visit Cybertron. While these visits are few and far between in season 1, later seasons have a tendency to travel off-world far more frequently.

Considering the ridiculously expansive cast of characters (Toys R Us was built on this stuff), each of them are generally rather unique, apart from Skywarp, Thundercracker and Starscream. Sure, even as a kid I questioned how Megatron shrunk to pistol size and where Optimus' trailer disappeared to, but the vehicle and robot forms and subsequent transformations were always a delight to behold and still are. 

One of the major highlights when I was a kid still rings true after all these years, every one of the characters in The Transformers is matched perfectly to its voice actor. Voice director Wally Burr was renowned for pushing his performers and it shows. There are some fantastic performances and utterly iconic voices throughout the series, voices that endure to this day. Peter Cullen delivers a heroic, John Wayne style of presence while Frank Welker's Megatron is a classically, maniacally evil. I can't even imagine how Mr Welker's voice, and that of Starscream, Chris Latta, possibly survived such grating performances. But Unicron knows, I'm glad they did. Other notable performances include the recently passed Casey Kasem and the ultra cool Scatman Crothers.

The Transformers Remastered Collection is every bit as fantastic as I remember, if not more so. While the animation may not be quite up to the standard that we'd expect from a current series, Transformers was a product of its time which, through the wonder of hindsight, was undoubtedly a simpler era. These robots would fight, at times be scrapped and put back together in time for the next episode, no blood is spilled and each episode ended with either intrigue or a 1980's classic trope which showed a group of characters laughing for no particular reason. 

This is where I'd usually issue a score out of 10 but on this occasion it's impossible to do so. The fond memories that I hold from my childhood more than make up for any shortcomings that have made themselves evident since its release 30 years ago. The feeling of visiting old friends is emphasised by each discs special features which include interviews with just about every person involved in the series, including a round table with many of the original voice actors, and TV commercials spruiking a variety of different toy lines. Is the series perfect? Definitely not. Is it perfect to me? Damn straight! Do I regret the autobot tramp stamp that I had tattoo'd on me at age 18? A little.

- Ryan


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