Tranformers GO! is a terrible terrible terrible cartoon.
You might think I”m exaggerating for effect.
Think of every stupid cliche you might see in a low-budget Anime:
Limited animation, stock footage, nonsensical plot, characters powering up and/or combining constantly, lots of standing still while their mouths barely move.
Yes, Transformers GO! has all these exciting features and more. Did I mention it’s the first Transformers show to be created exclusively in Japan since Transformers: Cybertron? Are you alarmed enough yet – Would you like to sit down for a while?
I’ve prepared a chair for you.
GO GO SUPER ROBOT LIFEFORM!
So Transformers Go! is just an utterly rubbish show. It features a mystical artifact that human characters in the show call a “mirror”, but it’s clearly just a DVD-rom style disc that everybody is desperate to get their oily robo-hands and claws on.
It’s a really shallow show that exists just to tie in with the redeco’d Transformers Prime and Beast Hunters toy lines in Japan.
The new characters/toys and stars of the show are the two Autobot Hero Teams.
Samurai Team and Ninja Team. The other main characters are some random Anime Kids, Beast Predaking and his Demon General Predacons.
Predaking is called Dragotron. In TF: GO! Predaking is an ancient evil that lies sleeping and can only be awakened under certain conditions. The Predacon Generals are determined to wake up their sleeping ruler. Optimus Prime is in the show briefly at the start as a still image that talks, (but is not animated) on a communications monitor. In the above image, he is talking but his mouth remains closed. He’s a ventriloquist.
MIGHTY ROBO LOCO FORCE – POWER UP! ENDLESSLY WITH EXCITEMENT! GATTAI!
In the first episode of Transformers Go! we learn that our heroes are on a mission from Optimus Prime (still in his Beast Hunters form). The heroic Autobots must protect some data-disc things to stop the ancient evil Predaking from rising.
The only way to do this is by inexplicable time travel, annoying tag along Anime Kids, and Combining every five seconds while screaming attacks at the enemy. Why does greedy/lazy Optimus Prime not help himself? We will have to wait until mid season when he turns up as a Shinkansen / Bullet Train. Spoiler alert I guess? Do you even care that he’s a train? No. No you did not.
It’s several minutes into episode 1 and Predacon General BUDORA makes his flashy entrance. He’s clearly a fan of wrestling pyrotechnics and big hand gestures. Don’t laugh, he’s totally bad ass and will kill you as soon as look at you. His forearm arm tattoos read: “CAUTION! This Predacon has sharp edges. Please do not touch the Predacon”
That’s right kid, you’re the token Annoying Anime Kid who hangs out with the Autobots in this show. Your life is about to become unbelievably painful thanks to those robot aliens. Gramps would have been a better main character kid, you know it’s true.
That’s right Kid, better do what he says – he has a horn on his head and more teeth than are actually needed for eating things. Plus every single area of his body has some type of spike or blade protruding from it. He’s not joking either he really will kill you, I feel like I covered this already? Are you just not getting it Annoying Anime Kid? Give him that worthless pack in scratched up disc and continue to enjoy living already.
You know these TF GO! to hell! MISB toys are gonna be worthless in twenty years Anime Kid, just sell that damn disc now while it’s glowing red hot!
The fabled “Legend Disc” of ultimate power (totally NOT dvd-rom)
Side effects may include: Time Travel, Accidentally Waking up Predaking , Super mega cool wallpapers on it if you put it in your PC. Otherwise you just watch the show on your DVD/BD player. But don’t tell Predacon Budora, he’ll probably make illegal copies just to promote himself and his grand showy entrances – he’s a bit of an egomaniac.
Still episode one here – we see a random cut away to the faces of some Oni which loosely means demon/ogre/troll. More specifically troll-like demons with a fierce appearance, and often animal like claws or fangs who are un-naturally strong. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter, now you know why Akuma/Gouki is so ugly and has Fireballs of Steel. He’s as Oni as it gets.
Modern Oni figures are sometimes a mix of Japanese and Indian influences, and are mixed in with Buddhism’s values and stylized art too. Note the furrowed brow, piercing eyes and glaring teeth with a scrunched up face – it’s basically the face of a predator / carnivore letting you know it means business.
THE DEVIL YOU SAY
In the West, demons are often thought of as mainly evil, whereas in many Asian cultures and in Buddhism we get wildly contrasting categories of demons who inhabit different realms. Some you would say are more like nature spirits, some are ghosts, some evil, some more benign. The iconography of historical mythology often has different demonic figures associated with natural forces, the weather, seasons, human emotions, hunting and gathering, wild animals and mental states. The tricky part is some of those “gods” are enlightened deities who take on wrathful forms for specific purposes. So it’s confusing for some westerners looking at the iconography of demons and gods from other cultures to know who is a Good Guy and who is a Bad Guy. Short answer? Yes/No/Everything.
If all that sounds too complicated, think of Kratos in God of War or the Incredible Hulk, you would not typically call them Demons, – yet their appearance puts them in the Oni-like category. But then you could also call Kratos or Hulk Gods of Anger or Wrathful Deities. Appearances can be deceiving.
The Predacon Generals are my favourite thing about GO! Their designs are in a word bad-ass. The fiction could be that they took on alt modes resembling mythical beasts, or that their native form was observed and woven into local legends and superstition.
Adding fiction into a cultural historical narrative does not need to be seamless – the facts and reality just need to be skewered *enough* to make things plausible within the fiction itself. So I think it works both ways. They resemble mythical beast, or artistic depictions of mythical beasts were influenced by them. Remember – Cybertronians live for millions of years.
A quick note on that “Legend Disc” before we move on to more no-budget nonsense. Yes it’s clearly a data-disc. However in the show the human characters call it a “mirror”. The implication is that it’s some ancient artifact that happened to be lying around as part of a shrine in the Kendo training house. But it looks like a DVD so that kids who watch the show will recognise it as a DVD. It’s dumb, but it makes sense.
TELL ME MIRROR, WHO IS THE TRANSFORMIEST OF THEM ALL?
Anyhow, ACTUAL historical pocket sized mirrors (that don’t look like DVDs) in Japan and China are often adorned with elaborate decorations and have various cultural and superstitious meanings.
“Mirrors are usually considered primarily as implements for personal grooming but, in Japan, mirrors were used for far more than reflecting one’s image. Within Japanese culture, mirrors are one of the most potent symbols of power, revered as sacred objects representing the gods. Mirrors are also admired as artistic objects, as they have intricate pictorial designs on their backs.” – Google Arts & Culture
Okay, so you just to have imagine that the DVD looks like a fancy ornate mirror, like an artifact you might see in a museum. It’s powerful and the Predacons need it to do their business. Not that kind of business, evil business. Mirrors in various ancient cultures are also links to the spirit world. Think of any number of low budget horror movies where this Trope has been used and abused endlessly. Or better fiction like The Picture of Dorian Grey, Harry Potter and Alice: Through the Looking Glass.
Mirrors / Power / Gods / Demons / Magic – Got it?
Okay, let’s move on shall we, feels about time to power up endlessly with seizure inducing graphics flashing fast on bright backgrounds.
When the heroic Samurai and Ninja teams attack the Predacons, they scream out their attacks and combination mode in extreme close up on a flashy non-background. Like most limited-animation anime, there are scenes where characters are talking but their mouths don’t move, and heavily re-used footage is seen again in each episode.
Not just the usual battle power up stock footage, but whole sections of the beginning and end of each episode are inexplicably re-used. Each episode is only around twelve minutes long. And we often see the same footage of characters yelling out their attacks like Street Fighter characters over and over again. Even in the same episode.
The character models are three dimensional and while clearly done on a budget, do look pretty cool.
The core gimmick of the show is the three robot combination formula. The Samurai team is composed of three robots and can merge into a gestalt with a twist. Each robot can be the upper body, torso or the pants. Each robot can swap with the other to make up the new combo. Samurai Team turn into vehicles while Ninja Team turn into beasts.
The combination mechanic of the show is repeated in the toy line. The combos are fun, but the toys are quite ugly in their individual Bot modes. They may look okay in these pictures, but up close trust me there are many flaws and weird proportions that have put off even some hardcore fans. If the toys looked just like the show character model I would be all over them by now.
The whole toyline in Japan for Transformers GO! is made up of redecod Beast Hunters / Transformer Prime toys. The new toys are the two Autobot hero teams and their nemesis – Beast Predaking and his Predacon Genearals along with a new bullet train / Shinkansen Optimus Prime.
The show itself comes on a DVD packed in with the toys. Aha! Here’s the part I purposefully didn’t bother mentioning earlier. It’s low budget, a terrible show in most regards – but the catch is it’s free with the toys. So if you take it as more promo material – rather than full network show – it’s really not a bad deal. Also it kind of explains that DVD being in the show itself. But it’s STILL looks stupid.
Here is where I confess *kind of like* Transformers GO! It’s utter crap, make no mistake – but the action scenes are fun and I really like the design of the Predacons. It ticks the right amount of mythological beast boxes for me. There are only a small handful of episodes that you can easily watch in one day. I want to say that it’s short, awful with some cool bits and more watchable than Transformers Energon or Cybertron.
In PART#2 of this ramble we’ll take a look at Predaking / Dragotron, Shinkansen Prime and the Predacon Combiner made from Jaki / Predacon Minions. But for now we’ll finish up with a quick look at some of the Predacons. Below is Predacon General Bakudora.
He’s a really neat toy, I’m using a stock promotional image here as my toy is in a storage tub somewhere.
Yeah I kind of love the close ups and announcing the characters like they are about to wrestle the Rock or Hogan or whoever. Here’s Bakudora (my favorite) in the show in the above image, and below is Budora.
Budora is a bad ass and he knows it. Sharp wings, mythical beast head in his cheat, cool spiky bits all over the place, gold highlights, tattoos on his arm and heavy metal face so grim and unemotional you’d think he was made of stone. He’s my favorite of the Predacon Generals. They pretty much invented the word Stoic just to describe Budora.
There is some Lovely box art in this TF GO! line of toys. And look at that FACE! You know he means business. The deco is to die for, and while my crappy zoomed in pic doesn’t show it – he has a faux metallic speckly gloss that makes him look a sort of Knight/Lord Demon – so he will not only kill you without hesitation, but he’s gonna look damn stylish while doing it. Gotta love a mythical alien robot demon with a sense of style.
You may have noticed I have not opened him, he’s been on my shelf for a year or two along with Beast Fire Predaking. I just love the display boxes and could not open them.
Well I might just have to open him and Beast Fire Predaking for some pics in PART#2, which will be up soon. I’ll have to rummage in those tubs too to find my other GO! Predacons first.
Oh… here’s one that happens to be sitting next to me.
Stick around, we’ll be back next time and take a look at Shinkansen Prime and Dragotron / Predaking in the cartoon. We’ll also look at the different Hasbro/Takara Predacon deco’s and maybe I’ll do an unboxing of the big TF:Prime Predaking toy to spice things up.
Until then, stay Mean and Green.