Transformers: War for Cybertron: Pure Nostalgic Goodness – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

We get a darker take on the classic series, even if it’s just a taste.

SUMMARY

The planet Cybertron was once peacefully populated by robotic life (somehow, that term is accurate). Then, a new faction of synthetic organisms arose, the Decepticons, led by Megatron (Jason Marnocha). They began a war for control of the planet. Their only opposition ended up being the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Jake Foushee). The war has raged for years, and now, the Autobots stand on the edge of defeat. Hope comes in the form of the rogue Cybertronian Bumblebee (Joe Zieja) and the possible source of all life on the planet, the Allspark. The battle for the future of the planet is on.

Robots not in disguise.

END SUMMARY

If you have never watched a Transformers property before, this show is not for you. It is not interested in really giving you any introductions to the world or the characters, nor is it interested in fleshing out a ton of the backstories of any of them. Given the sheer number of Transformers featured as secondary characters, this may overwhelm a lot of viewers. However, in some ways, I appreciate this kind of setup, because it prevents a lot of the overdone exposition which is common in many Transformers series. Also, it’s not like Transformers needs to be complicated. There are good robots and bad robots and some of the bad ones turn good or vice versa. Good ones are usually the underdogs, bad ones usually end up losing. 

Starscream betrays someone. It’s a formula.

Actually, this adaptation has way more moral ambiguity than most of the previous series. At the beginning of the show, we see Megatron, typically shown to be a mass-murdering conqueror, talking about honor and attempting to resolve the war without having to kill all of the Autobots. At the same time, we see Optimus Prime, typically the ultimate symbol of goodness, considering some darker and less honorable tactics than we usually wouldn’t associate with him. As the series progresses, they both end up moving more towards their traditional roles. The series seems to indicate that their actions throughout the entire war are as much about their personal feud as they were for their principles. 

Rock them and sock them robots. Too sophisticated for the ’em.

The war for Cybertron has long been a part of the mythology of the Transformers, but this show is the most explicit version that I can remember. While the Autobots are usually shown to be fighting a losing battle, this show makes that painfully clear by having most of the planet in shambles, all of the autobots injured or battle-damaged, and random robot remains strewn about the locations. While it is bloodless, since they don’t have blood, this would resemble the battlefields from the film 1917 otherwise. Moreover, a big part of the struggle is to find enough energon to survive, something that both sides are having trouble with. That means that the two armies are both starving to death throughout the series. It makes this whole series darker than any I’ve seen before. 

The battle damaged figures will be very popular.

The biggest problem with the show is that it really just doesn’t have a lot of time. At 6 episodes, the plot feels a bit rushed, even without the backstories. Since this was only the first chapter, though, there are plenty of opportunities to expand in the future. On the lighter side, I do enjoy the fact that the show makes some fun references, including a recurring Blade Runner joke, and that it does point out sometimes that many of the Transformers look like others, only with different colors. Since many of the toys were made by taking the same figures and giving them new patterns, this is kind of a fun shot at the nature of the show being to sell toys. 

Gotta catch ’em all… wait…

Overall, I enjoyed it. I admit that I’ve only dipped into the franchise a few times since Beast Wars, but this was a solid miniseries and I look forward to the next installment. Thank you to the readers who recommended this series.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Carole and Tuesday: I Love This and I Don’t Know Why

Netflix brings us a new anime by the creator of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy about two young girls trying to become musicians. It’s so awesome you guys.

SUMMARY

It’s the future. We’ve colonized Mars and it mostly looks like Earth. Earth is now a craphole. Carole Stanley (Miyuri Shimabukuro/Jeannie Tirado/Nai.br XX (vocals)) is an orphan refugee from Earth who works part-time jobs to support her piano playing. Tuesday Simmons (Kana Ichinose/Celeina Ann/Brianna Knickerbocker) is a rich girl who runs away from her politician mother. While Carole is playing a song in public, Tuesday encounters her and innately understands her feelings coming through her music. The two quickly bond and realize that they each complement the other’s writing, quickly churning out a song. They break into a concert hall to record it, only to go viral when they get secretly recorded by Roddy (Miyu Irino/Zach Aguilar). This video is seen by Gus Goldman (Akio Otsuka/Jason Marnocha), a former musician and manager, who offers to help the girls get their careers going. 

CaroleAndTuesday - 1Playing.jpg
Yes, Tuesday plays a Gibson.

At the same time, they have a rival brewing from a former child star named Angela Carpenter (Sumire Uesaka/Alisa/Ryan Bartley), who is getting help from AI tech genius Tao (Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley) to launch her own singing career. 

CaroleAndTuesday - 2Angela.png
So many insecurities masked by so much badass.

The three end up meeting when they enter the same music competition, with their possible futures on the line.

END SUMMARY

This show’s so good, it actually works well in either subs or dubs. You can watch it in English or Japanese and it’s actually pretty much the same. A big part of that is that the music is the same in both languages. There’s only one version of each song, with the same artist providing the vocals in both languages, and with two songs per episode, that’s a decent portion of the series. So, however you like your anime, it’s going to be awesome for you.

CaroleAndTuesday - 3SubsVsDubs.gif

This series was made by Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of Cowboy Bebop, and, much like that show, this series is a blend of a number of different musical and fictional genres. Each of the episodes is named after a famous song, ranging from “Fire and Rain” to “Video Killed the Radio Star,” paying tribute to not just a kind of music, but music as a whole. There’s a gangster rapper who uses opera at one point, for example. This series is a love letter to the power of sound. 

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You feel the grandeur of the performance, but also the intimacy of their playing.

Carole and Tuesday are presented as the pure side of music, because in this future Artificial Intelligence generates most of the songs. One artist, DJ Ertegun (Mamoru Miyano/Ray Chase) considers himself a genius despite the fact that all of his songs and his musical performances are actually done by AIs that are written by Roddy. Machines have taken over so much of the industry that people consider it a novelty that Carole and Tuesday even write their own stuff. They’re two broke girls who constantly risk it all to survive based on their own talent, which is, admittedly, sizeable. They’re the underdogs that we want to cheer for and, dear God, do I cheer for them when they play. The music in this show is phenomenal, but they do save the best for our leads. Their struggles are human, their victories are hard-won, and their characters are surprisingly well fleshed-out despite the fact that they are essentially building off of simple archetypes, which was a strength of Cowboy Bebop

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Life isn’t fair, but that’s why we have fiction.

Even though she is their rival and a user of AI generated music, Angela is not presented as evil. She’s on a journey to overcome the bias against her as a former actress trying to become a musician, because she loves music. That’s why it’s so interesting when she finally goes up against Carole and Tuesday, because she’s not a villain, just a person who wants to sing that’s taking a different tactic. Admittedly, a much easier one, but since it’s an option for her it’s hard to blame her.

CaroleAndTuesday - 6AngelaSinging.png
She gets a 12 million dollar loan to start her career while the leads beg for gigs.

It’s interesting that this show actually explores the future where automation has started eliminating creative jobs, one of the things which are currently assumed to only be the domain of humans. We see AI directors, animators, writers, and, of course, musicians. Instead, in this version of the future, the only jobs left are pretty much the ones that are dependent upon human personality, like being a DJ or a professional mourner. Despite this, we don’t see anything like Universal Basic Income or communal resources, instead, we just have a proliferation of those kind of positions.

The animation is top-notch, the supporting characters are all phenomenal, the writing is amazing in both languages, and the end of the series, which is really just the set-up for the second half, is amazing. Also, this is one of the first anime series I remember to have an openly bisexual character where that is not the focus of their character, if that’s something you appreciate. 

CaroleAndTuesday - 7GGK.png
They animate this woman’s clothing separate from the scene and it’s amazing.

The thing that surprises me is that this show is not something that I would normally think of as being my kind of show. I have no knowledge of music, nor do I really listen to it. The show is extremely formulaic, with most of the things happening exactly as you would expect, something that usually drives me nuts. Despite that, the show has so much damned heart that I couldn’t help but feel my eyes watering during some scenes. Really, its absolutely flawless use of tropes reminds me why these things became tropes in the first place. I recommend it for everyone. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.