Transformers: Armada-Volume 1 (2002)
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Hidehito Ueda|
Tabitha St. Germain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, Transformer Toys.|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In this review we embark upon a wonderful journey through the entire first season of Transformers: Armada, a popular animated TV series first shown on the Cartoon Network from 2002-2003. Do I need to give you the background of this popular toy and cartoon series? The toys themselves have been around for many years - they even had some at a certain popular family restaurant last year with their kid's meals to coincide with this series. My 5 year old son searched his toy box for ages to bring them out and show me after seeing them again on this DVD. You can also get Transformers from the series at toy shops, in board games, on clothes, and in books, amongst other related merchandise.
As for the series, well, I don't have a history of viewing Japanese animation, but even I knew of the war between the (good) Autobots and the (evil) Decepticons. The last I heard they had fought themselves to a standstill and an uneasy peace was in place on their home planet of Cybertron. Unfortunately for peace in the galaxy, the heroes of this series, Rad and Carlos, stumble across a wrecked spaceship buried deep in a cavern they have been exploring. They pick up an interesting glowing object which triggers a signal into deep space and a small earthquake. The object itself transforms into a cool bike and our heroes head to the surface on it to escape the quake. They are joined there by Alexis, who becomes the third hero(ine) of the series.
All of this happens in First Encounter, the opening episode on the DVD, set in the year 2010. All 3 episodes on this disc were originally shown as one long premiere TV film for the show, then later split into the three episodes on display here. As a result the stories on the disc all follow closely on from one another. Many of the later episodes are more standalone. First Encounter runs for 21:26 and we meet our heroes, the evil leader of the Decepticons, Megatron, and the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (and yes, you can buy toys of all the key Transformers from this series). A fight ensues between the two leaders and the episode ends mid-combat.
Episode two, Metamorphosis (21:04), runs through the resolution of the fight, introduces the Decepticon base on our moon and shows us how the glowing objects are actually Mini-Cons, small versions of the Transformers which the larger robots can use to enhance their powers. Considered long lost (a spaceship full of them crash-landed on Earth aeons ago), each faction of Transformers now see them as key to breaking the stalemate in their ongoing war. With a few R2-D2 sound effects, and lots of fighting robots, we move to another climactic battle and episode three.
In the last episode on the DVD (the third part of the original premiere TV movie), Base (21:05), the first big battle is resolved. More Mini-Cons are found in the caves and the Autobots give a small robot guardian, Laserbeak, to the three children for protection. It seems the Mini-Cons can either be forced into slavery by the Decepticons or help the Autobots in the war and hopefully win their freedom. Our three heroes vow to help scour the world to find more Mini-Cons to aid the good Transformers, and so the stage is set for the rest of the series. (As an aside the introduction to the third episode includes a summary of events in Episode 2, but with some footage which was not shown in that episode; don't worry, the episodes are complete and in the correct order).
So, what to make of all this? The series is a nicely produced Japanese-US co-production which adds Western digital effects (and voice-overs) to some fairly good Japanese animation. Some of these effects look very nice (see the warp effect at 9:09 in Episode 3 for an example), and they add some excitement to the action as well. The episodes on this disc were popular with my sample audience of kids (ages 5-11) and I did not mind watching them either. For a TV series, production values seem pretty good, and I must admit I look forward to seeing how the story develops in subsequent episodes. The price seems a little high for just over 60 minutes of viewing with no extras, so this might be a rental option, or one to watch out for in sales bins.
The picture on this disc looks fresh, with vibrant colour and no signs of damage (as it should, given how new it is).
The aspect ratio of the show is 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is the way it was shown on TV.
The picture is extremely sharp, with excellent animated shadow detail (see inside the caves at 6:44 in Episode 1), and no low level noise.
Colours are vibrant throughout, and some of the scenes in space are spectacular (see 1:49 in Episode 1). Each of the robots looks very colourful, and the backgrounds have a bright, poster-like appearance.
There are no MPEG artefacts to be seen. Some minor aliasing appears at times (see the face of the robot at 5:46 in Episode 3 for one example). There is no damage to be seen which points to an excellent transfer from a modern source (and probably a lot of digital work involved in the original production).
There are no subtitles and there is no layer change. Each episode comes with the music and accompanying video leading into and out of the mid-episode advertising break. The action does not pause at this point otherwise.
The audio transfer on the disc is not as good as the video, but is still quite acceptable.
There is only one audio track on the DVD, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track encoded at 224 Kb/s.
Dialogue is crystal clear at all times, even if it does have a touch of that strange overexcited breathless delivery common on many Western dubs of Japanese animation (think Astro Boy). Audio sync for sound effects is OK, though it is hard to say if the same holds true for the speech, as it is English dubbed over Japanese animation.
The music by Hayato Matsuo is also typical Japanese robot heroics, with a bouncy main theme and not much else to recommend it.
As this is a stereo soundtrack there is little surround presence or activity. The sound is pretty good within this limitation. There are some rich battle sounds to be heard at 8:01 in Episode 2 and some excellent laser effects at 2:50 in Episode 3.
|Surround Channel Use|
None. It would be nice to see some background material on the production at some time during this series, but I don't hold out much hope. The Region 2 DVDs of the series also have a few extras we seem to miss out on, but my kids don't seem to mind.
A static menu with two options: Play All episodes, Select an Episode.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This DVD does not appear to be available in Region 1 as yet, making the Region 4 the version of choice. The Region 2 version appears to include a Trivia Quiz and some excerpted highlights from the episodes, possibly not enough to justify the extra cost of shipping it to Australia.
This is an enjoyable animated TV series, which is a little more "grown-up" than the shows I remember from the 1980s. The picture is very nice, and the sound is acceptable, thought the lack of any extras (apart from an opening toy advertisement) is disappointing. This one would make a good rental, or add it to your collection of kids DVDs if you can find it at budget price - I know my family have watched it multiple times in the few days I have been reviewing it. Join me soon for Volume 2 and my Review of Episodes 4-6.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-K350, using Component output|
|Display||SONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Kenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|