Transformers: Armada-Volume 3 (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, Toy ad.|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Welcome back, robot lovers. We are now on to Volume 3 of the wonderful world that is Transformers: Armada, the popular animated TV series first shown on the Cartoon Network from 2002-2003. If this is your first stop on the journey you might want to check out my reviews of earlier volumes in the series before reading this review. Of course, if you are already a Transformers expert or are only here to find out about Volume 3, then let's go! Just in case, here is a potted summary for those who need it: It is the year 2010 and our three young heroes (Rad, Carlos and Alexis) are working with a group of good robots from the Planet Cybertron (The Autobots) to try and find a group of small robots who crash-landed on earth aeons ago (the Mini-Cons) and save them from enslavement by the evil robots (The Decepticons).
This disc includes episodes 7 to 9 of the series and finds the producers branching out with the storyline to keep things fresh. This is especially evident in the first episode on the disc (series Episode 7), Carnival (21:36). Up to now the show had focused on a search for new Mini-Cons and battles between the two groups of Transformers over that Mini-Con. In this episode, the evil Decepticons hardly make an appearance and the focus is on the kids and the Mini-Cons as they take the day off to visit the local carnival. Their appearance garners a lot of attention, especially from Fred and Billy who have been slightly shady fringe characters in earlier episodes. This episode turned out to be quite humorous, and a welcome change of pace, with a nicely enigmatic ending. It also used a lot more static shots than earlier episodes, hopefully for artistic rather than budgetary reasons.
Palace (the 8th episode in the series, running 21:35) also has some nice variation, this time in animation style. It opens with an older newsreel effect, which returns at appropriate points in the episode. The storyline is set in Egypt and has a bit of an Indiana Jones feel to it, complete with Harrison Ford jokes (as well as the memorable line that it is time to "kick some bot butt"). The final episode on the disc, Confrontation (series episode 9, 21:36) sees the Decepticons laying an elaborate trap for the Autobots in the hope of taking all of their Mini-Cons from them. In an interesting story development, Fred and Billy have to deal with their discovery of the robots in Episode 7 and make a difficult choice about how to deal with the knowledge.
I must admit I was a little nervous heading into this review, as from my review of Volume 2 it seemed that the series was in danger of falling into a routine of: robots track Mini-Con on radar, robots search for Mini-Con on the ground, robots fight over Mini-Con. The storylines for these three episodes show that the producers were aware of the dangers and they have added enough variety to keep viewers interested, as well as added some variety in animation style. Production values are still lower than in the first few episodes, but there is still some nice animation on offer. I also have some concerns around story continuity, but will keep an eye on future episodes to see if loose story threads are picked up.
Once again the younger members of my family loved the show. They are also becoming Transformers experts - they picked up on a number of instances where robot names have changed between episodes. I did a search of the Internet and confirmed the mistakes - it seems the translators are not robot lovers and frequently mix the robots up; I hope this doesn't confuse the kids when they go looking for the toys at their local toy store. Once again I think this is a rental option rather than something you would want to purchase. At the current Recommended Price of $24.95 for three episodes totalling just over 60 minutes it looks very expensive alongside, as one example, Sailor Moon which I have seen for around $10 for 6 episodes. If you do want to buy it, keep an eye on the bargain bins; and please come back soon for my review of episodes 10-12 on Volume 4.
The picture on this disc looks a little faded compared to earlier volumes in the series, but at least there are still no signs of damage.
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 6:22 in Episode 9 for a good example) and no low level noise.
Colours are more faded on this disc than before (see 2:02 in Episode 8), but there are still some nice effects shots (see the nice glowing sphere effect at 13:39 in Episode 9 for one particularly effective example). While they seem a little faded, the backgrounds are still pleasing, which shows some money is still being spent on production quality as the series moves along.
There are no MPEG artefacts to be seen. Aliasing has thankfully decreased since Volume 2 with only some minor examples now on offer. There is no physical damage to be seen in the transfer.
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 audio transfer on the disc is quite good, though there is little surround activity on offer.
There is only one audio track on the DVD, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track encoded at 224 Kb/s.
Dialogue is very clear at all times, and as with Volume 2 the voice actors are developing their roles nicely. Audio sync appears to be fine, though it is difficult to be certain with the speech as it is English dubbed over Japanese animation.
The music by Hayato Matsuo seems to be improving with each episode and nicely complements the action on offer. Once again the bouncy main theme adds to the action nicely (and I am starting to hum the tune now and again - maybe I have watched too many episodes in too short a space of time).
The stereo soundtrack performs reasonably on this disc, though it has little in the way of surround presence. Switching to Pro-Logic mode does little to improve it. There are some very nice action effects on the disc (in Episode 9 listen to the lasers at 10:54 and the electrical effect at 14:26). The sounds are dynamic and spread nicely across the front of the sound stage. The subwoofer adds a bit of bass on occasion.
|Surround Channel Use|
None. I'm starting to give up hope of seeing any production information on any of the discs in this series, (but there is a Santa Claus, right?).
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.
These episodes do not seem to be available in any other Region as I write, making the Region 4 version the version of choice.
With this third volume, Transformers: Armada has begun to branch out with more variety in storyline and style. While it is certainly not an anime classic the younger members of your home audience are sure to love the robotic action and the interaction between the kids (Rad, Carlos and Alexis) and the Mini-Cons (think cute little robots). The animation is nice, though a little washed out at times, and the sound here is effective. As with the other volumes in the series this one is a good rental, possibly worth purchasing for fans if found at a budget price.
|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.|