Robots in Disguise lasted for a pretty long time even if it never seemed to get ultra popular or anything. It did well enough for itself to continue and kept the Transformers Prime continuity alive a little longer. It was a pretty good show that was consistently entertaining week after week but never made it to the next level as a Great show.
Well, let’s get the humans out of the way. Their role is rarely all that big episode but they are basically guaranteed some kind of subplot in most of the episodes. Russell is an ok kid, but it sure was selfish of him to be willing to throw away his football team’s chance at a championship just because he was nervous. The team was counting on him. The worst moment though was when the team was actually getting ready to win the game without him when Russell shows up to get the winning kick. They were about to win despite being ditched so if I was them I probably would have politely declined the help. These kids also rarely showed up at all during the series which was odd. Definitely not a bad thing by the way since I’d rather focus on the robots anyway. Russell also took his TV too seriously as he actually sulks and guilt trips everyone for a full episode when it breaks. In short, Russell’s not a bad character but he is still a kid so he often gets in the way or only does well thanks to plot hax.
Denny Clay often gets the short end of the stick in this series. He collects a lot of little trinkets which he then plans to sell. He doesn’t get a lot of buyers but at the very least you can’t deny that the guy has heart. At the end of the day you feel bad for him because the Autobots are always breaking his figures and collectibles either intentionally or by accident but they rarely apologize. Even when they do it is hard to think of them as genuine since they keep on doing it. They’re really costing Denny a lot of money which is a shame.
Bumblebee is the heroic leader of the series and I think this is the first time I’ve ever liked him in the entire franchise. Usually he’s not my kind of character because he’s either very weak and annoying or he just doesn’t really have a personality. I blame the live action films for making him a non character for a while but this series stopped that. Bumblebee is now a capable leader and warrior. He resisted arrest when the cops were corrupted and while he was already the best character in the series for a while by that point, it sealed the deal. It was just a great scene since there is definitely no way that Bumblebee could possibly lose to these guys. He should definitely not go willingly with those guys when the safest bet is to press forward. Bumblebee gets a lot of development throughout the series and is always the voice of reason when everyone else is panicking. I’m not sure what the heroes would possibly do without him and his tactical precision.
Drift has been a character who is a very mixed bag in the Transformers series. Sometimes he is a really cool character with a very streamlined design who can fight well like in the comics. Other times they take the Samurai motif all the way so he is a heavy set warrior who talks about honor a lot. This is the latter and I just never cared for the character all that much. He is very by the books and a strict old guy., that’s just not what I look for in my favorite characters. His pupils weren’t any better either though as their training never seemed to end. This show isn’t always very consistent with character development so having two characters work to improve during the series was naturally a bad idea from the start. It simply wasn’t going to work nor was it ever going to work. They’re basically just kids so they aren’t ready to be fighting here with the big kids.
Strongarm is another one of the main characters and she looks up to Bumblebee since he rose so high in the chain of command. With her mastery over the rules she figures that she has a bright future ahead of her as well. She quickly finds out that this will be difficult as she is often paired up with Sideswipe, an ex con who loves breaking all of the rules. While Strongarm’s character doesn’t really change much during the course of the show, she is one of the better supporting characters. She is certainly more interesting than Grimlock or Drift and is usually more dependable than Sideswipe. I also tend to like the police bots since they can be fairly unique. She does have a bad habit of reading a villain his rights before actually securing the arrest.
Grimlock is another one of the main characters and he is easily the worst one. He is the main comic relief character of the series which his fans will probably be sad about. He isn’t very smart but you would st least think that he is very strong right? Well, that isn’t the case as he is overpowered by just about every con around. While he is slightly stronger than the rest of the Autobots he is so slow that it is rendered moot. He simply can’t keep up with the others and pretty much any Grimlock episode you could assume would be one of the weaker ones. He just can’t hold his own story all that well. Definitely not my kind of character.
Sideswipe is the final main member of the Autobot fighter squad. At first he defies authority and does whatever he wants but by the end he is basically a team player even if he would never admit it. At times the show didn’t seem to know how strong he should be so Sideswipe can look really good in some episodes and really bad in others. At his best he is portrayed as potentially being the secret weapon of the team since he used to be a really powerful stealth fighter. Of course, with how much he talks I’m definitely not sure about that. Basically you have to be able to get over the act that he is constantly picking fights and arguing with Strongarm. It’s certainly better than most of the show’s other attempts at humor though so I can get behind that.
Fixit is the team’s main comic relief character. He is broken despite his name so he always ends up sayings words that sound like what he wants to say but is always off by a letter. He will then punch himself which causes the right word to come out. You better like this gimmick because it is featured in every single episode that he is in and sometimes more than once. I can’t say that it’s my kind of gimmick but the punch is always handled very well. You can hear the strain in his voice after the smack. He definitely wasn’t needed in the show though and never really added anything to the main cast’s dynamic.
Windblade is one of the experienced Autobot guest stars who shows up later to help. I always like the classic “all star” character who seems to know everything and is always willing to lend a helping hand. That being said, she isn’t always as skilled as you would expect from the confident attitude that she has. She has a cool design either way though and I liked her well enough. Adding her to the main cast probably would have made the show more exciting and she is undoubtedly better than some of the main cast members like Drift and Grimlock. You can make a good case for her being better than Strongarm and Sideswipe as well but at least within the comedy atmosphere of the show they are more entertaining. To see Windblade in a show where she can really show off her stuff, you should take a look at the Machinima show.
This wouldn’t be a Transformers show without Optimus Prime appearing so naturally he does manage to get in on the action. He still had his cool jet boosters from Transformers Prime and is acknowledged as one of the heavy hitters. As you would probably expect there is some tension between him and Bumblebee since both of them are leaders now. At times Prime is to blame for their fights as he does undermine Bumblebee at times but sometimes Bumblebee is simply being jealous. Either way it is always cool to see Optimus. I would have liked him to have had more of an active role in fighting some of the opponents. Instead the show usually finds an excuse to keep him out of the way. It makes sense from a Power Level perspective though since the show would be tempted to nerf him. Since the main cast loses in every episode, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do the same to Prime. As it is, they did have him lose to Laserbeak which was really surprising. Nice hype for the little guy though. Prime probably should have told Bumblebee what was happening in Cybertron a lot sooner than he did though. Taking down the evil council should have been really easy for them to be honest and it should have been obvious that it was mind control since Prime should absolutely be acknowledged as a hero. It all worked out in the end though. Prime is always a consistent character and is still one of the best.
Steeljaw is basically the main villain of the series as he just comes back for more in each and every arc. He’s a strategic wolf bot who is good with sub-Sonic waves and tricks people with his cunning. His hand to hand skills are enough to typically make him able to fight on par with Bumblebee. It can be hard to take him seriously due to the fact that he appears constantly which results in a lot of losses but he is played seriously. He also is a credible threat who actually does get the upper hand on the Autobots from time to time. His design is good and the character does get his share of good scenes so ultimately I suppose he did good.
Megatronus was certainly more of a threat to the heroes though. He got a large amount of hype throughout and when he finally appeared the heroes were certainly no match for him. He has a great design and really good abilities. His big two part adventure were probably the best episodes in the series and it was a shame to see him go. He was the closest that we got to a Megatron in the series and definitely served the role well. I dare say that he’s probably the strongest villain in the series.
Another big boss during the series was Overload, but he is less memorable. He’s another strong bot and one that Bumblebee has a personal vendetta against. He was a credible threat which is always the important thing in the end though. Menasor was one of the last big bots to show up. He’s the fusion of Motormaster and his lackeys. While he doesn’t look too intelligent at first and you have to wonder how the villains haven’t mastered the form yet, he does good by the end. It was fun to see the large robots even if it was only briefly. The Titan battles of the show were always entertaining but were largely left unexplored. Bumblebee and his team barely even got to master it before it was all over.
Glowstrike and Scorponok were rather disappointing as far as big villains go. They weren’t just weak, they were naive. They somehow didn’t expect Steeljaw to betray them even though that is basically his whole character. They had a lot of potential and in general that arc was pretty hype, but they just folded when the situation got tough. It was rather unfortunate and in the end they were no better than some of the lackeys. From the minions, a few of them were fairly memorable with how often they kept showing up. Underbite comes to mind right away as he is the Decepticon’s answer to Grimlock. He’s also really strong and gets even stronger whenever he eats metal. He gets to do this quite often so he is almost always stronger than Grimlock. I liked him well enough and typically the heroes could only beat him with plot hax.
Thunderhoof is an old mob boss who always talks tough. At first he was on roughly equal ground with Steeljaw, but gradually the gap between them widened until he was not really a match anymore. He’s still a fun opponent though and his rivalry with Sideswipe is pretty good. There’s also Quillfire whose abilities are very unique. He can hit you with his quills which will affect you in a random way. Certainly a good way to win a fight, but also a way to lose one if the effect ends up being a positive one. His personality was fun as he always talked about the revolution. Finally we have the comic relief Clampdown. He’s scared of everyone and will certainly rat out his teammates if given the chance. Not much more to add on to that guy as I can’t say that I was a fan. There are a multitude of other bots in the show, but you get the general idea.
Starscream surprisingly got a big role in the show and was one of the cooler guest stars. He looked really good and a quick Prime reference also means that he looked better in that show since he found a way to escape and come back for revenge. He’s a fun opponent as always and he’s definitely still one of my favorite characters. It’s just hard to see how you can not enjoy the character. Starscream clearly enjoys himself while blasting the Autobots away and while he was careless in letting the Minicons get away, he was still pretty imposing throughout the arc.
Soundwave got to appear as a guest star two times and was given a lot of respect in each appearance. The heroes treated him as a legendary villain who was out of their league which his fans will certainly appreciate. That does mean that the way he loses can be a little suspect of course as the film typically has a problem when the power levels are vastly different like that. Instead of thinking up a clever plan to stop the villain, the heroes will usually just win with plot hax. Definitely a little cheesy, but by and large Soundwave definitely looks really good and lives up to the hype. Laserbeak definitely deserves some recognition as well as he looked great when he appeared. Still as loyal as ever and even stronger than he used to be.
The show has some long running story arcs like finding all of the Decepticons who were launched from the ship and the Cybertron conspiracy, but for the most part the series is an episodic one. Each episode will have a self contained plot so you definitely need to enjoy the characters or you won’t be a big fan of this show. Fortunately, thanks in part to the character designs and the overall writing, the series is pretty fun. It may be an advantage of the series going for comedy from the start. Some titles can do both pretty well like DBZ, by others like Naruto Shippuden can only handle the action part and the normal scenes can get a little dull. I’d argue that Robots in Disguise has the funnier cast and the talking scenes are more enjoyable. Naturally the action scenes can’t really hold their own in comparison though.
The series could get serious when necessary though like the climaxes of each season. The first season’s fight brought with it some super firms and a really cool fight with Prime and Bumblebee against the new villain. It’s still my favorite climax in the show. The final season had the cool fight against the High Council and the team finally got to put their Super form to good use. The fight was also a little more brutal than the first ones as the villains landed quite a few hits. In general I thought the final season did up the intensity from the earlier episodes. The one where Sideswipe got traumatized was also pretty dark (relative to this show) even if I didn’t buy into the trauma. Losing the homebase was definitely a big event at any rate.
The sheer length of the show is also impressive but it can be a double edged sword. On one hand it’s great that we get so many adventures with the team. It helps them get more likable and you’re happy that you get a consistent adventure every week. So much happens that it’s hard to even remember it all. I barely remember the Optimus Prime training subplot during the first season, but it was actually handled very well and it was thrilling to see him return after such a long time. I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of that plot and it was actually pretty serious throughout. While the show is almost always light hearted, it did get quite serious when necessary. This is basically the case during all of the climax events and like any good action series, the climax is where the show reaches its peak.
On the other hand, the budget begins to show and quite a lot of enemies end up reusing designs. This happens quite extensively as you watch more and more of the show. The designs are good but reusing them is never the answer. I think they could have certainly gotten more creative even if it only meant changing a few parts and making them Chimeras or something. There are also some additions that feel rather pointless like the Minicons. The Minicons don’t only show up for one season, but get almost the same plot in the final arc as a few minicons are working for the enemies. They’re too weak to be a threat and never add anything to the show. We didn’t need the minies that could fuse with other bots and the mini traitors also serves no real role. Some subplots like that never really hit it off.
The animation is actually pretty good. To be specific, I’m not sure if it’s the animation that I always thought looked really good or if it’s the character designs. Whichever of the two it is, it makes the episodes pretty fun to look at. The fight scenes may not be all that long typically but the ones we get are satisfying. This really isn’t the kind of show that does a good job on the power levels though. The whole team of heroes are often defeated by a single opponent with ease and then they will be able to take on far stronger opponents at a later date. At one point the heroes were basically losing in every single episode which was pretty amusing but in a sad way. At least the team always talks tough despite this so they clearly don’t let it get to them.
As you may expect, the soundtrack is rather ordinary. The tunes are catchy enough but they do come across as generic. You will certainly remember them quite well by the end but that’s thanks in part to the fact that the music selection is quite limited so they end up throwing the same songs at you. The music doesn’t really help or hurt the series. It’s basically just around and you won’t get much of an impression from it.
Overall, Robots in Disguise will probably end up fading from memory for most compared to the other Transformer shows. It’s a good show but it certainly doesn’t try to be all that distinct or memorable. Whatever it may do well, other shows have done it even more impressively. It’s really a great way to keep enjoying the Transformers franchise since it’s a pretty long show at least. If you’re a Transformers fan and haven’t seen this show yet then I would definitely recommend this one. Even if you are not a Transformers fan I would recommend checking it out since it’s a solid all around action show. It’s very easy to just turn on and enjoy since most episodes are stand alone titles and most of the plots are rather basic. At the very least, I’ll miss having the show around. In particular, I’ll definitely miss Bumblebee since he was handled perfectly. I guess we’ll see if the next Bumblebee show coming up can top this one.