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The sequel to Transformers Armada, Transformers Energon (Transformers Superlink in Japan) was concerned with the search for energon, the source of both Cybertronian factions' power. Although previous series had followed the integral plot of Autobots and Decepticons searching for energy, Energon was quite heavily obsessed with it.
The show begins with Cybertronians living on Earth with humans and on the lookout for more energy. Although Megatron is supposedly dead and the Decepticons and Autobots are allies, an undercurrent of shakiness pervades the Autobot cities. Meanwhile, deep inside all that remains of Unicron, the planet-sized Transformer, sits Alpha Q, prince of an ancient planet that was eaten by Unicron in ages past. Alpha Q plans to re-activate Unicron to recreate his own planet (Unicron can do that in Energon) and so sends out Terrorcons to find energy to power Unicron. They immediately head for Earth, and while the Autobots and Decepticons battle the Terrorcons, an old enemy lurks in the distance...
The series-wide gimmick was 'energon stars', little translucent plastic things that slotted into holes on the Transformers. The star acted as a magnifying glass, revealing a faction sigil at the bottom of the hole.
In addition, most of the Autobots took the form of combining toys, which the show called Powerlinxing. In most cases, one robot formed the head, arms, and torso, while a second formed the legs and abdomen in a manner reminiscent of Victory's Multiforce. In-story, it was explained that this made the combined bots 10 times more powerful.
One episode, "Distribution," was meant to commemorate the 500th episode of Transformers. However, it was aired as a special in Japan, non-canon to the actual plot.
Unfortunately, the anime series received intense flak from Transformers cultist fandom for its painfully mangled translation (following Never Say "Die" rules worsened it even further), filled in dead air the dub failed to cover with stock phrases or pointless confused groans, low-caliber CGI renders of the Transformers that rarely emoted beyond Dull Surprise, excess Padding, and the fact that the US dub was so rushed, the copies of the episodes aired in the states weren't even finished yet and a major episode plot-wise was skipped, replaced by the non-canon special at a completely absurd moment in the series. Naturally, the fans made the migraine-inducing reaction they always have: Ruined FOREVER. The point being, that if you want to watch the show in a coherent form, seek out the complete animation-wise Japanese version of Superlink with subtitles, available here.
Followed by Transformers Cybertron.
- Aborted Arc: The finale of Armada had Optimus realize that he'd become such a Blood Knight that he was unworthy of calling himself a Prime and left to travel the galaxy and find himself again. None of this is even mentioned. Granted it's been ten years but you think it would have come up at some point.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Much like his original predescessor, Six Shot frequently shifts between openly insulting and defying Galvatron, to snivelling desperately before him (usually when the latter decides to handle their disputes in a more physical manner). He attempts this again to save his hide during a failed coup (it doesn't work).
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: Galvatron explodes to colossal size after raking in a second dose of Super Energon, then proceeds to suck it dry through an energy tether on his back like a straw, growing progressively bigger and bigger while yanking Cybertron out of orbit and dragging it with him.
- Art Shift: Whenever there's a scene where CGI just won't cut it, they switch to normal cel art because it actually looked better than their CGI.
- As You Know: A common form of Padding is for characters to tell each other past events as if everyone hadn't been paying attention for the last 20 episodes.
- A-Team Firing: The limited CGI calls for this on frequent occasions. Granted it's from the Decepticons side more often (was there ever a point Demolishor and Snowcat actually hit their target?).
- Ax Crazy: Cyclonus and Shockblast
- Back From the Dead: Optimus Prime and Megatron. Also Demolishor, Starscream, Cyclonus, Inferno, Scorponok, Alpha Q's solar system, and Unicron.
- Bad Boss: Megatron often (though granted his crew prefer him over the odd times Shockblast was put in charge).
- Benevolent Boss: Optimus. Kicker often acted as a de facto sorts (or intended so at least).
- BLAM Episode: Distribution. You'll be guessing until the very end who's real and who isn't. And what in the name of Primus is going on. A 'simulation' that's a tournament-style matchup of every 'bot in the series, with robo-catgirl announcers. Some characters who are real walk in and out of things totally unconcerned with who's sitting across the room from them, seeing how they're usually trying to murder each other. Then turn out to not be real, making you wonder what the point of their being in the simulation was at all. Then whoever was just wondering if the guy who just walked out was or wasn't real... turns out to not be real. It was just... the most insanely random thing Transformers has ever done. Bad dubbing takes it from random to incomprehensible and insanely random.
- In Superlink, this was a 500th Episode special for the entire franchise, was non-canon, and was shown at a special time. In the dub, to make up for cutting an episode, they added it to the actual run of the show. Right in the middle of a Darker and Edgier arc that was basically all-out war.
- Blind Idiot Translation: In spades.
- Body Backup Drive: After Demolisher is blown up, Megatron builds him a new body and sticks his spark into it, but not before reformatting it to remove Demolisher's pesky morality.
- The Captain: Optimus
- Character Development: Carefully averted. Should a character start to have it, they will be damaged and reformatted (revived in a new body, sometimes Not Himself) and do nothing but blandly follow orders for the rest of the series. Starscream gets it worse: His whole arc is about remembering nothing of his former life since Alpha Q revived him in a new form. How is it resolved? After about five episodes he tries to attack Megatron, gets mindwiped again, by Megatron this time, and... does nothing but blandly follow orders for the rest of the series. Humans can't be reformatted, so Kicker simply... stops having a beef with Cybertronians by episode three-ish. Only Ironhide has his character arc seen through. That, by the way, is not down to the dub.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the 10 or 20 years since Armada, several characters don't seem to be around anymore, and will not return or be mentioned- Fred and Billy (traveling the world), Blurr, Sideswipe, Scavenger, Wheeljack, and the large force of Mini-Cons, the partner Mini-Cons, and the ones who form the 3 legendary weapons, the Star Saber (the Energon look-alikes forming the weaker Energon Saber are unrelated), Skyboom Shield and Requiem Blaster) prominent in the series are gone. Red Alert, however, will turn up again in Cybertron. Also notable: Crumplezone and Blackout, Cylconus and Demolishor's Mini-Con partners show up for a very brief moment in episode 4, then are never seen again. Later, the Street Team Mini-Cons, High Wire, Sureshock and Grindor, all but vanish from the story- they don't even have speaking roles or plot relevance!
- Clip Show: "Detection".
- Combining Mecha: The whole point, really.
- Parodied twice in a row during a filler episode. Once with both robots transforming into an upper half, and the second with transformers who can't even combine.
- Conspicuous CG: The Transformers, to the point where 2D animation for the occasional complicated shots is far less jarring.
- Continuity Nod: Megatron's body, still entombed inside Unicron's, has his body design from Armada, since all of the 'Bots and 'Cons now have new robot modes and tranform into different vehicles due to them all being upgraded, Megatron is immediately upgraded once he is revived.
- Control Freak: Kicker, oh so much. Repeatedly yells orders at his comrades and throws tantrums whenever his bellows are ignored or contradicted. This of course is all treated as little more than an amusing quirk by his comrades.
Kicker: Don't argue with me!/This is MY planet, MY rules!/I don't care what you think!/DO IT!
- Converging Stream Weapon: Optimus Prime when combined with Wing Saber. "Meteor Attack Mode" consists of him firing a Chest Blaster at the same time as his normal beams, which absorbs them to create a massive stream of plasma.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Scorponok attempt to silence a reviving Megatron by stabbing his spark chamber with his own sword. Instead, Megatron comes alive just fine, with a new body, and proceeds to batter the living daylights out of Scorponok, tearing him apart so badly, he gets robotic swollen cheeks.
- Depraved Homosexual: Mirage in the Japanese version, Superlink. In Energon this is, somewhat obviously (though not completely), edited out.
- This may also be Single-Target Sexuality. Mirage isn't such a bad guy, he's just a huge Megatron fanboy with a crush.
- The Dog Bites Back: Sixshot. Granted he wasn't exactly loyal to begin with, but a good few beatings ensured he wanted Galvatron dead as much as he did Optimus.
- Dumb Muscle: Tidal Wave.
- Dull Surprise: The most common word for filling in the blanks where the dialogue doesn't fit the mouth-flaps is a lobotomized-sounding 'uuuuh?' Also, the poor CGI allows for few expressions beyond "mouth sorta open."
- Energon, along with the Dreamwave comics coming out at the same time (Pat Lee's range is also limited to mouth open vs. mouth closed) were responsible for the "dull surprise" meme migrating to the Transformers franchise.
- Enemy Mine: Megatron and Optimus Prime.
- Executive Meddling: The US dub is suspected of being pushed by Cartoon Network into rush delivery territory. This was around the time Jaime Kellner "ransacked" the programming blocks. And where, pray tell, does that man hail from? FOUR KIDS ENTERTAINMENT.
- Mr. Fanservice: Starscream, still.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Most of the Decepticons (particularly Tidal Wave) dispise Shockblast due to his arrogant, and borderline psychotic attitude towards his comrades, and lack of respect towards their leader. His first mission ends disasterously after the others turn on him, enraged after he attacks Tidal Wave.
- Evil Gloating: Megatron does this a lot. Granted he is also saved by it when Sixshot attacks him in a coup, only to stall the final blow to mock him long enough for Skorponok to intervene.
- Exact Words: After being repeatedly pointed out the penalties for making plans against Galvatron's orders (in both a verbal and physical manner) Six Shot decides to follow this through to a tee, refusing to supply any assistance whatsoever to the Decepticons unless a usually rather irate Galvatron gave him his approval. Taken to extremes in a heated dispute over setting the Energon towers to a dangerously high level. Eventually a frustrated Six Shot submits and deliberately lets them overload, almost destroying the planet.
- Face Heel Turn: Tidal Wave ditches the Autobots at the first news Megatron survived, Cyclonus leaves when he spies Megatron's sword being wielded by Scorponok, and Demolishor betrays the Autobots when he sees Megatron alive and well, but cautiously. Starscream becomes Megatron's right hand after being hit with a dose of Mind Rape to break Alpha Q's control over him, but Megatron has ulterior knowledge not to restore Starscream's memory or risk another Heel Face Turn and an insubordinate soldier.
- A Father to His Men: Optimus.
- Faux Action Girl: Misha for the most part, safely on the ship's control deck for the majority of the show (and then conviniently sent back to Cybertron just prior to the mission it is destroyed).
- Greek Chorus: Alpha Q, after he dies. Possibly he's watching the show from Quintesson heaven... or hell.
- Heel Face Revolving Door: Rodimus's team and Scorponok.
- Heel Face Turn: Alpha Q and Rodimus's team.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: In the Dreamwave continuity, Rhinox, Airazor, Cheetor and Terrorsaur.
- Hulk Speak: Tidal Wave! His upgraded form Mirage too, albeit less consistently.
- Humans Advance Swiftly: Thanks to aid from the Transformers.
- Inconsistent Dub: Is it Shockwave or Tidal Wave? Mika or Misha? And just who is Cliffjumper? Also, Armada's habit of occasionally referring to people or things by their Japanese names (which have not been used in the show previously) continues. Basically, the dub is so bad, hardcore Transformers fans will cry afoul and inevitably bellow "Ruined FOREVER."
- Inherently Funny Words: Alpha Q. Think about it, hero.
- Invincible Hero: To an extent, there are usually over a dozen Autobots consistently throughout the show's run compared to what is usually less than half that amount of Decepticons. The Decepticons cannot use Powerlink, the main premise of the show (despite being able to in Armada) and the large majority can't even aim straight. By the finale, only two Decepticons are suggested to have survived, while every single Autobot that was previously killed is revived. Oh, and of course the Autobots have Kicker.
- I Owe You My Life: Revealed to be the reason Scorponok serves Megatron.
- I Want Them Alive: In the episode "Kicker Beware" Megatron notices that Kicker has the power to sense energon, and thinks that this might be of use to him. He sends his Dcepticons to go kidnap him.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Obviously, Kicker.
- Kid Appeal Character: Ironhide.
- Killed Off for Real: The real Scorponok, Alpha Quintesson, Shockblast, Team Ironhide, Six Shot, Construction Maximus, Bruticus Maximus, the imitation Scorponok, Unicron, Galvatron, and presumably, Starscream and Mirage.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: Tons. Here's the whole list:
- Any time a Transformer gets a combination spark or learns to Powerlink. Some are unique.
- Episode 13: Cyclonus begs Megatron for repairs after a battle when he really doesn't need them. To shut him up, Megatron hooks Cyclonus up to Energon cables and they reconstruct him into Snowcat.
- Demolishor is destroyed in Episode 15, then promptly brought back in a seemingly tougher body. In reality, he looks less threatening.
- Wing Dagger and Tidal Wave are crushed under an Energon Tower. Tidal Wave is crippled, but Wing Dagger is dead. In episode 24, Tidal Wave returns as the smaller and "smarter" Mirage. Next episode, Rad finishes rebuilding Wing Dagger and Primus revives him as Wing Saber.
- Constant Energon supply to Unicron finally restores his body0 and gives him a brand new armor color scheme. His head, however, takes a while longer to revive- Alpha Q keeps it in his possession until Megatron takes it by force and kills him.
- Megatron's repeated brainwashing leads to Inferno's death, but his spark is rescued, and he's rebuilt and modified into Roadblock- not much different than before.
- Shockblast absorbs Unicron's power and doubles in size, but turns into an Omnicidal Maniac. It doesn't end well...
- Landmine, Cliffjumper, Hot Shot, Ironhide, and Jetfire are given new armor by Primus (really recolors) and Optimus grows to Unicron's size.
- Megatron discovers the Super Energon and uses it to first become Galvatron, then an ever-growing giant, then planetary size, eventually on par with Unicron's might. Starscream also gets an upgrade- though Galvatron forces him to make use of the power it as a test of loyalty.
- The Ultimate Powerlink formed by the Autobots uniting sparks with Optimus Prime in the Grand Finale.
- Merchandise-Driven: Well, it is Transformers. With energon weaponry, Brute Modes, combination, and a few lingering Mini-cons, we may have a record for most toy gimmicks in one series.
- Mind Rape: Megatron uses this to brainwash Starscream and Scorponok into being loyal to him, and attempts to do it to Inferno.
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: The series has a metric buttload of powerups, but they were almost never used in a way that would give the user an advantage. Even transformation itself, with characters who turn into cars running on foot in the majority of Outrun the Fireball type situations. Also, combining usually served only to halve the number of troops in a straight firefight. Optimus' Super Mode tended to be activated and then not used, as he continued firing with the same gun he has in his normal mode. Also also, energon weapons tended to run out of power after being fired two or three times.
- Missing Episode: "Return, Our Scorponok!" was never translated or broadcast in America. This changes the audience perception of Scorponok entirely, as it is revealed that he is not actually Alpha Q's servant from before the planet's destruction, but a Decepticon with Fake Memories. The real Scorponok died when Planet Q exploded.
- The loss of an episode that both explained a lot of things and was a major turning point in the series rendered a lot of events meaningless or confusing. No one's sure why it was left out.
- Never Say "Die": Transformers has long preferred "offline" or "slagged" to "dead" when it actually happens (or could happen) to someone, but only Energon tries to pretend that dead characters are actually still alive - making you wonder where the hell any given character whose death was smoothed over is if we didn't see it directly. Ironhide's fanboy trio are "down..." and Ironhide leaves them behind? This is not the only such example.
- Additionally, when Demolishor dies, what was a Tear Jerker in the Japanese version becomes... Ironhide screaming at everyone to "GET IN THE SHIP!"
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot The Nekomimis are robot catgirl maids.
- Not So Harmless: SixShot spends the majority of his appearance getting smashed against his own control panel by Galvatron. When he finally plots a coup, he nearly dissassembles his master with his laser blast (keeping in mind the legendary Decepticons could not even dent his armor at full power). Of course, then Galvatron upgrades a second time...
- Older and Wiser: Hot Shot, Rad, Alexis, and Carlos.
- Out of Focus: Surprisingly, Alexis and Carlos fade away into the background and eventually disappear from the storyline until the final episode of the US dub of Cybertron. Also- ALL Mini-Cons except the ones who create the Energon Saber- and even they rarely show up outside weapon form. That includes the, Street Action Team, High Wire, Sureshock and Grindor, who form Perceptor- they become mindless transport for Kicker- not participating in combat whatsoever. Heck, Perceptor now washes cars.
- Padding: Unicron perishes in "Unicron Perishes," appropriately enough, but then it un-perishes so we can basically repeat the entire plot for 10 or so episodes.
- Palette Swap: Sixshot, of his older brother Shockblast. Also, the trio of Ironhide fanboys, of each other. Also, Cyclonus is sporting a new black color scheme, while Demolishor has borrowed Scavenger's, apparently, becoming green and purple. Tidal Wave gets a new paintjob when he's fried by touching raw energon. Ow. Obviously, this is to sell toys.
- Parent Service: Kicker and Misha usually wear skin-tight spacesuits. No, the fact that they're teenagers does not count.
- Planet Eater: Unicron.
- Power Crystal: A few Cybertronians have them.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Snowcat (formerly Cyclonus), Mirage (formerly Tidal Wave), and Demolishor (who doesn't get a new name. Tough luck, pal.)
- Redshirt Army: As in Armada, generic, unnamed Autobots in the larger battles tend to get blown to shreds like they're made of Kleenex. Nobody seems to care. On the other side, Terrocons are nothing but cannon fodder, barely getting even speaking lines. By the end of the series ALL of them are dead.
- The Decepticons aren't much better.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: In the episode titles. Seriously. "Scorpinok"? "Improsoned Inferno"? Jesus Christ.
- And those are the two that weren't corrected for the DVD release. "A Tale of Two Heroes" and "Decepticon Army" originally aired as "A Tale Of Two Heros" and "Deception Army." Also, while spelled right, "Ironhide Team" is about Team Ironhide.
- Schedule Slip: So bad that the US adaption got incomplete sequences missing animation.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: "Solar system," "Galaxy," and "Universe" are used in ways that make you wonder if the dubbers knew what any of those words mean. Rushed translation explains lines not matching Superlink, but it doesn't explain "We warped into another galaxy on the outer reaches of the solar system!" or "I could annihilate the Decepticons by deploying the energon grid. But then I run the risk of destroying the entire universe, because it's loaded with raw energon!" (Uh... no, that could never happen. At all.)
- Scars Are Forever: In the third episode, Tidal Wave's foolish mistake to touch a raw Energon star laying on a battlefield etches lightning-shaped scars onto his body. However, the craptacular CGI doesn't actually show this happening- it's just digitally added in next episode.
- The Starscream: Shockblast and later Six Shot. In the ultimate form of irony, Starscream turns undyingly loyal to Megatron.
- Stock Footage: Compared to most other instances of this trope, these ones are horrible animation-wise (See Conspicuous CG above).
- Terrible Trio: Cyclonus (later Snowcat), Demolishor and Tidal Wave (later Mirage).
- Unknown Rival: Six Shot makes a personal vendetta against Optimus Prime for supposedly killing Shockblast. However, since he stays at his control booth to monitor missions leaving only once to attack fellow Decepticons Galvatron and Scorponok Prime seemingly has no idea of Six Shot's revenge or even his existence whatsoever. It's a side effect from being Galvatron's chew toy whenever he disobeys him.
- The Unmasqued World: In the Time Skip since Armada, the Transformers have revealed themselves to humanity.
- You Killed My Father: Sixshot allies with Megatron to get revenge on Optimus Prime for killing his brother Shockblast. In reality, he was killed by Megatron himself. Poetically, so is he.