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Transformers Lockdown: Rise of the Beasts Part 3

sgathaich bannerWe have now said all there is to say (well not really there’s tons I could have said) about Beast Wars. However before jumping into its sequel series, let us go and see what happened in Japan.

Now Japan Seemed to like Beast Wars a lot, however, as well as waiting for the series to be finished, they had to dub it into Japanese (I know we often don’t think of things being dubbed into Japanese). This meant there were considerable gaps in it being broadcast. So what happened? Japan got 2 exclusive Beast Wars anime made, Beast Wars Second and Beast Wars Neo.

Beast Wars Second

Beast wars Second was broadcast in 1998 to 1999 between the showings of season 1 and 2 of Beast Wars. And starred Maximan Lio Convoy (Convoy basically being the term for Prime in Japan)  and his team as they chase after Predacon Galvatron (not the G1 character) to the planet Gaia who plans to use the substance called Angolmois Energy to power his artificial planet Nemesis and take over the Universe. I’m fairly sure it’s just a coincidence it shares the name with the Decepticon ship that played a role in the final episodes of Beast Wars (it was Beast Wars that gave it the name).

On the toy side with the exceptions of the leaders, most characters were recolours of older toys or just ones that never got used in Beast Wars such as the Maximal Combiner Team. Some were even older than Beast Wars and didn’t even have Beast modes like Starscream (also not the G1 character).

For the most part the show was episodic and much more lighthearted, though coming to deal with heavier issues as the show neared its end. It is mostly forgettable and shows how it was more a rush job to fill space and its only real notable inclusion was the first appearance of a black recolour of a Prime.

Beast Wars Neo

Beast Wars Neo is a direct sequel to Beast Wars Second. In it Maximal leader Big Convoy (who turns into a mammoth) is sent with his team to find the missing Lio Convoy while Predacon leader Magmatron arrives on the planet Gaia to, like predecessor Galvatron, claim the Angolmois Energy. As mentioned in my article about Unicron – A twist occurs part way through thanks to the appearance of a strange new group called the Blendtrons and who work to revive their master Unicron, who the Angolmois Energy  was actually the life blood of.

Unlike Second, Neo had a lot more original moulds and gone were the non Beast modes. There were still some recolours of unused Beast Wars characters, namely with the Blendrons using the moulds of Fuzors that didn’t appear in the main show.

The use of Unicron and the effects of Angolmois Energy would later cause Neo to be viewed more positively than Second was and elements of lore from it bleeding into later Transformers canon, but as I’ve seen neither series my discussion of it is limited, these two are much harder to get if not impossible and from my research no legal copy of either is available in European markets.

Now onto the true sequel to Beast Wars. It’s important to say that I fully watched this show when it was on TV. While Beast Wars was a lot harder to find when it was first broadcast, since it was aired very confusingly by GMT, being only shown during school holidays at awkward hours and them outright butchering some episodes such as the big reveal of Megatron’s true plan for some reason, Beast Machines was shown on different channels and at sensible times rather and not only on holidays.

Beast Machines

Transformers Beast Machines

Available from Amazon

Beast Machines starts with Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Rattrap and Black Arachnia, all back in their original Beast modes (which makes a questionable error for people that remembered what happened with Optimus at the start of season 2) on Cybertron being chased by strange vehicle Transformers and unable to transform. They fall underground and find the oracle – a strange computer that Vector Sigma has evolved into. It upgrades them into techno organic forms that… look awful. Oh yeah the quality of the animation is up but these designs just look yuck. They also find Megatron somehow got to Cybertron before them and took over (this is never really explained adequately in any media, I think some places say he used the virus affecting the Maximals at the start but he’s still one guy) and now commands an army of Vehicon drones. Vehicons also don’t look any good but least they aren’t as awful as the Maximals now look.

Yeah Beast Machines is not popular and until certain later additions to the franchise was thought of as the worst Transformers series ever.

Aside from the already bad character designs, those characters from Beast Wars we fell in love with are nothing like they were in this show. Optimus Primal suddenly becomes fanatical towards his god given role. Megatron suddenly hates Beast modes despite being in love with his multiple times, referring to himself as the Dragon once he got that one. Silverbolt when he came back was suddenly no longer the lovable over the top chivalric hero, but now dark and brooding (also replaced his cool Fuzor form with a purple bird). But no Beast Wars character got (profanity) one more than Rhinox. Both he and Silverbolt got captured before the start of the first episodes and their sparks removed, later used to make Vehicon generals. When Rhinox’s spark awakens in Tankor he suddenly goes evil, hates Beast modes and wants to take over Cybertron. They argue Megatron has corrupted his spark but given that didn’t happen with any of the others that answer makes no sense. Made worse Rhinox was the more spiritual character in Beast Wars and given Beast machines had a more spiritual edge (even transformation being supposedly a spiritual thing, resulting in a very crappy transformation sequence) this just stinks of a bad idea.

The show ends with Cybertron being reformatted to a techno organic paradise and all the Cybertronians sparks freed to be in new techno organic bodies… without any of them being asked if they liked that (also Waspinators happy ending at the end of Beast Wars was robbed from him).

As for the toys… they didn’t sell well, because of the character designs and weird way they transformed, rarely did the Maximals look like what they did in the show till much later on in the toy line by which time they were rarely on the shelves. What ended up happening is fans  importing some toys from the Japanese series Car Robots which would later become Robots In Disguise.

Beast Machines is sadly the final point in the original Transformers continuity. There was to have been another series set after it but due to poor reception and toy sales it was shelved to begin work on the Unicron trilogy with Robots In Disguise used as an intermediary while that was being made. There were some stories set after but no big stories just character pieces usually. Very little from this show is ever used in other continuity. Sometimes one of the Vehicon generals are remade for another series but only really a cameo (many of their names they didn’t keep the copyright of). The concept of techorganic was used in Transformers Animated though also explaining it had flaws so wasn’t truly an improvement since they can’t handle things that would kill organics like extreme temperatures.

It is sad to see the Beast era end on such a note, characters people came to love returning to a world now controlled by their greatest enemy was a good one, but vastly changing concepts core to the series struck fans and the audience in general very much the wrong way, not helped that character consistency between the two shows was nonexistent. Hard to say if the show could have worked with better writing and character designs. But with the end of the Beast era came the start of other continuities in Transformers. Maybe I’ll tell you about them.

Now originally this is where this article was to end. A bit depressing after the success of Beast Wars to see it all go downhill. But while Beast Machines was disliked, certainly later shows and the later live action movies caused it to be reappraised. What’s more many of the Beast Wars era characters as mentioned ended up becoming so beloved they entered into the Transformers hall of fame. Even more new versions of those characters have appeared amongst other Transformers in other series. Blackarachnia and Waspinator both showed up in Transformers Animated. Cheetor showed up in Cyberverse and a new version of Optimus Primal won a fan vote to get a Leader class size toy in the Power of the Primes line. What’s more as nostalgia for Beast Wars continues to rise reports are coming in of a live action movie based on the Beast Wars characters.

While the era may have had a rather sad ending what came before that ending has and continues to have a lasting impact on the franchise for the better making it stand right next to G1 as the most important era of Transformers… now we hope they do reissues of the Beast Wars toys. Come on Hasbro you’re doing it for G1 all the time and I want my chance to get Dragon Megatron at last.

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