Transformers Is Anime And Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Otherwise

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

There are many debates in the Transformers community that range from which Masterpiece figure is best (still MP-36 Megatron, guys) to whether the War For Cybertron Trilogy is any good (you better come at me with a polite universal greeting if you just said “no”). There’s one debate, though, that haunts us all even more persistently than Starscream’s ghost: whether or not Transformers should be considered anime or not. While the label fits some shows more than others, the truth is that Transformers has been anime from the very beginning.

Some Fans Don’t Think It’s Anime

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Before we get into why Transformers should be considered anime, it’s important to understand why some fans don’t think it deserves that label.

For example, many purists think that anime needs to be designed, first and foremost, for Japanese audiences. That puts the G1 Transformers cartoon in a weird spot because it was brought to life by Japanese animators for a Western audience (so made in Japan but made mostly for America).

Later, though, Japan continued its own G1 continuity in series like Transformers: The Headmasters, a show made by and for Japanese audiences.

G1 Transformers Produced In America

Additionally, the debate over whether the G1 Transformers show should be considered anime often centers on the fact that it was produced in America.

In this strange case, we had a show animated in Japan but produced in America to sell a toy line that didn’t yet exist in Japan (here in the West, Hasbro re-used old molds but created the whole Transformers storyline from scratch).

Amusingly enough, Japan has no hang-ups about the title: there, “anime” refers to any kind of animation, and it’s mostly Western audiences that bicker over whether Transformers should be considered anime based on where it was made and who made it.

Beast Wars And Others

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Because there are so many Transformers shows, it might be fair to say that some of them are anime and some aren’t. For example, the CGI Beast Wars series was made by and for Western audiences, and very few people would ever claim that it was anime.

Later, though, Japan continued this show with its own continuity (noticing a pattern here?) and traditional 2D animation, making the Beast Wars II show very firmly anime.

Western Shows Inspired By Eastern Animation

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Hovering over this persistent debate is the growing number of Western shows that are inspired by Eastern animation.

The insanely popular cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender was made by and for Western audiences, meaning that it wouldn’t traditionally be considered anime.

However, the character designs are very much inspired by anime. And many fans think the fact that the show follows both the aesthetics and tropes of anime that it should basically get included with the likes of shows like Dragon Ball Z and One Piece.

The Original Movie And Cartoon

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How does all of this add up to the fact that Transformers should be considered anime?

Some series are more explicitly anime than others, but the fact that the show has so many influential series made by and for Japanese audiences means that Optimus Prime gets to hang out with Goku in the cool kids club.

Additionally, Transformers owes its enduring popularity to the original cartoon and its animated movie, both of which were animated by Toei, the same animation studio that brought us Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and countless other popular anime series.

Transformers Franchise Is Anime

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When the smoke clears, we can see that Transformers as a franchise is more anime than anything else, but I doubt this will keep the fans from continuing this endless debate. The whole community needs to find a shared activity that will bring us closer together instead of constantly fighting. Fortunately, there is one activity that we can bond over ‘til all are one: endlessly complaining about the new Transformers One trailer.