(TV Tokyo, April 5-December 27, 2000 JAP
FOX, September 8, 2001-March 23, 2002 US)
In the interim, there was another anime produced called Transformers: Car Robots. It was the final entry of the Japanese-exclusive Generation 1 cartoon continuity. Set on Earth at the turn of the century, the evil Gigatron (otherwise known as Megatron, voiced by Yōichi Kobiyama) led his Destronger faction—an elite unit of Predacons—through a dimensional fissure to conquer both our planet and Cybertron. Gigatron was able to further bolster his ranks by taking protoforms (Autobot blank slates, basically the first stage in their lifecycle), time-displaced from several decades in the future, and converting them into Combatrons. Following them to foil their schemes was Fire Convoy (otherwise known as Optimus Prime, voiced by Satoshi Hashimoto) and his Autobot Dimensional Patrol. The anime debuted on TV Tokyo on April 5, 2000 and ran until that December. It was the first Transformers anime to be animated by Animation Studio Gallop and Dong Woo Animation; replacing long-time franchise animators Ashi Productions.
The localization, renamed Robots in Disguise, took a slightly different approach to the story. In order to stop Megatron (Daniel Riordan) and his Predacons from attacking Earth, Optimus Prime (Neil Kaplan) and the Autobots hid themselves in secret among the human population as common vehicles. Megatron’s opening salvo was to kidnap famous scientist Dr. Kenneth Onishi (first name revealed in episode summaries, Daichi Ohnishi in the anime, voiced by Shōji Izumi & Kirk Thornton), an archaeologist and leading expert on energy (as well as train enthusiast), who held the secret to the locations of ancient Cybertronian O-Parts on Earth. The Autobots would eventually rescue Onishi with the aid of his son, Koji (Yūki in the anime, voiced by Akikio Kimura & Jason Spisak), and the race was on to find the remaining O-Parts and resurrect Fortress Maximus (Brave Maximus in the anime, voiced by Masayuki Kiyama & Steve Blum)—an immense Autobot guardian hidden on Earth to protect it from evil—before the Predacons.
Team Bullet Train was a trio of deep-cover operatives that took on the form of Shinkansen bullet trains: leader Railspike (J-Five in the anime, voiced by Izumi & Mike Reynolds), who always tried to lead by example and was often frustrated by his younger teammates, turned into a 500 Series Nozomi; Rapid Run (J-Seven in the anime, voiced by Eiji Takemoto & Keith Diamond), who was the strongest of the three, cool-headed and sarcastic, and always ready for action, turned into a 700 Series Hikari Rail Star; and Midnight Express (J-Four in the anime, voiced by Naomi Matamura & David Lodge), who was easily flustered and had a habit of getting lost and separated from his teammates, transformed into an E4 Series “Max”. All three could merge together to become the powerful Rail Racer (JRX in the anime, also Izumi & Lodge).
The Spychangers were a special team of stealthy ninjas: Hot Shot (Artfire in the anime, voiced by Takemoto & Michael McConnohie), the leader with pyrokinetic abilities and a gruff, no-nonsense, duty-driven personality that changed into a Porsche 959; R.E.V. (Race Exertion Vehicle, Eagle Killer in the anime, voiced by Kizatomi Nimura & Steve Kramer), the tactical officer with superior leaping skills that could change into a Lamborghini Diablo; Crosswise (X-Car in the anime, voiced by Junichi Miura & Dan Woren), the gravity-manipulating brains of the group that liked to keep busy maintaining and upgrading his teammates when not researching the potential of Spark Engines (a device that would be used to give many of the Autobots a super form that enhanced their particular abilities), and transformed into a rear-engine concept sports car; W.A.R.S. (Wicked Attack Recon Sportscar, simply Wars in the anime, voiced by Riki Kitazawa & Blum), a belligerent and violent bot that could turn into Ford Thunderbird stock car; Ironhide (Ox in the anime, voiced by Ōsuke Yoda & McConnohie), the super strong and short-tempered transport expert that kept his team well-supplied and could turn into a Ford F-150 pickup truck; and Mirage (Counter Arrow in the anime, voiced by Ryō Naitō & Wingert), Ironhide’s best friend—despite being a loner that preferred to work solo—that could drive on almost any surface and make himself invisible, and turned into a Lola T94 Indy Car.
Not affiliated with any subgroup were Skid-Z (Indy Heat in the anime, voiced by Jin Nishimura & Michael Lindsay), a Penske PC-18 Indy Car who was extremely fast and extremely competitive with an intense drive for victory, and Tow-Line (Wrecker Hook in the anime, voiced by Iwasaki & Lex Lang), a tow truck with an almost compulsive desire to tow any vehicle away he deemed as not adhering to human traffic laws (including emergency vehicles on a call and children’s bikes). T-AI, or Tractical Artifical Intelligence (Ai in the anime, voiced by Chieko Higuchi & Sandy Fox), was the Autobots’ main computer system in their base that kept tabs on events around the planet and coordinated the Autobot response to them. She projected herself in hologram form as a human woman in a maroon Japanese police uniform.