I love giant robots, I mean who doesn’t, they’re awesome. Now I also loved Samurai Jack, in fact I consider the greatest show on Toonami. Now a few months ago I heard about a show coming to Cartoon Network called Sym-Bionic Titan… I had absolutely no clue what it was. In fact, I thought it was just some bland acquisition like Metajets. Boy was I wrong, so very, very, wrong. Instead, Sym-Bionic Titan is a new series created by Genndy Tartakovsky in his first project the Cartoon Network since the Star Wars Clone Wars. (And I mean the minisodes not the series. You know the good one) So, will this Clash of the Titans or the remake of Clash of the Titans? Only one way to find out…
Oh and by the way, there are spoilers for the first episode in this review so consider yourself warned.
The first episode begins with two humanoid alien life forms, Princess Illana & her designated bodyguard Lance along the robot Octus arriving on Earth, in the outskirts of Sherman, Illinois to be precise. They’re on the run from the Mutrani who have conquered their home planet of Galaluna. You know it would be nice to see that invasion instead of saying it happened, but maybe that’s just me. Also these are the goofiest sci-fi names I heard in a good while and we have to take it seriously. As we see in a fight with the military, Illana & Lance have bio-suit mechs, I wonder if Genndy thought while working on Iron Man 2. Of course Illana’s suit (Corus) is human size while Lance’s (Manus) is a giant one, because heaven forbid the woman is stronger than the guy. They manage to escape the army before General George S. Cliché arrived on the scene. Also arriving is Aluc-I mean Solomon, who is the head of the Alien Task Force known as the Galactic Guardians Group which seems to be Kamen Riders as the foot soldiers. They’ll probaby be the anti-hero organization of this show like HYPNOS in Digimon Tamers.
Turns out Mutrani are led by the thought to be dead general, General Modula, who captured the King (who’s drawn by Rob Liefeld it seems) and finds out where Illana is hiding. Some people say Modula looks like Jigen from Lupin III and while I don’t see it, I can understand their reasons. Modula sends down a monster, just one monster and not an army of Mutrani soldiers, just a monster, to find the Princess.
Back on Earth, our heroes decide that the best way to hide is to blend in. Since Lance & Illana are vaguely teenagers, they enroll at the local high school. Well actually this is due Octus picking up TV transmissions that’s showing a parody of every teen drama in the last few years. Aliens thinking the human culture are exactly like on TV? WHAT AN ORIGINAL CONCEPT! Lance’s human clothes made him look like Ken from Gatchaman while Illana’s outfit… You know, I think I’m gonna like her. Also Octus uses a hologram image (Think Nightcrawler from X-Men) to don a human disguise, which looks like the Angry Video Game Nerd on a good day and goes under the name Newton. Also, Newton/Octus signed Lance & Illana up at the school as siblings, making the eventual hook up look awkward. You know it will happen, don’t deny it. However, Lance is the only that seems to be accepted, beating up the jocks single handedly helps.
However, the monster arrives and attacks downtown. Illana wants to fight it, but Lance tells her no because they’ll just giveaway their location to the Mutrani & they’ll send more monsters, actually being aware of the “Monster of the Day” formula. Illana goes off anyway since she wants to protect the people of Earth even if it means risking her own life. You know, I think I’m gonna really like her. Of course Lance had to bail her out since the monster dwarfs even his mecha tenfold. Also, before that the military tries to take out the monster which is about as effective as you can imagine, plus the monster knocked over a building. I didn’t know they can still do that on kid’s TV.
Anyway, our three heroes were literally under heavy fire when an unknown program in Octus activates…
“Sym-Bionic defense mode activated. Octus unit: magnify!”
Seriously, just how that’s delivered just sounds awesome. Anyway, Octus merged with Corus & Manus to merge into a giant robot, Sym-Bionic Titan which is controlled by Lance & Illana’s thoughts. However they have to get the hang of it. So after taking the monster in the lake in a vain attempt to defeat and getting saved by the mysterious G3’s BFG, Titan finishes off the monster Voltron style. Too bad the military still wants to kill them, guess they’re just paranoid. And the episode ends with the three escaping the military again and planning on learning about this new power they have.
So, where do I begin? Well, the art style is pretty good. It reminds of several old school anime, namely stuff done by Tatsunoko & Shotaro Ishinomori and anything that reminds me of Ishinomori is doing something right. The design of Sym-Bionic Titan itself is pretty lacking, too streamlined for my tastes. In fact the mechas on Dexter’s Lab were better than this. Speaking, of, the comedy was good and it should be noted while Genndy is most famous for Samurai Jack, his first success was a comedy.
Voice acting is pretty much the usual good jobs that the majority of the cast usually delivers. When I first heard Illana, I thought it was Hynden Walch instead of Tara Strong. Some of her lines do have a Nia-esque feel to them. The only thing I know about Lance’s VA, Kevin Thoms, is that this is his first major role. I always thought Brian Posehn’s voice would fit for a robot, I also find it funny that he has been in two Cartoon Network shows this year, the other being Adventure Time. Kevin Michael Richardson pops in a few times, including a soldier that looks like Archie on steroids. Huh.
The 2-D animation is pretty good and the CGI is even passable. The one bit animation that has everyone talking is the combination sequence. Now, this was a beautifully done sequence, but there’s one thing that ruins it for me and leads to my first complaint…
NO MUSIC! Seriously, the whole thing falls flat for me since there’s no music to accompany it. Now don’t give this stuff about how no music makes it better, music amplifies the scene. Imagine the trench run from Star Wars without the John William’s score or Batman beating up assorted mooks without Shirley Walker in the background. Internet reviewer Linkara has something in his History of the Power Rangers called the Wasserman Factor when he decides whether or not the music of the Power Rangers series after they dropped the songs contributed by Ron Wasserman still needs it. Well I tried my little experiment of my own with it by watching the scene while listening to this number (Advance to 1:14) and it fits in nicely. Now I’m not saying it should be rock music, it can be triumphant fanfare, a guy rapping about fighting the power & doing the impossible, I’ll even take a guy playing the Superman theme on a kazoo I just want some music. Now maybe this is just for the first episode but if this keeps up, this no music thing will get old fast.
The other complaint I have is how so many people instantaneously proclaim this to be superior to CN’s last giant robot show, Megas XLR. Most of the people because SBT is more serious in its tone than the goofy Megas which has a fat guy from Jersey as the main hero and to that say this, so it’s a comedy, what of it? Evangelion was more serious than Gurren Lagann yet people (including myself) love the latter to death. So the story telling isn’t done by the guy who did Samurai Jack, since when does pedigree automatically make something good? By that logic George Lucas would still be respected. And you know, since I’m already going down the controversial contrasting critic route, Megas XLR’s first episode is superior to Sym-Bionic Titan’s.
Yeah, you heard me right, I think the first episode to goofy robot show is better than the one made by the creator of the Emmy award winning Samurai Jack. You wanna know why? The story structure is a lot better! Think about it, in Megas’ first episode explained things by showing them; we see how Megas was first sent back in time, we see how Coop found it & turned it into the awesome robot it is now. Titan’s first episode on the other hand feels rushed while violating the “Show, don’t tell” rule of writing several times. This is like having Samurai Jack start off with Jack already in the future and him expositing how Aku sent him there. Sym-Bionic Titan needed at least an hour long movie to start the series so maybe we should’ve seen the Mutrani’s invasion of Galaluna and how Lance, Illana, & Octus escaped from there. Granted Megas had the advantage of being an expansion of the original Lowbrow pilot but I think Genndy kind of half assed it here. Besides, Megas once fought robot piloted by Bruce “Ash” Campbell; that right trumps about anything SBT will do, unless the Mutrani sends down a monster that’s voiced by Chuck Norris that is.
Now while it may seem like I’m bashing it, no, I enjoyed it but I still think it still has to earn the praise it’s getting. I mean it’s just the first episode, so many ways it can go right or wrong. I am looking forward to see how this show plays out and gladly welcomes Genndy Tartakovsky back to Cartoon Network.
Besides, this show still makes Titan Maximum look like the cheap Hong Kong knock-off that it is.