I wanted to start a thread for this series, seeing how Kaiju-centric it is, starting with my own review.
Sym-Bionic Titan: Enshohma's First Impressions
First episodes (or 'pilots') are not the best way to review a series, especially since the second episode of any series works better as a sign of things to come (the first Dalek story from Doctor Who
), but seeing how this is the first real giant monster series on American television in a very long time, I wanted to share some basic impressions on Sym-Bionic Titan
premiere Escape To Sherman High
, while getting some of your feedback in return.
I was happy that the first episode's emphasis was more on action than it was on the teen drama, especially since I hate the cliche in American pop culture that high school angst is always more important and overwhelming than murderous invaders from beyond (Danny Phantom
and Power Rangers Dino-Thunder
come to mind in this regard). Even Cartoon Network's advertisements for the series have been greatly misleading in this regards, though sadly I now have an eerie feeling that future entries of the series will fall into this trap (early synopsis for episode two involves a driving test, and while episode three deals with an eating contest...*sigh*).
And although we briefly meet the imprisoned alien King of Galaluna (Princess Ilana's father), Sym-Bionic Titan
has made the wise decision of dumping the oblivious parent / family figures (or as I like to call it The Curse of Aunt May), who are just as overused and unwelcome as the aforementioned adolescence dribble. So there is a bright side here.
The heroes and villains are pretty basic, even though they are all hinted at having larger back-stories to be explored later, such as male lead Lance's dark and shameful past, and the maddening experience that turned the once heroic General Modula into a ruthless, monster-commanding conqueror. There is also a pair of human antagonists in the form of US Army General (real name never really given) who attacks our heroes with the same immunity as he does with Modula's invading monsters, and Soloman, a shadowy Man-In-Black-style agent who commands the anti-alien organization G3, and is like the American equivalent of the darkly handsome and mysterious villains of some anime shows, complete with long white hair. But these two foes are also quite basic, or even bigger blank slates than the others.
One notable standout however is Octus / Newton, the robot of the trio who acts as the 'Mind' of Sym-Bionic Titan. The robot form of Octus is the kind of unique design that can only truly work in animation (live action CGI would probably have him move sporadically, and needlessly, constantly so), while his human form is that of a rather large, somewhat opposing nerd, which is a good alternative for that character type (for once we can truly say 'he's not fat, but big boned' with truthful sincerity). Octus is voiced by comedian Brian Posehn, who has made a career of playing the same incredibly droll thirty-something nerd in a number of television shows and movies, yet he brings a certain robotic wisdom / simple nobility to Octus, while at the same time being incredibly droll.
This wouldn't be an Enshohma review without me talking about the show's title robot, the Sym-Bionic Titan (or simply 'The Titan' within the series itself); using the unlimited nature of animation as only the Americans can, the creative team has given us perhaps the first giant robot to headline a show that has a see-through outer skin, with an exposed mechanical skeleton, and an overall shape that slightly evokes Talos of Jason and the Argonauts
Although it stands out from the rest of the giant robots of recent Mecha and Super Robot series of late, it isn't exactly that ground breaking either, amazingly enough. The smaller cybernetic armor forms of our alien trio fair much better, again going back to Octus's computer inside a bubble form, and Princess Ilana's beautiful golden robot pixie, which brings up memories of Metropolis
. Even Lance's armored form, which is a simple, yet more fearsome, solid metal version of the Titan itself, is quite impressive.
As for the Mutraddi, the race of alien beasts that Modula commands; we only get a peek at two such breeds, the regular cannon-fodder Mutraddi that despite their slobbering, demonic ogre appearances, aren't much to speak of, and the first of the Mutraddi Mega-Beasts, who's a giant magma rock giant covered in expanding flames. Its the kind of monster that you could only do in American animation (the Japanese excel in imaginative live action kaiju, but surprisingly not as much in anime), but its still overly simplistic, and pales in comparison to other flame beasts of fiction, despite the impressive destruction it dishes out to the city of Sherman.
Even the advertising for the series gives glimpse to very basic archetypes for future monsters (oily slime monster, robotic dragon, amphibian thing, squid alien), so I can't really be impressed until I see these characters in individual action.
My thoughts on the Mutraddi kind of coincides with Sym-Bionic Titan
itself; despite an impressive execution and colorful appearance, its all old hat, and doesn't quite have that magical quality that the show's creator Genndy Tartakovsky past works possessed, most notably Samurai Jack
and the TV movie Dexter's Laboratory: Ego Trip
. I'm probably being incredibly harsh on this one single pilot, and its certainly no way to judge what is about to come in the rest of the series, but it seems a step down for Tartakovsky...and the high school element still bugs the crap out of me.
As mentioned before however, its great to have a new giant monster / super robot series on American television, with more recent attempts being quite lackluster failures (the crude Titan Maximum
whole first season clocks in at under two hours, and Power Rangers RPM
was a virtual no-show thanks to Disney politics). But lets face facts, its on the Cartoon Network, meaning it will probably be canceled at any given moment to make way for some surrealistic comedy cartoons (Flapjack, Chowder, Adventure Time
...funny stuff, but they all feel like they were pumped out of the exact same mold / creative staff), or another more 'in-house' action series from Sam Rigest...huh, I mean, 'The Man of Action'.
So enjoy the short ride while it lasts, kiddies!
On a less cynical note, I plan to share another, more overarching review of Sym-Bionic Titan
towards the end of this first season. In the meantime, here's io9's more positive review on the matter:
http://io9.com/5642329/sym+bionic-titan ... e=true&s=i