Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sym-Bionic Titan

I was honestly pretty surprised when I learned that Sym-Bionic Titan was not renewed after watching the final episode on Saturday. It just seemed obvious that with crap like Star Wars: The Clone Wars coming back for a fourth year, there would be enough kids who liked it to give it a second. Sure, kids don't always have the best taste in their entertainment, but I couldn't see how they wouldn't enjoy this show. And it apparently was fine in the ratings, despite being moved from the desirable Friday night time slot to earlier on Wednesdays, and then finally dumped to 9:30 in the morning on Saturday for the last three weeks of its run. I guess I should have seen it coming with all that bouncing around, but I was still disappointed, the show apparently not having enough of a presence in the toy market.

Titan was the latest, and perhaps now the last show by creator Genndy Tartakovsky, whose work has matured along with myself, all the way from childhood favorite Dexter's Laboratory to now. His art style hasn't changed all that much, although the quality of the animation sure has - some of the work done on this show is easily among the best I've ever seen on a weekly cartoon. The character designs are a bit more grown up if still distinctly Tartakovsky's, and the mix between hand drawn work and well-integrated computer elements is top notch. Occasionally the show is truly stunning, mostly in the action sequences, whether they're focusing on a giant robot fighting an alien monster or just a guy running through the city to keep up with a bus. The use of color in particular is always good. It's just a joyful show to look at.

And story-wise, it's solid. It's still a show made with young teens at the oldest in mind, so they can't get too dark or complex with it, but I was still impressed by some of it. The core cast is solid. Brian Posehn's Octus is a cool take on the super intelligent robot who struggles with some human concepts, Lance is kind of a typical badass loner but has a well fleshed-out background, and Ilana is a good female character without resorting to obvious ways to establish that. The high school stuff was generally the kind of irritating high school stuff you always see on TV, though they do throw in a few surprises by making archetypes like the gorgeous head cheerleader and huge, brainless jock into likable, interesting characters.

The other side of the show involves the whole aliens-who-escape-war-and-hide-on-Earth-where-they-fight-monsters-with-robots thing, which unfortunately ends up being a whole lot of set up with no payoff after the whole cancellation issue, but was cool enough while it lasted. There were a couple flashback episodes that showed life on the main characters' home planet before the series started which were definitely among the best the show did, allowing a departure from the secret high school super heroes thing. Even though most episodes ended with a fight against some alien threat, the actual story arc of the season focused more on the group's struggle against various government agencies with various ideas of how to approach them as a new presence on Earth, which unlike the grander plot, did manage to see some sort of conclusion by the end, even if it wasn't really a final one. Still, they did create a story with a beginning, middle, and end, even if it wasn't the whole story they wanted to tell. It helps ease the disappointment of not getting to see the series continue a little. I just wish the market for kid-friendly action and science fiction entertainment was less focused on selling them toys.

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