“Sym-Bionic Titan returns to Toonami…where it belongs!”
When Tom, the robot, said those words last Saturday night on Toonami Midnight Run, I sat up in my metaphorical footie pajamas and began Tweeting like mad. Two years ago, this great show had vanished without a trace in the Cartoon Network Bermuda Triangle. Now, it was being rerun from the beginning and people needed to know!
Imagine John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy, Ripping Friends) and John Hughes (Breakfast Club, Weird Science) combining their talents to compose a love letter to giant robot shows. The results would be Genndy Tartakovsky’s amazingly nuanced Sym-Bionic Titan.
If Samurai Jack proved that Mr. Tartakovsky understood the films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune (and the code of the Samurai), then Sym-Bionic Titan demonstrates his extensive knowledge of giant robot shows. There are visual and thematic elements of the Patlabor, Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion franchises throughout the series, not to mention tips of the hat to Voltron, Mazinger Z, Tetsujin 28, and even Ultraman.
The pilot episode, “Escape To Sherman High,” has the feel of a superhero origin story: Princess Ilana, her hastily-chosen bodyguard Lance, and an experimental “bio-cybernetic” robot called Octus flee from their home planet of Galaluna in the wake of a military junta by the long-supposed-dead General Modula and his allies, the Muttradi. Crashing on Earth (a “near-identical” planet to their own), the trio’s first contact with Earthlings does not go well and they go into hiding; posing as high school students in Sherman, Illinois (this fictional setting is, itself, a nod to John Hughes).
Their cover is put in jeopardy when the Muttradi track them to Earth and send huge beasts, one after the other, to level Sherman and put an end to the Galalunan royal lineage. This forces Octus and our heroes to combine their personal defensive armors into the experimental giant robot, Sym-Bionic Titan, and defend their adopted home.
While the giant monster versus giant robot battles are cool in ways that would bring a tear to MasterFilmmakerMarkMackner‘s eye, it is the plotting and characterizations that drive the remaining 19 episodes and really make you care about this series. There is something truly endearing about watching all three of these people step out of the roles that were assigned to them on Galaluna and get to use high school to find out who they really are; that they are more than just the sum of their knowledge and skills.
However, Cartoon Network is second only to the mob at burying things they’ve cancelled (Just ask Megas XLR), so, unless you like paying i-Tunes two bucks an episode, NOW is the time to get in on the fun.
2 AM E.S.T. on Saturday-into-Sunday Toonami. Set your TiVo. Pop some popcorn and stay up after the bars close. Wake the neighbors and phone the kids, ’cause you’re never gonna forget your first time with a Titan…
Tags: Akira Kurosawa, Cartoon Network, Escape To Sherman High, Galaluna, General Modula, Genndy Tartakovsky, giant robot, Grim_Noir, Gundam, Ilana, John Hughes, John Kricfalusi, Lance, Mazinger Z, Megas XLR, Muttradi, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Octus, Patlabor, Samurai, Samurai Jack, Sym-Bionic Titan, Tetsujin 28, Tom the Robot, Toonami, Toshiro Mifune, Ultraman, Voltron