Published on October 16th, 2010 | by Colin Ballsmonkey Hill0
Extreme Inbetweens – Sym-Bionic Titan
How my dwindling faith in TV animation has been partially restored, or my review of “Sym-Bionic Titan”
By Colin “Ballsmonkey” Hill”
I stopped caring about TV animation back in 2006, when Justice League Unlimited ended. To me that was the last truly entertaining cartoon left on television. I didn’t think anything else could live up to it, and frankly I didn’t think they were trying. The quality of television animation has never really been amazing but it seemed like they were making the best with what they had, but around the 70’s things really went downhill. But in the 1990’s there came a resurgence in quality. A new generation of animators emerge to break the mold and started putting out some innovative works that took what came before and molded it into something fresh for a new viewing audience. Guys like John Kricfalusi, Craig McCracken, Bruce Timm, Joe Murray, David Feiss, Danny Antonucci, and Genndy Tartakovsky, the man behind such master works as Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and Star Wars: Clone Wars (the only good thing to come out of those abysmal prequels), who’s the subject of today’s article. We’re taking a look at his new cartoon, Sym-Bionic Titan.
Sym-Bionic Titan tells the story of two teens, Lance and Ilanna, and their robot helper Octus. Ilanna is the princess of her homeworld Galaluna, that is currently under siege by a powerful general named Modula. With Lance and Octus as her protectors, the three flee to Earth and attempt to blend into our society. However, Modula is aware of their escape and continually sends giant alien creatures to hunt them down and destroy them. Fortunately for them, Lance and Ilanna are equipped with powerful cybernetic armor that they can summon at will. When the threats escalate, the two of them along with Octus form the mighty Sym-Bionic Titan, a giant robot warrior controlled by their minds.
The show is obviously a throwback to the many “teens with giant robots” shows we all remember like Voltron and Robotech, but that’s no reason to write it off. The show is something uni
quely its own, and that’s thanks to Genndy’s animation style. Genndy is able to take the simplest designs and turn them into cinematic epics with his amazing use of color, lighting, camera angles, sound, and timing, and it’s all in full display here. The highly stylized look of the characters allows for fluid animation, and for a cartoon that features lots of action, that’s a good thing. I’m normally not big on the use of CG in 2D animated shows, but here, it’s not heavily relied upon, pretty much saved only for the Titan and vehicle animations. It actually blends well with environments and isn’t jarring like in the vast majority of cartoons that use it these days. The character designs range from very basic, to highly exaggerated. The exaggeration is thankfully used in moderation, and only in the most appropriate places, usually for humorous purposes or extreme bouts of emotion.
The storyboarding for the show is genius. Not one shot goes to waste, each frame telling the story so beautifully, words would only cheapen it. Genndy and his crew know how to shoot action, as shown in his previous work, and it’s always stunning to watch. Dramatic camera placing, strong lighting and well timed sound and music are blended together to create scenes that rival that of any live action movie. The stylized look also allows them to get away with some pretty gruesome moments that would otherwise be censored, such as in episode 5 where Titan rips an alien’s arm off and punches right through its body, killing it.
The characters play off each other nicely. Lance, the body of Sym-Bionic Titan, is brooding, aggressive, cautious, dark, and protective. Ilanna, the heart, is cheery, warm, naïve, compassionate, and brave. Octus, the mind, is meticulous, inquisitive, observant, and…well…robotic. Much of the show’s conflict comes not just from the monsters, but from Lance and Ilanna’s conflicting personalities and ideals, as well as the trio’s attempts to adjust to Earth culture. The voice acting is really good. Kevin Thoms and Tara Strong who voice the two main teens perform their roles effectively. John DiMaggio, who’s damn near everywhere in animation these days, continues to be John DiMaggio, no surprises there. Brian Posehn plays Octus. His voice took a while to get used to, being very monotone, but now I see how well it fits the character he plays.
The show is only five episodes in as of the time I’m writing this and each episode has been better than the last. Its got a strong story, great characters, and possibly the best animation on TV today. New episodes can be seen Fridays on Cartoon Network, as a part of the new action block they have going, and it definitely stands out among them as the best looking. It’s a true treat for animation fans and I’m encouraging everyone to give it a watch.