I was told to watch this by a friend and my god am I glad I did. This series is from the people who bought us Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack so already it has a big draw as both those shows were great. And just like these shows they are clearly influenced by anime but also reference modern culture with appeal for both children and adult viewers. Its creator is Genndy Tartakovsky and it was produced for Cartoon Network.
The series follows the lives of Ilana, Lance, and Octus, two alien teens and a robot in the form of humanoids who arrive on Earth, an “identical” planet to Galaluna, while fleeing an evil general who has taken over their home planet with the help of monstrous creatures called Mutraddi. The three main characters include Ilana, princess of the royal family; Lance, a rebellious but capable soldier; and Octus, a bio-cybernetic robot, all of whom must now blend into everyday life in Sherman, Illinois. Posing as high school students, Lance and Octus work to conceal Princess Ilana from General Modula and his hideous space mutants sent to kill the sole heir of Galaluna. When called into battle, the Galalunans are outfitted with individual armour that provides more than ample protection. It is when the gravest of danger appears that Octus activates the Sym-bionic defence program and he, Ilana, and Lance unite “Heart, Body and Mind” and come together to form the spectacular cyber-giant Sym-Bionic Titan.
What’s great about this series is that while the anime influences are obvious it still looks and feels like an American cartoon. It’s a great fusion of styles from East and West that homages Anime motifs, styles, genres and themes while also very much being American. It is funny and exciting, mixing great action sequences, amusing side stories and a little bit of family drama. With anything that is set in a High School you get to explore the world of social clicks, the inevitable story line of people from another world trying to act like American teenagers trying to fit into their lifestyle. It has all the genre stereotypes and motifs of a High School drama, the jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, outsiders, unhealthy school meals, homecoming dance and trying to fit in. This is all made worse by the fact that not only are our heroes from another world but are being continuously (much like an episode of Powerpuff Girls) attacked by monsters and therefore have to disappear to form Titan and fight these monsters. Trying to hide a hidden life is always fun to watch especially when the characters don’t have all the human mannerisms and social behaviour acceptable to their peers, therefore they always state they need “toilets breaks” at the same time. There’s also a nice bit of romance that by all means should never have happened and yet somehow still works and is kinda realistic in its portrayal. You know that a lot of the stories are going to have clichéd plots, trying to go to the dance but a monster turning up, trying to join the Cheerleaders but them being vapid, populist and egocentric and then monsters turning up, going to school when you feel you have so much more you can be doing with your hidden abilities and fighting to introduce healthy food into the school only for it to be sabotaged by aliens.
There’s also lots of other great plots, as well as the more clichéd Military being heavy handed, arrogant and ignorant you also get the more interesting grey area secret organisation G3 that want to find out who is behind Titan and where they came from as much as the military do while investigating the alien attacks. Also this series is a little harsher than the average American cartoon, some of the aliens are truly freaky, like a weird squid insect that crawls down your throat and takes you over.
Characters also bleed when hit, clothes get torn and faces bruise giving it a more realistic feel of what would happen if you were in a fight. One of the great things about the show is that while it’s episodic it does continue story lines introduced in earlier episodes, characters appear in more than one episode and are given development so it’s not all about our heroes and villains. Plots are allowed to play out and episodes link together more than previous series. There are also nice flashback episodes to give us more insight into the lives of the characters and how they became who they are, in particular Lance is a great character to explore, the difficult life he has experience and how he become the person he is now. The series defiantly has a darker side to it than the average cartoon and this is something that I really respect and it’s less clean and simple and has a little more grit to it. Lance is def my fav character but brooding difficult guy that isn’t very social but also kicks ass and is a skilled fighter and just really cool is always going to be a great character. The robot Octus is also a great character that is given a lot of thought and development and doesn’t just act as the regular robot sidekick but given real personality and a chance to grow just as much as the other characters.
Now for what truly makes this series brilliant especially if you’re as geeky as me and have watched a lot of Anime and Asian movies. The first obvious thing is that the creators are obviously Osamu Tezuka fans. This is very apparent in the character designs, the hair styles and facial characteristic are a dead giveaway as well as the costumes. In particular the military outfits of the Galalunians are dead ringers for the uniforms from Cyborg 009.
Also with the more anime style is the scarfs and the movement of these scarfs and characters hair not something normally done in American cartoons. Aside from the Tezuka influence other obvious references have been episodes that clearly homage a particular series or movie, such as Initial D (this episode is great for D fans, or fans of racing games and movies such as Tokyo drift).
Now you couldn’t right about a series that features characters combining to create a robot without noting the Mecha influences. For one thing Symbiotic Titan’s transformation is actually more original than some Mecha’s I’ve seen over the years and it uses the idea of combing the will of the pilots nicely as well, there’s more to piloting this robot than just each controlling a part. But you could reference all kinds of shows from Gundam (the weapons), Gravion (the combination) and Aquarion Mecha’s the Cherubim Soldiers (more than one pilot working together physically and mentally).
All in all this series is fun, fresh and entertaining particularly if you want to play guess the reference!!!!
Now here’s the sad part cartoon Network decided to cancel this great series after 1 series and Genndy Tartakovsky is trying to get it revived by Sony Entertainment so please watch it and help the cause by going on Facebook to Save Sym-Bionic Titan and signing petition!!!!
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