For some reason, recently I’ve been back in the mood for watching animation. I didn’t watch much of it for a long time (with the exception of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which I love) and I think much of that was because there wasn’t much out there that could hold my interest. Recently that’s changed, as there are two new shows that I’ve actually really begun to look forward to each week. One is Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which is an actual serious attempt at doing an animated Avengers superhero series, and is actually pretty good overall. (While being surprisingly faithful to the original material, and when I say original, I mean 1963 original!)
The other show that’s sparked my interest has been Sym-Bionic Titan, the newest show from Genndy Tartokvsky, the man behind Dexter’s Lab, Power Puff Girls, the first Clone Wars TV series and Samurai Jack. We’ve known of Genndy’s love for Japanese pop culture right from the beginning, and Samurai Jack didn’t leave a whole to the imagination on that front, and Sym-Bionic Titan is no exception. If you’ve seen anything about it, you know it’s his homage to oldschool Giant Robot cartoons. Two alien teenagers and their human-sized robot companion are stranded on Earth when evil monsters overrun their civilization, and attempt to fit in by hiding in the suburbs and going to high school. Of course, the mastermind behind the evil monsters wants them dead, and keeps sending monsters each week to try and kill them, at which point all three form the super-robot Sym-Bionic Titan and kick monster butt.
It’s a cliche plot right out of 1970’s Japanese robot cartoons, and it’s been done a hundred times in different ways. When I first heard about it, only Genndy’s name made me curious, and so I decided to casually watch a random episode after it had been out a while and see if there was anything to it.
There was, in spades.
Genndy has produced one of the best shows of it’s kind- ever. While it starts out a little typical, once it gets warmed up it turns into something funny, creative, and even touching at times. Case in point is Season 1, Episode 10- Lessons in Love. The premise is that the high school’s bitchy head cheerleader desperately needs the help of the robot companion’s human form (Newton) to pass a test. She shows up at their home, pushes the poor terrified robot nerd around, threatens him, cajoles him, plays on his sympathy, and then she does this…
I can’t believe they got away with that sequence in a show that’s nominally for 10 year olds!
The whole thing (including that sequence) is a study in the psychology of the bitchy cheerleader character as she’s finding all her techniques useless against Newton, and having to face who she really is. As you might guess from the title, that includes eventually falling in love with Newton, a character that can’t really return her affections. Or can he?
All of this climaxes in this truly, truly brilliant sequence…
The rest of the episode of spot-on too, and wickedly funny. Just watch the whole thing, and then watch more episodes after that. This is easily the best new show of the year.