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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Sym-Bionic Titan – “Elephant Logic” & “Phantom Ninja”

Dark hair. Bedroom eyes. Moody demeanor. I totally get it.

When I reviewed the pilot episode of Sym-Bionic Titan, I figured that would be the only episode I covered, short of some really great episode on down the line. However, the review has garnered some really impressive numbers recently (for our site, anyway),  and even though we don’t generate revenue from the site, clearly there’s an interest in the show so I thought it might be a good idea to fill in some of the obvious gaps in the Web.

Now, page views aren’t the only things motivating me here. I quipped that Titan was the best new show of the fall if you liked giant robots. However, after having time to digest more of the offerings from the fall season, I can drop that qualifier a bit since Titan is still performing very well, with smart episodes so far (though I found the second episode a less than a fine follow-up). With Terriers, I think it’s probably my favorite new show.

That I like both Terriers and Titan probably says more about my tastes than anything else (I like giant robots and neo-noir (needless to say, I dig The Big O)), but I do think that Titan is a very very good show, one that appeals to all ages (though I think it’s a little less audience universal than Samurai Jack) and also has a clear sense of itself and what it wants to do, and on a base level, that’s a really a good sign for any series.

And while I say that Titan knows what it wants to do, it’s at least willing to not always do everything it wants in the same episode, and these two episodes, “Elephant Logic” and “Phantom Ninja”, are both really good examples of the two types of approaches the show is taking in telling its stories. “Elephant Logic” stresses a very obvious moral lesson while “Phantom Ninja” is a less obvious about moral and more about neat action sequences (though “Elephant Logic” has those, too) and furthering the show’s arc.

“Elephant Logic” is about the stresses of teamwork, particularly between Lance and Illana. Characteristically, they have different approaches to battling, which is a given since they both represent different traits of the Galalunian soul (heart-body-mind). But they also fit larger archetypes found within these sorts of stories (team operate giant robots), and conflict always arises between the solider who wants to destroy everything and the princess who wants to protect. The conflict speaks to larger dialectical tensions between the two approaches to not only fighting but also governing in these types of stories.

Why can't floating heads just get along?

That Octus, the mind of the group, is the one who is able to work out not only a reasonable way to solve the teamwork problem, but also a heart-felt one, is telling of Octus’ liminal position in the team. He may be the AI and thus the mind, but he clearly is the most level-headed emotionally of the group because of his AI. He recognizes that teamwork is not only necessary but essential to their survival and goes about trying to give emotional advice for a rational reason.

The intercutting between the children show and Lance and Illana at breakfast, with Octus prompting them using the show is done in a way that is both very funny and a little heavy-handed, but it pays off with Octus playing the song right as they’re confronting the giant angry storm cloud (or whatever that thing was). And that it was also played so that everyone could hear it, including Steel and Solomon, makes the earlier heavy-handedness worth it. It’s a nice call-back joke, and I always appreciate call-back jokes.

“Phantom Ninja” is more action-oriented, but still has a strong sense of purpose going into the episode. That Lance is frustrated with not fighting, clearly the only thing he can do (and reinforced by the soldiers back on Galaluna saying that they need him) isn’t at all surprising, but I did dig that he decided to become a vigilante (and without using his suit). While I hoped this would continue through a couple of episodes (a nice on-going subplot), I understand the need to not only resolve it, but resolve in really meaningful way.

Funny how often hentai and horror overlap, isn't it?

So I appreciate that Lance’s desire to save people (while also engaging in the only thing he feels he’s good at) ends up tying back into the Mutraddi roach Xishi. Lance is keeping a secret, something he cannot speak, and Xishi’s entire point is entering through the mouth to people speak. It’s a nice visual metaphor in addition to being wonderfully creepy and disgusting.

The episode also does a nice job of maintaining the overall story with the struggle on Galaluna and moving that plot along by having Xishi send off an intelligence report. The show needn’t address this story line every week, but a consistent pacing of it (plus interesting week-to-week episodes) will be welcomed.

One thing that is frustrating about both these episodes, however, is that Lance comes off as the stubborn one who puts the team in danger each week. I’d like to see Illana or Octus be the point of conflict in the team at some point, and I’m sure they’ll get to it eventually, I’m just being impatient.

One thing that I’m not impatient for, however, is more insight into Solomon’s motivations and plans. I’m enjoying not only his ambiguous motivations but his implied keen intellect. His smirk at hearing the kids’ song is either one of recognition (he has kids himself or he’s a fan of that show in the same way I’m a fan of Yo Gabba Gabba! but do not have kids) or he sees it as an insight into the group’s mentality. Either way, he’s a sneaky one.

I don’t think, as of yet, Sym-Bionic Titan is on its way as The Next Big American Animated Series, but it has the potential to get there. You should be watching to see if it does.


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