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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Sym-Bionic Titan – “Roar of the White Dragon”

It’s so primitive. I like it.

What’s the difference between a giant robot tearing through the city and a souped up Cadillac? Answer: not a whole heck of a lot in the long run, but it makes a difference. I’m not a car guy, so racing stories don’t do a whole lot for me. And while my question above was largely rhetorical, it does speak to some very fine lines in what constitutes enjoyment. I mean, both the robot and the car are still mechanical objects that do quote-unquote cool things. I just happen to prefer those cool things performed by a robot.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to really respond to “Roar of the White Dragon” or not for that reason. But as the Titan finally appears at the end of the episode, I found myself extremely disappointed that it even showed up at all. Which shows how effective the story within the episode was.

One of the things I didn’t identify as a key element of the show, but has been running throughout the episodes thus far is how well the three refugees fit into Earth culture. Playing this through the lens of high school is fitting, of course, since no one feels like they fit in during high school, so it’s doubly worse for people who have no idea how the culture works on any sort of level. Their interactions with Earth teens will shape their behaviors and place as they try to blend in (I wish they’d start developing some friends).

So while I was hoping for these things, the episodes thus far had keep a balance between blending in and adapting and then dealing with whatever monster attacked the city that week. I actually liked, once I got past the car issue, that “Roar of the White Dragon” didn’t use this structure. It was, until the last 5 minutes, strictly an Earth story. Despite this only being the fifth episode, this doing so was not only a welcomed change of pace, but would force the show to avoid relying on the Titan as a focal point and put some emphasis on the characters.

The episode, to a large degree, does this even if it switches the Titan for a well animated race through the city. But it still gives the characters a bit of room to breathe: we get more of Lance’s need to satisfy his adrenaline rushes and Illana’s desire to fit in by following the rules. As a result, I was disappointed when a monster showed up and they rushed to form the Titan as a dull and pointless battle.  I wanted the resolution to the story to come from the story, not a network mandated battle to maintain people’s interest: trust the show and the characters to deliver and entertain the audiences without the giant robot every once in a while. It’ll be okay.

Finally,  I’m not crazy about the show’s focus on Lance as the center of the action and Illana is given the more domestic sphere of school; she even talks to Lance like a mother, taking away the car. And while next week looks like it may shift the spotlight a bit, I’d like to see more of how Illana is dealing with being on Earth. Thus far, it’s been shopping or changing the cafeteria menu or following the rules.

We’re seeing how Lance is coping far more extensively than seeing the through line on Illana’s activities as an extension of her insecurities. She may see it as her responsibility to lead by example, being on time for class or turning in her homework, but where’s the response to this (or the lack of response for that matter) from the other students toward her? It’s a little frustrating, but I continue to hope for the best.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • An opening sequence with a song or a prologue. Something. Please.
  • Animation-wise, I really appreciate how the trio are set apart from everyone else in terms of style. They’re softer, less detailed than the Earthlings, and I really like that as an aesthetic choice.


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