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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

Sym-Bionic Titan – “Lessons in Love”

Parallelogram!

I had a very brief conversation to find out the song used at the end of tonight’s episode (another musical coup for the show this week, and I’ll address it in a little bit), and the responder to my query said it was his favorite episode so far. I don’t think he’s far off base saying that. I’m still very partial to “Shaman of Fear” and “Shadows of Youth”, but I think “Lessons in Love” is a remarkably strong “stand alone” episode, if I can use that term (and I’ll justify its use, too).

I will say this though: “Lessons in Love” proves you should be watching Sym-Bionic Titan if you’re not already.

So, I say that “Lesson in Love” is a stand alone episode because it doesn’t deal with any of the characters’ baggage from Galaluna. Neither Lance or Illana are angsting about their respective fathers or their respective roles within in the team. Nor do we focus on anything related to Steel or Solomon and G3. Part of this is the episode’s focus on Octus to be sure, but unlike “Phantom Ninja” or even “Showdown at Sherman High,” the episode felt balanced in its treatment of the secondary characters, which I don’t think those other episodes can claim (certainly not “Roar of the White Dragon”).

The A-plot focuses on Octus attempting to tutor Kimmy in math. After getting a failing grade, she cries her way into getting the teacher to allow her to re-take it at home, and to make sure she succeeds, she attempts to get Octus to simply do it for her. Being a principled robot, he insists that he will help her, but not do it for her.

The rest of it goes roughly how you already know it will go: Kimmy will be petulant and refuse to do it, have moments of self-doubt and Octus, being prime Best Male Friend bait, helps her breakthrough enough for her to realize her own potential, and then they try to make out. But that’s after Kimmy does a serious booty dance that needs to be addressed.

The dance sequence Kimmy performs in an attempt to entice Octus enough to do her test for her is…less than great. Yes, from an animation level, it works quite well, and that’s kind of the problem. Kimmy’s ass is over emphasized for maximum fanservice potential, and the entire thing, especially as he begin the dance with Octus framing her in a triangle with his hands, makes it all the more voyeuristic.

I’m normally not one to emphasize this sort of thing, because I think it can be more more than simply attempting to get a rise out of the tween boy audience the show targets nor do I think the case is always a matter of a simple male gaze. Narratively, the show addresses this by explaining that Kimmy sees this as her only recourse: she’s pretty but dumb, able to pick out colors that match but not do math.

I appreciate that the show does make the move to have Octus show her another way out of that “Girls are dumb and can’t do math” cul-de-sac; I just feel frustrated that the show has that fanservice element in there even if the fanservice isn’t narratively rewarded (thank goodness). That aside, the A-plot worked very well, and the show managed to create legitimate chemistry between Octus and Kimmy by the end. In particular, Octus’ sad face after his denial of Kimmy being his girlfriend was quite wonderful.

The B-plot (and I’ll get to the end and the creature in just one more paragraph, I promise) also worked well. I liked that Lance and Illana struggle to find something to talk about and do with one another since they have little in common beyond survival and being from Galaluna. That they seem to bond over death metal is a very funny gag, and I like the quiet moments they get to have, on top of their teasing with Octus.

But, yes, the ending. I love that the show has decided to complicate Octus a bit by giving him very clear human emotions (“Must’ve struck a nerve. Didn’t know robots had those.”), and by making one of those emotions young love, we start on that path of a robot being human, and all that that entails. I’ll be curious to see how the show addresses these issues in the future. I will say that Kimmy’s development is believable, especially given her change of heart in “Showdown at Sherman High.”

On top of this, we have a very nicely designed monster this week, a giant, evil looking Man Ray/Ray Fillet that sucks up electricity. It’s a nice monster and one that finally kind of works within the show’s theme, especially after Octus and Kimmy’s electric smooch right before the battle begins. (Was the below the waist profile shot needed though?)

And, to close out the show, another great musical moment. To my knowledge, last week’s great bit of music has gone untitled and unreleased as a standalone. Here, instead, we have Kimmy turn on her iPod and listen to A Flock of Seagull’s “Space Age Love Song” as she walks home and the trio battle the giant Man Ray monster. The song works spectacularly well as both a battle song but to capture the very complicated relationship that is burgeoning between Octus and Kimmy.

Sure, it goes a little over the top with the fireworks and explosions, but over the topness tends to mark young love. I’m not even questioning that Kimmy as A Flock of Seagulls on her iPod, I love the sequence that much. I especially appreciate how it changes up the normal end-of-episode battle.  The image parallels between what happens to the monster and what Kimmy does (spin around, fly through the air), it works really really really well. It’s the willingness to do this sort of thing that shows me how much the show is maturing already.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • We were one band member away from Alien Death Hammer being a Metalocalypse reference!
  • I’ll never get tired of oversized hamburger jokes.

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