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Friday, 5 of March of 2021

Sym-Bionic Titan – “Escape from Galaluna” & “Under the Three Moons”

Lance defends Galaluna

Big damn hero shot. And it looks oh so good.

I’ve been struggling with Sym-Bionic Titan since the second half of its season started (are we saying season 2? I have no idea any more). “The Ballard of Scary Mary” and “The Demon Within” were rough episodes (to say the least) while “I Am Octus” was a great meditation what it means to be human. And while I didn’t review it, “Disenfranchised” just kind of okay. I’ve not been totally blown away by these episodes like I was for much of the first run of episodes.

These two episodes, “Escape from Galaluna” and “Under the Three Moons”, probably encapsulate the good and the not-so-good (but not horrible) that the show offers up, seemingly on an alternating basis. But there other challenges the show faces as it moves into the last few episodes of its run apart from its quality from episode to episode.

It should come as no surprise that I really relished “Escape from Galaluna.” Seeing Modula’s invasion/coup of Galaluna wasn’t really necessary for me, but as a piece of tight, compelling, and fun storytelling the episode completely works. The animation is sharp, making excellent use of hand-drawn nature of its Galalunian characters against the CGI-looking Mutraddi that emphasizes their difference from another. The Mutraddi are beasts, and I like that the animation modes allow that difference to become very stark.

The episode follows up on character arcs nicely, particularly Lance’s. Even though we, as an audience, know that Lance is telling the truth about the invasion, because of his history depicted in “Shadows of Youth” the King’s disappointment and distrust stings nonetheless. As a result, Lance saving the day doesn’t feel unearned or simply a matter of course. His extended duel with the traitorous commander is well-executed and exciting, making it probably the show’s best set piece to date.

Little bits in the episode work as well, from the King’s defense of his castle to the “There’s always a well” joke. And briefly, let me say how much I enjoyed Hobbs. Very obviously inspired by Race Bannon from Johnny Quest, Hobbs provided a nice predecessor to Lance in his obvious experience and age. While I wish the character had been mentioned sooner, or comparisons more explicitly drawn between him and Lance by Illana (even if only in passing), I hope the character is still alive and helping with the rebellion back on Galaluna.

Kind of on the flip side of this is “Under the Three Moons.” Like “Disenfranchised” before it, the episode is nothing horrible but nothing really engaging either. I do believe that the episode is better balanced than other episodes, and I very much liked visiting Modula as a way to break up the action back on Earth (I do want more from Modula in general, though), but the stakes in the episode never feel very high. The Mutraddi beast is rather unimpressive despite the episode’s attempt to make it seem impressive, and my recurring issue with the Mutraddi enemies never tying into the episode’s thematic problems remained. In that vein, the show wastes the wind farm as a potential set piece by not making good use of it as a fighting environment.

On the upside, I appreciated the prom montage of getting ready, taking pictures, and shopping for tuxes (I did wonder why Octus just didn’t phase the tuxedo himself as opposed to trying them on). I likewise appreciated the show didn’t put Kimmy on display for us (except for that quick gaze up from her legs when she arrives at the house). I’d like to see some fallout from Illana’s inattention to Jason, but I have my doubts we’ll get that far.

I say this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is that there are only three new episodes, and it’s unlikely that Illana’s relationship with Jason will be explored (no matter how much I think they should). Episode descriptions don’t seem super-focused on the school elements, so I’m eager to see what’s in store, even if it means that Illana is unlikely to see any episodes really focused on her.

More likely, however, is that the show is getting cancelled. The show wasn’t in Cartoon Network’s upfronts and the series is being shuttled to Saturday mornings, sandwiched between Pokemon and Bakugan at 9:30. I already found the show’s move to Wednesday to be odd, but acceptable. Moving the series to Saturday mornings feels like a broadcast show getting cast to Friday nights (where the show started in the first place). The show skews older than either of its bookends do (at least in my mind), so this schedule shift very much feels like Cartoon Network is burying the show.

But I could be wrong. Like Dan Winclechter (who alerted me to all this in the first place), I hope this simply means that there isn’t as deal in place yet. But I’m not super-optimistic. The ratings have been so-so-ish since the move (some growth in older demos!), but I don’t think the show has caught on the same Cartoon Network’s other programs have, nor does it seem like the show lends itself to ancillary products as well as some others shows have either. I guess we’ll know soon.

UPDATE 3/25: It seems like Genndy Tartakovsky has shifted over to Sony Animation, and with that Titan is effectively cancelled. The reason behind the his move? Well, toys, of course, like I thought.

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