Sym-Bionic Titan is a hidden gem from Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky. The show aired in 2010 but was canceled after only one season because there was not supported by a toy line — a problem as poor toy sales can tip the scales against an animated television show.
Cartoons on TV post-2010 have largely catered to wacky comedy with merchandising potential. As a fan of animated shows that focus on action and story, I was heartbroken as one by one, my favorite shows were pulled and replaced with derivative comedies. I’ve expressed in previous articles that the “Streaming Renaissance” could save action cartoons because their revenue isn’t dependent on toy sales.
Which brings us to Sym-Bionic Titan–now streaming on Netflix. The series is an American take on the Mech vs Kaiju genre and focuses on a trio made up of the alien princess Ilana, the rebellious soldier Lance, and the robot Octus. The three are able to combine into the Sym-Bionic Titan to fight monsters from outer space.
Granted, the show is not without its flaws, but what Sym-Bionic Titan does well makes up for its shortcomings. The action is well choreographed and pushes the envelope of what can be shown in a cartoon. Lance’s sword fight in “Escape from Galaluna” is the stuff of legend.
The characters are more complex than those in the first four seasons of Samurai Jack. The dynamic between Lance and Ilana is like a prototype for the relationship between Jack and Ashi in Samurai Jack Season 5.
The real breakout character of Sym-Bionic Titan is the robot Octus. His journey of discovering his own humanity is the most satisfying emotional arc of the series, perfectly articulated in the episode, “I am Octus.”
I’m glad that Sym-Bionic Titan can reach a new audience on an accessible platform. I’m thankful that we are entering the “Streaming Renaissance,” so a cartoon will be judged by its quality as opposed to its toy sales. I hope that new cartoon creators and distributors will look at Sym-Bionic Titan and take steps to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
There’s a possibility that Sym-Bionic Titan could be revived as a Netflix original. Here’s a link to the online petition.