Creator: Genndy Tartakovsky
Subtype: Alien teenagers try to combine a normal life on Earth with their outrageous mecha lifestyle.
Primary audience: People who have been hoping for anime esthetics to be imported into Western cartoons for a couple of decades now.
Worth watching: Oh yes.
Big monsters, big robots, big battles, (ir)regular teenagers, blah blah blah. So anyway, let me talk about Genndy Tartakovsky, who is one of the few Western cartoonists who understands anime, and has been copying all its best tricks for years, but always adding something uniquely his own to the mix. An secret ingredient X, if you like. Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, The Clone Wars (the earlier one).
Sym-Bionic Titan makes all of those seem like trial runs, and just like the mecha in the series combine to form super-mega-mecha for their super-mega-battles, (as such things are inclined to do, and if you find yourself wondering how they do it, remind yourself it’s just a show, and you should really just relax), all his previous cartoons combine to form this one. It’s a bit messy, and it’s really all style, but what a style it is. Enough talk, I’ll show you: The clip above, about an uneventful trip on the bus. Real anime is too stuck in its own clichés to do something like that. But this isn’t anime, it’s Genndy Tartakovsky.
Subtype: Half-demon girl warriors protect humanity from regular demons and former half-demons turned super-demons. (Basically what I mean is there’s lots and lots of demons.)
Primary audience: Fight-scene aficionados, and people who miss Buffy but can do without the cheerful banter.
Tics: None worth mentioning.
Worth watching: Yes.
The secret organization that fuses traumatized demon victims with demon flesh to create an army of demon-fighting super warriors, Claymores, is actually a bit evil. Such organizations usually are. The demons are eviller, though, and the super-demons, former Claymores who have turned to the dark side, are the evillest of them all. This creates for us a nice progression of baddies to introduce gradually throughout the series. Claymore is a game of “how many times can we up the ante and still keep the fight scenes spectacularly entertaining?” The answer is: Every time. Every single time.
The story falls dead along the way, but the fight scenes inflate like the 1920’s Deutschmark, and I mean that in a good way. There’s really nothing to do but gape at the wheelbarrows. The violence here is a thing of beauty. It’s like every episode is a season finale of Buffy. And that’s all I ask from any (mindless revenge-themed demon-fighting) series.
Type: Science fiction
Subtype: Shining dystopia on a hill, with monster gods and androids on the verge of self-awareness.
Primary audience: People who think it’s quite okay that many things sound like Coldplay now.
Tics: Hey look how much I remember from philosophy class!
Worth watching: Yes.
The earth is formless and void, except for a great domed city run along the principle of “life is hard, let’s go shopping!” Outside there’s only the wind and the cold, dead rock. Inside there is dull perfection. Androids do all the work, a junta all the thinking. A secret race of monsters do something as well, but it’s not quite clear what. A bit of murdering, a bit of mystery. A bit of bringing the story outside the dome, where madmen and even more monsters hide in ruined neighbor cities.
There ought to be a law against filling your stories with philosophical references and hints of metaphysical relevance. Or maybe a fine. It’s the old The Prisoner sickness, where the ambitions of the Magnificent Creator spin out of control, towards a like-a-significant ending about existence and narrative etc.
But that’s only the end. The feet of this series stay mostly close to the ground. I like the characters, the mood, the visuals, the music. I even liked the nonsensical standalone episode that spoofs Walt Disney. Balanced against all that, pompousness is a price worth paying.