We love animated robots that don’t act like robots. They don’t have monotone voices, and they have personalities and feelings like humans. Those robots are rarer than people realize, so we were happy to see a new series that features two robots with decidedly different personalities.
Opening Shot: A generic city on Earth, with people doing their thing. Suddenly a hole opens up above the Earth.
The Gist: It’s been 200 days since preeminent scientist couple Dr. Rose and Dr. Rose were sucked into an outer space anomaly called the Optical Rheometric Tactilis (called ORT for short). Captain Creed (Delbert Hunt) of the Extreme Defense Force has turned to the Roses’ genius daughter Alex (Eva Ariel Binder) to save the planet, especially as aliens called Kaiju come through the ORT to attack, as the Roses predicted.
Oh, by the way, Alex is three years old. But she’s designed a robot she calls Shiny (Eric Lopez) to battle the Kaiju. He’s round and more than a bit goofy, but he’s enthusiastic about fighting and following Alex’s orders, and he defeats the Kaiju monster in quick order, even though it destroys half the downtown where the fight takes place. But then he goes “off-book” and heads right to the ORT, getting himself sucked into the void.
He comes out the other end, crashing in what looks like the same city, but he’s greeted by Thunder (Chris Diamantopoulos), a very serious robot with a cannon arm. Shiny doesn’t think that’s possible because he’s the only robot of his kind. But then, when a teenage Alex (Marisa Dauila) shows up, Shiny finds out that he’s traveled ten years forward in time; Alex tells Shiny he was missing the whole time, along with her parents.
Alex designed Thunder, too, so technically Thunder is Shiny’s younger brother, and thinks that Shiny’s tech is inferior; Thunder calls him “prototype”. But when a stronger Kaiju monster attacks a city, the two are sent to the scene. Shiny is ordered by now-Colonel Creed to only observe, but of course doesn’t follow orders; he gets into a fight with thunder until the cobra-like monster attacks his “big little brother.” Then the two band together.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Super Giant Robot Brothers is along the same goofy lines as My Life As A Teenage Robot.
Our Take: Produced by Víctor Maldonado and Alfredo Torres, and directed by Mark Andrews, Super Giant Teenage Robots is a series that doesn’t take itself at all seriously, which is one of the reasons we found it so appealing. The show can be chaotic at times, with people talking over each other, especially ad the EDF command center, which operates with all the efficiency of the Tower of Babel. Shiny looks like a robot that’s designed by a toddler, all round and gangly, with a missing tooth, but it also seems that the hyper-serious Thunder works better with Shiny than without.
It’s a classic odd-couple dynamic; Shiny is silly but super-confident in his abilities, and Thunder doesn’t approve of his brother’s goofiness. But what both of them have in common is that they’re not subtle. Whether they’re fighting a Kaiju or each other, they flatten buildings and crater roads. We wonder where all of these people are, and if they’re more afraid of the Kaiju or the battling robot heroes.
Anyway, it’ll be fun to watch the two of them figure each other out, as well as Alex trying to figure out just what she did when she was 3 to make Shiny work — “Do you remember what you did when you were 3?” she asks Creed.
We also were drawn into the animation, which looks like it was done via motion capture, at least in part. The style looks somewhat similar to the crude, ancient CGI utilized in Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing video 37 years ago, but the flow of motion is more fluid and dynamic. It’s a visually arresting combination of somewhat crude and cartoonish characters with really detailed animation depicting things like the ORT, and it certainly gives viewers a lot to look at.
What Age Group Is This For?: The show is rated TV-Y7, and 7 is the bare minimum age we’d recommend. There are some cartoonish deaths — a reporter is turned into a skeleton by a Kaiju spitting acid, for instance, but still says “That stings!” — and a pace that might scare younger kids. Our 7-year-old daughter couldn’t take her eyes off the show.
Parting Shot: The brothers walk off into the sunset. Shiny says he can train Thunder to fight Kaiju. “You are an inept prototype,” says Thunder. “Oh man, I appreciate that,” Shiny tells him.
Sleeper Star: Eric Lopez, a veteran of animated series — he’s the most recent voice of Bumblebee Man on The Simpsons! — does a great job as Shiny, giving him that teen-like arrogance but also a lot of personality that most cartoon robots don’t have.
Most Pilot-y Line: There’s a long, silly exchange between the brothers when Shiny tells Thunder he’s there to save “Dr. Rose and Rose.” Are they both doctors or just one of them, Thunder asks, and specifies how many Roses in the country are doctors. It’s a little long, but recovers itself when Thunder starts to clarify which of the Dr. Roses are chiropractors. Oh, there’s another reference for grownups: One command center person asks another, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”
Our Call: STREAM IT. Super Giant Robot Brothers is certainly chaotic and moves pretty quickly. It’s definitely faster paced than any cartoon we saw during our childhoods. But it’s got a good odd-couple dynamic, voice actors who are actually actors, and some goofy jokes among the alien-fighting action.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.