The war between Saturn’s moon Titan and Mars has ended, and peace reigns once again. The heroic Titan Force Five ended the war with their super robot, Titan Maximum, piloted by blowhard Commander Palmer, Paris Hilton-wannabe daughter of the President of Titan, Sasha Caylo, girl-next-door Jodi Yanarella, master planner Gibson “Gibbs” Giberstein, and lovable drug-addled “Spud” Cunningham. When one of their own turns against them to unite the world under one flag, and another dies at a “balcony party” (complete with “balcony hooker” and “balcony cocaine”), the team remnants must unite with a college graduate younger brother Willie (it’s only from DeVry) and quiet janitor Leon (who’s a monkey). Their goal? To find the face of evil, and punch the %&$# out of it!
Titan Maximum is an interesting premise for a show, especially in this day and age. Cartoon Network had effectively having abandoned giant robot shows for years: the Gundam franchise has moved to SyFy, and their last produced or co-produced mech shows—IGPX, The Big O‘s season 2, and Megas XLR—didn’t fly over well in ratings. But they’ve decided to give it another go, this time with the Robot Chicken crew behind the joysticks. (A more traditional mech show with “Titan” in the title, Sym-Bionic Titan, is also in the works.)
Titan Maximum could have easily been a mess. The Robot Chicken guys have proven their prowess with short bits of comedy, but were largely unproven with running plots and longer stories. The closest thing to an action/comedy on Adult Swim is The Venture Bros., and while it’s proven that it can be a successful combo, it more parodies things like Jonny Quest than Voltron and the like.
Instead, we’ve gotten an ultimate jam project of creative fields. On one hand, you have Tom Root, Matthew Senreich, and Seth Green of Robot Chicken headlining the story and production. You have comic book rising star Geoff Johns on production. Jeff Matsuda, incredible character designer behind Jackie Chan Adventures and The Batman, took charge of the cast, while comic book artist Todd Nauck tackled the large-scale robot designs. A voice cast ranging from Breckin “I was in Garfield!” Meyer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Dan Milano, Eden Espinosa, and the aforementioned Green tackle the Titan Force Five, while Billy Dee Williams voices Admiral *****face with entertaining command and Star (Wars) power. Even Kurtwood Smith, Frank Welker, and Edie McClurg—actors whom you might not recognize by name but who you certainly know by voice—lend themselves to small roles.
The plot is surprisingly very multifaceted; it doesn’t just references to lame bits from Super Robot shows. (Although it doesn’t avoid them; there is stock footage for Titan Maximum’s combination, and sometimes it doesn’t match up with the reality of the situation.) Nor does it fully worship them. If anything, it comes off as a sincere attempt to make its own way, with a fair amount of adult comedy not found in most. There’s a solid plot that warrants multiple viewings, primarily when information regarding the previous war is revealed. While it’s easy to classify it as a comedy, there’s some good action here, both in the rare times that the Titan Force Five get to battle outside of Titan Maximum and in the almost-requisite giant robot battles of the day. There’s genuine emotion at times, even if it ends up being played for laughs. (Sasha’s response to the statement that she should use her brain, alongside Jodi’s realization of what she’s done apart from the team, have more emotion than anything Robot Chicken ever showed), and the laughs range from future puns (“I hear 2010 was a very good year” with a knowing wink, alongside the monetary unit being Zurichs, because the Swiss have all those banks) to common stuff that fans will completely agree with (“It’s like I know all the combos, and he keeps hitting A!” should reverberate with the gamer crowd who’s had defeat handed to them by an idiot slamming away on the buttons.). Commentaries reveal that they have a good five-year plan for the series, and you’ll definitely want there to be more after the end of the ninth episode.
Speaking of commentaries, this release is overloaded with extras. There are more than a dozen commentaries on the nine episodes, ranging from cast and crew to production and designers. There’s a behind-the-scenes feature, deleted animatics with introductions explaining why they were cut, a breakdown of how a scene goes from storyboard to finished production, a table read with the three male leads having swapped roles (finding out who was best for what role), trailers for the series, a pop-up trivia track for one episode, and an improvised audio track for another. (Literally, the voice actors just get together and make up dialog, in a hilarious Whose Line Is It Anyway? fashion). There’s nearly an hour of design images with commentary by the designers, to give you an idea of the depth this single-disc goes. Aside from of the disc there is a three-page comic book (the whole DVD design echoes comic book tropes, including a cover date and Marvel-style head box) that fills in some backstory of the period after the war and before the first episode.
Titan Maximum is easily one of the best shows to come out of Adult Swim, and should be loved by fans of giant robot shows and fans of good comedies. It’s got a great plot that hooks you, awesome design, and this disc is just a love letter to the production as a whole, easily being one of the best animated discs released by someone not named Disney or Pixar.
Just remember, it’s pronounced “beech-fass”.