In his mansion lab, José is completing construction of a giant robot octopus which still has a few bugs to work out. He gets a call from his father, Von Reichter, who holds the boy to his promise that this time everything will go according to plan. As such, he sends the boy a pack of Fixed Idea dogs who lead him into the sewers to Data-7's hideaway where the panther is captured with the help of the robot octopus as well as a giant two-headed robot snake.
At school, students are crowded around a poster for a circus, which has also caught Lucas' interest. Adrian, however, recognizes the diminutive ringleader as being José in a mustache, a note about a panther being their feature attraction, and a coded message calling out Cybersix. Adrian tries to warn Lucas away from attending, first brushing the show off as kids stuff then more emphatically telling him to just not go, but all this does is rile Lucas up, so he defiantly decides to do just that.
The show starts and the crowd delights in displays of the giant robots - the snake (which can spit fire), a spider, an ape, a tiger, two "strongmen", and an acrobat troupe of flying monkeys - all tended to by Fixed Ideas in clown suits. Cybersix sneaks in behind stage and finds Data-7, but can't free him before the dogs catch her sent and lead José to the scene. He summons all of his robots who leave behind their confused audience and attack Cybersix en masse. She's ultimately overwhelmed and captured.
José wins back the crowd by wheeling out, with great theatricality, a giant cage with the groping octopus on one side, the bound Cybersix on the other, and a wall that he's promising to raise for a fight to the finish. Lucas instantly rushes in to help, but he's nabbed by the strongmen robots and dragged backstage. In passing, he spots the control terminal and the caged Data-7, but he's tossed in a corner where the strongmen watch as he's set upon by the two-headed robot snake. When he sees it can spit fireballs, he aims his dodging to blast the strongmen and the wall of Data-7's cage, then tricks the snake into clamping down on a fuse box, shorting itself out.
On the stage, José lifts the wall, but just as the octopus reaches for Cybersix, Lucas shuts down the system. José fishes his pocket controls out, but they're still buggy, and while all the robots are reactivated, they're no longer under his control and run amok. Cybersix, Data-7, and Lucas do their best against the monsters, even as the Fixed Idea dogs also pounce and José is so desperate he's even turning to his enemies for help. Cybersix ultimately hatches a plan, handing a firehose to Lucas while she cracks the outer shells of each robot, allowing him to douse them in water and short out their circuits. They burst into flame, quickly sending the entire tent up as our heroes retreat and José runs away in defeat.
Watching the fire from atop the angel statue, a grinning Lucas can't wait to share this with Adrian.
What is it with writer/voice actor (Von Reichter) Terry Klassen and winged flocks of death? First we had the titular "Blue Birds of Horror", then the
I have no problems with this episode. There isn't much to it beyond wild action, robotic animals, and circus motifs, but all of it is played well. The fights are great, especially as Cybersix is spearing herself straight through her enemies. The whole setting of the circus is played well with the cheering, then confused, then running in horror crowd, and muscle-bound Fixed Ideas slumping about in clown outfits. José's schtick is actually a great fit for the setting, him stromping about as a dictatorial ringmaster in a big fake mustache, and I love how it's another episode where everything spirals out of his control, to the point where he's even ducking behind Cybersix for protection. Love how she just stands there as the flying monkeys make off with him. There's especially a great moment where he first loses the horde and is just watching in horror as their silhouettes march past him. It's beautifully animated, like something straight out of Robot Carnival, complete with a music cue reminiscent of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". Mixed with the amount of pressure Von Reichter heaps on the boy, it's an especially spectacular failure for him.
Yes, it could have been cool to have a little more meat to José's plot, further justifying the circus by having him get distracted by yet another big power-gaining scheme against the public when he's supposed to be focused on capturing Cybersix, but the lack of that didn't really lose my interest in any way. Yes, it is a typical ending for all of the robots to be taken out by being doused with water, but I love how they built on this by having Cybersix leaping around, smashing parts of their protective shells so their circuits will be exposed. And no, electronics shorting out don't burst into engulfing fires like that, but who cares, it looks cool, especially as the giant octopus robot continues to mechanically thrash about even when he's been trashed beyond repair.
Lucas was also well used this episode. I wish we more of a tag building on the fight he had with Adrian beyond just a throwaway line, but I love him fumbling through the crowd to his seat, instantly leaping to Cybersix's aid when she's been captured, thinking his way through the fight with the two-headed, fire-breathing robot snake (!!!) so as to both free Data-7 and blow out the whole computer system. He plays a continuing, significant role in the action, and I love how they play on him getting knocked out yet again. His groggy "I love you" to Cybersix as he wakes up is another great tiny step forward in their relationship, and I love how he suddenly scrambles to realization as she's all "You were saying?" with a great big grin. It's a nice moment.
This is shorter than my usual pieces because there isn't much to this episode, but I don't mind that. My problem with the formulaic nature of the show has been how often it's played those formulas back-to-back, not how it's actually played them on an individual basis. Yeah, we're back to the formula after a breather last week, but that's why breathers and juggling multiple formulas are necessary. This is how to do it right. It's ok that this isn't an episode about much of anything besides action as long as it's really well put together action. This was well choreographed, snappily written, beautifully directed and animated, and has such a playful attitude to its design and humor that I did laugh amidst the excitement. Favorite bit: the giant robot crab opening up and unleashing a swarm of tiny, unicycle-riding robot crabs who begin nipping at everyone's heels. That's just so absurd and random, yet so well executed and at home in this story, that it had me rolling.
So yeah, thin filler episode that's nonetheless a blast due to being a really fun, well-executed day at the circus of a filler episode.
Some extra ideas:
- For all of his menace in past glimpses, love the little humor beat of Von Reichter calling out "Hello? Helloooo?" from behind his curtained off monitor.
- I wanted to like the Fixed Idea dogs more than I did. Great idea, beautifully animated, but their design is bland and they were the one element too many here, leaving them entirely upstaged by all the robot circus animal antics. They aren't bad here, but I wish they'd gotten their own episode to stand out and fully shine, building more off of them being pitted against Data-7.
- Second episode in a row where one of Von Reichter's creations is killed and disappears in a puff of green, and again, no vial Cybersix needs to drink.
- Surprised that after establishing her early in the episode, Lori wasn't included in the circus audience.
- Keiko Oyamada directing again. Glad to see her last outing with a script by Klasser "Gone with the Wings" was likely just a fluke.
The Free Dictionary defines over-elaborate thusly: adj 1. excessively ornate, detailed, or complex. They could just as easily have added "see: José's plot to capture Cybersix in The Greatest Show In Meridiana".
With a show like this, reality isn't something I even want, so bring on the goblins, the werewolves, and the floating eyeballs. But even fantasy still needs to operate within the confines of some basic form of in-world logic, and I fail to see any in José's big top terror trap. Was it so he could kill Cybersix in a public spectacle? Fine, I guess. I'd buy that in a Dr. Evil sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads sort of way. But you've got to put a point of emphasis on it, otherwise it just ends up like, well, this. And a circus. Really? It's so random. The whole thing smacks of one of the writers having an itch to do something circus-themed and trying to build a story around it. Quite unsuccessfully, I might add. Adding insult to injury, the last act is lazy, with our heroes escaping and defeating José's mechanical monster menagerie with fisticuffs and water.
Now we come to our José portion of the show, and I'm pleased - and somewhat stunned - to say that he didn't irritate me here. Maybe it was because we got a small and much needed José breather in last week's episode, but I found his maniacal P.T. Barnum shtick to be humorous and entertaining. And, for that matter, I really did enjoy the circus aspect in general. The animation (a point I concede to Noel is always glorious) is particularly strong here, and the circus environment works very well with the show's quirky design styles. It's just that it made me wish all that much more they'd find a better use for it.
Not without its moments, "The Greatest Show In Meridiana" is nevertheless a frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying episode.
Random thoughts... though not as random as the plot of this episode:
- There continues to be no growth here. The exploration of Cybersix's past and her connection to Von Reichter is but a dot in our rear view mirrors.
- Adrian is a bit of a tool, and we know that's because he's often trying to protect someone or throw them off the trail, but why does Lucas never call him out on it? It would be great if that were a source of contention between them, but week after week the affable lunk just keeps hanging out with Adrian, who seems to be his only friend.
- Adrian's transformation into Cybersix is surprisingly risque and more than a little erotic. Did this air on Fox Kids or Showtime?
If you'd like to watch along with us, the entirety of Cybersix is available on DVD, thanks to Discotek Media.