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  1. #1
    Matthew Williams's Avatar
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    Talkback: "Teen Titans" (Spoilers)

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    The three main Toon Zone reviews of Teen Titans are on the main news page:

    Matt Wilson: "Teen Titans" Best WBA Show Since "Freakazoid"
    Karkull: Kids May Love "Teen Titans"; Adults Will Look for More
    SJJ: "Teen Titans" Like Nothing You're Expecting

    And this is the official "Talkback" thread, kicking off with a bunch of other reviews done by the Toon Zone staff.
    Matthew Williams, from the Cartoon Universe
    A column where animation is the starting point - every week at the toonzone blog.
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  2. #2
    Barb Gordon's Avatar
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    Remember that New Teen Titans series that almost came out in the 80's, but never did air? This Teen Titans of the new millenium is as campy as if it were from the 80's and that only makes it that much funnier and cuter. From the logo to the theme song, it's about as retro as can be.

    Admittedly, at first, I was quite unsure of this series. The art seemed to rub me the wrong way and the whole concept was making me nervous. But after seeing just the first episode, I became fastly in support of this new series.

    Overall the show is nothing but cute, funny, and campy all rolled into one. Teen Titans is quite the opposite of the other DC related shows like Justice League or Batman: The Animated Series. In fact, I wouldn't ever think of trying to put Teen Titans in continuity with the other shows. Continuity just doesn't (shouldn't) really matter for this show. Teen Titans is on an entire level by itself. It is nothing beyond wholesome goodness and it shouldn't be looked into being anything other than that. It's such a twist that for this show, there are no dual identities, as of yet. They are superhero teens, they wear costumes, they live in a headquarters and they go anywhere and everywhere in their costumes as if they were in street clothes. Teen Titans is a fresh new show with a style all its own, setting it far apart from the other DC animated series' in its uniqueness.

    The theme song is quite catchy, upbeat and rather adorable; it suits the entire show perfectly. The animation is incredibly different and makes the show special. It is very much styled after the anime look, and at first that didn’t suit me one bit. I'm a big fan of anime and I saw Teen Titans as rather ripping off that style and possibly making a joke of it. But honestly, for this particular show and because it’s lighthearted and fun, the look is great for it. After the first episode, the animation style warms to a person, and things like super deformed eyes, heads, or bodies fit in naturally.

    Voice acting all around is enjoyable and the cast is extremely diverse:
    Raven is dark and moody, her sarcasm is amusing and is slipped into the conversations perfectly.
    Beast Boy is adorable. He's dorky and funny, and he and Raven play off each other perfectly. The animation for his morphing into animals is pleasing to the eye with how seamlessly it is done.
    Robin is the leader type forwards and backwards. He keeps his cool and takes charge well. He is also deep into being a superhero, going so far as going into lengthy detail on what material is cape is made of and why. But he's also a kid, enjoying cotton candy, watching TV and getting excited over fireworks But it was nice to see him have some skills other than hand to hand combat as displayed when he whipped out his retractable staff and used a Robin styled batarang in the second episode, "Sisters" (but could someone please explain the steel-toed boots to me?!).
    Cyborg....well, has a big mouth. That's the impression he gives off at first, and that doesn't entirely fade away, but he does round out the team well. Cyborg is a very down to earth superhero whose main concerns seem to be kicking butt, wanting to win against the bad guy, and trying to locate the remote.
    Starfire is the most interesting character I've seen of the group because her character is so much more different from the others. It should please any major comic fan that her personality carries over well from the comics to the cartoon and that a bit of her comic history, like her planet and race and even her bad sister (Blackfire), was mentioned and explored in "Sisters".

    Despite not knowing whether Robin is really Tim Drake (which the majority of fans are assuming) or Dick Grayson (who is the Robin comic Starfire, and the other comic Teen Titans, knew and had a relationship with), it is nice to see the evident attraction Starfire holds for him, and which appears to be reciprocated. Starfire is innocent and naive to a fault, and, oh yeah, she can also just happen to be able to blow the-you-know-what out of anything and everything. At first it seemed that her VA was lacking in making her sound interesting, but at a second look she is really playing Starfire as she should be, because her voice conveys the fact that Starfire is quite clueless and blank. This skill is displayed a lot more in episode two, which highlights Starfire. Lines concerning the blue fuzzy food being gone, asking for an attacker to stop chasing her please, or even being nice and polite to a sister that just tried to frame you and land you in prison, are priceless because they actually sound incredibly naive.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of Teen Titans. So far it has gotten more entertaining and likeable with each episode I view. I was cautious at first, but it's charm has quickly grown on me...like that blue fuzz on the food *shudders*.

    Go Teen Titans.


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  3. #3
    Matthew Williams's Avatar
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    In 1992, Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves. It revolutionized animated comic book adaptations by introducing clean, slick character designs, serious, dark plotlines, and treated the source material with the utmost respect and reverence, with little humor. Since then, every new action animation series has tried this model to varying degrees of success.

    Teen Titans doesn’t follow that model; it chucks it out the window.

    Instead of serious, dark plotlines, character-based humor is a large element of the series. The Bruce Timm style has been abandoned in favor of an anime style that stresses caricature and extreme emotions. The characters have no dual identities. Even the theme song, normally a soaring orchestral score, is a 60s-throwback theme song performed by a J-Pop band. The only thing remaining from the Bruce Timm WB series are the action set pieces, brilliant as always. But even with that, it is less like Batman: The Animated Series and much more like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

    It’s the exact opposite of what people expect from hero series these days. It’s also probably the best action series to come out in awhile.

    Much has been made about the animation style. The faux-anime style is executed so well, people who don’t know better might think this is actually anime. All the staples are here – the designs, a tendency to put people in extreme poses, exaggerated facial expressions, and even Super Deformities when the script calls for it. The anime style here is not remniscent of anime that display hyper-realistic, idealized portrayals of human beings, like Inu-Yasha, but characters more exaggerated to fit their personalities. Cyborg is ultra-beefy, Raven is slight and colored entirely in dark shades. It’s completely different from any animated series produced in the last 10 years, but again, that’s the point – this ISN’T supposed to portray idealized, strong superheroes… but teenagers who have incredible powers and who find those powers incredibly cool.

    Speaking of the scripts, the writing is probably this series’ strong point. The last series to get such delicious bickering between hero characters(and was not played for laughs, unlike The Justice Friends on Dexter’s Laboratory) is probably Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. The characters are a team. Yet they are also prone to disagreements and squabbling. In situations like this, the anime style helps.

    The plots themselves are nothing special – the first episode we received for preview chronicled a battle between the Titans and an “evil” team controlled by an evil villain Slade; the second episode was about a sibling rivalry between Starfire and her sister Darkfire. Their execution, however, is great. The first storyline has some very entertaining moments, such as when Cyborg’s disembodied hand taps into a security system and goes into what seems to be a homage to Dr. Klaw of Inspector Gadget and then a homage to The Thing. The second storyline has plenty of heart and a nice twist at the end.

    It’s the entertaining moments, rather than the plots and action that drive Teen Titans. The disembodied hand sequence with Cyborg was a highlight of the first episode. But in a true sign of good writing, the humor is not plot-driven, but character-driven. Robin is the action-loving leader. Cyborg is “the heavy”, demanding to know how well the team kicked the bad guys’ butts. Beast Boy is the hedonistic, fun-loving member of the group. Raven gravitates to darker, more depressing locales, but that’s her nature. Starfire is the innocent of the group; given a slightly robotic, wooden voice. She means well, gets hurt easily, and can also screw things up as well.

    The characters have no dual identities. This is because, as stated before, superheroing in this isn’t a curse. The characters are not on a noble mission for revenge or covering for a mistake made early in life. They’re heroes, they love it, it’s their full time job. It can be odd seeing the heroes in full costume attending a nightclub, but you don’t care… it makes for some fascinating visuals and brings out the best in the characters.

    Aurally, the show delivers. The music is varied, becoming a mix of rock-based tunes, with a bit of ska into the mix. At parts during the first episode, it also uses an easy-listening style that surprisingly works well. Michael McCuistion and Lolita Ritmanis compose two excellent scores that work very much and do not sound anything like the horrible synth-orchestral musical score that ruins Justice League.

    The cast has delivered a good core of voice actors and actresses for this series. Scott Menville voices Robin, a fit that will sound odd after viewing Mission Hill, but definitely fits the heroic nature of the character. Tara Strong expands her range to provide Raven’s dark, gravelly voice, something very different from her high-pitched Bubbles voice. Greg Cipes voices Beast Boy as a young smart aleck, while Khary Payton hits the right mix of humor and badass as Cyborg. Hynden Walsh is strangely robotic and emotionless as Starfire (given that she voices Blackfire as a more “normal” voice), but this lends an extra aura of innocence to the character, which was probably the intent.

    So, is there anything bad about Teen Titans? Actually, aside from a few storyline quirks, Glen Murikami may have created something special here. The storylines in future episodes hopefully are less generic as these were, but even if they are, the execution will hopefully continue to be top notch. However, those who don’t really like the anime style that much will probably not like the style of this show, as it does the anime style so well that it looks like one.

    Some may be expecting and wishing for a serious take on these characters. It’s not played completely for laughs, but it isn’t as serious and dark as B:TAS. But it’s not meant to be B:TAS. It’s a totally different take on the concept of superheroes. Put aside all reservations and take the series for what it is; a lighthearted, action-packed, sometimes heartwarming, oftentimes comedic show. It may not be as revolutionary as the genre-redefining Batman, but it ranks with the best of them. If you’re interested in a good time, check out this show.

    On a scale of 10, I give this a 9.
    Matthew Williams, from the Cartoon Universe
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  4. #4
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    Mixed feelings were imminent when the first images of this series arrived---why had they chosen this odd animation route? Was it Japanese animation? Was it American animation? Was it both?

    It was the latter. This series mixes Anime style elements with the usual animation you'd see on Cartoon Network originals--either Powerpuff Girls or Samurai Jack--it seems to take a bit from each and meld it together into its own form of art style. Most die-hard and long-time Batman fans will probably despise everything about this show. Call it a mockery of the serious shows that basically built the foundation for modern day Super-Hero styled shows--but you know what? I'm all right with that. This show is what kids will call "cool", maybe "stylish", while older fans will simply call it "goofy fun." And I do call it that--this show is a mound of goofy fun. It has the usual morals found in teen-oriented shows (I'm well aware a recent interview with Glen Murakami he stated it was an all-ages show, but in the heart of it, you know it's going to be directed the most at teenagers--what with the "Teen Titans" moniker and all), but in the end, it's just fun to watch.

    Being a non-Anime fan, the way the animation came out at times (for example: at times it would suddenly jump into Anime-style) did irk me--although the large contenders of it, so far, seem to be Starfire, Beast Boy and Robin. Still, with these differences aside, it still boils down to the same fact: it's a fun show.

    If you want to look at the show from a different point of view, you could take the children’s building toy, LEGO, and apply it to this show. Mainly something a child or early teen would enjoy playing around with, recent LEGO sets have the age group "4-99" on it, meaning it really is for all ages--and that's what this show is: An all-age, free for all.

    My overall show rating, so far (as I've only seen two episodes) is a <b>C+</b>. There is room for improvement, but enjoyable none the less. Can't wait to see more--I just hope they remove some of the excess "anime-moments" that plagued the second episode.

    <b>"Final Exam"</b>

    I find it odd there wasn't an introduction episode to this series--how the Titans came about, they just sort of plunked down and they're suddenly there. I guess it's sort of following BTAS in a way---there was never a real "origin" episode for Batman either. "Final Exam" is as much of an introduction episode we're going to get, it seems.

    The episode did, however, introduce Slade, the Titan's big baddy. He's to the Titans as Magneto is to the X-Men (in the <i>Evolution</i> rendition, anyway), and he sends out lackeys to do his dirty work. Of course, I can't really make this accusation, as I've only seen two episodes of this series, but that's the vibe I'm getting off of the character.

    There's really nothing much to say about "Final Exam"--it showed Slade, it showed some formidable foes for the Titans, but other than that...blah. It had humor, it had action, and I think it showed us what the series is going to be like.

    Overall Rating: <b>B-</b>


    If the tiny anime-related bits in "Final Exam" didn't irk you, then you'll positively retch in horror at the stuff in this one. I can tell you right now that Starfire will be the major user of these "anime-ations", and it could really interrupt the shows mood at times. I just hope the creative team doesn't go overboard with them, because they can really, really, ruin a scene. When used in humor, it seems work out fine--but in a serious situation...it's a mess.

    Nit-picks aside, this wasn't a horrible episode; although Starfire's voice is going to be taken getting used to, it's too stale and solid. More emotion is needed, and considering her sister (Blackfire) makes an appearance on this episode as well, and has no problem in expressing her emotions (especially towards Robin...), so it's not her species that always talk like that.

    As with "Final Exam", there is not a lot to discuss on this episode--you can tell these are written to be one-shots, and I'll be surprised if they ever reference back to each other in later episodes, as there seems to be not much of an impact in individual episodes to effect future episodes. But it's still very early on in the series, so I'm keeping an open mind about it.

    Overall Rating: <b>B</b>
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  5. #5
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    When I first heard about the Teen Titans project months ago, my first reaction was a bit of a head scratch… sort of a “Yeah, okay, I doubt this will work” type of reaction. Between the shows concept itself followed by early shots from it, I found it difficult to see how Bruce Timm (the lord overseer of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, and The Justice League) would go along with such a project after such critically acclaimed, fan loved work. I doubted whether or not that this formula would succeed…

    …Then, the first two episodes came and all doubts were laid to rest.

    This show does not follow the conventional lines of his previous work, which is what many fans expected this to be like. Yes, there are the precursors of action with a dark character (Raven, voice acted by Tara Strong) and a fan favorite/team leader (Robin, voice acted by Scott Mellville). However this is where the comparisons to Timm’s prior projects end.

    The script for the two pilot episodes (Final Exam and Sisters) is well conceived. It is successfully campy due to the quick character development and dialogue between the members. The series tends to feed off the clichés of prior superhero animated series (from Justice League right on up to the grandfather of them all, The Super Friends) and puts a fresh spin on them by giving the characters more down to Earth, identifiable personalities that mirror many teen archetypes today. It also has a laid back, California surfer atmosphere that is fun and nostalgic to those older than 18 (yes, I was dragged to see Back to the Beach by my parents when I was a child in 1987, very frightening memories). The writers are not afraid of the word campy and use it to its advantage. Like a teenager, it dares not take itself seriously and for good reason: the show is suppose to be fun by relying on character interactions and dialogue to move the show forward during very cliché plotlines.

    If you are unfamiliar with the Teen Titans, the show is based off the comic book by DC Comics of a similar name that still is in print today.

    Besides the all-around popular guy Robin (the team leader) and the goth, angst-ridden wizardress Raven, the other members of the Teen Titans have a realistic chemistry similar to a middle or high school scenario. The other members include Starfire, (voice acted by Hynden Walch) who plays the foreign exchange student from outer space and team goody-two-shoes that also tends to be the source of many of the shows jokes. Cyborg (voice acted by Khary Payton) is the teams’ strong man and jock who charges off into battle, yet is cool about it like Samuel L. Jackson’s Shaft character. Then there is Beast Boy (voice acted by Greg Cipes), the comic relief, hyper-kinetic type who comes off as the comic book geek of the group.

    Despite the interesting writing behind the show, it does tend to suffer from the campy-ness that makes it successful. A lot of the dialogue of the Hive agents in the pilot episode (super villain teens who square off against the Titans) is clunky and tends to come off too cliché. The main bad guy, Slade (In Final Exam), is a knock off of the Inspector Gadget villain Dr. Claw, leaving no real development as to why he despises the Titans.

    The animation is fast pace in an anime/1980’s retro style hybrid, which may turn off fans of Timm’s earlier work but works well with this shows overall feel. The character designs are streamlined and stylized to reflect the characters personality and the atmosphere of the show (typical of Timm’s projects). Colors are vibrant and even psychedelic at times, relating to the whole California surfer feel to the show.

    Ultimately, Teen Titans is a great show filled with fun and action with easily identifiable characters. There is minor tweaking to be made (which is to be expected with any show) and fans of Timm’s other projects may shy away from experiencing Titans, but all in all it is worth watching for any comic book and animation fan alike.

    Grade B+

  6. #6
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    Sundae in the Park with Fireworks

    <i>Teen Titans</i> is a triple-decker hot-fudge/butterscoth banana split sundae with whipped cream, sugar sprinkles, chopped pecans, maraschino cherries and five flame-splitting roman candles on top, all floating in a jumbo cup of double-bubble burpa-cola. If Willie Wonka opened a cartoon studio, this is the kind of show he'd produce. You don't just watch it, you gobble it down <i>fast</i> and then bang your spoon on the table demanding seconds.

    It is nominally based on the DC Comics title of the same name and is produced by Glen Murakami, the art director-turned-coproducer of <i>Superman, Batman Beyond</i> and <i>Justice League.</i> But don't let the pedigree mislead you. <i>Teen Titans</i> is like nothing the DC animated universe has seen before. It's an ultra-retro, anime-inflected, whizbang pop cartoon fiesta that riffs half a dozen genres by way of slapping together its own unique style. It's a Wayback-with-a-Stepsideways Machine into an alternate universe where Sixties superhero cartoon shows were done with a budget and without a censor. It's the cartoon show you always wanted to see when you were ten years old but which they never made.

    The series has no backstory and only the barest of conceits. It's about five quasi-teenagers who have superpowers and get into fights with aliens, monsters and supervillains. And that's about it. I call them "quasi-teenagers" because there is nothing that distinctively identifies them as being between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, and because I've known plenty of college and post-college guys with the same group dynamics and inability to keep the house picked up. Only the Titans' sunny equanimity and short attention spans set them apart from their adult counterparts; if comics <i>X-Force/X-Statix</i> were shorn of their Marvel angst they might have much the same feel.

    That absence of psychological turmoil may disappoint some viewers. We are now so used to superheroes whose struggles have social and political implications, or which are the outer manifestation of their inner pain, that some may have trouble recovering the innocent delight in shiny, fast-moving surfaces that is <i>Teen Titans'</i> great strength. The show deosn't disdain story and character development, exactly, so much as it simply doesn't dwell on them. The Titans are not grown up and they're not growing up, either. So you have to take them as you would take Fry and Bender, or Scooby and Shaggy, or Pinky and the Brain--characters who are defined by their quirks and who are not going change or examine themselves. As for story: There is, I suppose, a "plot" to "Final Exam" and "Sisters," but the producers treat it as you would a Christmas tree, as something that's only there to hang a bunch of dazzling ornaments on.

    And those ornaments do dazzle. The show is almost absurdly baroque in its detail. Oddball inserts, quick, radical design shifts, and playful sound effects explode every few seconds, and if you watch it on tape you'll find yourself stopping and backing up every few minutes to get a closer look or hear at something. Did the blue fuzz really growl when Starfire opened the refrigerator door? Did Robin's eyes really turn into spinning spirals when Blackfire threw him to the ground? Did that rocket-propelled squid really beep like a bus as it zoomed past our heros? Yes, yes, and I sure think so.

    At every level the show's genius lies in the brilliance of its execution. What could have been laboriously drawn-out action scenes are as well-shaped as if they were timed to the microsecond, cut with a diamond-tipped chisel, and pieced together under a jeweler's loup. The dialogue may fall well short of brilliance, but the lines are delivered with such speed and zest (especially by Beastboy and Cyborg, the most talkative of the group) that they all gain a little corkscrew twist to them. (The cast, by the way, is uniformly excellent, especially Tara Strong, who as Raven takes "deadpan" around the curve so far that it gooses "manic" on the other side; she makes Wednesday Addams seem like Shirley Temple.) And even those of us who were impressed by the ability of composers Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuistion to cross musical lines from <i>Batman</i> to <i>Beyond</i> will be astonished by the tracks for <i>Teen Titans:</i> A promotional video showcasing the skills of Titan adversaries Gizmo, Jinx and Mammoth is scored to what crazily sounds like a narcoleptic garage band doing a cover of a Mozart adagio.

    The danger for a show that so ingeniously fuses and creatively confuses its styles is that it might also wind up confusing the audience. Certainly, this is not a show to be approached with preconceptions or a closed mind, or else, like a tornado, it will blow the mental doors off their hinges and the walls off their foundations. <i>Teen Titans</i> has so much jazz and snap, and such blithe self-assurance, that it makes most other cartoons look dead. If the series is not the smash hit it deserves to be, it will be because the audience is less brave and daring than the network that produced it.

    EDIT: Fixed typo when counting the Titans (there are five of them, not four).

  7. #7
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    Teen Titans: Episode 1 “Final Exam”
    Episode 2 “Sisters”

    I am here reviewing this show because I’m speaking as the kind of Batman fan that was introduced to the franchise using the animated universe. There are a lot of us, and with a show that has such a gigantic impact on the world of animated television, this must be taken into account when reading this review, and while watching the new Teen Titans series.

    In “Final Exam,” the story starts off by introducing the group of super-baddies that will set out to destroy the Teen Titans, by the request of a dark and mysterious man named Slade. Whatever Slade’s plans are, the first step is to get the Teen Titans out of the way. It’s a nice setup, even though the anime-style introduction to a show where the episode jumps into the characters and story without giving any background information is not always a favorite for me. So I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it.

    In “Sisters,” Starfire gets a surprise visit from her snobbish sister, Blackfire, who manages to use her knowledge and abilities gained from exploring the universe to impress the other Teen Titans. Starfire’s feelings of neglect are interrupted by a high tech robotic force from outer space that is apparently searching for her. The story was very cute, and the animation delivered it well, but my interest lies more in the mysterious meeting of Slade, in “Final Exam.”

    The animation was very nice and fluid, but because of the constant reminders of anime inspiration that the particular style keeps showing, I didn’t always like it. However, it’s still very easy on the eyes, despite the occasional anime-style references that were more direct and obvious. The music also had the same anime inspired elements that I mentioned above, including the theme song. It fits the style of the show, and for that I liked it, but at the same time I couldn’t find much originality.

    As the hardcore Animated Batman/Superman fan that I am, I’ll take some time to focus on my particular highlight from both episodes: Robin. Granted, his design is somewhat….creative, but I enjoyed his character in every scene I saw him in. I think Animated Batman/Superman fans will welcome how “Robin-like” he is. I don’t know what the show creators mean when they say they aren’t sure which Robin it is. It may be just a stance to take for safety’s sake, like saying Batman Beyond is only a possible future for the Animated Batman universe, but I saw a lot of Tim Drake in this Teen Titans series and I liked it.

    The best thing that these fans can do before watching the new Teen Titans animated series is to implant the phrase, "this is not and will not be Batman: The Animated Series" into their minds. This new series is highly inspired by Anime, and will come off as somewhat campy or goofy to the average fan of the Animated Batman. And that will be the show's biggest worry.

    It may all depend on the target audience for the show, so relying exclusively on fans of the animated DCU of past years may not be the plan, but in any case, these fans may not enjoy the Teen Titan series as much as a more general animation fan would. By reason of the DCU animated shows of the past, these fans are very picky and want only what they’ve been getting with their previous shows, and nothing less. And since there aren’t many who listen to what the fans want, they become bitter, and any new show they see becomes less and less attractive. However, what these fans need to remember is this is a series, not a Batman animated series.

    Once the fan can accept the knowledge that “this is not and will not be Batman: The Animated Series,” despite its extremely high and sometimes redundant use, there’s still the matter of what he or she believes could or should be in production instead. These fans may say to ditch this show, so the stories of other heroes can be told. Some examples they may bring up are a Green Lantern animated series, or a Flash animated series, to showcase the complicated yet excellent stories that these names have gone through over the years in the comics. That is one worry I don’t have a solution for, because I happen to hold its opinion myself. In fact it’s often the first opinion I have when I see a new show in the fashion of Teen Titans while not having an exceedingly positive opinion of it.

    This show needs to be viewed as a new animated series, and not the next installment in the line of incredible and amazing shows in the animated Batman universe. To a Batman fan of my particular type, this show may easily fall flat with its attempts to entertain, because the world of animated Batman/Superman is still stirring in our minds. It’s a nice and mildly entertaining show, but as far as fans of the previously animated DCU are concerned, we don’t really want it.
    -Nightwing; WF Mod;

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  8. #8
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    Teen Titans is all flash and no substance, but that actually works for it. A nice, bubbly, retro-ish series, Teen Titans will please those looking for something different from the animated DC Universe.

    The Teen Titans features a Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg. All the names will sound familair to the old-time comic readers, but new viewers may be left wondering who these characters are, exactly. And since the series offers close to no backstory, that also may hinder any character development, as well.

    Oddly, the lack of back story is what gives the series it's charm. The series basically fulfills the fantasy of that every kid every had. Here, the kids are superheroes who get to fight crime and hang around all day. Forget the stress that comes with a secret identity or a real job, the kids here are just chilling out having a good time. They sit around and eat pizza and fight a bit of crime when it's warranted.

    The only real problem is the inconsistancies that the series presents. In "Final Exam," the team is portrayed as useless without Robin at the helm. It seems that once he's gone, in a poorly done "death" scene, the team just falls apart and has no idea what to do. It's not until he returns do they get back into order, but it's done so haphazardly, that's it hard to understand how they function as a group even with Robin. Also, in one sequence, Cyborg's arm saves the team yet moments earlier, he (as a whole person) was unable to take down one villian. That's incredibly inconsistent, but also distracting.

    But, when the team acts together, there are some stupendous and energetic action sequences. Both "Final Exam" and "Sisters" have some beautifully animated sequences. Teen Titans fully takes advantages of it's anime influences and provides some beautifully looking fights. And while the anime influences may be a plus, they also hinder the series. I don't mind the occasional anime-inspired gesture, but this series just really dumps them on, repeatedly it seems. Some of them do work for great comedic affect, but others just seem tacked on and incredibly lame.

    The voice work on this series is great, as well, with Robin and Beast Boy standing out as two of the best. The only real complaint I have, voice-wise, is Starfire's usually wooden delivery. It seems that alot of her lines should have been given with more emotion. Yes, she is an alien who's new to the world, that's the impression given, but every emotion she has just sounds the same. Not really exuberant, but just sort of there. If she's a character fascinated with Earth, she should be showing the emotion to express it.

    This series is also the perfect anti-thesis to Justice League. Justice League tends to be dark, serious in nature, the exact opposite of Teen Titans. The series doesn't take itself serious for one minute, and it's bright and fun. For those who are looking for something new from the DC stable, Teen Titans may be just what you're looking for.

  9. #9
    Jeff Harris's Avatar
    Jeff Harris is offline Creator/Webmaster, TXB
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    Here's a group that leads a life of danger, but be warned.

    This is not your father's Teen Titans.

    But if your father knows who the Teen Titans are, he might enjoy Cartoon Network's second original action-animated series from Warner Bros., based on DC Comics' superteen group. You might enjoy it too, unless you have a deep-rooted hatred for anything that looks and smells like anime.

    The Teen Titans began life as a comic series in the 60s that showcased the teenaged sidekicks of DC Comics' superheroes, and the prototype of them all, Robin the Boy Wonder, led them all. Sure, the sidekicks back then were just carbon copies of their adult counterparts (Wonder Girl, Speedy, Kid Flash, and Aqualad), but the Titans had fun in their adventures. In the 80s, the Teen Titans grew up and, guided by writer extraordinare Marv Wolfman, gained a whole lot of original characters like the alien princess Starfire, the shapeshifting Beast Boy, the half-demon Raven, and the six-million dollar teen, Cyborg. It also introduced Deathstroke the Terminator, the ultimate villian of the Teen Titans. They also gained a strong fanbase that not only surpassed DC's venerable Justice League franchise, but also equaled that Marvel's X-Men franchise. The Teen Titans brings in the 60s tradition and spirit along with the innovative original characters of the 80s and blends it with a kinetic pseudoanime feel.

    Afterall, the kids love the anime, don't they?

    I checked out the "Final Exam" and "Sisters" episodes of the new series, and to be honest, they weren't the best way to introduce the series. Usually for these DC Animated series, there's an origin story that sets up the story. Superman and Batman Beyond (and Static Shock if you want to consider the DC-published Milestone franchise as a DC Animated Universe series) opened with the origins of their births (or in Batman Beyond's case, rebirth), while Justice League showcased the events that led to the team's creation. Like Batman a decade ago, Teen Titans basically jumped headfirst into the series. Unlike Batman, Teen Titans didn't land very well.

    The Titans are a group of superpowered teens led by Robin, a teen with no superpowers, but a heck of a lot more experience. The creation of the team is shrouded in mystery (and it will be, according to the producers), but it's clear that the Titans are there to protect their little corner of the world when the Justice League are busy elsewhere in the universe.

    "First Exam" is probably going to be remembered for one thing, and one thing only (well, two things, the idea of superheroes tearing up a room to find a remote control is hysterical), the introduction of Slade (nee: Deathstroke), who is basically a shadowy character with an interest in the teenaged heroes, particularly the leader, Robin. This attraction will be a continuing factor throughout the series' run and will blow up by season's end. Otherwise, "First Exam" showcases what Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg, and Beast Boy could do on the battlefield against a group of generic teen villians (they're so generic, you might as well called them "Evil Superteen 1 - 3").

    "Sisters" will be a mixed bag for viewers. On one side, you go deeper into the inexperienced, very alien character of Starfire. Her insecurities are increased when her sister Blackfire comes to visit and "takes over" her life and friends' attentions. Many awkward teens with more popular older (or younger) siblings would certainly sympathize with Starfire. On the other side, "Sisters" is very, very anime-influenced. In this episode, you will see several "super-deformed" cartoony renditions of the characters straight out of shows like Trigun and Rurouni Kenshin, among many, many other series. Admittedly, the mix of comedy and action of this episode intrigued me, and of the two episodes that I saw, this one was my favorite.

    The voice acting of Teen Titans is excellent. Scott Menville is Robin, the leader of this quintet. Menville, who, like Spike Spencer, has gotten many jobs using a similar voice (and like Casey Kasem said in the same role in a popular CN interstitial, there's no shame in that), is no Loren Lester nor Eli Marshenthal, but he does a great job nonetheless in the role. Starfire, a character that Cartoon Network really wants to introduce to the masses, is played by Hynden Walsh. She gives this slightly emotionless range, which is perfect for the role of the Tamaran. Tara Strong returns to the DCU as the voice of Raven, giving the popular character a low-key, cynical, Goth-like attitude. Khary Payton is Cyborg, another breakthrough character for the series, who blends technology with an urban edge (but the moment he says "What in blazes?," I'm going to scream real loud). Greg Cipes rounds out the core cast as Beast Boy, the youngest of the group who is as green (physically) as he is green (new to the hero game).

    The designs are definitely going to have to get used to. Unlike the other DCU series, the house "animated" style is being junked in favor of a pseudo-anime design, lovingly referred to as "Murakanime" after series producer Glen Murakami. It's not as "realistic" as the other shows, but it does open up the opportunity to visualize the characters' emotions in a silly way, like Starfire's reaction after someone at the club asks if she digs the scene. Plus, the producers are definitely playing up to the anime influence, hiring a J-pop band to produce the "Secret Agent Man-like" theme song.

    Teen Titans isn't going to be everybody's cup of tea. It's going to be a mug of coffee, providing a jolt of youthful energy and a comedic edge to the world of superheroes. The kids will love it. The teens will see a lot of themselves in the characters. And us older types? We'll dig it.

    And we won't need a shovel.
    What does the X stand for? It's definitely not Extreme. Extreme starts with E.

  10. #10
    BeastBoyWonder's Avatar
    BeastBoyWonder is offline Teen Titans Go!
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    Well, I guess I might as well chime in and kick things off with the first non-staff review and commentary! Having a chance to have seen the episodes, I figured it would be appropriate to post in the thread, but if anyone has any objections by all means let me know and I will remove it promptly until the date of the actual episode.

    Also, when you have a chance, check out the World's Finest Teen Titans website! Bird Boy and a Flash did an excellent job of conveying a great deal of information about the series in a palatable format, and major props to them for doing a fine job of helping give a better feel of the series.

    Anyway, enough of that. Onto the good stuff:

    "Final Exam"

    Teen Titans is a cartoon that is so utterly ridiculous that it becomes charming and even endearing almost immediately, to the delight of my fanboy-ish sensibilities. The show is preposterous, but preposterous enough that it resembles almost nothing like reality. The extremely contorted facial expressions and leaps of logic such as the Titans eating out in full costume, not being in school, living in a T-shaped Titans Tower full-time without a parent or legal guardian, going to dances in a superhero costume, and much more allow us to easily and effectively engage our suspension of disbelief because rather than taking themselves completely seriously and ending up coming off as pretentious and flawed the show almost spontaneously sets us up with the expectation that anything can happen. The team dynamic has a vastly different feel from other superhero group stories and shows in that the team members exude a much more friendly, down-to-earth vibe. The animated Teen Titans aren't always serious all the time, and spend a large amount of time in believable small talk that comes off much more naturally and comfortably than it does with exchanges amongst other popular and prolific animated superheroes.

    Above all, this show is comfortingly lighthearted and hilarious, a mood complemented by the bright and busy fictional west-coast city that they live in. The characters interact in a lively manner and none of them can really be labeled as the "jokester" of the team. Beast Boy's startlingly cute humor plays off of Cyborg's temper and Raven's cynicism nicely, and while Starfire's innocence can get annoying at times it provides an adequate jumping board for Robin's cracks ("Maybe we should just go out for pizza"). The merit of the show does not appear to be in the integrity of the plot or story, but rather the strong, three-dimensional characters and their experiences along the way.

    Devout fans of the brilliant Wolfman/Perez era of the Titans are probably going to be disappointed with certain aspects of the show: At a first glance, many of the themes and characters have been "kiddified", and a lot of important details have changed (such as calling Deathstroke, the Terminator by his first name Slade). However, many of the important themes and concepts have been preserved from the comic series to the animated adaptation, such as Starfire's innocence and Robin's (undoubtedly Dick Grayson) keen interest in her. The medium in which the stories are being told has changed and the target demographic is somewhat different so the Teen Titans cartoon sports vast differences from the comics both visually and in terms of story content, but it remains inspired from the Wolfman/Perez era (with Marv Wolfman even writing one of the episodes for the new series). The Teen Titans are not just two-dimensional caricatures or stereotypes; even the aliens and demons on the team feel distinctly human.

    The action is intense, the artistic style is charming and bizarre, and the characters are ridiculously hilarious. The Teen Titans provide a powerful combination of attributes that will hopefully lend themselves to a highly entertaining and timeless show. The show conveys important messages and themes that are accessible to people of all ages. Teen Titans subtly deals with issues such as bullying and sibling rivalry in a way that is easy to relate to, but it does it in a fun manner that doesn't become boring or preachy. The show does not appear to be in continuity with any of the previous "DC Animated Universe" cartoons since its substantially different in both tone and thematic content, a welcome change of pace. As a show filled with massive potential, it seems probable that it will enjoy a long and popular life.

    Readers, be warned. From here on the remainder of the review contains specific details regarding the episode, so if you don't want to spoil the episode before viewing stop here.

    Anyway, onto the episode itself: Overall there wasn't a whole lot to the fairly linear plot. Essentially Slade asked the Hive Academy graduates to destroy the Teen Titans, the Hive kids ambush the Titans, dispatch Robin, and take over the Tower, Robin returns to help the Titans beat the Hive kids, and then Slade reveals that he was just using the Hive graduates as an elaborate form of sending a message the entire time. However, the merit of the story is not the plot but the manner in which it is told that makes it interesting and engaging. The witty and hilarious dialogue, feisty music, and fluid action scenes were what made the episode.

    As the primary villain of what appears to be a long story arc, Slade appears to fulfill his function well. Ron Perlman (Clayface from BTAS) does a fantastic job of portraying Slade as a dangerous, cunning, and mysterious individual with an equally sinister and somehow regal voice, attributes that are clearly present with a meager quantity of calculated dialogue at the beginning of the episode. Although we only see him once more near the end of the episode ("Who is Slade?"), his revelation helps him come off as even creepier and more manipulative, and we see the great care that he takes in his work (which seems quite similar to Batman, actually). While no Deathstroke, Slade is definitely promising to be an interesting villain and his impact on the episode despite his very brief appearance will most certainly make viewers eager for more.

    "Final Exam" does a competent job of balancing and developing all of the characters without making the dialogue seem extraneous or unnecessary. Robin's debut in the tower makes him seem like the mature mediator of conflicts while Starfire's naiveté in trying to deal with the argument is remarkably similar to that of many young children (give them something else and hope they forget about their problems). The pizza scene was also an interesting insight into the diversity of the team. The Titans resembled a squabbling family or a group of kinds deciding what to eat: Cyborg revealed himself to be a lifelong meat-eater and Beast Boy was understandably vegetarian ("Dude... I've *been* most of those animals!"), while Raven revealed her apathy by not caring what they got as long as they ordered soon (sort of like me) and Starfire got mixed up by the menu.

    Robin's demise itself wasn't all that frightening since we all pretty much knew that he was going to come back anyway, but the Titans' reactions helped show us more about their characters as well: Beast Boy chose to be in denial while Raven displayed far more maturity than most children have by indicating a preference for the truth no matter how harsh it is, which I feel is a wonderful character attribute to be showing to kids. While Robin's return was predictable, the appearance of the Hive graduates rather than Robin took me by surprise (how'd they get in so easily anyway?). After the Titans got booted out of the Tower, Cyborg's anger was interesting in that he provoked the other Titans into revealing to us the way that they deal with defeat: Beast Boy tries to lighten up the situation with jokes, Cyborg gets steamed, and Raven tries to stay calm and deal with things objectively.

    Although I'm no animation expert, the fight scene animation was very fluid and the battles were intense. If the fight scenes were left alone, they might have started getting dry and repetitive but the dialogue interspersed with the fights helped keep them captivating and even borderline silly ("What do you call an idiot with a rocket pack on his back?"). The Titans display a variety of powers and abilities with Cyborg seeming to serve as the strongman, Robin the martial artist and tactician, Starfire with the projectiles, Raven with a utilitarian ability for support, and Beast Boy serving as a wild card. Aside from Mammoth, the Hive graduates had an interesting array of abilities as well, particularly Jinx with her ability to cast "bad luck" spells which ultimately served to be her downfall. It was nice to see the Titans challenged in the Tower fight scene (formidable opponents keep things from getting dull), and the last fight scene was cute when we saw the titans finally using their abilities to their fullest potential, especially Beast Boy as a monkey tricking Jinx into harming herself, the hacking Batarang-esque object, and the coordinated attacks.

    As fun as the fight scenes were, they would have been sorely diminished if not for the wide range of different sounds and music that the episode featured. Unlike some of the other superhero cartoons, Teen Titans doesn't seem to stick to a single style of music but relies on an eclectic blend of tones and formats to convey the mood of particular sections of the episode. The soothing piano piece in the introduction to the episode emphasizes the casual manner in which these kids have been trained as killers so now their lives are being trivialized as their abilities go on sale in some kind of commercial, making the headmistress a despicable individual and an effective villain. In the initial battle the fight music promptly changed to accentuate a change in the attitudes of the combatants, and the mournful anthems when Raven and Beast Boy are telling the others about Robin's death help show their various methods of coping with the loss (such as Cyborg's anger and vehement self-hatred). While most shows lighten up the music or change the key during dramatic moments, the entire genre of music changed which served as an interesting technique that was undoubtedly effective.

    However, more than the music, fight scenes, or character development, the driving force of the episode was clearly the inherent hilarity of the entire situation. The comedic techniques employed in the episode kept it exciting and sort of served as a substitute of traditionally building up the suspense and excitement with a coherent plot. The episode started off with some humor as Cyborg angrily recounted all of the other stuff that Beast Boy lost and Raven getting irritated with their obsession over a pointless worldly device, culminating in an explosion of furry blue food and the hilarious punch line "Maybe we should go out for pizza". The author doesn't let up throughout the remainder of the episode, with the Titans cracking jokes and having funny exchanges all the way (such as their varied reactions to the Hive occupancy of the tower). The Teen Titans aren't the only ones with a sense of humor: The deliciously villainous (and bratty) Hive graduates trash-talk to the titans and crack lame jokes of their own. With preposterous scenes like the chaos in the Tower started by Cyborg's robotic hand (why did they need Robin to figure that out, anyway?) and other snippets of dialogue ("I guess, we really oughta be training for battles, tracking down clues, and trying to figure out who Slade is, huh?") almost parodies traditional superhero tales. The episode wrapped up nicely and gave us an idea of what to expect with a laid-back finish, using the interwoven subject of the missing TV remote to both start the episode and conclude it in a funny visual punch line.

    Overall, "Final Exam" was an entertaining peek at what promises to be a very different kind of show. The creators certainly deserve kudos for their guts in many of their divergent and non-traditional approaches to this series. They will most certainly take criticism for many of their decisions, but if all of the episodes sport the quality of "Final Exam" they will have done a wonderful job in my book.

    Cyborg: I guess, we really oughta be training for battles, tracking down clues, and trying to figure out who Slade is, huh?
    Robin: We will, but right now I'm just happy to be part of the team.


    "Sisters" provided some interesting insight into Starfire and her relationships with both her environment on Earth and her sister Blackfire. While Starfire's awkward-sounding grammatical structure can often become cumbersome and annoying, the episode generally does a good job of portraying her as the innocent newcomer to Earth. From the casual dialogue that revealed that she tried to eat balls of cotton to misinterpreting slang ("Diggin' the scene?"), the episode helped us feel Starfire being shunted to the side as her sister took center stage in a very organic fashion.

    While the plot was completely predictable, the episode's primary strength rested in the realistic portrayal of all of the characters involved and the strong characterization in general, largely due to the very natural feel of the dialogue. "Sisters" did an excellent job showing us the nuances of the Starfire/Robin relationship, particularly in the opening fireworks scene, the rooftop of the dance scene, and the final exchange at the top of the Titans Tower. Blackfire was also used to full effect in developing the other Titans. As we saw her play the Titans to keep them away from Starfire, we got glimpses at the nature of their personalities and their interests. Characters feel much more real when we know that they're video game fanatics like us, have a fascination with martial arts, or have a favorite cafe where they can recite poetry and be accepted (sort of reminds me of a place where some of my friends frequent sometimes). Even amidst all of the character development, the jokes kept coming ("betcha Cyborg can do the robot") and the situations were still funny ("You wanna pass me... but you can't pass me, you can't- you passed me!"). Also, the varying moods and tones of the episode were supplemented by the variety of music, with the dance section and the section where Starfire flies to confront Blackfire at the end being the most notable.

    Although the story involves aliens from other planets and intergalactic crime, the message of the story hits close to home: The underlying theme that runs throughout the episode is sibling rivalry. Children often feel as though they have to compete for the attention and approval of others to both their parents and in cases where their ages are close, also their peers. While Blackfire's motivations for winning the attention and respect of the Teen Titans were completely different (trying to keep them away from Starfire when she got caught as opposed to self-validation), to Starfire the end result remained the same. She felt as if she was being replaced by her sister and was of no value to anyone, an issue that kids often have to deal with. Essentially, the message of the story that every human being is unique, important, and valuable, and everyone is worth knowing regardless of their intelligence, skill, or personality attributes. Robin briefly touches on this meaning when he's talking to Starfire, but the writer has enough respect for the intelligence of the kids to figure this out on their own. While the plot itself may not have merit, the important message that it conveys by showing the importance of individuality most certainly does.

    The episode also raises the question of why Starfire left Tamaran to stay on Earth and why Blackfire was busy planet-hopping. In fact, many viewers may leave this episode wondering what the "origin" of the members of the Teen Titans are and how they came about to be in their current positions. While some origins may be difficult to translate from their original medium (such as Raven's conception which is a rather complicated and horrific ordeal involving an entanglement between her mother Arella and a powerful extra-dimensional being), many fans would demand that some form of a background story must be told. However, while the episode prompts us to think about the origins of these characters, it responds by telling us a great deal about the nature of the main characters in their current situation, possibly also conveying the message that it is not important where an individual comes from but who they are now and how they treat both people and life as a whole in the present.

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