Television Review

Teen Titans is a 30-minute animated series on Cartoon Network (Saturdays at 8 PM) and WB (Saturdays at 8 AM). Its rating is TVY7. The show features some characters from DC comics who appeared in the comic of the same name. Most notable to the disinterested viewer is Robin, of Batman fame. Other core characters include Cyborg (half man, half robot), Raven (the daughter of a demon, she possesses mystical powers and telekinesis), Starfire (an alien, she has super strength, flight, and energy beams), and Beast Boy (he is able to shape-shift into various animals). The teammates live in their tower, on the bay, and generally hang out until it is time to protect the city.

In a number of ways, Teen Titans represented a departure from the cartoon series based on DC comics that had become a franchise over the past 10 or more years. First, is the art. The animated Batman series from 1992, established the mold that the later Batman, Superman, and Justice League titles would follow. Teen Titans went in a different direction, drawing heavily from Japanese animé influences. For those who haven’t had prior exposure, the style can be a little confusing, as individuals morph into smaller, more caricaturized versions of themselves in an attempt at comic relief.

The series also has a much more carefree feel to it. Slapstick, visual gags, and goofy behavior are present in copious amounts. Some episodes are hilarious from almost beginning to end. Others do provide a little drama, but at some point, the gags are bound to come out. This stands in stark contrast to the prior DC offerings that are generally quite serious, and at times even dark.

Plot is sacrificed for humor and action. Rarely are villains provided motivation for their actions. Generally they either attack the city, or the Titans, because… well, that’s what villains do. Action sequences are usually quite good in terms of animation and pacing. Regarding violence, you have standard mix of energy rays, hurling large objects, and some hand to hand action (usually Robin). Occasionally characters are injured (Robin broke an arm once), but usually robots and monsters take the beating.

One major drawback is the absence of positive adult role models. The team occasionally gets outside help, but this is often provided from peers. In fact, adults predominantly hold the adversarial role. Sometimes they do this by occupying parental and authority roles. Slade tried to force Robin into an apprenticeship, as a twisted father figure. Trigon, Raven’s father, has battled the team several times. Mother Mae-Eye brainwashed the team into accepting her as their mother, and Mad Mod decided to become their teacher. Another falling of the show is the focus on food. Ever since the creative minds who brought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from its underground comics roots to the mainstream, decided to make the turtles fiends for pizza, have super heroes targeted toward a younger demographic had a weakness for food. Generally Cyborg and Beast Boy engage in gorging for comic relief. Starfire has a proclivity to eat bizarre meals due to her extraterrestrial origin. Sometimes foods even take on a leading role as Beast Boy battled a living piece of space-tofu in “Employee of the Month,” and the team had to take down an army of gingerbread men in “Mother Mae-Eye.”

Generally the music is good. Most notable is the theme song, which was done by a Japanese pop group Puffy Ami Yumi. This provided a basis for Cartoon Network to launch a show about the song writing duo. The theme song rotates between English and Japanese at different showings. I suppose that, in combination with the Spanish speaking characters of Mas y Menos, add a level of multi-linguism found in few other cartoons, besides Dora the Explorer.

Besides the clever back door endorsement of the Puffy Ami Yumi franchise, other marketing endeavors include the usual suspects- a toy line, comics, some clothing, and DVD’s.

Overall, I find the show quite enjoyable. It’s quirky and occasionally the jokes hit home. Granted I’m a vegetarian, and a scooter enthusiast, as such Beast Boy’s commitment to veganism and his desire for a “moped” (which looks a lot like a Vespa P200 scooter to me) greatly appeal to me, so I might be a little biased to some of the gags. I also found the “Mad Mod” episode brilliant, as I have a soft spot for British youth cultures. As mentioned, the lack of positive adults, focus on food for cheap thrills, and limited plot and character development are drawbacks, but overall the balance is positive.

Review written by Michael Brody, M.D.
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