Friday, May 19, 2017

Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo (2006, Movie Review) (Part 3 of 3)


     This month I've been reviewing the animated 2003 TV series “Teen Titans”, and basically have been describing it as not only my favorite Superhero show, but my personal favorite animated TV series I ever had the privilege of growing up with. After all these years it’s still one of my favorite shows, animated or not. The one downside is that the show was cancelled before it could get proper closure. The last episode closed the series on a rather depressing note, with several questions and plot threads left unresolved. So it seemed that my favorite series was done for good, just with an awful taste left in my mouth. Then much to my amazement, it was announced that the show would be given one last chance to shine with an animated direct to TV movie. Initially there were going to be at least three movies based off the “Teen Titans” show, but for whatever reason we just got one film in 2006 titled “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo”. This was it, one last chance to give my favorite animated Superhero series some finality, or at the very least end the show on a more positive note. Dose it live up to the qualities of the series, or is this about as standard an outing as they get ... honestly, it’s a bit of both.


       Just a quick recap, the Teen Titans are a team of young hero’s that protect Jump City. The team mostly consists of smaller side-kick characters like Robin, Star Fire, Best Boy, Cyborg and Raven. Our movie is presumably set after the events of the final episode, but it's very self contained and really doesn't follow-up on any events from the show. We begin with the Titans tour under attacked by a heavily armed assailant called Saico-Tek, who’s under orders from a mysterious villain in Tokyo. This prompts our hero’s to journey to Japan, discover who wants them dead, and bring him to justice. Their investigation leads to an urban legend revolving around a villain named Bruchogun, who may or may not still be alive. Also upon arrival, our hero’s meet a team of Tokyo troopers, lead by Commander Daizo who insists that Bruchogun was a myth, and that the Titans should leave at once. This news divides the team as Robin is determined to find his foe, while the others want to take a much needed vacation. Star Fire in particular wants to take advantage of their time, and confess her feelings to Robin, who she’s been in love with sense the beginning. Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows of Tokyo is their mysterious adversary, who aims to turn the city against our visiting hero’s. Robin is framed for murder, the troopers start hunting them down, and several other monstrous villains start coming out of the woodwork. Thus the chase is on as our hero’s try to clear their name, and unravel the mystery of Tokyo’s shadowy super-villain.


       In short, there’s nothing too special about the plot, as it’s basically another story of Robin rediscovering what it means to be a hero, and there's an admittedly obvious reveal as to who the real bad guys are. It’s still engaging to watch, and is laced with several details that make it appealing for us long time fans of the show. Robin was my second favorite character of the series behind Raven, so I’m all for a movie dedicated to his character. One minor issue is that this felt like season 1 Robin, not the hero who’s grown and matured over five years. Another downside is that the other characters like Cyborg, Beast Boy and Raven are given much less to do. For a “Teen Titan” movie, it really should have revolved around the team as a collected whole instead of one select character. I wouldn’t mind too much, except this is my last chance to spend time with these characters, and I just feel that they weren’t all given proper involvement. Let me put it this way, if I told someone that Raven is one of my top three animated characters of all time, you really wouldn't get a good picture as to why from this movie alone. The biggest problem by far is that an animated movie was a perfect chance to bring some much needed closure to some of the shows plot threads that never got resolved. Instead the movie gives us an average self-contained story that would have made for a perfectly passable episode. On that note, the film definitely feels like a 20 minuet episode from the show that got stretched out to movie length. As a result, there’s a lot of filler, and some repetitive detours. Most disappointing of all is that the comedy isn’t that great. By contrast, the comedy from the show was outstanding, and still cracks me up as an adult. The best comedy from the show came from how our hero’s interacted with each other, but that same charm isn’t present because our hero’s are mostly separated throughout the whole film. There is at least one stand out funny moment with Beast Boy singing a special version of the theme song, and it's very amusing. 


    Now with all that said, I’m still very glad I have this movie as an add-on to the series. The shows overall charm and appeal is still present in the movie, and it’s plenty engaging to watch. The action scenes have a lot of energy, and some fairly well choreographed animated fighting. I’m so glad it stuck to its roots, utilizing the exact same animation style, with no added CGI fluff. The only difference is that the artistry is more detailed, as well as more colorful. The show was already quiet colorful, but the movie is like an explosion of bright color. It really helps give Tokyo its own identity and atmosphere. Now the show already had some influence from other Japanese works, even utilizing a theme song by Japanese artists, so the movie felt right at home with its Tokyo setting. I loved spotting all the little details, and references to other Japanese works. For example, there’s a scene when a disguised Robin steals a high-tech motorcycle, gets into a car chase on the freeway, and it feels like a visual call back to the 1988 anime “Akira”. Then there’s the obvious “Godzilla” reference when our hero’s battle a giant lizard monster, which even walks like a guy in a rubber suit. 


    The best thing about this movie by far is Robin’s romantic relationship with Star Fire. This is one case in which the movie actually gave some much needed closure to something from the TV series, and it’s extremely satisfying. This relationship between Star Fire and Robin was always one of my many favorite aspects of the show, but it was always very light. We knew they had feelings for each other, but they never committed to a relationship of any sort. In this movie, we finally see them getting close, confessing their feelings, and starting a real relationship. It’s also the only time the movie acknowledges an event from one of the episodes. In the origin episode titled “Go” we see how Robin and Star Fire first meet through a kiss, and the movie fills us in as to why that happened, so she could learn English through lip contact. Now Star Fire wants to kiss him for real, which is teased several times through the film until the ending in which they share an admittedly cliché, but oh so beautiful slow-motion kiss in the rain. As a long time fan of the show, this was the one thing that gave the movie its relevance. Aside from their big kiss, the two actually have some really good scenes together, and I just love the little details on display. There’s a great scene when the two have an emotional conversation on a rooftop, revolving around whether or not their relation gets in the way of their responsibilities as hero’s, and it’s moments like this that allow me to forgive the films average plot.     


     Another one of my favorite stand out moments is a flashback revolving around the origin of the mysterious villain Bruchogun. We learn that he was an artist who tried to bring his drawings to life through some form of Japanese dark magic. As a result he was transformed into an ink creature with the ability to create various panted warriors and monsters at will. This scene is just dripping with a haunting atmosphere, and some gorgeously dark imagery. I sadly have to confess that the villains in this movie were mostly underwhelming. That’s not to say the villains are “bad”, there just very average and don’t leave an impression. The TV show featured some of my all time favorite super villains from any animated program I've ever seen, so I expect a movie to give me more when set to those high standards. I will say that some of the designs are kind of cool. The assassin Saico-Tek looks like an aquatic robot-ninja, which is kind of unique, and really like the design of the evil cat-girl.


     Of course we have the obvious twist reveal that Bruchogun wasn’t the real villain, he was a slave to the police commander, who was taking credit for apprehending the very criminals he created. This was a predictable twist from the start, but it at least has some relevance to the theme of the movie. We have Robin, a hero rediscovering what it means to be a hero, versus a villain parading himself as a hero, which gives them some conflict. The climax is a big action packed brawl with giant monsters and our hero’s fighting armies of painted warriors. It’s admittedly not their greatest final battle, but the music is riveting, in fact, it’s the best fight music of the whole series. 


     So, dose the “Teen Titans” first and only movie live up to the standards of its series, or even hold up after all these years? Well personally, I can’t help but adore this movie. It’s still the same charming characters, and it’s still the same tone and feel I love from the show. It’s also a positive note to end the classic series on then the joyless final episode was. Plus, it was just very satisfying to see Robin and Star Fire finally tie the knot. Unfortunately, there’s not enough here to recommend to anyone not familiar with the series. While “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo” can be very action packed and fun, it’s still not strong enough to win new fans for anyone that hasn’t seen an episodes of the show. Let’s compare this to a really great TV show adaption like “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker”. If you’ve never watched “Batman Beyond”, it won’t change the fact that “Return of the Joker” is an excellent movie that can be viewed on it's own, and I personally think it's one of the greatest Batman movies ever made. Even though I have nostalgia for “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo”, I can’t call it anything special, and I feel that the show set the bar high enough for a truly great movie. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll like this fine, but if your just looking for an exciting animated superhero film, I’d actually recommend either of the current stand alone Teen Titan movies from Warner Brothers, like “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract ” or “Justice League vs the Teen Titans” instead. With that said, I'll always love my "Teen Titans", and while the movie isn't perfect, it's still a more then satisfying add-on to the series.  


                              I give “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo” 4 stars out of 5.

The End



Teen Titans: My Top 10 Favorite Episodes (Part 2 of 3)


     In my last post I reviewed the animated 2003 TV series “Teen Titans”, and basically described it as not only my favorite Superhero show, but my personal favorite animated TV series I ever had the privilege of growing up with. After all these years it’s still one of my favorite shows, animated or not. However, in my last post I only covered the principle characters, as well as every season’s main story arch. Now it’s time to look at some individual episodes from the show that I couldn’t cover last time. I’m going to keep it simple and rank my personal top 10 favorite episodes of the “Teen Titans” TV series. I won’t be including any episodes from the seasons main story arches as I’ve already covered them, this will just be a countdown of my favorite stand alone episodes.


 #10 Sisters (Season 1) 


   In this early season 1 episode, we’re introduced to Star Fires evil sister Black Fire, who aims to replace Star as a member of the Teen Titans. She’s also framed Star Fire for various crimes on other planets, which get the attention of some ruthless alien robots. Aside from an action packed plot, and a thrilling showdown between Star Fire and her wicked sister, this is actually a very sweet episode revolving around Star just trying to fit-in on earth. This is when we were getting introduced to all our hero’s, and it was a clear sign that the alien princess was going to have trouble fitting in. The result is some well placed comedy, and even some genuinely emotional moments. This episode was also important for establishing Robins loving relationship with Star Fire, which will be another highlight throughout the shows run.  


#9 Go! (Season 5) 


Just before season fives final arch took shape, we fans were treated to a special origin episode showing how this small team of heroes first came together. As Star Fire flees a race of sinister aliens, she stumbles onto earth, and begins making a scene. She first gets the attention of Robin, followed shortly by Beast Boy and Cyborg who are both ready to fight. At last Raven shows up to be the mediator. Through a series of events, the five heroes slowly become close friends and join forces to battle the invading aliens. Its great stuff, and a real treat to see how so many things first took shape. We see Cyborg drop his signature catch faze for the first time, we see how Robin’s relation with Star Fire first took shape, and we see that Titans tower was built from a downed alien space craft. While I wish this could have been a two part event, it’s still very satisfying to see how these young heroes first came together, and the action is all pretty good.


#8 How Long Is Forever? (Season 2)


The premiere episode of season two gets things started on a very high, and even emotional note. At the Titans tower, it’s one of those days where the friends just can’t get along, and a tense argument breaks out. Star Fire, being the emotional center of the group, fears that this may be the end of their friendship as she knows it. Soon, during a fight with a time traveling villain, Star Fire finds herself sent to a dark and brooding future where her former friends are no longer together. Thus, she tries desperately to seek out her friends, go back in time and prevent this awful future from ever happening. This episode subsequently features Robin take the form of Nightwing, the premise is great, and the finally is one of the most touching the show has to offer. 

     
 #7 Nevermore (Season 1) 


This is the first Raven centered episode, it hints at her dark side, highlights her friendship with the other team members, and has quiet the creative premise to boot. Upon discovering an enchanted mirror in Ravens room, Beast Boy and Cyborg are transported to a dark dimension of sorts. Turns out, this dark realm is actually Ravens mind, and we meet various parts of Ravens personality along the way. Just before our hero’s can escape, there engaged in a tense battle with Ravens demonic father Trigon. Aside from being a great character centered episode, with a unique setting, and great action, this is also a very funny episode. Ravens various personalities lead to some very funny moments, her interactions with the team are great, and even the setting of Ravens mind has a funny personality in of itself. 


#6 Date with Destiny (Season 2) 


When a new villain called Killer Moth threatens the city with an army of mutated killer insects, he demands that the city declare him the new ruler, and on a side note, he forces Robin to take his nasty doubter Kitten on a date to the prom. This episode is a perfect blend of exciting action and comedy. We have the Titans battling a variety of different insect monsters, while also watching Robin in this funny position of taking the villains doubter for a night out. It’s all good, but it makes my list of personal favorite episodes for one reason alone ... it is firkin hilarious to see Star Fire get jealous. Holly Cow, watching Star Fire loose her cool over this nasty girl taking advantage of Robin is a sheer joy to behold, which leads into an equally amusing cat fight between the two. There’s also several nice little details in this episode. I like that we finally see our hero’s out of costume for once, I like the variety of different insect monsters on display, and it’s a nice little progression of Robin and Star Fires relation. 


 #5 Revolution (Season 3) 


Throughout the shows run, we had a lot of really silly, goofball villains, and I think the funniest by far is Mad Mod, voiced by the great Malcolm McDowell. He’s a comedic British villain bent on reshaping America in his own image. In the season 3 episode “Revolution”, he launches an attack during the Independence Day celebration, takes Robin captive, and steals his youth for good measure. Now our four remaining Titans struggle on a way to take down their adversary without the aid of their team leader. It’s a different conflict for our heroes to be in, and there’s a great message on how to make compromise when faced against improbable odds. Aside from all that, I think this might just be the funniest episode of the whole show. Sense we have a British villain taking center stage, there’s lots of references to famous British comedy, most especially Monty Python. It’s become a tradition for me to watch this episode every 4th of July, it packs some of the best laughs, has great character moments, and of course it further highlights one of the shows funniest villains.  

      
#4 Stranded (Season 4) 


While investigating a broken down space station, our heroes are suddenly attacked by a savage alien monster. In the ensuing battle, their vehicle gets damaged, our hero’s get separated, and find themselves stranded on a hostile alien planet. The premise lends itself to some great outer space action, but first and for most, this is another one of my favorite “funny” episodes. This episode features some of the greatest Beast Boy and Cyborg moments as the two try to repair their downed ship. Of course this episode marks a significant turning point in Robin and Star Fires relationship. It’s cute and all, but their relationship is also laced with some brilliant comedic moments. The two go back and forth on whether or not Star Fire is in fact his “girl friend”, and the two openly discuss how they feel for each other. It all builds to a satisfying finally in which the two team up to defeat there alien attacker. This episode seems to have a little bit of everything, it’s funny, romantic, action packed and highlights the show when it’s at its best. 

  
#3 X (Season 3) 

Even though Robins story arch concluded way back in season 1, his journey of understanding what it means to be a hero still continues throughout. One of his standout episodes comes early in season 3, when he encounters a new villain barring the exact same Red X costume he wore in an effort to draw out Slade. So now it’s like Robin is facing and confronting his own personal demons in an external form. Robins inner monologue heard throughout the episode give great incite as to why he’s such a compelling lead hero. Red X himself made for a great new addition to the series, and was the most mysterious of the Titans rouges gallery. He was a walking enigma, we didn’t know who he was under the mask, we didn’t know if he had any real connection to Robin or how he came to be, which only got us more excited to see him. The highlight of the episode comes during the climax in which Robin and Red X team up to rescue the Titans from another villain. It’s like for one brief moment Robin finally made peace with his inner demons, and it helped set the stage for further encounters’ with this exciting new character. 


#2 Revved Up (Season 5) 


Long before I was thrilled by “Mad Max: Furry Road”, or discovered the comedic genius of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, I had this awesome and hilarious little “Teen Titans” episode. When Robins secret possessions are stolen by a new villain, a wager is made that they will be given away as a prize to anyone who can beat him in a race. Thus the whole episode is one big epic car chase, with our heroes racing an army of the shows main reoccurring villains, who are all eager to claim Robins secret goods. Most notably, this draws out Red X, who engages Robin in a deeply thrilling motorcycle chase. Once again there’s some great comedy provided by Cyborg and Beast Boy, who throughout the chase are battling a silly gas station on wheels. This might just be the most entertaining episode of the whole series, it’s got the comedy, high-speed excitement, and a great premise to boot.   


Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some quick Honorable Mentions ... 


Mad Mod (a.k.a "Detention") (Season 1)

Cyborg the Barbarian (Season 4)

Fear Itself (Season 2)

The Quest (Season 4)

Switched (Season 1)

Spellbound (Season 3)




 #1 Haunted (Season 3) 


After the villain Slade perished at the end of Season 2, it seemed that the Titans greatest threat was finally gone for good, but Robin refuses to believe that he could be gone that easily. Soon, Slade starts making sudden appearances all over the place, and engages our hero in some brutal fights. To make matters worse, this is Robins fight alone, as none of the other Titans can see or hear Slade. This is probably the darkest episode of the whole series, with some really tense moments, Robins anger turning him into a threat to his friends, and Slade himself has never been more terrifying. We also have a great mystery slowly being unraveled, as to how this ghostly apparition of Robins greatest foe came to be. There’s a stand out moment when Raven enters his mind, and we get a terrific little montage of Robins history leading to this moment. Even when Robins battle seems won, the episode ends on an ominous high note, indicating that Slade may return for real. This was the episode that proved how versatile the show can be. We’ve had some really lighthearted and funny episodes before, but this episode was dead serious.

That covers my personal favorite episodes, in my next post I’ll be reviewing the animated movie “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo”.

To Be Continued ...  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Teen Titans: A Look Back at the 2003 TV series (Part 1 of 3)


        Let’s re-wind back to the early 2000’s, my child hood generation of animated programming, and an age when super hero shows were at an all time high. My favorite show at the time by far, and still one of my all time favorite programs ever is the 2003 TV series “Teen Titans”. Obviously I’ve grown up sense the early 2000’s and watch shows like “Game of Thrones”, “Breaking Bad” and so forth, but “Teen Titans” is just one of those special rare animated shows I still love watching even as an adult. This will be the first in a three part series of reviews. For this post I’m going to cover all the principle characters, and walk through all the main season story arches. In part two, I’ll count down my personal favorite stand alone episodes. Finally in part three, I’ll review the animated movie based on the show. The series revolved around five teenage superhero’s who are the protectors of Jump City. The series also came out at a time when Warner Brothers had their own DC animated universe revolving around shows like the Batman, Superman and the Justice League, but “Teen Titans” was separate from those shows, with its own set continuity, and its own unique style. This was my ideal superhero show that I just couldn’t get enough of, it payed tribute to Japanese anime and broughy new life into the superhero genera. It was unlike any other of its kind, finding a flawless balance between the high stake, action adventures and a cartoony sense of hummer that was all its own. It could be laugh out loud funny, and it could be dark and serious. Sometimes it provided deep character-based stories that often delved into the struggles of growing up, other times we could just kick back and have fun with them.

      This style was very appropriate for this specific team because unlike the X-Men or the Justice League, these heroes were still kids and this show took full advantage of the fun things that wide eyed, youthful teenagers do. When they weren’t out saving the world, they’d be playing video games, going out on pick-nicks and just enjoying life to the fullest. It made me want to be a part of the team more than any other super hero series out there. Even the villains ranged from sinister and frightening to comedic and silly. While the shows style was way out there, it still stayed true to the source material, recreating some of the Teen Titans most classic stories.
Both the action sequences and the animation were all top notch, and of course that blasted theme song was as catchy as they got. The comedy packs a much bigger punch than you'd expect from a show of this sort. Raven in particular has some of the best one liners. More than anything, it was the characters that kept bringing me back. I honestly think this show has the best cast of any superhero TV series. I loved their individual relations, I loved their banter, I loved their arch’s and they just created this atmosphere that made the Titans feel more like a family then just another team of hero’s. So before I cover all the highlights of the show, lets first take a closer look at the individual characters.


Robin 

First we have Robin, the honorable team leader. This is the character that initially drew my attention to “Teen Titans”, as I thought the show may have some tie-in with Batman. Alas, the Dark Knight never makes an appearance, but it really doesn’t matter. Now to be honest, Robin never interested me as Batman’s side kick, but as the leader of this team, he somehow became one of my favorite superheroes. This portrayal of Robin has the traits you’d commonly see from heroes in a Japanese anime. He’s got the ambition and drive to do good, but also has a lot of angst, and it’s his struggle of understanding the value of heroism that make him intriguing.  While Batman was a very dark hero, this shows version of Robin is noble, but with flaws he has to work through. For all his mistakes, I still cheered for him, and he had no shortage of pure awesome moments. 


Star Fire 

Next we have Star Fire, who’s the heart and soul of the team. She’s an alien princess who can fly, has unlimited strength, and can fire green energy beams from both her hands and eyes. In short, she has all the traits we’d associate with cool superheroes, but she’s also one of the cutest animated characters I’ve ever seen. She’s an explorer in a strange new world, which adds another layer of innocence and charm to her. She can also be really funny as she frequently gets confused by earth behavior, and gets our common phrases mixed up. The only downside is that Star Fire never had a story arch like the others did, which made her feel the least developed. Never the less, Star Fire was one of the many great breakout characters of the show. She was cheerful, compassionate, always acted like a cute, innocent child, and could always put a smile on my face.   

    
Cyborg 

Then there's Cyborg, and as his name would suggest, he’s half man, half machine and all awesome! He’s usually the smart tech guy of the team, but can put up a good fight with his enhanced muscles, and an energy gun that’s built into his hand. Despite his tough exterior, he’s actually got a fun, playful personality, and is probably the liveliest member of the group. He always shouts “Buya!”, and loves to celebrate every victory with sweet food. He also has his share of deep human emotions, and serves as a nice role model at times, proving to have a heart of gold underneath the circuitry.


Beast Boy 

Next we have Beast Boy, who’s the jokey goof of the team, and has the power to transform into any animal. By default, he is my least favorite member of the team. He’s not “bad”, I just don’t like him as much as the others, and his solo episodes tend to be my least favorites. Still, he has his funny quips, and even some good story arches.   








Raven 

At last we have Raven, a shadowy gothic hero, who harnesses dark magic. To call her my favorite of the Teen Titans is a serious understatement, because Raven is honestly one of my top 3, all time favorite animated characters. Every superhero has their own motivation or back story as to why they become heroes, and Raven’s always stood out as one of the most multi layered, complex and intriguing. Initially created by a demonic villain to bring about the end of the world, Raven feared the harm she would inevitably bring to others, but decided to utilize her life to whatever good she can possibly achieve, and thus became a super hero. She’s a powerful witch, with hex casting charms, but her greatest strength and power is “hope”, hope that that she can accomplish more good then evil. Even with that said, she still keeps quiet to herself and is still very dark. However, despite being so cold and mysteries, she is still brimming with personality, and has some really funny remarks for just about any situation. Voiced by the incredibly talented Terra Strong, Raven might just be one of the funniest and most charismatic animated hero’s I’ve ever seen. More than anything Raven is a great role model to follow in regards to how one persons “hope” can bring about something pure from a dark place.


The Villains 

Throughout the shows run was a whole gallery of memorable villains, some were funny, some were stupid, some were menacing, and some were main threats till the end. Most of the shows villains were all gathered under one organization called the Brother Hood of evil, but there were some stand out’s. There was the evil cult leader named Brother Blood, who aimed to control everyone’s mind and reshape the world in his own image. Then there was Ravens demonic father Trigon, who sought to bring about the apocalypse on the whole galaxy. 
But let’s cut to the case and discus the shows big breakout villain ... the masked criminal known as Slade. This was a different class of villain, Robins personal enemy, and honestly, one of the all time greatest animated villains ever. The great Ron Perlman supplied the voice, and was downright chilling. He was a villain shrouded in mystery, who knew that the most effective way to take out the hero’s is by turning them against one another, and usually in very violent ways. Unlike the other bad guys that aimed to rule the world, Slade aimed for the very heart and souls of our hero’s. He aimed to poison their minds, and have them follow in his evil legacy. As a result, he brought a level of personal pain and loss to our hero’s on nuclear levels. It’s largely thanks to this shows portrayal of Slade that he’s become one of my all time favorite comic book villains.  
   
    Now let’s look at the show as a whole, it had 65 episodes that lasted over 5 seasons. The majority of the episodes were self contained, but there was always a main story arch for each season that revolved around a single team member. Season 1 is Robins arch, and revolves around his struggle to be a hero without crossing the line. This first couple episodes feature Slade sending various obstacles, challenges and cryptic messages to the team. His schemes get more and more threatening, to the point where Star Fire almost looses her life. This accelerates Robins obsession to catch Slade before he can do anymore harm. In the mid season episode “Masks”, Robin begins masquerading himself as a villain called Red X in an effort to draw out Slade, but his foe still remained one step ahead of him. Robins desperation to become Red X is the closest our hero comes to crossing the line, and worse, almost looses his friends in the process, as they no longer trust him. In the two part season finally titled “Apprentice”, Slade secretly implants microscopic death machines in the titans and threatens Robin that if he doesn’t join him, he’ll kill off his friends from the inside-out. Now Robin is forced to become the very thing he fought against, and engages his team in various battles. My favorite moment of all is when Star Fire stands her ground against Robin, and puts him to the test to see if he really is evil. It all builds to an exhilarating finally where Robin challenges Slade, and proves himself a hero by making a sacrifice move in an effort to save his friends. In the end, Slade spares his life and escapes, the titans are set free, and Robin regains his status as a heroic team leader. This is one of the shows best story arches, and personally my second favorite behind season 4. The conflicts between our hero and the villain were engaging, the battles thrilling, and the emotional struggles between our team members definitely hit home.  


     Season 2 revolves around a new Titan character named Terra, and young teenage girl with the power to control the earth itself. She’s instantly welcomed to the team, and for once it’s kind of cool to have a sixth Teen Titan. Even Beast Boy forms a cute little relationship with her, and the two start dating. Terra gains the Titans trust on several missions, but there’s still this lingering feeling of doubt and dread with her presence. In the seasons best episode titled “Betrayal” it’s revealed that Terra was an agent working for Slade the whole time. This episode features some of the best dramatic moments of the series, and sets the stage for a riveting finally. In the two part final titled “Aftershock”, Terra aims to kill off the Titans one at a time, and with no regrets. The only hope left is for Beast Boy to reach out to her, and convince her to make the right choice. In the end, Terra turns on Slade, rescues her new friends and saves the city, but this time it actually comes at the coast of her own life, ending the season on a very somber note. Slade too meets his demise falling into a pit of lava, and ending his rain. This season had some sensational action, and one-upped the drama, but it still wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor. Personally, I just didn’t care for a season revolving around a one-shot character as opposed to one of our five principle heroes. 


    Season 3 gets back to basics and gives us an arch revolving around one of our main characters, this time its Cyborg’s story. It’s great to have a season revolve around one of our main Titans again, but the down side is that our other four hero’s are hardly seen this time, unlike the other season arches in which the whole team still stay involved. As the season begins, Cyborg goes undercover to infiltrate an evil organization called the HIVES, and discovers that the leader is brainwashing the minds of his students to do his bidding. It’s here that we meet the malevolent cult leader Brother blood, who becomes the shows new main villain in Slades absence, although he doesn’t hold a candle to his predecessor. Once Cyborg is discovered, Blood offers him a chance to become human again, in exchange for his services. Cyborg refuses, destroys his base, and thus we have a new rivalry between a team hero and a villain. Cyborgs new obsession to catch Blood propels him to leave our heroes and lead a new team of young titans called Titans East. Blood soon gets the drop on them, takes control of their minds, which forces them into a confrontation with the original Teen Titans. It’s cool to have a finally with heroes battling heroes, but I just didn’t care for the new team that much. In the end, Cyborg gets into one final showdown with Brother Blood, and shows that his humanity comes from his spirit, rather than his organic components. Brother Blood is defeated for good, the Titans East become new allies, and Cyborg returns to the team. It’s overall a very good arch, but it’s personally my least favorite of the series, as it features a mediocre villain, and lacks involvement from our other heroes.

     Season 4 is Ravens story, and this is the best arch of the whole series by a mile. Right from the first episode titled “Birthmark”, it was a clear indication that this season was going to be the darkest, most urgent, most compelling, and most character driven thus far. It’s revealed that on Ravens birthday, a chain reaction would be set into place, leading to the resurrection of her demonic father Trigon, and the death of all life on earth. There’s a lot of mystery and mythos being explored and discovered, which leads to some terrifying places, and the animation has gotten a lot better. In the episode titled “The Prophecy”, our hero’s find an old library where Raven is meant to be sacrificed to her father. What fallows in an epic battle with some terrifying spirits. Trigon had made an appearance before in season 1, but this is where he took full rain as the new main villain, and provided our hero’s with the greatest challenge they’ve ever faced. To make matters worse, Trigon resurrects Slade from the grave to be his faithful servant, but Slade has his own malevolent plans. Even though Slade is no longer the main villain, he still owns the show, and is fleshed out into an even more interesting anti-hero of sorts. The 3 part final simply titled “The End” is the stuff of legend, honestly one of the greatest season finals I’ve ever seen from an animated program. Every one of our hero’s gets involved, there’s a dooming yet thrilling atmosphere that sustains throughout, some of the shows best action takes place, and through it all is a resonant theme of hope, and how ones hope can shape us into who we are. This arch further establishes why Raven is my favorite character from the series, and her climactic showdown with Trigon gives me chills every time. In the end, Raven is victorious, Trigon is vanquished, Slade escapes never to be seen again. the whole universe is saved, and our hero’s celebrate, while looking to the future at new beginnings. It’s just the perfect ending to the best season, and could have been the absolute best way the end the show.



      Of course there was one last season, and while season 5 couldn’t reach the same impactful scale of its predecessor, it at least tried, and was a worthy final outing. This was Beast Boy’s season, giving him an arch of growing from “boy” to “man”. In the episode “Homecoming”, we learn about Beast Boy’s back story, that he was a member of another team of hero’s called the Doom Patrol. After failing a mission, he left to join the Titans, but now in present day, our hero has the chance to put things right. He’s successful, and regains respect from his old allies, but it comes at the coast of the team making some lethal new enemies called The Brother Hood of Evil. After their first loose to the Titans, the Brother Hood retaliates by assembling an army of every single reoccurring villain from the show. The rest of the season splits up our hero’s as the recruit various new young Titans to join in their war against this new aliened army of evil. The Brother Hoods sinister leader is called The Brain, an appropriated title considering that he’s just a brain in a jar. The Brain will be the last main villain of the show, and in my opinion, he’s the stupidest by far. Thankfully, the evil Brother Hood make up for that with a wide variety of new main villains. In the episode “Trust”, we meet Madame Rouge, the Brother Hoods most lethal member. She engages both Robin and a new Titan named Hot Spot in a nail biting game of cat and mouse, which leads into one of the villains big turning points of the season. As the arch wraps up, the villains launch a global attack on all young hero’s, and take the majority of them prisoner. All that’s left is for Beast Boy to assemble his own small team of lesser appreciated Titans, and rescue their comrades. It all builds to an epic final battle with all hero’s from the show battling all the villains, and it is arguably the most stunning final battle of the whole series. While it’s still not as powerful as the season 4 final, it is still pretty darn epic. Unfortunately, this still wasn’t the end of the series.

     After Season fives finally wrapped everything up in a perfect little bow, there was one last episode titled “Things Change”, and it completely spoiled everything. This episode was meant as a launching pad for a potential sixth season that never happened, and thus we have a series finally that raises all new stakes and all new questions that never get resolved. Some mysterious white skinned creature attacks, the majority of the Titans chase after it, and we never see them again, heck we don’t even know if they beat the thing. The remainder of the episode focuses solely on Beast Boy who’s following a school girl that bears a striking resemblance to Terra from the second season. Whether it’s really her back from the dead or some look alike is never explained, but it does lead to an important moment for Beast Boy to grow up, and move on with his life. There’s also a completely random scene with Beast Boy getting attacked by a robot version of Slade, which also raises several questions that never get answered. This episode also has a very joyless atmosphere, ends the series on depressing note, and is subsequently my least favorite episode of the whole show. There was a special 12 minuet short called “The Lost Episode”, which was basically another goofy Beast Boy adventure involving a stupid new villain called Punk Rocky. At last there was the animated movie titled “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo”. This movie had its flaws, but was a welcome add on to the series, and at least closed things on a more positive note.    


     Honestly, I could just keep talking about this series all day, because there are still so many great highlights that I haven’t even touched on yet, but I think I covered all the important stuff. I’ll review the movie in more detail later this month. Up next I’ll be posting a list of my top 10 favorite stand alone episodes of the show. Personally, I feel very privileged to have grown up with this series. Back then, I didn’t even know that Teen Titans were a real comic book, so this series helped expand my comic book knowledge. There have been great superhero shows before, and plenty great ones after, but nothing has recaptured that same magic I experienced with “Teen Titans”. The only other animated TV show that I’ve ever considered on par with “Teen Titans” was “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, and that wasn’t even a superhero show. Also, there are still some other super hero shows I still love including “Gargoyles”, “Wolverine and the X-Men”, “Batman” and “The Spectacular Spider-Man”, but they still come in second when compared to “Teen Titans” ... my all time favorite super hero show, and one of my all time favorite TV programs, animated or not.

 
                           I give the 2003 TV series “Teen Titans” a perfect 5 stars out of 5.  

Stay tuned for part 2, I’ll be counting down my top 10 stand alone episodes of Teen Titans.  
To Be Continued ...