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 arcs. In part two, I’ll count down my personal favorite stand alone episodes.
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, and recreated some of the Teen Titans most classic stories.
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.
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 arc like the others did, which made her feel the least developed. Although she did at least have a good relationship with Robin that slowly progressed through the series, and that was definitely a highlight for both characters. In short, 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.
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. I say that because of all the members, Cyborg loves life the most. He almost lost it during the accident that transformed him in a cyborg, so now every moment of living is treated like the greatest gift he'll ever receive. 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.
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 arcs.
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.
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 arc for each season which revolved around a single team member. Season 1 is Robins arc, 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.
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.
Season 3 gets back to basics, as it gives us an arc revolving around one of our main characters, and 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 arcs 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.
Season 4 is Ravens story, and this is the best arc 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.
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 arc of growing from “boy” to “man”. In the episode “Homecoming”, we learn about Beast Boy’s back story, and that he was once a member of another team of hero’s called the Doom Patrol.
After Season fives finale 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 ...