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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Teen Titans - The Complete First Season
Teen Titans - The Complete First Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // February 7, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted February 20, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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First things first: there has never, ever, ever been a cartoon theme song as cool as the one that kicks off "Teen Titans." The tune - a bouncy, catchy mix of Japanese pop and classic California surf rock - comes from Puffy Ami Yumi, the pop duo who has since gone on to earn their own animated series on Cartoon Network. Hear it once, and the rest of your day will be spent humming it. Not even the old "Spider-Man" theme was this awesome.

The theme song is the perfect fit for this series, which combines pop art, a lightning fast pace, goofy humor, and a heavy dose of anime inspiration. This mix has been dubbed "murikanime" by the series' creators (named in part after the show's co-producer, Glen Murikami), and it's what makes "Teen Titans" so much fun; even if you're older than the target audience (the film's simple, oversized, bold-outlined adventures are definitely built with the younger viewer in mind, a noticeable step away from Warner Brothers' more mature skewed work of the 1990s), you'll still thrill to each episode, even if it's only to marvel at the eye catching visual style of the artwork.

And the animators here aren't afraid to take risks with their near-anime renderings. The artists revel in such Japanese methods as "super deformed" (in which a character may have an oversized head and an undersized body), but they do so with a wise amount of restraint: the anime look is let loose only in times of heightened emotional or physical exertion. Characters have a shouting match, and they become far more cartoony than they were a second ago. Somebody's embarrassed? Let them literally shrink. And the kinetic energy of a fight sequence is heightened by the flashy simplicity that the artistic style can provide.

(I should note that the earliest episodes of the series crank up the anime a bit too much for its own good, but this turned out to be just another case of a new series still finding its footing. Within a few episodes, the proper balance had been achieved.)

For those unfamiliar with the Teen Titans, the team began in comic book form as a sort of sidekicks supergroup until its popular revamping in the 1980s brought in some fresh faces. It's this revamping on which the TV series is based, although the producers here take some major liberties. (Starfire is mostly unrecognizable from the giant-haired version I recall from my youth, while main bad guy Deathstroke is here referred to as Slade, perhaps because the original name might be a smidge much for six-year-olds to handle.) The roster of the Titans, at least for this series, is: Robin, the boy wonder martial arts expert whose true identity is never revealed, meaning he could be Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or some entirely new Robin (by the way, the only mention of Batman that I could catch was a quick reference to Wayne Industries); Cyborg, a half-jock, half-robot; Beast Boy, who can turn into any animal he wishes; Starfire, an alien princess who shoots energy bolts from her hands and who has yet to fully understand the ways of this world; and Raven, a goth chick who's into meditation and whose emotions manifest themselves as energy around her.

Oddly, we never get full-on origins for these characters, nor do we learn how they originally teamed up and got to live in and work out of a giant skyscraper shaped like a big T. But the flow of the series is such that no such origins are necessary. In fact, they would only slow down the action, which is brisk and wild and mostly light-hearted. (Even in the darker episodes, the writers make certain to keep the comic relief flowing, as not to weigh down the show.) We're given just enough information to keep up satisfied, but not so much that things come to a halt. Remember, this series is built for kids, and they'd rather get to the action, picking up the pieces along the way.

Painting in broad strokes is usually a downside of a story, but here, it works. "Teen Titans" goes big and broad and bold, to heck with the subtleties, and it actually works. The writers know how to balance the swift action with the crisp dialogue (Starfire's constant comic mishandling of the language has yet to grow stale), and the stories, while zany and far-fetched, become involving enough to capture the hearts of all ages.

The DVD

So Warner Bros. finally releases "Teen Titans: The Complete First Season," but there's one hitch: the complete first season has already been released. All thirteen episodes can be found on two separate releases, "Teen Titans: Divide and Conquer" and "Teen Titans: Switched," which went so far as to conveniently be labeled "Season 1 Vol. 1" and "Season 1 Vol. 2." This new two-disc set merely packages both volumes into one box, shuffling episodes from "Switched" onto the first disc of this new set in order to fit all the bonus features onto the second disc. (More on that in a bit.)

The episodes contained here are:

Disc One: "Divide and Conquer," "Sisters," "Final Exam," "Forces of Nature," "The Sum of His Parts," "Nevermore," "Switched," and "Deep Six."

Disc Two: "Masks," "Mad Mod," "Car Trouble," "Apprentice Part I," and "Apprentice Part II." (Note: "Mad Mod" is, for some unknown reason, listed on the DVD menu and DVD insert under the title "Detention.")

For complete rundowns of these episodes, check out John Sinnott's reviews of "Divide and Conquer" and "Switched" - although I do disagree with him about "Mad Mod," which I felt was actually one of the season's best episodes, a zippy retro blast.

Video

The full frame (1.33:1) presentation makes the most of the animation style, with popping colors and crisp bold lines. It is, most likely, the exact same transfer that we got on the previous discs, and those were very nice indeed.

Audio

Solid and clean, the Dolby 2.0 stereo brings out the grandness of the action and the silliness of the comedy in great style. Plus, that theme song really gets to rock. 2.0 stereo dubs are also available in Spanish and French. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are available.

Extras

My favorite extra here is the one located on Disc One. Click on "Special Features" from the main menu, and you get directed to a page telling you that all the special features are located on disc two. I'm hoping this was just them covering up for a last minute change of plans that once had them using extras on Disc One. Either that, or somebody at Warner Bros. is messing with my head.

But I digress. All the extras found here are leftovers from the earlier releases. All of them. (Well, maybe not all: there are two Easter eggs on Disc Two that I don't think were on the previous discs, but I may be mistaken.) In fact, some of the kid-friendly games from the earlier releases are absent here - no big loss, as they were space wasters in the first place. But still, if you're going to make a big fuss about releasing a full season set, causing fans who already have all the episodes on disc, you might want to actually put the effort into making the double dip worth it.

For those without the previous discs, the extras here are:

"Finding Their Voices." The cast, producers, and casting director Andrea Romano discuss the work that went into finding the right talent to match the characters. Curiously, Hynden Walch, the voice of Starfire, makes no appearance here (although they do discuss the character and Walch's work).

"Comic Creations." A rather enjoyable piece that details the Titans' comic book background and the team's transition from page to screen, with appearances from Titans comic creators Marv Wolfman and George PĂ©rez, who seem quite happy with the different direction the series took. This twenty-some minute feature goes into far more detail than one would expect from a here's-how-we-did-it bonus for a cartoon.

"Sneak Peek At Puffy Ami Yumi." An utterly useless 37-second montage of clips from "Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi," the Cartoon Network series that features everyone's favorite Japanese girl duo pop group. I love the band and their show, and even I was peeved by this as an "extra."

"Puffy Ami Yumi Featurette." That's the most clever title they could come up with for this? Anyway, it's another throwaway piece, this one finding Ami and Yumi (yes, their band name is their names) being "interviewed" by the Titans. At 13 minutes, this one rambles on waaaaaay too long.

"Puffy Ami Yumi Music Video." It's the "Teen Titans" theme song! OK, so the video isn't very good, but at least it's a way to hear the full-length version of the tune. T-E-E-N! T-I-T! A-N-S! Teen Titans! Let's go!!

"Toon Topia: The Hiro's." In typical Cartoon Network fashion, we get two episodes (a two-parter that's actually only about eight minutes total) of another cartoon - although this one has yet to air on the network. "The Hiro's" features a crimefighting couple who seem to live in the same highly stylized world as the Powerpuff Girls and Dexter (of his laboratory fame), and it's sleek and fun enough that the grammar nerd in me is willing to forgive the clumsy apostrophe in the title. Don't think I'd watch more than eight minutes in a row, though.

Rounding out the set are some trailers for other Warner Bros. cartoon releases, as well as the aforementioned Easter eggs.

Final Thoughts

If you already have "Divide and Conquer" and "Switched," there is absolutely zero reason for you to pick up this new set, unless you're so desperate for shelf space that one keep case will be better than two snap cases. For you, Titans fan, I say Skip It.

But if you haven't yet picked up those discs, this season set is a terrific introduction to the series, and it makes more sense to buy this instead of spending more on the two previous releases. While these episodes aren't as solid as the following seasons, there's still enough to see here, both in storytelling and artistic terms, to make this an essential purchase for any comics buff. For you, this set comes Highly Recommended.
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