REVIEW: 'Teen Titans: Final Exam' & 'Sisters'

Wed, July 9th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV Film
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

The inaugural "Teen

Titans" episodes debut on Saturday, July 19th at 9pm EST and CBR News

was provided with a preview of the first two episodes, courtesy of Comics2Film's

Rob Worley. Joining CBR News for the review is retailer Arthur Lender, senior

staff member of the "Mind's Eye Comics" in Minnesota and he's been in

the business for over four years.

Please Note That This Review Contains Minor Spoilers

Arune: I've been looking forward to this cartoon for a little while, as

I've been a die-hard Titans fan since I read my first Wolfman/Perez "New

Teen Titans" comic when I was 5, but some of the previews had made this

show seem a bit too juvenile for me. Now I know the show is aimed at the ages

6-11 crowd, which makes sense from a marketing perspective I guess, but the

fanboy in me hoped that there'd be some resemblance to the classic Titans comic

or the great new series by Geoff Johns & Mike McKone.

Arthur: I have been a fan of the

DC animated series "Batman: TAS" since it began. Coming into "Teen Titans,"

I hoped to find that these characters were given the same all-ages

gateway-to-the-comics treatment. As Arune says, this show is aimed at a pre-teen

audience (ironic given the name of the series) and that focus certainly shows in

the definite Japanimation approach. Not only are young kids being targeted, but

their love of shows like "Dragonball Z" and "Yu-Gi Oh" has

certainly inspired the feel of "Teen Titans." Children watching this

new series will not find anything similar to it on the DC shelf at the comic

book store, which is unfortunate.

EPISODE 1: "Final Exam" written by Rob Hoegee & directed by

Michael Chang.

Arune: With Glen Murakami, producer of "Justice League" and

"Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" as the main creative voice on the

show, I'd hoped this show might have the broad appeal that the talents behind

the show have aspired to create. The first few minutes of this show nicely

introduced the main villains, H.I.V.E, and a foe called Slade, who I'm sure many

comic readers will recognize. Then we have the theme song by Japanese band Puffy

YumiAmi, which made me smile and had me raring to go. I enjoyed the first five

minutes after that, with verbal sparring and humor between the Titans, who sadly

received no real introduction and appear as a formed team, but after that my

interest faded.

Arthur: I'm going to have to disagree with Arune. I

thought the introduction of H.I.V.E was fairly lame. This scene, the first in

the episode, begins what is probably the most uninspired animated series

soundtrack to date. Elevator music has nothing on this stuff. The members of

H.I.V.E. are as badly conceived as they are badly animated, but at least they

have an introduction. As Arune says, the Teen Titans banter aimlessly before

they meet their H.I.V.E. foes. There are a few characteristic traits that

surface (Raven is dark and broody, Changeling and Cyborg are the comic relief),

but that does not an introduction make. I will agree, however, that the theme

song is pure fun. It's very catchy and I would not be surprised to hear kids hum

the theme as they come to my store.

Arune: My problem with the introduction of the Titans is that they're

just goofballs- very likeable mind you, but totally incompetent as a fighting

team. Starfire steals this show completely with her strange vernacular and

Raven's brooding is fun, but when danger arrives, the team can't function

without Robin. In fact, at one point, they're saved entirely by Cyborg's arm,

which doesn't follow the internal logic of the show, because Cyborg himself

(with two arms, mind you) couldn't defeat one opponent. There's also a fake

death scene of Robin that isn't transitioned well. It'll leave you wondering why

no one searched for Robin and how the team escaped from their foes. I agree with

Arthur on one thing: the fights in this episode seemed completely dry and devoid

of life, partly because of the musical score I'm sure, but also because so much

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depended on scenes with speed lines instead of backgrounds. It was very


Arthur: It's at this point when you question whether or not this

episode serves its function as the pilot for a series. With no attempt at making

the audience empathize with the members of the Titans, their leader disappears

in what is supposed to be a dramatic moment. It seemed to me that Robin didn't

so much disappear, but took this moment to get himself back to Gotham City to

film more "Batman: TAS." Alas, that was not the case and we are all

diminished for it. All in all, and keeping in mind that "Teen Titans"

is aimed at children, the pilot episode was an exercise in irritation. Today's

youth is more intelligent than ever and will be bored, maybe even insulted, by

this episode. The question is: will they come back for more? I hope so given the

increased quality of the second episode.

Episode 2: "Sisters" written by Amy Wolfram & directed by

Alex Soto

Arune: Ah, the opening. If you watch this show for only one reason,

see the opening credits at least once. There'll be comparisons to anime with

this show- even the producers are doing it- and I do believe the first episode

employed too many exaggerated aspects of anime like huge eyes, the over done

damage and wacky hairstyles (and I say this as a proud otaku), but getting Puffy

YumiAmi was the best thing the "Teen Titans" crew did. With this

second episode, things begin with a quieter and more reflective moment between

Starfire and Robin that's tender in that way only cartoons can do.

And then we see teamwork. Honest to goodness, well animated and well scored

teamwork between the Titans. It's enjoyable and capped off with a hilarious line

by Starfire. "No more chasing now, please" indeed. Ladies and

gentleman, the Teen Titans have arrived.

Arthur: They have indeed arrived, but they aren't always easy to stomach. The

anime styling seems more of an ill-natured financial decision than a creative

one. "Batman Beyond" was largely animated by a Japanese studio and

thus there was a fusion of the two styles of animation. That was unique;

"Teen Titans" is derivative.

The story, on the other hand, shows potential even from the beginning of

"Sisters." The plot of this episode has Starfire's sister, Blackfire

arrive on Earth for a visit. She quickly befriends every member of the Titans.

The character moments are handled well and for the first time the viewer

actually begins to care about the fate of this strange super-team. Robin is

portrayed as a born leader, Starfire as a nave and innocent foreigner. Their

connection is quite heart-warming until the pink phallic tentacle monsters

arrive on scene reminding the viewer that bright colors and anime goofiness is

the bread-and-butter of "Teen Titans."

Arune: Y'know, I don't mind. It's a kid show. It's targeted to younger

viewers and I don't mind if this isn't as in-depth as the "Teen

Titans" comic coming from DC. There's a sense of fun, a sense

of internal logic, a great lead couple in Starfire and Robin, both of whom are

fun characters and there's a brisk pacing to this episode that allows every

character to be somewhat explored. From the video game playing to off comments

about hobbies, it's a great way to define these characters and it's ensured that

I'll be tuning in again. If this episode is an indicator of things to come, I'm

in! I can turn my brain off and enjoy a youth oriented approach to some of my

favorite fictional characters. This isn't supposed to be Shakespeare: but at the

same time it shouldn't leave the viewer bored (like the first episode did). I

felt this episode did a good job of appealing to the core children's audience

and adults who might be watching it as well. I just fear that those watching the

first episode might never get to this fun romp.

Final Word

Arune: I won't claim to be the target audience for this show and so I

can't imagine I'm going to be the best judge of this show's potential success.

That said, I'm a comic fan and a part of some of this program's audience and

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really wish the first episode had been more in the vein of the enjoyable, light

hearted time that was the second episode. The comic book fans might be surprised

at how different this is, but I think the second episode warrants giving this show a few more episodes to develop.

Arthur: At the end of the day, I think we are dealing with gimmick

television here. Whatever good comes of the "Teen Titans" series, it won't be

because it was expertly conceived but because some talent surfaces despite DC's

attempt to break into the anime market. I just can't see a clear creative reason

for the "Teen Titans" animated series to exist and I highly doubt

comic fans will warm up to it without a major revamping of the concept. Children

go through popular cartoon series as fast as they are put out, so without an

appeal to all audiences the "Teen Titans" could have a rather bleak

future. "Justice League" sticks to the all-ages formula and has no

problem keeping the interest of adults as well as kids. Parents will not want to

watch "Teen Titans" with their children and the connection to the

comic book source material has been severed conceptually. "Pre-Teen Titans


Regardless of how these two reviewers perceived "Final Exam," don't miss this newest DC animated series on Saturday, July 19th at 9pm EST and "Sisters" on Saturday, July 26th, only on Cartoon Network (thought it will be rebroadcast on Kids WB! at some point).

Special Thanks to C2F's Rob Worley.

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