Sunday, 13 July 2014

Teen Titans Season 1 (2003)

A friend of mine is a big fan of the Teen Titans cartoon, so when I saw season 1 for a good price, I picked it up to take a look.  I can see why my friend recommends it: there is a lot to like.  That's not to say I didn't have some quibbles (at least with this season).  But let's start with the positives.

I like the art.  That's actually a fairly important thing for me in an animated show, though I am quite flexible in tastes.  I think the art and animation in The Simpsons is fine, for instance, and I don't mind the anime-esque elements included in this show, though some comics fans were upset by them.

I want to call out the character designs as a strong point.  They're clean and uncluttered.  I especially appreciate the fact that Starfire isn't sexualised (though they do drift that way with Raven, sometimes).

I also like the rogue's gallery they use: there are few 'signature' villains, but plenty of goofily off-beat ones, which fits with the show's intended younger demographic (yes, I am a 40-year old man watching a kids' cartoon.  I'm OK with that).

The voice-acting is also excellent, with the whole cast doing a good job.  The show also does a good job of giving the characters their own voices; different patterns of speech and behaviour.  Sure, they're pretty broad archetypes, but that can be very useful when you're packing five leads and a bunch of story into every 20 minute episode.

Where this season falls down a little, at least for me, is in its structure.  The opening episode is perhaps the weakest of the season, which is never a good idea.  It's also in the wrong place for another reason: it uses the old 'someone quits the team' superhero schtick, but you can't have a character quit two minutes into the first episode and expect anyone to really care.  We need to have engaged with the team as a team before that.  It's further let down by having the quitter just turn up again at the end of the episode to help, without doing anything to set up that return in-character.

The other structural flaw is in the season arc: it's featured in three of the first four episodes, and then only reappears in episodes 9, 12 and 13.  It should have been pretty spread out across the season, to my mind, as that would have created a better sense of continuity and payoff.

Overall, however?  This is a fun bit of light-hearted superhero frippery.  It's not got the substance of a Young Justice, but it's not aiming to be that kind of show.  If you just want some costumed hijinks, Teen Titans has you covered.

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