Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo My Reviews 29 AUG 2008

Teen TitansAmerica and the Teen Titan’s headquarters, Titan Tower, is under direct attack by a strange, multi-coloured and seeming invulnerable foe that the heroes have dubbed Saico-Tek. A gargantuan effort is needed to stop the bomb-wielding Saico-Tek for good, but as he escapes their capture, he leaves a mysterious name for Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven to follow up on: Brushogan.

Everything points to Tokyo, Japan, and despite Beast Boy’s pleas for a holiday trip instead, Robin leads the gang on this important mission to the heart of this Asian mecca where the Teen Titan will have to resign themselves to acting like normal civilians and leave the heroics to the Tokyo Troopers under guidance of the highly decorated Uehara Daizo.

However, after countless attacks on the team and as individuals, enough is enough and the Teen Titans are forced into action – they need to find and discover this mythical Brushogun before he manages to destroy the team for good – the only problem is… how do you find a Japanese myth when you can’t even speak Japanese?

(Oh, and while you are at it, just what happens to love if you happen to be a full time superhero – even if you are just a teen?)

Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo is a 2006, direct to DVD/TV animated movie based on DC Comics’ Teen Titans franchise and is set in the milieu of the DC Comics/Warner Bros. animated TV series Teen Titans that ran from 2003 to 2006. The movie’s script is written by David Slack, head writer for the Teen Titans TV series and directed by Michael Chang, Ben Jones and Matt Youngberg.

Story element-wise, Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo is much like its TV series counterpart as there is equal focus on the teen hero action and adventure as on the character development and inter-character relationships. Because the movie is aimed at fairly young viewers, the plot and storyline are not overly complex and as such the movie doesn’t really hold all that much gripping viewing for older viewers. Still, the movie covers a couple of deeper themes and does make one or two points which all viewers should be able to pick up on, despite their age.

There is a lot of silliness in this movie and you either enjoy it or you don’t – no matter how deep or dark the story tries to get, it never loses sight of the fact that this is a children’s/young teen movie and as such adjusts the tone and humour accordingly. Still, despite the glaring age demography at which this animated feature is aimed at, the story still manages to provide a decent amount of entertainment, being action-packed, comedic, dramatic and even romantic all at once.

And just as a side note: With the movie being ‘based’ in Japan, the writers get to throw in tons of popular culture Japanese references that, while going over the heads of most younger viewers, does serve to entertain any of us older folk who may have picked up on the movie and that at least makes it a little more fun than what it might have otherwise been for us.

Visually, Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo goes for that simple, pseudo-anime style that Korean studios are churning out for American animated shows on a daily basis and the simple, exaggerated and very clean lines makes for a nice viewing pleasure that is easy to follow and can carry the various emotional and comedic moments through with great effect.

The actual animation is quite smooth for most of the ride and the choreography isn’t half bad either, meaning that the animators certainly didn’t skimp on the bits that they did decide to concentrate on. However, a couple of shortcuts are taken here and there, but it always done tongue in cheek anyway, suiting the film’s tone to a T.

One thing that I can however commend the artists on is most certainly the various backdrops employed throughout the movie, because quite frankly put there is some of the most beautiful digital ‘painting’ on display that you’ll ever find elsewhere. Look closely and you’ll see the marvelous textures and colours employed, particularly on the Japanese location scene changes, and its these little touches that elevates the status of Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo to that of a movie instead of just an extended television episode.

In keeping the link with the series on which it is based, the movie casts all the series’ voice actors in their original roles, with Scott Menville as Robin, Khary Payton as Cyborg, Greg Cipes as Beast Boy, Hynden Walch as Starfire, and Tara Strong as Raven. They all do a great job, but the show’s emphasis on the fact that the Teen Titans are all either children or very young teenagers means we get some really irritating and childish voices to endure for the films whole duration. But then, going with the film’s whole cheesy brand of humour in the first place, I guess this is exactly spot on.

The musical score for the movie is composed by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, and Lolita Ritmanis and while they really do come up with some great musical arrangements, I have to mention that there are certain parts in the movie where the music simply doesn’t seem to blend with the visuals at all. Still, overall the soundtrack is pretty solid and enjoyable, adding to the experience as a whole.

Honestly, Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo is certainly not the greatest of direct to DVD movies to ever leave the DC Comics/Warner Bros. Animated doors and certainly falls light years behind their other more established work like the Batman and Superman universe animated movies. It should however be found to be entertaining by the younger six to eight year old demographic (at which it is aimed at in the first place) as well as by those who enjoyed the animated series on which it follows.

It will pull a few chuckles and might entertain to a slight degree but it really does feel more like a longer than usual episode (and unfortunately not one of the better episodes at that) than a movie, and it is perhaps therefore a better idea to catch this one on television than actually going out to pay real money for it.

Unless of course your kid is actually standing in the store and begging you to buy it.


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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.