Teen Titans Go!: Mission to Misbehave (DVD)

“Guys, what if we ate the crazy fries…in crazy ways?”

There’s a phenomenon among anime/manga creators called “chibi.” This is when artists take the regular characters and draw cutesy, kid-friendly versions of them. These have sometimes become popular enough to spin off into their series. Now, the anime-inspired Teen Titans series from 2003-2008 is back, in a comedic chibi style, Teen Titans Go!

The Teen Titans are a group of mismatched young heroes who fight crime and save the world on a regular basis. We don’t see any of that in Teen Titans Go! Mission to Misbehave, because the concept here is showing viewers what they do on their days off, and what mischief they get into in their spare time.

The previous Teen Titans series is an odd beast. With a relentless hyper tone in both action and comedy, it started out clunky but improved every year, as creators eventually figured out how to tell engaging, entertaining stories within the over-the-top style they’d established. With this new series focusing only on the comedy half, I feared everyone involved had learned the wrong lessons. But then, something unexpected happened.

Seeing the show’s art style, I sat down expecting the whole thing to be merely “kiddie.” Fortunately, although the visuals are chibi, the writers appear far more influenced by classic Looney Tunes. The first episode begins with a riotous parody of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and I surprised myself by laughing out loud. The “Bullwinkle factor” is in full effect, with a ton of jokes and references that will fly right over kids’ heads but will have parents and other adults chuckling. This is a similar anarchic spirit of the Warner Bros. classics, an “anything goes” spirit of comedy, poking fun at pretense and tearing down any seriousness. Teen Titans Go! can’t compete with the legendary work of Chuck Jones and company, but the influence is still felt.

The gang’s all here, with the same voice actors as the previous series, Scott Menville (ParaNorman) as Robin, Khary Payton (Young Justice) as Cyborg, Hynden Walch (Adventure Time) as Starfire, Greg Cipes (The Middle) as Beast Boy, and Tara Strong (Ben 10) as Raven. The actors come to this thing with huge enthusiasm, and their familiar voices give the show a nice “the band’s back together” feel. Animation enthusiasts will also be glad to hear from popular voice actors Lauren Tom (Futurama) and Kevin Michael Richardson (Avatar: The Last Airbender). There’s also a random-but-delightful guest voice performance from magician Ricky Jay (The Prestige).

This two-disc set features all twenty-six episodes of the first season, each about 15 minutes long, which originally aired in 30-minute two-parters or as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Universe block. Colors are appropriately bright and vivid, with smooth clean animation. No problems with the audio, perfectly clear and booming. Zero extras.

Teen Titans Go! is strictly for the fans, as those who never saw the previous Teen Titans series won’t “get” a lot of this. Additionally, those who hold the Marv Wolfman and George Perez edgy-for-it’s-time Teen Titans comics in high regard will be even more nonplussed by this silliness. Get past that, though, and you can find a cartoon that, although low-calorie, provides some solid laughs.

The Verdict

Better than it has any right to be.

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