In anticipation of next week's big-screen release of the Batman epic film The Dark Knight, July 8 saw the direct-to-DVD issue of Batman: Gotham Knight (reviewed here), a moody, inventive anthology film with Japanese anime filmmakers presenting their interpretations of the Caped Crusader. The same day also saw the release of another DC Comics video adaptation with a distinct anime flavor: Teen Titans: The Complete Fifth Season.
Airing on Atlanta's Cartoon Network from 2003-2006, "Teen Titans" featured a theme song by perky Japanese twosome Puffy Ami Yumi and a peculiar but effective blend of serious, arcing episodes and zany comic relief. Funny scenes would draw on manga-style caricature: throbbing veins would appear on angry characters' heads, hearts would bubble up for lovesick ones, and even odder exaggerations would appear that gave the show's humor a fresh, funny attitude. The show's fifth and final season is my favorite, as it pits the Teen Titans against an iconic supervillian team called The Brotherhood of Evil; pop references come even more quickly (including nods to Doctor Who's Daleks and The Incredibles). Plus, it reinforces my theory that the show's creators patterned the five Titans after the main characters of John Hughes' beloved 1980s film, The Breakfast Club.
Both the teen crime fighters and the high school detention servers comprise a quintet sharply delineated types, each of which is familiar from high school experience (or movies and TV shows about teen life). Sometimes the comparisons fit perfectly, others are more of a stretch, but here they are. For convenience sake, Ill use the Breakfast Club actor names rather than dig up their characters.
Raven = Ally Sheedy. This is the most obvious one. Although Sheedys character is not an extradimensional witch and Raven is not a basket case, theyre both Goth stereotypes to a T, with dark clothes, dark attitudes and deadpan wit. Plus they dont say much and tend to keep to themselves. (Incidentally, Ravens voice actress said she based her performance not on anyone youd think of, but on Zelda Rubinsteins diminutive paranormal investigator from Poltergeist you can hear a similar quaver in the voice if you listen for it.)
Beast Boy = Anthony Michael Hall. OK, shape-changing, green-hued Beast Boy isnt a brain like Halls Breakfast Club character, but theyre both the geeks of the group, and the characters have nearly identical nervous, self-deprecating senses of humor. Possibly hes more like Halls Farmer Ted role from Sixteen Candles.
Cyborg = Emilio Estevez. Estevez was the jock; Cyborg had been a jock before the crippling accident that led to the mechanical replacement of much of his body. True, Cyborgs personality is a little more confrontational, so you could make a case that hes more like Judd Nelson in the movie. (Incidentally, Ill bet if The Breakfast Club were remade today, the five students would be a little more diverse.)
Starfire = Molly Ringwald. Well, Starfire is an alien princess and Ringwalds character is identified as the princess of the bunch, and Starfire is outgoing, apparently likes the mall and would probably be popular. Their personalities are kind of dissimilar, though. Since Starfires a alien and has kind of the comedic awkwardness of a foreign exchange student (she was apparently written that way for the show), she might be more accurately pegged as the Teen Titans equivalent to Sixteen Candles Long Duck Dong.
Robin = Judd Nelson. OK, this is might be a reach, since Robin doesnt make an obvious criminal. But on the show, hes not the wisecracking sidekick that he used to be with Batman (ceding the comic relief to the other characters). Hes actually got a pretty significant dark side: on the first season he masquerades as a thief to entrap the mystery evil-doer Slade, and later, Slade blackmails him into becoming his criminal apprentice. The Robin vs. Slade dynamic represents teen independence vs. adult authority, which is basically the same as Judd Nelson vs. Paul Gleasons nasty school principal. Plus, Robins the leader of the Teen Titans, and Judd Nelsons character, if not the stated leader, is the catalyst that spurs the Breakfast Club into action.