When fans of Japanese anime turned on the tube to check out the Teen Titans, an anime-influenced animated series based on the DC Comics superhero team and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, they raised their fists in protest, calling the series a sad imitation of the genre they loved so dearly. The whiny, high-pitched theme song is performed by J-Pop duo Puffy AmiYumi and alternates between English and Japanese lyrics. Throughout each episode are the classic “sweat drop” and “irritated nerve” symbols representing the states of the characters — expressions that you usually only find in a Japanese anime. Many fans of American comics and the worlds of DC and Marvel cried blasphemy as well, calling Teen Titans an unforgivable perversion of their beloved American comic universe.
Despite the hate from both sides, Teen Titans has been quite successful and is one of the most enjoyable series I have ever watched. The characters are fun; the plots for the most part strike a nice balance between serial structure and engaging depth; and the references to pop culture from Studio Ghibli to Super Friends to Monty Python always get me to slap my knee.
As an Asian American, though, I can’t help but feel a kindred spirit with the show as it received intense criticism from opposing fan bases. It reminds me of how I’m always referred to as American by Asians and as Asian by Americans. I just can’t fit into their pigeonholes very well.
Moral of the story? Be your awesome, complex, hybrid cultural self, and you, too, can release a successful DVD box set.