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So, let’s leave all talk about whether or not this movie was any good off the table. I saw it, I hated it, but if I’m being honest, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t have to accurately represent the books, it just had to be good on it’s own merits. Some people say it did, some people say it didn’t, whatever. With this post, I’d like to take advantage of my knowledge of this 7 book trilogy(8 if Wind Through the Keyhole counts), which I read very recently, and compare what happened in the books to their interpretations from the movie. This is for people who’ve read the books and want to know what they’re about to get into, and it’s also for people who’ve seen the movie and want to know how literally everything that happened in it was more interesting in the source material.

There are heavy spoilers below, but I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve already finished AT LEAST the movie or the book series.

1: In the movie, Roland is black. In the book, he was white. This doesn’t really cause any problems, especially since Idris Elba does a fantastic job with the role, but it would have conflicted with one of the book’s late sub-plots, as Roland was supposed to be an alternate universe doppleganger for Stephen King himself.  Since the movie ended on a fairly conclusive note, I think we can safely say this plot point isn’t going to happen any time soon.

2: Opening line
In the movie, when Jake is waking up from a dream, we hear “The Man in Black fled across the Desert and the Gunslinger followed,” which makes no sense, and comes out of nowhere, since we have no idea who’s saying it and we never even see either of them in the desert. In the book, that line is not a psychic message, it’s from the book’s own text, and it describes exactly what the two characters are doing right at the beginning, as the Man in Black flees and Roland follows him.

3: First two books
In the movie, we start things off with the introduction of Earth Jake. In the book, he’s not introduced until book three, as he’s Roland’s third companion. In fact, there are two entire books that are skipped to get to that point, with Roland chasing Walter, going through a village on the verge of ruin, meeting an alternate version of Jake, moving through a tunnel full of mutants, sacrificing that version of Jake, walking miles across a shore line, pulling his first two companions into his world, etc.

4: Jake Chambers
In the movie, Jake is obsessed with drawing pictures of the other world, and everyone thinks he’s crazy. In the books, he keeps having visions, but he keeps them to himself, except for one poem that he writes, that his teacher mistakes for a work of genius. He leaves his home on his own accord, and never returns.

5: Jake’s parents
In the movie, Jake’s dad is dead, a heroic fire fighter, his mother is highly stressed, and his step-father is a dick. In the books, he has his original parents, and his father is a cocaine-abusing hard-ass who wants him to succeed. He actually lays off a bit towards Jake’s departure, believing all of his studying to have over-exerted him.

6: The Man in Black
In the movie, The Man in Black is a constant presence, and is actively involved n everything. In the books, he’s barely present, and only appears on rare occasions, including two different areas of Roland’s backstory. He’s also revealed to have far more names and identities than Walter O’Dim, including John Farson and Randal Flagg.

7: Eddie and Susannah
In the movie, these two flat out don’t exist. In the books, Eddie is Roland’s first companion, a drug addict in deep trouble with the mafia. His second companion, Susannah, is a wealthy black woman with a split personality and two missing legs. The two fall in love in oddly quick fashion and wind up married by book three.

8: Roland’s poisoning
In the movie, Roland is stabbed in the shoulder by the tail of a generic monster. In the books, he’s attacked in the beginning of book 2 by a giant mutant lobster who snaps off two of his fingers and one of his toes, leaving him poisoned. He has to walk for miles along the coast, slowly dying of infection, before finding his companions to help him pull through.

9: Susan
In the movie, Roland’s revenge is set forth by the murder of his father. In the fourth book, Wizard and Glass, which is my favorite of both the series and the entire King bibliography, we go back to his teenage years, where he’s patrolling a western-like town, and the interferences of The Man in Black lead to the death of his first true love, local girl Susan Delgado.

10: The Spheres
In the movie, Walter uses a glowing orb to spy on Roland. In the books, these are far more heavily fleshed out, with a few of them appearing in the story. The black one especially acts as a particular nuisance in The Calla when they find it buried beneath the town church. In his teenage years, Roland discovers the pink sphere, and after the murder of his lover, becomes obsessed with and entrapped by it.

11: The Beam
In the movie, Roland’s journey seems a bit aimless, and you wonder why he doesn’t just sit on his ass and let Walter come to him. In the book, he’s following a specific path that he calls The Beam, that only he and other Gunslingers can sense and follow.

12: Arra Champignon
In the movie, this character is a see-er who helps to decipher Jake’s visions. In the books, she’s not alive in the current timeline, having been assaulted and murdered by bandits after leaving Gilead to birth her child with her outsider husband, against Roland’s father’s wishes.

13: The Calla
In the movie, Jake and Roland spend some time at a random village that’s eventually ransacked by agents of Walter. I’m not sure what they were going for specifically, but the village is reminiscent of Calla Brynn Sturgis, or The Calla for short. It’s a farming village that the low men send soldiers called “wolves” to steal children from every generation or so, returning them as adults with their minds ruined. In an homage to Seven Samurai, the Calla hire Roland and his companions to help them defend themselves against this generation’s onslaught, which they’re able to do with only a couple of casualties. Interestingly enough, the Wolves have been designed after elements of Keystone Earth’s pop culture, and are basically robots designed to look like Dr. Doom, with Lightsabers and Sneetches as weapons.

14: Ka Tet
In the movie, Roland pairs up with Jake because he proves useful, and they develop a bond way too quickly. In the book, all of Roland’s companions… Jake included… Are companions that were chosen by destiny to be part of his ka-tet, a band of warriors that are more like a family. They are all extraordinary individuals from previously ordinary lives, and they all have Gunslinger potential.

15: Oy
Speaking of which, Jake has no animal companion in the movie. In the book, he befriends a Billy Bumbler, a wild animal native to Outworld, who has limited mimicry related speech capabilities, and names him Oy, after his parroting of the word Boy. I know this may sound kitschy, but the Bumbler actually proves himself useful and even a vicious warrior on several occasions. He even dies defeating the final villain.

16: King Arthur
In the movie, Walter tells us that Roland is descended from King Arthur, and his guns are made out of Excalibur, despite this information being completely irrelevant to the new version of the story. In the books, we’re given several hints about Roland’s lineage until it’s eventually confirmed, and none of it is expository or out of place.

17: The Rose
In the movie, there’s a rose painted on a wall at the end. In the books, the rose is an important plot point, as Jake is drawn to it in an abandoned construction lot, as it’s a direct reflection of the status of the tower. Roland and his ka-tet have to go out of their way to protect it, as killing it would destroy the tower.  There’s a long story arc about two of them going back to earth, forming a fake company called the Sombra corporation(which is also briefly referenced in the movie) and buying the lot to keep it safe.

18: Pepsi to Coke
One of the stranger changes on this list is Roland drinking a Coke on the subway. In the books, his first taste of an Earth beverage is a bottle of Pepsi, which he has an animated reaction to the overbearing sweetness of, and which somehow helps to heal him of his poisoning for a limited time. He’s also given tuna fish sandwiches, which he calls tooter fish. Oh, also, he calls sandwiches ‘Popkins.’ Just felt like adding that.

19: The Rat Man
In the movie, Walter randomly yells at someone named The Rat Man. In the books, this is likely supposed to be Gasher, a character who kidnaps Jake and takes him hostage when Roland and his companions are crossing a downed bridge, thus setting off the Lud story arc.

20: Charlie the Choo-Choo
In the movie, while Roland and Jake are traversing the ruins of an old theme park, we see a decrepit train with a happy face on it. This is likely a reference to Charlie the Choo-Choo, a children’s book character whom Jake discovers in the book, and winds up being a hint towards Blaine the Mono, an enemy they’d have to contend and put up with between books three and four.

21: Jake’s development
In the movie, Jake’s development is a joke. He gets one shooting lesson, he possesses a shine(see The Shining), and even though he’s little more than a damsel in distress in the final act, Roland proclaims him a Gunslinger. In the books, his “Shine” is actually a psychic connection that ALL members of Roland’s ka-tet share with one another, although Jake’s is stronger than anyone else’s due to his unnaturally high perception and senses. He does learn to shoot very quickly, but up until he’s suffered, matured and lost a close friend, he doesn’t start to come into his own as a Gunslinger.

22: Connections
In the movie, there are a few connections to King’s other works. We see Cujo, there’s a portal marked 1408, the Shine is mentioned, there’s a Rita Hayworth poster shown. In the book, there are connections all over the place, with a few major ones being Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot, Ted Brautigan from Hearts in Atlantis, Patrick Danville from Insomnia, etc. Even Stephen King himself is a character in the later books.  Mostly, though, connections to the Dark tower are found in other books, rather than in the Tower novels themselves.

23: Your father’s face
In the movie, we get snippets of the lore of the books, including Roland’s mantra about forgetting the face of your father, but it isn’t explained. In the books, this mantra is more of a reference to the traditions and beliefs of the Gunslingers and the line of Eld, sort of in the same line as America with it’s founding fathers. If you fail to behave in a manner that upholds and honors the traditions and teachings you were raised on, it’s said that you’ve forgotten the face of your father.

24: Walter dies
In the movie, Roland kills the Man in Black in a fateful encounter full of Hollywood bullshit. In the books, Walter isn’t even killed by a main character… He’s taken by surprise and eaten by a newly introduced villain, a human/spider hybrid named Mordred, who was recently born and is, if you excuse the spelling, HONGRY. Yep, sorry, but the Man In Black goes out like a bitch by something that a group of children could have conceivably punched and kicked to death.

25: Sequel?
A lot of this movie’s inaccuracies are blamed on the movie being a sequel to the books. This does hold a little weight, as the book series ends with Roland being forced to repeat time and begin his journey anew due to him forgetting to hold onto a crucial item from his past, but this doesn’t explain how his entire backstory seems to have been erased from the lore of the movie. The sequel excuse COULD explain the lack of Eddie and Susannah, but it can’t explain the removal of Susan Delgado from his youth. Oh, and did I mention Walter manipulated him and his father into murdering their own mother and wife, Gabriella Deschain? The fact that Roland is motivated by the murder of his father in this version completely derails the sequel excuse. Complete bullshit.

That was 25 of the differences between the movie and the book series, and I don’t think I included even half of the relevant ones. If you can think of a change that I missed, feel free to post it in the comments below! Thanks for joining me, and may you have long days and pleasant nights.

When people talk about their favorite anime, they’re normally talking about their favorites in regards to series and movies. What I don’t often hear about is their favorite OVA specials. Well, stand-alone OVAs, sure… Be it the old classic three-to-four episode titles that were popular during the eighties and nineties, or entire shows that were unable to release on TV due to their excess of mature, graphic content. But today, we’re not talking about any of that. We’re talking about series relate OVAs.

I’ve always had a fascination with these kinds of OVAs, whether they come as bonus episodes or entire bonus story arcs, and especially regardless of whether they came before, during, or after the series. Being that they aren’t considered a direct part of the series they come with, they’re given their own slots on Myanimelist and are able to be judged separately from the source material, giving them the ability to surpass said material in some circumstances.

And so, I’ve decided to list off a few of my favorites, in an effort to explore a concept that I honestly doubt anybody’s ever done before, and if someone has, I’d love to see a link to it. In the mean time, strap yourselves in for an extravaganza, where we’ll be looking at the best OVAs that anime has to offer. Well, I say that, but it really is just my opinion. Some of them are from anime that I hate, some of them are from anime I love, but they’re all ovas I enjoy watching.

Also, for various reasons I won’t be including any OVAs that also worked as the end of their series, unless I can somehow do so without spoiling anything. Otherwise, you’d definitely see the Steins;Gate ending here, and Wolf’s Rain would be unquestionably #1.

 

10: Another the Other: Inga

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I hate Another. I appreciate it’s great production values, but the story and plot make my blood boil. The mascot character and her goth gimmick were completely pointless to the mafia ghost plot, and the two only managed to connect in ways that were insulting to both parties. So how did the OVA managa to salvage some dignity out of all that crap? Well, first of all, they cut the school plot out of it almost completely, leaving only a couple of brief references, none of which left any hint to the Final Destination feel of the series. Not only did this save the OVA from being bogged down by bullshit, but it also made the mascot character infinitely more likeable, as she’s not a fucking murderer this time around.

You’re gonna see me saying a lot on this list that an OVA has the ability to capture everything that’s good about an anime while avoiding it’s flaws, and while that’s not the case everytime, it’s definitely the case here. The Other captures the high budget animation and brilliant art direction of the series, and instead of building up a mystery that’s going to collapse around us, it focuses on making us like it’s principal(only) characters. It’s able to give us details about their backstory without having to resort to exposition, which is always nice, and those details go a long way in helping us to like and relate to them, so the idea of something happening to either one feels genuinely tragic, and not just shocking due to gore content.

I can’t imagine anyone caring about the fate of the characters in the larger Another series. I can only see people watching it for it’s pretentious Hot Topic appeal and generous portions of over-the-top gory deaths. I can’t picture anybody getting invested in the lives of a bunch of kids who keep submissively coming to a school that they know is out to kill them, struggling to save themselves despite already having accepted their fate, but I can easily see people getting invested in the story of two estranged twin sisters coming together after several years only to face the possibility of being separated in an even more permanent way. If this is an indicator of what Another could have been, then to put it nicely, at least something good came out of it.

 

9: A Certain Scientific Railgun: Someone’s Watching

Well, to be more accurate, the title of this OVA is “Since Misaka-san is the Center of Attention Right Now,” which is a bit too much of a mouthful to say. Personally, I originally thought it was just the 25’th episode long before I ever figured out that it was an OVA, and can you blame me? It just feels so canon, like it fits right there in the story as the cool-down period of the Level Upper Arc. It has the same tone and pacing as any other Railgun episode, and even the exact same animation style, production values and everything. It’s missing an English dub, but other than that, it fits into the series like a glove.

Following the events of the Level Upper arc, where a mysterious criminal enitity was selling artificial power to the level zero students of Academy city, and no, it’s ties to drug trafficking were no accident, Misaka and her friends have returned to their normal lives, as normal as those lives can be. However, Misaka has been jumping at shadows, constantly feeling the unpleasant presence of a new entity watching her from behind, making her feel constantly unsafe and uncomfortable. This inspires her friend and loyal stalker Kuroko to take up the case, investigating the recent urban legend “Someone’s Watching” in an attempt to figure out the source of Misaka’s turmoil.

I’m eventually going to post a review of the first season of Railgun, so I’m not going to bore you just yet with all the reasons I love it so much more than it’s predecessor Index, but suffice to say, Railgun is an anime that I love watching, and this OVA feels like not only a legitimate member ofit’s episode count, but I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the better episodes, as Railgun is very plot and arc heavy, and this one stands out perfectly fine as a standalone, despite it’s references to the plot that preceeded it. Most Railgun OVAs that I’ve seen ranged from okay to pointless, with this being the only awesome one of the bunch. also, the ending is one of the funniest moments in the series… Nay, the franchise.

 

8: Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow

This is another anime that I’m planning to review at some point in the future, although my attempts to do so have resulted in some unfortunate difficulties. I’ve loved the series since 2010, and while it does have an unfortunate reputation for having way too much excessive and sometimes poorly thought out fanservice, I’ve always felt as though it’s strengths in terms of animation, character development and story progression ultimately made up for it. Thankfully, like The Other, this is an OVA that focuses on the best of it’s source title with a reduction of it’s lesser elements.

In this iteration of the series, we’re given three separate episodes, each dealing with different characters and the lives they’re living after the disbanding of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing. In the first episode, the three Karlsland soldiers, Deitland-Wilke, Barkhorn and Hartman receive a visit from Hartman’s twin sister, who brings them new technology to try out. In the second one, Lucchini and Yaeger must attempt to destroy a Neuroi without harming a historical island. Finally, Closterman and Bishop must take care of a couple of refugee children who’s experiences have turned them against the witches. And all of this is framed by the main character, Miyafuji, reading their letters.

First things first, yeah, I’m pretty bummed that Yamamoto and the Orussian girls didn’t make it into this OVA. Everyone loves a good Eila and Sanya story, seeing how their status as a pairing is borderline canon. Having said that, I really can’t complain about what we did get, which is amazing. All three of these stories are compelling and show off the strengths of the involved characters while still challenging them. The fanservice is kept to a minimum, with the show’s notorious panty shots getting almost glanced over during action scenes, and there being only a minute long nude scene in episode 2. Those action scenes, by the way, are beautiful, some of the franchises best. It was nice to see these characters out of their element, even if it cut some characters I would have preferred to see.

 

7: The Lucky Star OVAs

It’s been several years since the last time I watched Lucky Star, and while I was a huge fan of it back in the 2000s, I’m not sure how it would hold up if I watched it now. What I do keep coming back to, however, is the OVA collection, released undubbed a few years after the release of the series proper. At only 42 minutes in length, this OVA collection is a series of short stories from the Lucky Star universe, and since none of the material is from them anga, it feels more like a cast reunion than anything else. It captures the humor of the series, along with the wei… Okay, to be fair, Lucky star never got this weird.

The scenarios we’re given are as follows. First, we get a reminder of the forgettable B-side of Licky Star, filtered through the perspective of a character’s dog. We then cut to Tsukasa struggling to keep up with her more experienced friends in an MMORPG. We also get a few menial but still overblown and melodramatic scenes like a cast volleyball game, a school trip that ends up with the main cast getting lost in the woods, and a live action Lucky Channel, but operhaps the most memorable clips are Kagami having a dream about Konata taking her on the nerdiest Cinderella adventure ever, and a trip to the pet shop that ends in… Let’s just say surreal fashion.

While the clips are mostly comedic… Except for the closing segment, which is a little boring… This ova does a great job carrying over the distinctive personalities and dynamics of the characters. These skits have the feel of the original series, but removed enough that they don’t have to worry about tying into a longer narrative, which was never one of Lucky Star’s strong suits in the first place. Come to think of it, maybe Lucky Star was always better off in 8-10 minute chunks, rather than 22 minute episodes… Well, we’ll save that argument for an actual review. If you’re a fan of the series or the manga, this is an OVA I highly recommend checking out.

 

6: A Little Snow Fairy Sugar: The Play

To tell you the truth, this is a series that I watched very recently. It’s been out for around fifteen years, and I really only knew about it from it’s infamously sugary name and occasional appearances in the first few AMV Hell videos, but I never really picked it up until I saw it for 15 bucks in the Sentai filmworks holiday sale, and I wound up watching it as part of my January vacation from work. I was expecting a dumb, pandering, diabetically sweet series meant to keep little girls quiet while entertaining them with as little effort as possible, but I was surprised to see that it was actually one of the best children’s anime I’ve ever seen. And the OVA at the end was even better.

I won’t spoil the framing device that the OVA uses, because it actually is a pretty big spoiler, but it does feature an event that apparently took place in the timeline of the series. Saga’s class is putting on a play, which was written by one of her classmates. The fairies also put on a play of their own, despite having only recently learned what the concept of a play really is. Their play winds up being a sort of distillation of the original, named Princess and Fairy,” and while we don’t get to see the play from start to finish, we do get to see the Fairies’ interpretation of it, as well as just enough material to tie up the various plot threads of the episodes.

As highly as I regard Sugar, it had a couple of flaws that made me back off from giving it a perfect score. It had a vaguely pedo-ish story arc involving an actor in a bear costume, and while Saga talking to her invisible fairies in front of people made her look crazy at first, the story seemed to drop that piece of logic very early on, so she could have entire side conversations with them and nobody would notice. The OVA manages to avoid both of these problems, despite the fact that it brazenly references the bear storyline at several points. It acts as a call-back to many characters and events, but at no point does any of it feel forced or contrived, and everything works into the plot perfectly.

These special episodes really are a representation of everything that was great about Sugar, with no noticeable drop in quality either for the animation or the writing. True, it doesn’t really represent the more emotional moments in the series, but there are feels to go around in the bookend sections, and the fact that it was able to combine so many elements into one short story while remaining true to everyone’s personalities and dynamic means that it must have been put together with a deft hand by someone who loved and understood the original material.

 

5: Hellsing Ultimate

As a concept, Hellsing has always been awesome. It’s about an anime representation of Dracula being used as a weapon by a secret anti-supernatural organization, although whether he’s being used willingly or not is up for debate. I didn’t hate the first series, but it’s problems were blisteringly obvious, from it’s bare bones animation budget and pointless characters all the way down to it’s pretend plot and terrible, terrible writing. I’m not much of a manga reader, so peoples’ assurances that the manga was infinitely better fell on deaf ears with me, but if the ultimate OVA was as accurate as I’m told, I have to read it at some point.

Hellsing ultimate needs little introduction, as it’s probably the most famous and well known OVA on this list. Not only does it have a higher budget than the first series, it’s also much better directed, and the only real area where the first show trumps it is with the pacing of the first episode. While the two shows start off similarly, with the origin story and subsequent character development of Seras Victoria, but the conflict that we jump into is completely different… Instead of some fake-vampire chip mystery that never gets resolved and an enemy that might as well not exist, we get all-out war with fucking Nazis!  how cathartic after the last couple of years, am I right?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen this show in years. I generally tried to rewatch everything on this list before writing about it, but I really don’t have enough time in my schedule to watch an OVA consisting of ten 45 minute episodes. Really, it’s longer than the first series. Luckily, Hellsing Ultimate is damn near impossible to forget, as my favorite moments from the series are still vividly available for replay in my memory, including The Major’s speech, Kari Wahlgren’s performance as Rip Van Winkle, the same character’s outstanding fight with Alucard, and the balls-out invasion of London that results in an unbelievable level of casualties, to name a few stand-outs.

Out of all the OVAs on this list, This is the one that improves upon it’s source material… Second most. Yeah, just wait until number 1. Ultimate is dripping with atmosphere and personality, confidently balancing it’s tone between sensationalist gore and classic terror. Oh, and it feels no hesitation portraying Nazis as warmongering bloodthirsty monsters whose asses are ripe for the kicking, which I can only imagine makes Myanimelist a little uncomfortable. Every fight scene is awesome, no matter how many combatants are involved, and every plot twist will have you screaming, gasping, or in some cases cheering, because why not. I’d keep going, but you’ve probably seen it, and you probably love it.

 

4: Carnival Phantasm

My knowledge of the Type Moon fandom is somewhat limited, but I have experienced the majority of the anime incarnations of the Fate series, from the highs of the first season of Fate/Zero to the lows of the second season of Unlimited Blade Works. I’ve also seen the Tsukihime anime, but it was dog shit and I don’t remember it to any sort of vivid degree. I’ve never played any of the games… Sue me… And I’m vaguely aware that there’s a thing called Melty Blood that exists, among doing other things. I still think I know just enough to enjoy Carnival Phantasm to the fullest, as the humor is well-written enough to not be lost on newbies, at least for the most part.

In any case, this OVA is a non-canon comedy collection featuring the stars of Type/Moon’s various intellectual properties, with the excuse being that a certain Carnival has caused a rift in time and space, allowing people from different worlds to meet, or something. I never could catch all of it, because I was too distracted by the sight of tiny little cat people trying to make serious expressions and nodding their heads enthusiastically, making me laugh so hard that I’m literally shaking while typing this sentence. I may actually break my keyboard before writing up entrant number three.

Thankfully, most of the material is based around the original Fate/Stay night and Unlimited Blade Works, and the Tsukihime material is easy enough to grasp. The skits and scenarios are diverse, but for the most part, it works around one core joke… The Fate universe is super-serious, and this universe is super silly. You might think that would be too narrow a concept to base a two-and-a-half hour series on, but it works, mainly due to the fact that it heavily emphasizes both extremes. It knows how 100% serious Fate was, so everything about it is lampooned and played for laughs in the most ruthless ways possible.

Whether the contestants in the Holy Grail War are drag racing, playing on a game show, trying to survive mundane every-day tasks, dressing up and eating each other, or just watching Lancer die over and over again, this was an idea that couldn’t possibly fail, and you can just tell that Type/Moon is having the time of their lives with it. And hey, if that’s not enough, this OVA comes with it’s own OVAs! Seriously, you can watch the Holy Grail battlers face each other in a Mario Party style game to face the boss Ilya in her Berser-Car! It’s a laugh a minute OVA comedy series, and it couldn’t be parodying a more perfect series.

 

3: Black Rock Shooter

There are two versions of this title available… The OVA, which came first and is about an hour long, and the TV series, which is about 8 episodes long. The tv series had a lot more character development, a lot more background to the mystery of what was going on, and actually took the time to explain itself. The movie was much more contained, only focusing on about three characters, and never explaining how the real world was related to the alternate world where the two badass ladies were fighting. Contrary to what you may have guessed based on that description, the TV series was boring and stupid as fuck, and the movie… well, the OVA, really… Was a lot more engaging and entertaining.

The OVA strikes a really fun balance between the two worlds. The fight world is intense, overblown and action packed, even though you don’t know what they’re fighting over, potentially making it’s story significance feel small. The real world features a much smaller scenario, two high school girls becoming friends and attempting to stay friends, which doesn’t sound like much, but you like them and believe in their bond so much that you want everything to work out for them, which leads to them making a bigger impact than they should. These two worlds work off of each other brilliantly, with one almost seeming to provide depth and meaning while the other provides action and excitement, and they even feel related in some way that’s never explained.

And thank God for that, because the series sacrifices the development of their friendship to try and explain itself, but without that strong dynamic to keep us feeling invested in the story, it all falls flat. The interplay between the two world in the OVA version feels… And I never thought I’d say this about anything… Jarring in all the right ways. To be fair, the animation is just as good with both titles, but ultimately, this is one of those rare cases where the mystery is more intriguing than the truth, as each answer just brought about more questions.

I was unaware, until I started writing this project, that Black Rock Shooter was an offshoot of Hatsune Miku. Apparently, her music got remixed into the instrumental soundtrack of this film. All I knew was that I’d never seen anything like this before. The action is hardcore, the duel animation style is impeccable, and the focus is exactly where it needs to be. This may be a bit of a stretch, but the juxtaposition of the two worlds may be a metaphor of how you often need to fight to keep a friendship going… Even against your friends themselves, sometimes… But at the end, it’s always worth it.

 

2: Spice and Wolf: Wolf and Tail of Happiness

The only “Special episode” entry on this list that isn’t considered one by Myanimelist, Tail of Happiness was the seventh episode the the first season, but for some reason, wasn’t originally aired on TV. It was released alongside the series on DVD, sitting comfortably in it’s proper place in the lineup, fitting in so well with the other episodes that you’d never guess it was an OVA, even though very little that happens in it would be missed had the episode been outright skipped. It’s also my favorite episode of the series, with the two season premieres coming in at second and third, but that has little to do with it.

This episode takes place directly inbetween the resolution of the first story arc and the catalyst of the second story arc, and it takes this time to develop the characters of Holo and Lawrence, as well as to flesh out their relationship as the two of them prepare for the onset of the next leg of their journey. They wander through Pazzio, making deals to endear themselves to the local marketplace, as Lawrence buys Holo new clothes, and Holo tries to offer him her hand, making this feel more like a date than anything else. Oh, and also, Holo struggles to choke down an entire barrel of apples while learning the different values of several coins. The best material here isn’t all mushy.

Actually, you could probably point to this episode as the moment their romance actually began to bloom… And I’m not just talking about the hand holding, as much as Holo wanted to call it the tail of happiness. It also featured a lot of flirtacious doubletalk and innuendo between the two, along with some moments of flustered expressions that had rarely been there before. Lawrence gets jealous, Holo notices, and the entire fandom melts into a puddle of feels. It’s nice to know that while Holo understands the whims of the human heart, she’s not jaded enough to be above them.

They bicker, they banter, they play cute little mind games with each other, they deliver on all the beats of their lovable dynamic without any complicated plots getting in their way. That’s not to say that the plots in this series are, bad, I mean if that were the case I wouldn’t have given it a perfect score. Still, every anime needs an episode like this… Some pleasant downtime to allow us to get better acquainted with the people and wolf Gods tht we’re supposed to be rooting for, and this might just be the most pleasant of its’ kind. I’d tell you more, but wouldn’t you rather have a bite and see for yourself?

 

Honorable mentions!

FMA Premium Collection, FMA Brotherhood 4Koma Theater: I rewatched both of these in preparation for this list, but neither one was as good as I remember.

Toradora Rice Cooker episode: I almost put this in just for the sake it being Toradora related, but honestly, this OVA kinda sucks.

Love Hina episode 25: Unlike the rest of the series, this one sticks close to the manga, which actually allows it to be funny, bare-bones budget aside.

Black Lagoon, Roberta’s Blood Trail: It was kind of fun, and it did a good job integrating the larger cast into it’s story, but the writing just wasn’t very strong.

Sankarea OVA: It actually does manage to fill in some holes from the series, but it’s pretty forgettable. It should have been included with the DVD.

Higurashi Outbreak: It’s easily the best of the OVAs for this series, but like the others, I appreciate how weird it is moreso than how good it is.

 

1: Hey, you know that thing the Nostalgia Critic does where he goes through a list, and then cuts off at the end and saves the #1 slot for it’s onw review the following week?  That’s really lame, right?

Tune in next week for a full review of my favorite series based OVA of all time!

At first glance, it may appear to you that I’ve run out of ideas and decided to pull something out of my ass.  That may have been true with some last year’s January posts, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been putting this list together since September with the explicit intention of starting off 2017 with it.  Why?  Because I have really weird ideas, and if I feel strongly enough about them, I act on them, damn the logic.  I want you to know me a bit better, and if that doesn’t interest you, that’s fine, I’ll have a full review up next week.  For the rest of you, the readers who keep pushing this blog above and beyond it’s limits, I’d love to hear more about YOU in the comments.

Let’s go!

1: While I was born at Langley Airforce Base, Virginia, I’ve lived in New York since I was 3.
2: I’m thirty years old, and my birthday is March 12.
3: I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism.
4: I don’t monetize this blog, I earn my living from a full-time retail job.  I do sell on Ebay, though.
5: I am Asexual. I came out on social media one year ago this week.
6: There’s also a distinct possibility that I’m Aromantic, but I’m not sure yet.
7: Politically, I’m an Independent who leans slightly Democratic.
8: My favorite food is Chicken Parmesan.
9: My favorite beverage is Limeade.
10: I hate mayonnaise and caramel.
11: My favorite anime is Fullmetal Alchemist 2003.
12: My favorite wrestler is Shelton Benjamin.
13: My favorite movie is Big Fish.
14: My favorite TV show is Firefly.
15: My favorite animal used to be frogs, then it was rhynos, now it’s frogs again.
16: My favorite cartoon characters are Donald Duck and Daffy Duck, the original Angry Birds.
17: My favorite subjects in school were the writing/reading ones.
18: My least favorite subject was French.
19: My favorite video game is TMNT 4: Turtles in Time for the SNES..
20: I have two cats… A 12 year old mix, and a 15 year old Maine Coon.
21: I’ve cosplayed Alucard, Maes Hughes, Auron from FFX and Rorschach.
22: I have a sizeable collection of Pop Funko figures.
23: I’m a huge fan of Gold Peak tea. Some might even say a snob over it.  Green and Peach are the best.
24: I’ve tried two GP flavors that they don’t sell in stores… Pomegranate and White Citrus.
25: As well as 2 limited edition flavors, Summertime Lime and Harvest Pear.
26: According to Pottermore I’m a Gryphondor, but other tests have called me a Slytherin.
27: I only read Harry Potter for the first four books, and lost interest before 5 came out.
28: I don’t read very much manga. I only collect 1 or 2 series at any given time.
29: I’m weirdly drawn towards women named Rachel. I blame Animorphs for this.
30: I can’t stand ‘true otaku’ challenges on Facebook. They’re easy to the point of condescension.
31: My first anime was Adventures of Nemo in Slumberland, although I didn’t know it was anime until later.
32: I won’t say what site they’re on, but I have a ton of terrible Cardcaptors fanfics available online.
33: I’m a Protestant, and a member of the United Church of Christ.
34: I was an atheist until the age of 24.
35: A lot of my early manga exposure came via my local library. Azumanga Daioh, Love Hina, Chobits and Excel Saga were the big ones.
36: As much as I love Haruhi Suzumiya, I’ve never seen it in broadcast order.
37: My reviewing style was largely inspired by Jesuotaku and The Nostalgia Critic.
38: I did Theater in school, appeared in Pippin, and am a 3 star thespian.
39: I’ve never broken a bone or had non-dental surgery.
40: I used to be so obsessed with Pokemon that my first GF broke up with me over it.
41: And yet, I’ve never played Pokemon Go.
42: Possibly because I’ve never owned a cell phone.
43: On the rare occasion that I prank someone, I can be particularly nasty.
44: My late Grandfather fought in WWII, and said Patton had a really foul mouth.
45: My first job, I put “Fanfic author” on my resume. I’ve kept this job for nearly 13 years.
46: I attempted to do video reviews, but I sucked at it, and hated the entire process.
47: I have a steel Christmas tree stand set aside as my Zombie Apocalypse weapon.
48: I hate months that contain five Saturdays, because they make me do extra work.
49: I don’t believe in illegally streaming anime, unless there’s no other available option.
50: I believe that everything that happens in a fictional universe must be taken aat face value as a distinct possibility in that universe, even if it was meant to be comedic, no matter what that possibility implies. Everything that happens, happens, and cannot be ignored.

Wasn’t that a great Studio Gainax month, guys? I finally found a show of theirs that was legitimately awesome… Only to follow it up immediately with one of the worst anime I’ve ever seen. Yeah, it was a lovely month, and now that it’s over I’d like to follow up on a promise I made you guys back in march, when I wrote the Top Ten Worst Episodes of Teen Titans. I said that I’d eventually bring you a list of what I thought were the best episodes, right? Well, that time has come, so sit back on your ratty old couch, pet your favorite giant moth larvae, and get ready to enjoy a list of the very best episodes of one of the most popular American cartoons of all time… Even if it was, by it’s own merits, the TV definition of a weeaboo.

Also, before we begin, there’s something I need to address.  I watched further into Teen Titans Go, and I take back my defense of it. What I’d seen prior to those remarks wasn’t too bad, but HO LEE SHIT does it go downhill. I’m almost regretting spending twenty bucks on that Go! Raven Pop figure. Oh wait, no I’m not, she’s still awesome.  Also, as bad as the show legitimately is, her version of Rapunzel is still better than the original.

In any case, this is my opinion, remember, so if you have a different take on this list, then write it out, post it in the comments, and let the comparisons commence!

10: Titans East, part 2

After fighting alongside the newly formed Titans East team, Cyborg has made a tough decision… to quit his current team, and become their leader. Things don’t go well when he announces this idea to Robin, with both parties taking exception to the other’s stance in this situation, but it doesn’t matter, because Cyborg has a huge opportunity in front of him… To grow, become a leader, and find his own path in the process. But things aren’t what they seem, as he finds out that his arch-nemesis Brother Blood has brainwashed his newly found followers, turning them against him. A huge battle ensues, and just when Blood shows up to corner his prey, the Titans shows up to take their robotic friends’ side! Once they’re safe, Robin gives Cyborg temporary command of the Titans, culminating in an awesome fight scene between the two Titans teams, but at the end of the day, with Brother Blood tearing him apart to find out what part of his metal body allows him to resist mind control, it’s Cyborgs humanity that winds up proving to be his greatest strength. He steals Bloods sorcery, and ultimately defeats his most personal foe ever.

Yeah, I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for part 1 of this episode. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t really find the team of Titans East to be all that interesting, and all the over-reaction slapstick was just painful for me. Luckily, part 2 took the story as it was left off and drove it a much more epic direction. To start, the argument between Robin and Cyborg in the beginning sounds so much more like a real argument between friends, with actual tension in it, than the argument that split them up in the shitty-ass pilot. Following this, we already know the Eastians are possessed, so the episode doesn’t waste any time turning them heel and pitting them against Cyborg, which while awesome, is only the foreplay. Brother Blood shows up, and explains that his intentions are to turn himself into a cyborg to have the potential evil benefits of Cyborg’s condition, which has an incredible emotional nuance to it.

Like, remember what Greed wanted with Alphonse Elric? He was jealous of Al’s metal body, and wanted it for similar benefits, even though that body symbolized all the pain and sacrifice the Elric had to go through and come to terms with just to get make temporary peace with their new bodies and lots in life, and now Al has to hear some ignorant villain talking up his curse like it was a gift from God. This is exactly what’s happening with Cyborg, and I love it. But then his friends show up, and we get some of the best action in the entire series as a team of Titans goes up against another team of Titans, with Cyborg calling the shots, and doing a refreshingly great job at it.

And that’s what I think I love about this episode… It’s the perfect character development episode for Cyborg, who has every bit as much leadership potential as Robin has… Maybe even more that he just hasn’t realized yet. Considering this guy is supposed to make a believable addition to the Justice League, I’d say it’s important to show that his potential reaches a little higher than that of his adolescent cohorts. His final confrontation with Brother Blood is fucking nail biting, as he gets systematically torn to pieces by this obsessed man who used to be so dignified and reserved, but is being driven mad by his desire to find out what it is that makes Cyborg immune to mind control(an element the writers of Mother Mae Eye must have forgotten), and there are so many feels when Cy realizes that his strength comes from his humanity, and not from his enhancements. I’ll admit that having him copy Blood’s sorcery to absorb robots into himself was bullshit, but thematically, it was the perfect ending to their feud, which I’m not gonna lie, was a bit lackluster up until this point.

It’s an awesome episode that redeems a weak seasonal sub-plot, and it made me feel emotional over a kick-ass robot, earning it a spot at number 10.

9: Snowblind

The Titans get a distress signal from a Russian village that’s been experiencing disturbances from a powerful nuclear monster. They investigate, and soon discover a being of pure plasma who’s so supercharged with radiation that he can cut right through Raven’s forcefield to attack them inside of it. It flees after some fighting, and it’s Starfire that gives chase, as she’s resilient to the cold… But not as resilient as she thinks, as she does eventually succumb to it, and is rescued by a lonely Russian teen named Red Star. The two of them bond as we learn more about his situation, and just as she’s about to go look for her friends, they show up on his front door, and he tells them his life story… Which will look familiar if you know Captain America or Deathstroke’s backstories. The plasma monster attacks, forcing him into action, as the Titans reveal to him that he’s been unknowingly creating this monster, and he’s now the only person who can stop it… By any means necessary.

It’s kinda difficult for me to explain why I love this episode so much, especially when I’ve heard so many people call it boring. As I’ve said before, slow pacing doesn’t always bother me, and I think in this episode that it was the right choice. Not to mention, there are MORE than enough fast-paced episodes. Well, to start things off, I feel like this is one of the most mature episodes in the series. The tone is serious, despite Beastboy’s best efforts. The music is very beautiful, particularly at the end, and I just love the visual effects on this episode, especially with the blizzard scenes. Yes, I realize they probably pulled them off by placing one layer of animation over another, so they probably took less effort than it looks, but it’s still enough to make you feel like the blizzard going on is really as suffocating ad unforgiving as you’ve been told.

It’s also, in my opinion, the only episode that really pulled off the element of tragedy. Yeah, even the first time I saw Terra freezing, I didn’t tear up for her. But when Red Star has to heroically take a trip up into space to keep his destructive powers contained, and Starfire has to be the one to bring him there, all while that sweet, somber piano tune plays, that was what did me in. Of course, Titans Together brought him back for no reason at all, so that kinda diffuses the original sad ending a bit. Even so, this episode did a great job with ambitious themes that other episodes either touched upon or just flat-out failed at… Themes like embracing your flaws and owning who you are, not running away from your problems, and learning that by closing yourself off from people in order to avoid hurting them, you’re only making your life and theirs all the more difficult.

I guess it’s lack of popularity comes from the fact that it’s a very adult episode, and offers little in the way of direct entertainment. It’s a slow, atmospheric episode that spends it’s time telling a solid story, rather than relying on exaggerated sight gags. Honestly, I think the subtle gag about a Russian child being embarrassed by the amount of skin Starfire shows in her costume is probably one of the most sophisticated jokes of the series. If he hadn’t been lost in space at the end, I still believe that Red Star could have gone on to work at a power plant, providing free energy to people, and generally just finding a place where he can belong. It’s an episode for older audiences, and I’m more than old enough to appreciate it.

8: X

There’s a new threat to the Teen Titans, and it appears to be a blast from Robin’s past… The Red X suit, which he thought he’d locked safely away, has been absconded and equipped by a master thief with a cocky attitude and a perfect willingness to use every single toy and gadget the costume comes with to his sneaky advantage. The new X gets away from them, but Robin manages to track him down after shaking down the small time villain who sold him the dangerous chemical that powers the suit in the first place. The Titans catch up to Red X at a factory, and after his friends are mysteriously taken out one by one, he has his first real fight with Red X, which is interrupted by… None other than the very supplier he’d shaken down! Professor Chang(Insert Community reference here) has absconded with all the chemical X, captured all four of Robin’s friends, and he’s looking to unleash all of his pent up rage and aggression on the town! Joining forces, Robin and Red X defeat Chang, save the Titans, and split up, with the slighted X promising to meet them another day.

There are a lot of areas where Teen Titans could be considered a bit weak, and one of those ways is it’s lack of morally ambiguous villains. It’s not quite as bad as Captain Planet was, but one of their best attempts was Terra, and she had next to no understandable motivation. So it should come as no surprise that the moment the series actually got a proper anti-villain character, they would want to state that ambiguity as bluntly and openly as possible, with that villains existence messing with Robin’s ideology… A move that would have annoyed me if it hadn’t been handled as well. No, the new Red X is the Catwoman of this series… A career thief with an ethical code who shares a mutual respect for the heroes pursuing them. But if that’s not good enough, there’s ANOTHER villain in this episode who takes moral ambiguity and throws it completely out the window by destroying shit for the hell of it.

These two villains deserved to be introduced in the same episode, as they each prove why the other is so important. Not all villains are evil, just like not all villains desire something material like money, power or revenge. Chang is a villain that’s so sick of playing a support role to other villains that he straight up wants to be evil and destroy shit like a kid who’s never been allowed to play with his own toys. I love the interplay in this episode, as through the involvement of Robin, they both actively reveal each other’s nuances. Oh, but the hell with all that, the action in this episode was awesome, the reveal of Chang being behind the abductions was really cleverly handled, and the fact that Robin was inadvertently responsible for getting his team kidnapped is a very subtle callback to the trouble he caused them when he wore the suit back in season 1… And there’s a much funnier callback to that episode when Starfire starts poking him to make sure he’s not a hologram.

There are a lot of episodes on this list that most fans won’t agree with, but I’d like to think this is one of the episodes where I’m in the majority… I have a lot of fun watching it, and my only real regret is that Red X’s identity is never revealed in the series. My money, for the record, is on Jason Todd.

7: Go!

Having grown tired of playing sidekick to the world’s greatest detective, a young upstart hero moves to a new city to pursue his solo career. As he’s taking out a petty thief, the sky explodes in a green plasma trail as an alien escape pod shoots through the sky. Robin follows it, to find a strange orange girl yelling what must be alien obscenities at a crowd of people. They fight as a mysterious girl watches them from the shadows, but their fight is interrupted by a green shapeshifter looking to make a good first impression and a black teenager in a hoodie who is just DARING the modern audience to make a George Zimmerman joke. Together, they pacify the wanderer, who reveals herself to be a prize, won by a race of alien lizards to be their servant. The five of them work together to extract the extraterrestrial enslavers, from Earth for eternity!

Remember in the last list, where I said that the pilot episode of this series was so shitty that both networks started off with episode three instead? Well, as much as I liked Final Exam, this is the episode that REALLY should have kicked off the series. I won’t deny the emotional impact of going through five seasons with these characters before seeing how they all met, but on the flip side, this episode has the potential for being the best possible introduction to the action, individual characters, team dynamic, and over-all concept of the series. As it is, it would have been the best possible pilot episode, but I guess if it had been the first thing they made, it wouldn’t be as great an episode as it is.

First of all, the obvious… Going from an ongoing story to an origin story out of nowhere may be weird for the viewer, but it’s a huge change of pace for a writer, which can manifest itself into the form of some truly inspired results. Had the episode been written at the beginning of the series, it probably wouldn’t have been done as well as it was, so I’ll count my blessings on the fact that they did an origins episode at all, especially since they didn’t intersperse it with some pointless current timeline story. There are lots of comics that do that, as well as their adaptations into tv, movies, and even video games. Dark Knight and Man of Steel both did it, after all. You just grab a current story that’s vaguely reminiscent of past events, and shuffle them together. I don’t hate this practice… I enjoyed the Last of US DLC as a particularly good example… But Teen Titans approach was better.

We learned throughout the series where most of the five came from, and even if we didn’t, we knew enough to draw a conclusive picture of how being a Titan changed each one’s life. When they meet in this episode, Robin has a stick up his butt, Starfire is dangerously mistrustful, Cyborg is self-conscious, Raven is shy, and Beastboy is looking to attach himself to somebody not as a partner or equal, but as a sidekick. At no point in this episode do the writers shy away from an opportunity to show the characters interacting in such small ways that effect and improve them on such a grand scale. It’s almost as if they were born to be a team, and considering how vastly different the origin story for this team had to be from the comics, it’s amazing that they were able to create that feeling. Part of me wishes the series could have started off on this foot, but all the same, I love it just fine where it is.

6: Titan Rising

Like a blast straight out of the past, Terra finally returns to the Titans Tower, intercepting a volleyball game to try and rejoin the team. After she gives them a demonstration of her improved abilities, a wave of earthquakes hits the city, prompting their involvement. Terra gets recruited to help them as a sort of ‘trial mission,’ although she’s still dealing with some mistrust from Raven. They wind up battling a giant robot Earthworm, which tunnels underground and hooks up with two others like it. The team splits up, and they each discover one half of a plot to submerge Titans tower. Both teams struggle to find a way to shut off their wheel of worms, but after they ultimately fail to stop the plan, Terra and Raven set aside their differences to pool their powers, raising the tower back to surface level. Raven and Terra, having bonded a bit through the episode, have a chat while Terra is led to her own room in her new home, among her new family, as she reacts with disbelief to the fact that they trust her now. But does she deserve the praise, or is she simply setting her new friends up for disappointment?

If you’ve seen the newest DC Animated Movie “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” (And if you haven’t, then spoiler alert), the movie ends with the titans forming as a team… Membership just like this cartoon, other than containing a different Robin and a latino Blue Beetle… and in the final shot during the credits, we see Terra flying towards the tower, as a possible tease for an upcoming Judas Contract adaptation, and if you’re one of the people who’s familiar with both the comic and cartoon, you’re probably taking that news like a silver pole up the ass, you’re thinking something along the lines of “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?” I know the DC animated movies are different from the original cartoon, and if anybody could pull it off it would be them, but… It just feels too early, and frankly, the Judas contract was gravely mishandled in the cartoon.

In the comics, Terra was not a morally ambiguous or redeemable character. She was Slade’s jailbait lover, and every single moment of her friendship with the Titans was a lie. If the cartoon was going to try and remake her as a sympathetic character, then they should have scrapped the betrayal completely, and just made her a part of the team… And that’s exactly what they gave us for one glorious episode. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are HINTS that she’s playing the role of a mole… Her very first line when seeing the volleyball game was “Which side am I on,” which is probably one of the best lines in the entire series, and a clever nod to the obvious twist of her arc, where she does of course turn heel. Under bullshit circumstances.

But even if this episode doesn’t trick you into thinking Terra’s good now, it’s still an awesome episode by it’s own merits. I’ll admit that I had my doubts with all the animation gags in the beginning… Which, frankly, was one of the reasons her introductory episode didn’t resonate with me… But as soon as I saw the animation of her power demonstration, I was hooked. The villains, while a little bland looking at first glance, floored me by the numerous imaginative ways they were able to evolve throughout the story, when it would have been a lot easier and quicker for the writers to have them fly above the Tower out of nowhere, but no, we got to watch the Titans fight them in three different forms before they finally revealed their true purpose. Slade’s appearance was perfectly timed, even if it was a little heavy-handed, and it led to Terra and Raven coming to learn to respect and trust each other, while the team above actually found a clever way to take down the surface threat.

All in all, this episode is the one reason I don’t regret Terra being involved with this series. I knew damn well that the idea of her turning face for good… Or at least for her betrayal to be against her will, or something… Was asking too much, but at least with this episode in the line-up, I get to know what a straight up alliance between her and the Titans would have looked like.

And now I pray that the upcoming DC movie doesn’t make any of the mistakes the series made.

5: Spellbound

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to enjoy a good, enthralling story, and you keep getting interrupted by the real world? When all you want is to sit back and enjoy your vastly rare dose of escapism, but the knocks on your door just keep coming? Well, try being on a superhero team. Raven has become absorbed in the story of a suave magician waging a life-or-death battle against an evil dragon. Every time she’s about to get to the good part, she’s intruded upon by her friends, wanting to do random stuff, or… A summons to fight a heart named Cardiac. Yeah, I’m not even going to bother defending that one. Anyway, Raven’s feelings are hurt by Beastboy’s reactions to her rejection, and who should comfort her… But the magician from the book! Has Raven finally found a like-hearted spirit, who will understand and appreciate her in ways her friends never could? Or will releasing him from his confinement prove to be a grave mistake?

Okay, I’m going to admit this right off the bat… This episode has it’s fair share of problems. Not only is the cardiac villain one of the stupidest excuses for a pun I’ve ever heard, but… The T-rex Takedown? Seriously? To make #5 on this list despite having such dumb material, you’d have to have some seriously redeeming factors… Which this episode has in spades. The animation and design of the world inside the book is just breath-taking, almost Disney-quality stuff. Malchior himself also has a highly inspired design, from his original magician appearance to his more mummy-like half-awakened state where you can’t decide whether it’s okay to feel unsettled by him, or if you’re just judging him based on his appearance, which he claims to be an inevitability of the darkness. All of the new magic looks wonderful, and the dragon looks even more impressive when it escapes the book than it did when it was still trapped inside.

But what really earns this episode such a high amount of praise from me is the way it developed Raven’s character. As cool and confident as we’re used to seeing her, it can be hard to conjure up an image of her caring what other people think about her. But then again, we all fall into depression once in a while, and it can sometimes hit us out of the blue, even in new forms. Sometimes a simple thoughtless comment can trigger a chain reaction on your mood, so it’s no surprise that when Beastboy called her Creepy, Raven would start reassuring herself with the old mantra “I’m just different.’ Hey, guess what? I’m different too, and I still get upset about it from time to time. And like the smoothest operator ever, Malchior was there to tell her exactly what she needed to hear, and patiently listen to all of her stories until the time came.

Of course, Malchior wound up being the Dragon and not the magician, and was only manipulating her for his own personal gain, but that just makes the gradual positive changes in her normal everyday attitude even more complex. Other Teen Titans episodes have attempted to tell suspenseful stories that would make the audience uneasy, but in my opinion, this is the only one to pull it off… Remember Mother Mae Eye, which gave away it’s plot twist in the first act? Fear Itself came a lot closer, but it still didn’t have the real world implications that this one has. We’ve all had friends that were taken advantage of by people they thought loved them, and seeing Raven set aside the fact that she KNOWS Malchior has been teaching her evil magic she can’t control just to finally meet him in person is just as heart-breaking, which makes her disposal of him all the more awesome.

And after the episode has finished doing all that, playing suspense and a great villain with such a deft hand, it still had time for a message. Just because your friends aren’t into the same things you are doesn’t mean they don’t care about you and value your time. No matter how good a book may be, there’s no reason you can’t put it down once in a while for a quick game of stankball.

4: Revolution.

You did not see this coming. You totally should have, though.

Ahem. While the Teen Titans are enjoying a celebration of Independence Day, and Beastboy is failing miserably in his attempts to explain the holiday to Starfire, the mischievous Mad Mod makes a mockery of their ‘Murican merriment by taking Jump city hostage and hypnotizing all of it’s residents into Brit-worshipping slaves, in an attempt to erase the nation’s independence from history. The Titans are spared, save for Robin, who winds up having his youth sucked out of him to turn the geriatric villain into the young spruce he once was. Without their leader, the rest of the team argue over what move to make next, with each member’s individual idea triggering another of their British Baddie’s traps. finally, as Starfire realizes the importance of the holiday, they come up with an idea that works, saving the dignity of the country and putting an end to tyrannical British imperialism once again!

So… In this episode, Starfire doesn’t understand the celebration of July 4th, but she has an epiphany later on that rouses her team towards victory against a foreign invader. If you know me, you know I can’t stand stories that exploit patriotism for cheap feels. At one point in the months following 9/11, my entire grade was pulled into an assembly because one of our fellow classmates wanted to do a ballet performance in remembrance of the victims… I blasted her for it in the school paper. In an early episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the titular character(having traveled to the early 2000s from the past) hears about 9/11, so she gives an impassioned soliloquized speech about it to the audience… I stopped watching immediately afterwards, and called the series itself a shameless sentimentality slut.

So for Teen Titans to tread on this kind of territory, they were skating across what may just be the thinnest ice possible with me. I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to tout the flag in a way that was not only integral to the plot, but in a way that I’ve never heard, and without being remotely preachy. That’s just how good Teen Titans writing can get. All the remaining titans are lost and misdirected without their leader, and they just can’t agree on a plan, so Starfire relates their struggle to that of our forefathers, stating that Democracy was about not a superior number of voters, but compromise, many flawed ideas coming together to find one to unite over. Not only is this interpretation set up and paid off perfectly by the story, but it’s disturbingly relevant today, with the divide between parties looking more and more like a childish game.

Oh, and by the way? All that aside, this episode is funny as fuck. As a tribute to British pop culture(at least the parts of it we’re familiar with), it roots itself firmly in the visual styles of Monty Python while running rough-shod over Fawlty Towers, the royal family, Beatlemania, and even Benny Hill chase sequences. British slang is also used liberally, which is brilliant, because they were able to get words like Limey and Wanker past the censors. Mad Mod’s efforts to transform America into England leads to inspired visuals like messing with the writing of the Declaration of Independence and remaking Mount Rushmore into the faces of the Beatles… A change I fully support.  Except for Lennon, he was a douche.

Unlike the other episodes that made it onto this list, where I gave points for great action, surprisingly sincere and serious writing and well-delivered messages, this one gets in on just being pure fun. Even as a thirty year old, rewatching these episodes after god knows how many times, I still have fun with this episode, the roller coaster of creativity and inspiration that it is, and it even manages to touch me with it’s cheesy American pride speech… And that’s saying something.

3: Haunted

It’s been months, but Robin is still obsessed with the idea of his old nemesis Slade reappearing to wreak havoc on Jump City. He even keeps the villain’s dusty old mask in a box in the basement of the tower. One night, during a fight against Cinderblock, Robin catches sight of Slade in the woods, and runs off to catch him, only to find himself on the receiving end of a cryptic warning and a signature beatdown from the masked man of mystery. Now, with the knowledge that Slade’s planted bombs in secret locations around the city, the young hero calls his team to arms, but they can’t find a thing… Not only that, but they can’t see Slade when he’s right in front of their faces. What’s going on, here? Is Slade invisible? Has he mastered cloaking techniques? Is Robin just going crazy from stress? Or is this just a tribute to Fight Club? Either way, if Robin doesn’t figure out what’s going on quick, he may not survive to drive his friends away.

This episode is almost perfect, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I looked at a lot of peoples’ Teen Titans top ten lists in preparation for this project, and nearly every single one had Haunted somewhere on it. It’s such a great episode that even people who only like the gross-out comedy episodes still picked it, and no, I’m no different. I love it too.

The episode is primarily about Robin… It’s been previously established that he has obsessive tendencies, especially towards the one and only Slade. We saw this all throughout the first season, so it’s not hard to believe he’d immediately jump on his nemesis like a pit bull if he ever returned to the living world. In the first season, it was arguable whether or not Robin would actually mislead his friends in his pursuit of justice, which made his isolation kind of hard to take at face value. It’s like he was learning a lesson for the sake of learning it, rather than because he needed to develop. In this episode, the disconnect keeping him from them is much more visceral, as they try to take his plight at face value, but the evidence against his sanity just keeps piling up.

And that trick of the writing is exactly how they did such a wonderful job of directing the audience in this episode. Hitchcock believed that in order to create suspense, the audience has to know something the characters don’t… That there’s a bomb under the table, that there’s a mole in the group, or in this case, that Robin really is seeing this villain nobody else can see, even if they can’t, and we’re even present for all the tense, believable conversations they’re having. We know something’s there, even though logically, we also know that short of Slade being a vengeful ghost, it can’t all be going down the way Robin thinks it is, which is what makes Raven’s reveal through his eyes to be all the more chilling. I also consider this episode to be the saving grace of the Robin X Starfire pairing, as their affection is shown through actions and plot relevance, instead of just awkward moments and blushy faces, which pale in comparison to seeing Starfire tear up the floor to get out of quarantine.  I love when characters think of easy solutions outside the box.

I especially like the use of lighting in this episode… And I’m not referring to it’s use in the plot towards the end, although that was clever too. Most of this episode takes place in the shadows, which could be annoying due to a loss of visibility, but which winds up instead being very beautifully drawn and highly detailed, even when they’re supposed to be creepy. Unfortunately, I can’t call this episode perfect, like so many others, because there are several touches that I found taxing on my suspension of disbelief. From how well planned the gas attack was, to the physical damage Robin received… I mean, you can try to explain his bruises away with Matrix logic, but an imaginary foe ripped his clothes? The fuck outta here. Aside from that, this episode is damn near Hitchcockian in quality.

2: The Entire Trigon Saga

It’s Raven’s birthday, and all she wants is to be left alone. No parties, no friends, no well-wishers, just her and a clock, ticking away the hours. Every year on the anniversary of her birth, she must meditate and keep watch over her mind in case the most evil being in the galaxy decides to pass through it… And this is her unlucky year. Raven is plagued with bad dreams and visions, and as if that’s not enough, Slade has risen from the dead with a new set of powers, and he’s set out to awaken her by tearing her clothes and igniting every single rune on her flesh. With this job done, he flees, but returns later to use her as a key to unlock several ancient contraptions to be used as beacons for his return. Before he can leave, Raven catches him, earning a rare look of fear in his eye. She lays the smackdown, and then tells her friends the whole story.

But the trouble wasn’t over, and eventually, the end would have to come. After what feels like weeks later, her runes begin to glow once again, tipping her off that it’s truly time for the world to end. She attempts to give her friends a happy last day alive, but a sudden solar eclipse tips them off to what’s going on, and they try to protect her… But it’s all for naught, as Slade’s army ends up holding them hostage to get her cooperation. She becomes the portal, thusly ending the known world, spreading fire and destruction across a planet full of stone, frozen people. With Trigon the Terrible reigning supreme over this post-apocalyptic hell on earth, it’s up to the remaining Titans and a tenuous helping hand from Slade to fight against the very definition of futility in order to restore not only the world, but their dear friend, to life. Fighting Trigon is one thing, but can they defeat hordes of demons? Spirits? Themselves?

Every season of Teen titans had it’s own multi-episode story arc, filling out a line-up that was more or less half episodic filler stories. You could make the argument that season five was in some way superior because it spent the majority of it’s episodes setting up the finale to the series, but that finale sucked, nobody cares about the Brotherhood saga, and I personally felt disappointed with the Tara arc. I can’t blame people for liking the first season’s Slade and Red X arc the best, but in my opinion, the Trigun episodes from season 4 were one of the show’s best crowning achievements. I thought about only including the three part “The end”finale here, but the other two episodes… Birthmark and Prophecy… Just do such a great job setting them up.

Birthmark goes for a slow burn, reminding us of her briefly touched upon troubles from season 1 with a hilarious Dr. Light gag, after which we’re left with Raven in her room, hoping upon hope that her day will be uneventful. Slade then comes back with the impact of a wrecking ball, decimating the Titans with his new powers, tearing off Raven’s clothes until she’s barely wearing more than Starfire… Which, I gotta be brutally honest, was pretty hot. The story keeps developing from there, as the stakes keep getting higher, and the actions of the character keep making sense despite the new situations they’re going through.

Seeing Robin work together with the spurned Slade is one of the most surreal occurrences in the series, and their coherence when fighting as a unit creates a really poetic balance compared to just how little they like each other… It’s pair-up that keeps you guessing, and it once again brings suspense into the equation because you expect one or both of them to betray the other… And while this is happening, you’re also watching the other three Titans battling with dark shadows of themselves, who are hitting harder, taking more risks, and making cruel comments that only self-doubt could ever conjure up. These two halves of the story complement each other well, which is good, because they drag on for what would have otherwise been too long. Thankfully, the shadow fight is so gripping that even the arrogant Trigon enjoyed watching it.

When Raven finally does come back, it’s as a small, frightened child whose lost all of her memory and height along with her power. It’s of course Robin who brings her back, seeing how they’ve always been kindred spirits, but even with her back, it took Slade coming out of nowhere to turn on Trigon before anybody believed he could be defeated. Since Raven’s last act before becoming a portal was to give them all a portion of her magic, she doesn’t get it back until all four of her friends have been knocked out in a single Hyper Beam-like attack. There are very few moments in this series that feel as empowering as seeing White Raven come back to life to destroy her father and bring the world back to the way it was once and for all.

I won’t deny that there were some slow moments in the first two episodes of this arc, but once Trigon arrived on the scene, every single moment was awesome. It was the dark and serious plot that the writers were clearly waiting for, and it got so gallows black that I was surprised nobody slipped up and mentioned the name Deathstroke. From Raven’s supposed death upon Trigon’s entrance to Robin weilding a fucking sword, there was nothing held back in this arc other than possibly the words kill and death. It’s glorious, and if I was judging this list based on objective quality, it would probably be number 1… But before we actually get to 1, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions.

Don’t Touch That Dial: I’m generally not a fan of episodes that make fun of random pop culture titles, because it’s often a lame and unimaginative idea, but this one was a surprisingly fun ride.

Fear Itself: While it didn’t impress me as much as Haunted or Spellbound, it’s another episode full of suspense and creepy imagery, and if you don’t know what’s going on ahead of time, it’ll keep you firmly on your toes.

Car Trouble: This episode was laugh a minute for me, and to top it all off, it was kind of touching to see Cyborg make the ultimate sacrifice when he could no longer control his creation. Seeing him connect with Raven over the very idea of having a passion was also really nice.

Switched: A favorite of many, this episode found a new and interesting way to explore the old ‘switched bodies’ cliche on a deeper emotional level while still being entertaining and teaching us a lot about Starfire and Raven.

Nevermore: Did I mention Raven was my favorite character? Well, she is, and in this episode, we get to see Cyborg and Beastboy take a trip through her mind, meeting all of her individual emotions in the S1 prelude to Trigon.

1: Troq

The Teen Titans have always considered themselves heroes, but they’re about to receive a visit from a real hero… Val Yor, an intergalactic soldier who’s experience and accomplishments are only rivaled by his charisma. He takes down a drone ship, and after the Teen Titans witness this, he enlists them to aid him in the fight against an evil alien regime! Once they’re in orbit, he immediately begins to use all of his new shipmates to what he believes are their strengths, but what does that say about Starfire, who he keeps neglecting to give any responsibilities to? Showing some initiative, she inserts herself into a battle in the cargo bay, but even after tearing apart Val yor’s enemies for him, a simple mistake earns her his wrath, as well as a nasty xenophobic slur: Troq.

Feeling offended and now walking on eggshells, Starfire winds up getting roped into clearing free-floating mines out of the ship’s way, which she does, despite nearly messing up twice. She gets back on the ship, where Cyborg and Robin learn what Troq really means, but Stafire orders them to keep it to themselves until later. They reach the planet’s surface, and fight their way through alien robot beasts as Val Yor  makes a mad dash towards their target, and Starfire insists upon accompanying him, despite his protests… And it’s a good thing she did, because she winds up saving his life as he continues to tell her she can’t. Finally, they arrive back on Earth, and Val yor tries to make up for his prejudice by admitting he was wrong about her, but… Well, let’s just say the spiritual combination of Chris Brown and Justin Bieber couldn’t have apologized worse, and her friends tell him to get the hell off their planet.

As I mentioned in my review of Petite Princess Yucie, one of the most important things a kids’ show can do is teach positive messages to the audience. One of the most popular messages, and by the law of averages also the most screwed up messages, is the importance of not being prejudiced. I recently saw the new Disney movie Zootopia, and I was floored by how well it tackled not just racism or sexism but the very idea of being prejudiced and judging your peers based on the wrong information. And yet, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which is a cartoon that’s critically praised for being a smart show for kids, can’t attempt this message without stumbling and sounding preachy. So how does Teen Titans fare with similar material?

The same way they deal with a pro-America speech: Better than you’d think possible, and they did it by treating the issue realistically.

Yeah, that’s right, Teen Titans tackled a real world issue using space aliens. One orange, and one gray. Now, one might think that by doing this, you’d be taking the humanity out of the equation… Nope! The humanity of racism lies deeply within both characters. When Val Yor first meets Starfire, he doesn’t outright say anything… He tolerates her, and simply tries to ignore her. It isn’t until she makes a mistake that he jumps on the validation of his beliefs, and smugly begins to pull his demeaning and belittling slur out of his bag. Yeah, guess what? Racists aren’t snarling pitbulls waiting to snap the second they see a target. Those offended by racism aren’t all going to snap and immediately get offended, either… Their feelings are just as easily hurt as anyone else’s, and even if they know they’re better than the racist is insinuating, words can still cut really deep.

Rather than escalating the situation or rallying her friends for support, Starfire withdraws, not wanting to make a big deal out of the words from yet another ignorant bigot… After the many she’s likely met in her life. But when that doesn’t work, she does seek a little support, and decides to prove herself, to show him what she already knows… That she’s strong, that she’s capable, and that he has no idea what he’s talking about. She never gives up on him, and even manages to save his life, even after he’s so convinced in her worthlessness that he refuses to let her risk her own life to save his. If you haven’t seen the episode, don’t misread that… It’s not an act of heroism, but an act of pity. In his mind, asking a rat to try and save him would just be a waste of a rat. But it’s pity she neither wants nor needs, and she saves his ignorant life.

Back on Earth, Val Yor’s reaction to her accomplishment is also disturbingly realistic… He admits he was wrong about her, and has found value in her that he didn’t see before, and he’s willing to take a big bite of humble pie over it… But he still considers her an exception. She’s proven herself, but there’s no way to change his opinion on her people, and yet he still smiles upon leaving, as if he thinks he’s done the right thing. As she says in her speech at the end of the episode, there are people who will never be able to fully abandon the prejudices they grew up with, no matter how much of an impact you think you can make on them… I’ve seen plenty of racist human characters that were portrayed with far less humanity than this alien. Racists are often portrayed as irredeemable douchebags who will never learn, but Val Yor DOES learn, which makes his character seem borderline tragic in retrospect.

But what makes this episode my favorite is the final thing she says; There are far more people who WON’T judge you. I don’t just love that line because of how hopeful it is, but because of just how much it relates to the final piece of humanity in the episode… Her friends. They’re in love with Val Yor when they meet him, and who wouldn’t be? The dude’s awesome! This guy probably bench-presses Chuck Norris! But starting with Cyborg and Robin, and ending with Raven and Beastboy, they hold no more fondness of him once they learn how he’s hurt her. Their attitudes change in a split second from adoration to disgust the second they learn that he hurt Starfire’s feelings.

No, it’s not the fact that he’s a racist that drives them away… Let’s be honest, he could say equally venomous things about aliens they’ve never met before, and they’d probably just laugh it off. It’s the fact that his particular brand of racism hit too close to home for them, and made their friend… Somebody that’s special to them… Feel uncomfortable. It speaks not only to how much racism an actual person will likely tolerate, but even more strongly to the friendship between the Titans themselves. I don’t think there’s a single episode where their bond between them feels stronger than it does here.

Also, this episode has one of my favorite jokes in the series. Starfire asks Cyborg if he’s experienced prejudice based on his looks, and just when you think the episode is going to steer into preachiness and hit the issue too hard on the nose, Cyborg answers with “Yeah… I am part robot after all.” The action was great, even if they were just fighting drones, and Hynden Walsh’s vocal performance as she deals with this issue was probably her strongest in the show. Guys, I’m not going to say this episode is the best written, or even that it’s the most important, but it’s the one that makes me feel proudest to be a Teen Titans fan. It doesn’t matter which episode fills your number one slot, as long as you can proudly say that.

You know, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t really get the intense hatred over Teen Titans Go. I’m not saying it’s a good series, but I’ve seen tons of people denounce it as though it’s one of the worst things currently on air. I haven’t seen the whole series… I’ve only seen the first DVD collection… And I didn’t have a problem with it. It’s cheesecake. It’s fast food. It’s a light-hearted look at our favorite characters in new situations, and what’s wrong with that? It’s like Doug Walker said about The Last Airbender; Yeah, it was a bad movie, and probably not the last one, but it’ll never damage the series we love.

Besides, Go might have a few terrible episodes, but guess what? So did the original Teen Titans. As much as I loved the show, I get a little sick of hearing it deified through everybody’s nostalgia goggles, when… And I can’t stress this enough… Teen Titans, in it’s prime, was a little over-rated. And I know that’s a controversial thing to say, which is why I wouldn’t say it unless I had a list of not-so-great episodes to back me up. I re-watched the entire series on DVD over the course of a week, and these are the episodes I found lacking in an increasing number of ways, so sit back and enjoy my Top Ten Worst Teen Titans Episodes!

10: Revved Up

This episode begins with a new villain by the name of Ding Dong Daddy, a heavyweight dude in a goatee and a red funny car. He’s stopped in the middle of the road by the Titans, who demand he give back what he stole. He taunts them and challenges them to a race. He tries to move past them to get a head start, but he can’t, because Raven uses her powers to levitate and disable his vehicle. He can’t move, they arrest him and take the briefcase, and… Oops! No, they just let him drive past, agreeing to his terms. Yeah, I have to admit, this episode had me alienated from the start. I can’t stand seeing supposedly competent heroes ignore perfect solutions to their problems,

Okay, I’m going to level with you guys… There aren’t very many terrible Teen Titans episodes. The first few entries on this list aren’t insufferable or unwatchable, they’re more mediocre, boring, or just plain stupid. Case in point, an episode about a race that could have been over at any second if Harrison Ford had dysentery. There’s so much about this episode that didn’t make any sense, from the sudden appearance of the pit-crew vehicle to the fact that a finish line was already set up before DDD made his challenge. Or here, how about this; How did Red X know about the race for the briefcase before that information went public? It’s an episode that I watch mostly in stunned silence, wondering what I’m supposed to get from it, as well as what the writers were thinking.

I mean, was one of them desperately facing down an upcoming deadline, run out of time, and just happened to be watching The Wacky Races? This had to be the easiest script to write ever! At no point did I ever care whether or not the briefcase gets back safely, and the fact that Robin shows what’s inside to all of his friends and not us feels kinda insulting. I mean, at least give us a Pulp Fiction glow. So why is it only #10? Well, once the second half picks up, it’s funny to see a handful of past villains join the chase in their personally designed vehicles. Also, there are some jokes that do hit the mark… Like when Starfire dressed up as a villain with Raven as her sidekick. It’s not a terrible episode, but it’s just blisteringly mediocre.

9: Winner Take All

In this episode, the five core Titans(minus Terra for some reason) are playing a very intriguing card game. Cyborg wins, squabbles with Robin, and the two of them… Plus Beastboy… Are teleported to an alternate dimension to take part in a fighting tournament. As the brackets get whittled down, Cyborg gets suspicious about the fate of the losers and investigates, figuring out that The Master of Games, the being hosting this event, is absorbing the losers into his crystal to steal their powers. He absorbs Cyborg, and Robin advances to the finale, where Master gloats about the success of his plans. Robin challenges him, frees his friends, and they all get teleported home. Oh, but apparently Master wasn’t defeated, and now it’s the girls’ turn, end episode.

There’s no doubt about it. This is by far the stupidest episode in the entire series. Some writer came up with a simple, lazy concept, and wrote a script around that concept to turn it into an episode, without putting a lick of thought into whether or not ANY of it made any sense. The very plot itself revolves around one of the dumbest villain plans I’ve ever heard, and the show goes out of it’s way to point this out towards the end. Let’s see… Master has the ability to teleport people across dimensions without permission, and absorb them into his necklace, so he… Starts a tournament where he gets to keep the powers of the losers? You know they lost, right? And as we learn from his capture of Cyborg, they don’t have to be defeated to be absorbed.

Really, this guy should be one of the most OP, dangerous villains in the series. He has godlike powers that can remove people from the real world, and an endless supply of powers from a hero filled planet. Instead, he pursues a convoluted, overly complicated plan that doesn’t even favor him in the end. He’s apparently obsessed with rules and routines, because if he wasn’t, he would have just absorbed all of the fighters in an instant. Or hell, why not just send Robin back home instead of risking it all against him? Also, I wasn’t going to bring this up, but Robin was disturbingly out of character here, having his judgement clouded by the vague promise of prizes. If Cy had been caught cheating at cards earlier, Robin’s suspicions would have made more sense. And then there’s the ending, where the Titans blow a chance to potentially turn Gizmo good, and the defeated Master SOMEHOW brings in the ladies for tournament two. So why isn’t it higher? Well, it is a Jim Cummings episode, and the fights were kind of cool. That’s… something. It’s just too bad that nothing in this episode made any bloody sense.

8: The Beast Within

In The Beast Within, the Titans are fighting Adonis, a teenage wimp who wears a giant robotic suit to feel strong. Think of it as the Hulkbuster, I guess. He’s beating them pretty soundly until he question’s BB’s manhood, and Beastboy flies into a rage, destroying the Adonis suit and accidently spilling toxic ooze onto both of them. The next morning, he wake up to find himself a new man. He’s eating meat, exercising like crazy, channel-surfing, and copping an attitude with his friends. After an encounter with Raven, he finds he can’t control his rage. He begins transforming into a giant creature and abducting her, supposedly hurting her, scaring their friends. It’s eventually revealed that he was actually the one protecting her, and that it was actually Adonis transforming to attack her, with Beastboy playing defense.

So, this episode almost didn’t make this list. For the first three quarters of it, I thought it was actually kinda decent. Not great, but serviceable enough. The manly stereotypes bothered me, but it wasn’t directly condemning masculinity, just it’s misuse. Then it did one very baffling thing that landed it here; It’s twist ending. This might be one of the worst endings in the series. When it was implied that Beastboy was the one turning into a giant beast and hurting his friends, I found that really compelling… It was a force he couldn’t control, making him do things that he wouldn’t normally do, and he had to learn to control it, understand it, and accept it as a part of himself. But it wasn’t him… It was Adonis, who I’d like to remind you has NO ability to transform, making this reveal quite possibly the worst idea since Greedo shooting first.

It made sense for the ooze to run Beastboy’s transformation ability out of whack… He HAD a transformation ability! Now you’re telling me that with the ooze, anybody can transform into the exact same creature? Oh, and he wasn’t transforming because he was mad, he was transforming because Raven was in danger. Bullshit. First of all, we SAW him transform when Robin was interrogating him, and yes, he attempted to grab Raven. Was Adonis just coincidentally stalking around right at that moment? And by the way, how was Raven, the user of shadows who can move through solid objects, overpowered so easily? I’ll buy that Adonis would go after her, but even in beast form, how did infiltrate the tower, move around undetected, and knock her out? I have little doubt that this ending wasn’t the original ending, and that the network forced a rewrite to avoid making a main character loo bad, or something of the like. Well, at least I hope this was the case, because what we got robs that potentially powerful message from Raven at the end of all possible depth. Can somebody confirm this?

7: Betrayal

Remember Terra? That girl that ran away and turned evil all over a simple misunderstanding? She’s back, and it’s finally time for her to complete her revenge on the team that DARED to never clear up that misunderstanding! Yeah, bear with me on this one, there’s a rant coming. Ahem. After helping the Titans on a mission, it’s time for Terra’s master to finally put her into action. She disables the Tower’s security, and then takes Beastboy out on a date so that he’ll be safe from the onslaught of robotic drones that’s about to come. They do the hanging out, Terra eats a bad pie that makes her hallucinate, and Slade teleports into their ferris wheel car out of freaking nowhere to interrupt their date. Hijinks ensue, Terra’s all like “You said you’d be my friend even if I did something horrible, how dare you go back on that just because you found out I tried to kill your friends” and Beastboy’s all like “I think you should become a villain now.” Episode over.

There’s no easy way to say this… I’m not a huge fan of the Terra episodes. I know they have a huge following… I mean, if nothing else, Terra herself occasionally seemed like a cool character. But it ultimately amounts to one of the most poorly adapted comic book storylines I’ve ever seen. I’m not above grouping multiple episode into one slot if I want to… It’s going to happen in the future, get used to it… And there are a few Terra episodes I have problems with. But I think in this case, Betrayal is the best possible episode to represent my problems with this arc.

To start with, yes, I realize that the cartoon isn’t going to be the comic. More on this in entry #5. For obvious reasons, the creators of this series just couldn’t handle having Terra be a jailbait sociopath in a sexual relationship with Slade, and therefore being a perfectly understandable villain. But if you’re going to change something in an adaptation, it needs to make sense! Terra’s beef with the Titans is so week that in Aftershock part 1, when Robin asked her about it, she said instead “Because you were born.” Yeah, her biggest turning point is so flimsy that the future episodes straight-up gloss over it.  At no point during the entire story arc did I believe that Slade had a single damn thing to offer her that could possibly turn her against the Titans, especially after the awesome Titan Rising episode did such a great job making her look like an actual friend and team mate to them.

So why did I pick Betrayal as a figurehead of my hatred of this arc? Is it because it’s the episode that doesn’t know how mirrors work? Or because of how inconsistent the tower’s security is? (I mean Christ, if Adonis can get in after turning into a brainless Yeti, I doubt someone as smart as Slade would need an insider) It’s because of how clumsily and poorly it advances the plot. This episode is where the arc turned to shit. Realistically, Beastboy is the only character who ‘betrayed’ Terra, so why is he the only one she wanted to save? Proofread much? And as I mocked in the plot summary, some of the dialogue between them is just insultingly stupid to the point that it makes both characters look unlikeable. Yeah, I know how The Judas Contract is supposed to go, but if this is the best they could do with it, then I wish they’d just thrown Terra’s betrayal out the window and played her straight as a conflicted hero instead. It could have worked.

6: Employee of the Month

In this episode… Which is apparently on everybody’s favorite episodes list… A bunch of UFOs are abducting cows, which is one of the oldest cliches in the book. In fact, it’s just old enough to be reinvented and subverted, so what will Teen Titans do with that classic trope? Get this: They set up a scenario where an evil Tofu alien is abducting cows from one town so it can replace the meat at one restaurant with alien tofu, so that it can leave with a bunch of cows and blow up the planet. No, I am not making a word of that up. I’m not nearly stoned enough to conceive something like that.

Oh, but that’s not all, we’ve got the main plot of Beastboy trying to get his hands on a moped, which the afforementioned store is giving away as an employee of the month gift! What a wacky and unpredictable coincidence this isn’t! How totally uncontrived this idea wishes it was! Of course the Mega Meaty Meats restaurant wasn’t Beastboy’s first choice, being that he’s a vegetarian… although I’d just like to point out that any actual meat eater wouldn’t go near a place that has a menu full of different beef cuts but only actually sells cheeseless burgers… So of course we get a bunch of lazy filler comedy where he tries a bunch of different jobs and fails them in so many ways that you won’t believe it. No, you literally won’t believe any of it. His over-the-top boss keeps calling him by the wrong name… No, there’s no actual joke there… And he himself is made out of tofu, so those bland and completely unappetizing burgers are literally just him dripping pieces of himself onto a plate in the back room, to be replaced by a new him whenever he runs out of him. This could have been funny if he was conspicuously missing body parts throughout the episode, but nope, it’s just gross as all hell.

As a comedy, this episode is aggressively unfunny. Even when I first watched it over ten years ago, I specifically remember watching it with my head cocked and my jaw open, with the phrase “What the fuck?” replacing any laugh I may have had for it. The only reason I don’t consider this episode dumber than Winner Take All is because, when a story reaches a certain level of weirdness, it becomes kind of unfair to rank it on a scale of intelligence. It doesn’t have to make any sense or have a well constructed narrative, because the writer was too high on the idea of tofu aliens stealing cows because… Because they breathe methane, and they need the cows unique ability to fart like an old motor so it can replenish the atmosphere of it’s planet? See, I’m already putting more thought into it than they did.

Humor is subjective. A lot of people find this episode funny, and I have nothing against them for it. Their opinions aren’t any more or less valid than mine. If you don’t find this episode funny, however, it has absolutely nothing to offer you but weird visuals, a poorly thought out plot and a series of jokes that will completely waste your time. Also, I really hate to bring this up, but the visual of Manager Bob oozing himself into every single burger sold brings up some very unpleasant fears some people may have about people in the fast food industry tampering with the food of customers they don’t like, adding a surreal sort of realism to the gross-out aspect of this episode. I really hope I never have to watch it again.

5: How Long is Forever

Before I begin, yes, I know that Mysterious Mr. Entrer and The Blockbuster buster have both praised this episode.  I have nothing but respect for both of these reviewers and the work that they do, but suffice to say, when it comes to this episode, I just can’t tow the party line.  I’ve got to be the dissenting voice, as well as the unpopular opinion…  This episode sucks.

Instead of doing a plot synopsis, let’s talk a little bit about contrived writing. It’s that phenomenon where a writer paints a character in an untrue or nonsensical way for the sake of satisfying their own ideas. This is normally reserved for fanfic authors, but occasionally, it bleeds into actual professional writing. Characters will be acting in a way that would never actually happen, were it not for the fact that the author controlling them NEEDED it to happen. Case in point: If it wasn’t “Friendship day” to at least one character, the rest of her friends wold probably be getting along.

If you’re going to do this cliche, the conflict has to make sense. If Starfire’s four friends are getting on each other’s nerves in the living room, there needs to be a reason they’re there. Because guess what? It’s a big fucking tower, and Raven has already been established to prefer the silence and solitude of reading in her room, so why would she be trying to read while video games and music are being played less than ten feet away? Unless you have some excuse, like “The tower was recently damaged, so they’re all in the living room to make way for the reconstruction work,” and Robin, who’s never been established to enjoy standing around and listening to a boombox, is just doing so out of stress relief over the whole ordeal, this conflict would be believable, and not like the passive aggressive power struggle that it wound up feeling like.

That’s where the contrivances mostly end, but it doesn’t necessarily get “Better.”

The Titans meet up with a Time Traveling villain named Warp who steals a priceless artifact, and tries to go back home through a portal, but Starfire chases him through, and fucks up his plan, leaving them stranded twenty years in the future. Jump City looks bleak and lifeless… Although that’s probably just because she landed there during the winter, another small contrivance… And she returns to the Titan Tower, to find her friendship beads right on the floor where she left them, and a poorly aged Cyborg telling her that the team split up after she went missing. He doesn’t specify how long it took this to happen, but since the beads Starfire broke were still exactly on the floor where she left them, I’d say it’s pretty neatly implied that it took less time than it would take for anybody to realize “Hey, we should clean these up!” So, maybe a month, and that’s being generous.

Without Starfire, what were they supposed to do? Move on? Try to get her back? No, if the snow outside the tower didn’t tip you off, this is supposed to be a sad episode. They all just quit. There are so many little nitpicks I could make about this episode… Why does Cyborg know where Beatboy and Raven are, but not the fact that Robin is still patrolling the town? Why didn’t Beastboy just join another team? Why did they all keep their communicators? Why are they still working after twenty years? Why did Raven, a multi-dimensional being, resign herself to living in a bland white apartment?  In fact, hasn’t Raven dealt with some pretty harsh losses before? She’ll turn into a broken hermit over Starfire, but not her own fucking mother? I’m sorry, but I just find it’s level of emotional manipulation to be skin-crawling. This episode was attempting to reach maturity and emotional nuance, which it demonstrably fell short of. This is why none of the Titans turned to a life of crime…They have to be sympathetic. This is also why the entire team split up soon after Starfire disappeared… Because it’s sad. And also bullshit.

Right from the beginning, I knew this Teen Titans wouldn’t be the same as the comic. There would have to be huge tonal and story-telling changes to make it appropriate for TV and palateable for young audiences. It doesn’t bother me that they call Deathstroke Slade, or that Starfire isn’t as sexy. It bothers me a little that they left out Donna Troy, but hey, they couldn’t get the license, I can accept that. The only time it bothers me is in regards to this episode. The Teen Titans are supposed to be a strong team, capable of overcoming any obstacle and moving past any tragedy. There are so many dead Teen Titans in the comic book, but did they ever break up over it? The Teen Titans I know wouldn’t dissolve just because Starfire went missing. They’d work together and fight to the ends of the earth to find a way to get her back.

But I hear what you’re saying… Those Teen Titans aren’t the ones we’re dealing with here. Well, let’s look at the cartoon’s canon instead. Did the Titans dissolve after Terra got petrified? No. They stayed together, barely mentioning her again for almost three straight seasons. I know Starfire meant more to them than Terra, but that difference in reaction is freaking ginormous. I know there are people who genuinely feel emotional depth from this episode, and I don’t want to come off as though I’m insulting them, but this is Teen Titans pulling out all the stops to achieve poignancy… And to me, it just winds up feeling melodramatic and emotionally manipulative. Also, it’s time travel mechanics are kind of confusing.  I mean, Starfire is shown leaving in the end, but she’s also shown coming back, so…  Is the world the new Starfire flies into still one where she doesn’t exist?  Because we see her being immediately replaced.  Ah, whatever.

4: Divide and Conquer

In this episode, Cinderblock breaks into a prison to bust out a fellow giant enemy. He runs into the Teen Titans, who introduce themselves with a count-off(ugh) and he escapes them easily after Robin and Cyborg screw up a needlessly complicated combo attack and squabble through some of the most annoying talking animations ever. He rescues Plasmus, who, like the average American if Trump gets elected president, only feels safe and human when he’s asleep. Cyborg leaves the team, the other four struggle to beat Plasmus, and then he shows up out of nowhere to save the day and rejoin the team. Also Slade is involved.

Fun Fact: This was supposed to be the pilot episode of the series. It’s even listed as the first episode on the DVDs. But the network that originally aired it, Cartoon Network… As well as Kids WB, for it’s second run… Decided the episode was too shitty to introduce the series, so they swapped it out with the far superior third episode, Final Exam. I’m not a huge fan of networks re-ordering the episodes of a series, as it happened obscenely to my two favorite shows of all time, Firefly and Titus, but what can I say? They were right, this episode is horse shit.

To be fair, pilot episodes are normally bad. Good pilots(Like Community) are the exception, not the rule. But similar to The Simpsons, I’m convinced the series wouldn’t have survived it’s first season if the pilot had aired first. The animation was decent, but just about everything else was done wrong. It features the normal pilot problems… Actors that haven’t gotten into their characters yet, writers who haven’t figured out the character’s speech patterns yet(especially Raven), and an overuse of techniques that would get toned down later on, like the anime-inspired animation quirks that the show is popularly known for and get BEATEN INTO THE GROUND in this episode.

But it does so many other things wrong that it’s hard to count them. The characters all fight like idiots when they go up against Plasmus at the Mountain Dew factory. The conflict between Robin and Cyborg feels forced, and the dialogue is full of trailer lines. There are plenty of idea it came up with… Starfire melting steel beams, the Sonic Boom attack, Slade having a butler, an explosion that can put people to sleep, the Titans having a Team Rocket like opening chant… That never appear again in the series, because they’re fucking stupid. It’s a painful episode to watch, and when I started this project, I was pretty sure it would be #1. But in it’s defense, it WAS a pilot, and the networks made a great move swapping it out. It drops a bit in the rankings because of this, so enjoy the next three entries.

3: Calling All Titans/Titans Together

It’s the thrilling conclusion to the Teen Titans animated series, and I hope you’re ready to get excited, because they’re bringing in every hero we’ve met thus far as well as a sizeable portion of the heroes from the comics to fight every single villain we’ve met so far(even the ones whose presence is physically impossible, like Puppet Master and Mother Mae Eye… Seriously, who ate the pie this time?) in one ginormous, epic, knock-down-drag-out brawl, on behalf of The Brotherhood of Evil, who are finally ready to eliminate the Titans once and for all! And if that doesn’t sound ambitious enough, they’re doing it all… In the space of two episodes!

Yeah, that’s where things really start to fall apart, but it’s nowhere near where it stops. To address the biggest problem first, let’s look at the Anime Charlotte, from last year. It had a decent premise, revolving around some complex and interesting characters, but then it shot itself in the foot by squeezing an entire season’s worth of story into one single episode. That’s not quite how badly paced this finale feels, but I’d still insist that it could have been stretched out into four or five episodes, so that there’d be more time to develop the concept and participants involved. They didn’t do that, because it was apparently way more important to save room for pointless filler episodes like Revved Up, Lightspeed, Hide and Seek, and (I’m sorry) Things Change. Episodes that could have been scrapped entirely, with the only big loss being Kid Flash’s debut and Jinx’s confusingly pointless face turn.

As it is, I could easily dedicate an entire Inconvenient Questions post to just these two episodes alone. I could start with questions like “Why did Robin wait until his friends thought they were on the way home to tell them that they were all going to separate and travel across the globe to find potential Titans?” “How do they know where all these Titans are, when Cerebro is from a different universe?” “Why would they go after Bushido and Pantha, when those two aren’t the only sword user and female wrestler in the world?” “If they’re going after all these super heroes to help them against the Brotherhood, why not stop in Metropolis and appeal to Superman?” Or better yet “If the Brotherhood has The Master of Games on their side, why don’t they just use him to teleport every single Titan in the world right into the base one by one, which he could literally do?” All questions that could have been addressed in a longer story.

It’s because of ambitious stories like this that the episodic nature of the series can be a serious double-edged sword. Individual episodes can be used to tell pretty much any story the writers want to tell, and in quite a few cases, they use this to the best creative advantage, exploring ideas and introducing new characters. In season 5 alone, we were given introductions to Red Star, Kole and Gnaark, three kids who amounted to less than a minute of finale screen time(?), and Kid Flash. But the series also had a lot of one-shot stupid episodes, a few of which wound up on this list, that could have been swapped out for good episodes that could have introduced the other new characters we’re supposed to be invested in.  Oh, and speaking of Red Star, bringing him in cheapened the only episode ending that actually effected me emotionally.

I realize they couldn’t get the license for Wonder Girl, but they could have given individual episodes to Herald, Argent, Pantha and Bushido so we could find out what was so special about them that got them onto the Titans radar in the first place… But especially Jericho, a great character who is, oh, by the way, THE SON OF SLADE! What kind of hacks would bring in somebody like Jericho, and not take advantage of his blood relation to the series’ primary antagonist? Yeah, mt problems with this 2-part episode run deep, and the terrible pacing doesn’t help. Neither does the over-simplification of the fight scene, that should have been nothing short of epic, but ultimately came off as a little kid putting all of his hero action figures up against all of his villain characters, with that being pretty much as deep as the story was capable of going. Oh well, at least it ended on a good joke.

2: Fractured

Have you ever thought there were too many villains with powers? Well just for you, it’s tie to introduce Johnny Rancid, A… Biker. Yep. He’s a punk biker who’s antics are rowdy enough to earn the attentions of the Teen Titans. He manages to take his rivalry with them a step further than most others by actually injuring Robin, leaving him with a broken right arm that keep him out of action for a few weeks. But it turns out robin won’t be staying home alone, as a tiny Robin pops out of his forehead, and declares himself to be Nosyarg Kcid. The rest of the team goes after Johnny while Nosyarg breaks reality, accidentily giving Johnny powers that the team has to overcome before everything can be set right again.

A while back, Channel Frederator gave credibility to a fan-theory that Teen Titans Go! was a cartoon that existed specifically in Beast Boy’s head. I disagree with this, but only because I’ve come up with a better theory. I’ve always postulated that it’s true pilot episode was Fractured, the episode that established a slew of alternate universes that possess an awareness of the real worlt that we can also be visited by. I have no problem believing that the Toddler titans came from one of the alternate dimensions. It also works really well as a pilot for Go! because it’s just as ungodly annoying.

I mentioned Mysterious Mr. Enter earlier, and there’s a principal of his that I’d like to bring up here; It’s okay for a character to be annoying, as long as they’re not annoying the audience, which is exactly what Nosyarg… Or, Larry… Does every single time he’s on screen. That’s not to say robin’s any better, since he’s finally dropped the stubborn thickheadedness that I hated just to be all mopey and self-pitying. Larry’s antics pretty much amount to bothering robin while he’s trying to watch TV, running around the living room making am ess, and… I hate to say this, but not really living up to his potential. His actions seem somewhat restrained, as if the writers know they have to make Robin snap to advance the plot, but they don’t want to make him seem too unlikeable, so they elevate his behavior in increments, which is kind of even more frustrating. They do eventually realize that Larry tormenting Robin and the other four chasing a biker they could easily beat isn’t enough content to carry an entire episode even when combined, so they have Larry break reality.

The problem? Reality breaks in other episodes, with the characters running for their lives through creative imagery and wacky threats. Revolution is inarguably the best version of this idea, and Mother Mae Eye is nowhere near as annoying as Larry is, which leaves a portion of this episode feeling like the most boring acid trip ever taken. I’m not kidding. I watched this entire series in a single week this month, only rewatched the episodes in consideration for this list, and this is the only episode that I found myself constantly nodding off through. Both times. The only thing that happens in this episode that’s even kind of amusing is seeing the other four swapping mouths and voices, but it’s over too quickly, and only worth about a single solitary chuckle. might have made a decent running gag, you know?

Johnny Rancid is a lame villain, and by my count, this is the SECOND time that a character’s had something weird pop out of their forehead as an homage to FLCL. This episode isn’t as stupid or offensive as the rest of the list, but it’s probably the only Teen Titans episode that I can really call boring. That’s quite a feat, as even at it’s worst, this show never came as close to putting me to sleep as this one did. Once again, both times..

Before I reveal the worst episode in the series, here are a few that almost made the cut.

Mother Mae Eye: This one actually WAS on the list, because while it tried to balance between horror and comedy, I felt absolutely nothing of either. It also ignores Cyborg’s immunity to mind control, and I’m pretty sure the Titans attempted to murder the Hive 5 at the end. I swapped it out with Betrayal, mainly because there wasn’t a lot I could say about it. It’s a nothing episode to me.

Deep Six: A lot of people were probably expecting to see this episode, as I’ve often seen it referred to as The Boring Episode. It honestly didn’t bother me, though. It was just kinda a meh episode. Also, I’m probably alone in this, but I thought seeing Raven go gaga over Aqualad was pretty funny.

Forces of Nature: My only real sticking point for this episode was Thunder’s reaction to Beastboy telling him that what he was doing was wrong. Has he seriously never considered that? And BB’s slow realization that he needs to apologize to Starfire was also kind of dumb, but I guess it’s a little more believable.

Masks: I’ll be honest, Robin’s bravado and desire to pursue Slade without his friends never felt right to me. I’m also going to call bullshit on how perfectly that hologram worked when he used it. That’s a pretty big leap of suspending disbelief.

Overdrive: The moral of this episode kinda bugs me. Yeah, juicing and attempting to improve yourself through artificial means is bad, but it doesn’t become a negative for Cy until he starts removing aspects of his life and humanity to improve it further. Does that mean the message is really “Use steroids in moderation?” Because up until he started willfully shutting himself down, the Max-7 chip seemed to be legitimately awesome.

#1: A Date With Destiny

Our heroes show up to catch a man with an entire giant spider for a head stealing some jewelry. They give chase, causing way more damage than the jewelry could possibly be worth, firing freaking missiles at a petty thief, which is okay because he’s part bug. He paralyzes Robin, and we’re introduced to one of Batman’s minorest villains, Killer Moth, whose plans to take over the city are being complicated by the love troubles of his normal looking teenage daughter, Kitten. She demands a date with Robin to her junior prom, so Killer Moth holds the town hostage to make it happen. He goes to the prom along with the jealous Starfire, as the rest of the team tries to track down the moths that the villain is threatening to release.

I don’t think I’ve said this yet for any of the other entries, but the romantic tension between Robin and Starfire is one of the weakest elements of the series. They have no romantic development, no chemistry, and it feels like they were thrown together for the same reason Starlord almost hooked up with Gamora… Because the lead male character needs to land the hot chick in some way in order to be a better self-insert empowerment fantasy. I don’t hate all of their episodes… Stranded was actually kind of smart, aside from some forced conflict set-up… But I’m just saying, it had an uphill battle to climb, especially with Starfire and Robin’s reaction to the date demand… Which is somehow worse than his demands of surrender and control of the town, neither of which he ever forces them to act upon.

Throughout the series, the Teen Titans make sacrifices to protect the city. They sacrifice their bodies, their health, their property, and more. But God forbid Robin go on a bogus date without acting like an unsociable prick. He acted like a villain for Slade, but he can’t act like a Gentleman for Kitten, and neither can Starfire put aside her status-quo not-boyfriend jealousy to act in the best interest of the town… Which, thanks to plot contrivances, happens to be stalking Robin. Thank God Kitten had the controller, and Starfire NEEDED to be there to help stop it from being used. If Killer Moth held it, they’d be proper fucked, but not as fucked as their team mates would be if the controller hadn’t been designed to turn the moths back into larva when destroyed. I’m not sure what to ask about that first… How does that work, or why did he set it up like that?

Oh, but if those were my only problems, it wouldn’t be the worst in the series. I despise Kitten. Yeah, I said Robin should have been nicer(at least pretended to be) but that doesn’t mean she’s off the hook. I can’t stand the fact that a Tara Strong performance makes me cringe this much, and yes, to be fair, that was the point, but it didn’t have to be. Believe it or not, her character could have SO EASILY been likeable, and it could have happened without even sacrificing her villainhood. Maybe if her overwhelming pride, and her aggression towards Robin .had just been a facade to cover her genuine heartache over Fang, and robin and Starfire were able to council her over it and TALK her into giving up her control over the moths, you could have redeemed her, while not having two main characters act like children. Hell, SHE could have contacted her father and convinced him to stop!

No, you know what? I would have LOVED this episode if, after Fang passed out on the table, Kitten had rushed to his side, and he gave her the necklace he stole, ending the fight right there. Robin and Kitten win king and queen, which Robin hands over to Fang. The two of them dance together, a girl and her bug monster, even as the cops come to arrest them. It would have been much more heartwarming to see these two weirdos make up than any part of the ending we actually got was, although that still wouldn’t have redeemed the animation, which was hideous. I’m not saying it’s low budget, oh no, that’s never the case with this show. It’s so badly directed that it’s kind of hard to watch. The way Fang crawls across walls, Starfire’s head turning into a monster, and every single facial animation on Kitten is just awful. Watching Kitten kiss her boyfriend’s spider head was fucking romantic compared to the faces she made when she was trying to kiss Robin.

Maybe calling this the worst episode of the series is a little harsh, but I’m sorry, it’s a concept that just had so much comedic and dramatic potential, and didn’t even bother trying to capture any of it. This could have been our first chance to see a Teen Titans villain as something more complex than just a criminal… We could have had a mutant man who’s just trying to make ends meet for himself and his daughter, a confused girl who just wants the love of her life back, a bad boy teenager who’s struggling to decide between her and his affinity for crime, and a team of animators who weren’t huffing glue and watching Ren and Stimpy before coming in to work. Instead, what we got was an episode so dumb, lazy annoying and hateful of it’s own characters that I can hardly watch it at all.

Teen Titans wasn’t a bad show, but it had bad episodes, and those were the worst of the worst! But hey, not only is that just my opinion… And I’d love to hear yours… But I do plan to balance out all this negativity with a positive list somewhere down the line. I have plans to post a Top Ten Best Episodes list, but I can’t do it until May, because, well, we’re coming up on two special events.

First of all, it’s Studio Gainax Month! And second of all, it’s going to be my fiftieth review next week! In honor of both of these events, get ready for something you’ve all been waiting for…

My Review of Gurren Lagann!

Look for it next week!

1: According to Greg Ayres, what Tower of Druaga character name can you not say around Chris Patton?
A: Ethana B: Ishtar C: Pazuzu D: Gilgamesh

2: In Bamboo Blade, what is Tamaki’s favorite TV show?
A: Super Senshi B: Blade Bravers C: Municipal Force Daitenzen D: Duelists of Fate

3: It’s briefly revealed in the Love Hina manga that the Hinata House is located in what prefecture?
A: Hinata B: Karanagi C: Kanagawa D: Toujo

4: In what shojo manga is the main character obsessed with finding the perfect human pillow?
A: My Heavenly Hockey Club B: Alice on Deadlines C: Maison Ikkoku D: Happy Mania

5: Which of the following Funimation voice actors did not also work for ADV?
A: Luci Christian B: Cherami Leigh C: Kira Vincent Davis D: Monica Rial

6: In Yuyu Hakusho, what is the name of Kuwabara’s kitten?
A: Miko B: Emi C: Nyonko D: Eikichi

7: What confectionary company made the fruit drops that Setsuko eats in Grave of the Fireflies?
A: Haka B: Hotaru C: Seita D: Sakuma

8: In Gurren Lagann, what was the name of the general who originally commanded the Dai Gunzan?
A: Adiane B: Viral C: Thymilph D: Lordgenome

9: In Gun X Sword, what was the planet “Endless Illusion” originally intended to be?
A: A Prison B: Research Facility C: A gold mine D: A Vacation Spot

10: In Nana, what force does Nana Komatsu attribute her luck to?
A: God B: Buddha C: Kharma D: The Demon Lord

11: Which of the following is not a yaoi manga:
A: AI Love You! B: Loveless C: Junjou Romantica! D: Finder

12: Which of the following anime has an ending theme that consists of two characters playing the air guitar?
A: xXxHoLic B: D Gray Man C: Rumbling Hearts D: Assemble Insert

13: In Mahoromatic, what organization created Mahoro?
A: Slash B: Mantis C: Vesper D: Panther

14: Which of the following anime has not appeared in an AMV Hell clip?
A: Green Green B: Black Blood Brothers C: Please Twins D: A Little Snow Fairy Sugar

15: In Fushigi yugi, Nakago is the last remaining member of what tribe?
A: Shunkaku B: Hin C: Shoryu D: Suzaku

16: In Twelve Kingdoms, the sword that Youko weilds was originally forged from what type of demon?
A: Wind Demon B: Water Demon C: Fire Demon D: Earth Demon

17: In Magical Play, what does Padudu need to collect to become a Magical Girl on Earth?
A: Pure Souls B: Fanboys C: Flower Marks D: Crystal Shards

18: What Elfen Lied character was the subject of a very popular fan-made webcomic chronicling their everyday life?
A: Lucy B: Nana C: Mariko D: Bando

19: In Angel Beats!, what does the band name GirlDeMo stand for?
A: Girls Demonstration B: Girly Death Mood C: Girls Dead Monster D: Girl Depeche Mode
20: What famous pop star was ruthlessly parodied in Nerima Daikon Brothers?
A: Michael Jackson B: Elvis Prestly C: James Brown D: Madonna

21: In the FF7 fanhood, there was once a long-standing rumor that you could bring a popular character back to life by collecting 100 of what otherwise useless item?
A: 1/35 Soldier B: Super Sweeper C: Masamune Replica D: Tissue

22: In the 2nd season of Negima, what mythical creature is Asuna Kagurazaka obsessed with finding?
A: Jackalope B: Chupacabra C: Sasquatch D: Kappa

23: What was the first anime ever to be dubbed in English for an American television release?
A: Astro Boy B: Speed Racer C: Hello Kitty D: Three Tales

24: Which of the following anime is not based on a video game or visual novel?
A: Dragon Half B: Disgaea C: Devil May Cry D: Xenosaga

25: In Welcome to the NHK, Sato believes that the NHK is a conspiracy against him. What is the NHK really?
A: A conspiracy B: A Rock Band C: A Broadcasting Company D: Neighborhood Watch Group

26: In Clannad, what does Fuko hand out to people as invitations to her sister’s wedding?
A: Plush Starfish B: Wooden Starfish C: Origami starfish D: Paper Mache Starfish

27: What classic English language song was featured in the movie Whisper of the Heart?
A: Country Road B: I Will Always Love You C: Piano Man D: Unchained Melody

28: In Steins;Gate, what does Kurisu tell Okarin she wants more than anything?
A: Monogrammed spoon B: Monogrammed Bowl C: Monogrammed knife D: Monogrammed fork

29: Which of the following is not a title from the Chobits Character Song CD?
A: Love of Babble B: I Beg Your Pudding C: A Human Heart D: Groove Master

30: Kannazuki No Miko is the untranslated Japanese title of what anime series?
A: Carnival Phantasm B: Please Save My Earth C: Gaurdian of the Spirit D: Destiny of the Shrine Maiden

31: In Air, when Misuzu says “Gao,” what dinosaur does she say she’s quoting?
A: T Rex B: Brontosaurus C: Triceratops D: Stegosaurus

32: To what anime would I be referring if I said Go Team Sea Slug?!
A: Big Wind-up B: Azumanga Daioh C: Pani Poni Dash D: Girls’ High

33: Sailor Moon was mentioned in the lyrics of what Barenaked Ladies song?
A: One Week B: Pinch Me C: Be My Yoko Ono D: If I Had1000000000 Dollars

34: What is the name of the first School Days OVA episode?
A: Spring Days B: Valentine Days C: Golden Days D: Vacation Days

35: In Midori Days, what is Seiji Sawamura’s nickname?
A: Mad Dog B: Demon Spawn C: Killer D: Casanova

36: The English voice actress who played Chiyo in Spirited Away also starred in what live action horror film?
A: The Grudge B: The Ring C: Saw D: Silence of the Lambs

37: In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, what is the name of the book that Yuki lends Kyon?
A: Prometheus B: Cronus C: Helios D: Hyperion

38: Summer Wars is almost identical, plot-wise, to what Digimon movie?
A: Digimon Adventure B: Hurricane Evolution C: Our War Game D: Runaway Locomon

39: In Pokemon, what was Ash Ketchum’s original first choice for a starter pokemon?
A: Pikachu B: Squirtle C: Bulbasaur D: Charmander

40: What episode of Cardcaptor Sakura became the first episode of Cardcaptors?
A: Episode 2 B: Episode 4 C: Episode 6 D: Episode 8

41: “If you aren’t remembered, then you never existed” is a quote from what anime?
A: Tacxnolyze B: Ninja Scroll C: Serial Expirements Lain D: Claymore

42: The Movie One Hour Photo features a toy from what classic Anime?
A: Gundam Wing B: Evangelion C: Doraemon D: Initial D

43: A Wall-scroll for Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle showed up in the background of what horror movie remake?
A: The Stepfather B: Nightmare on elm Street C: Mirrors D: Halloween 2

44: In Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, what nickname does Kafuka give her suicidal teacher when she meets him?
A: Pink Supervisor B: Mr. Despair C: Mr. Wind Chime D: Prof. Pinata

45: In Rideback, what is the name of the red rideback that Rin drives?
A: Fire B: Le Feu C: Fuoco D: Fuego

46: In Rave Master, what kind of animal is Plue?
A: A Dog B: An Insect C: A fish D: Unknown

47: In Lucky Star, what American horror movie do Konata and Kagami drag Tsukasa with them to go see?
A: Hostel B: Black Christmas C: Saw 3 D: Silent Hill

48: What volume of the Excel Saga manga is the most difficult to find in stores and the most expensive online?
A: Volume 24 B: Volume 8 C: Volume 16 D: Volume 2

49: In the manga version of A Certain Scientific Railgun, what does Shinobu leave hidden around the city?
A: Cameras B: Bombs C: Food D: Cash Cards

50: What anime dub did Crispin Freeman ad-lib the line “This shin-dig is the bomb-diggety?”
A: Saiyuki Reload B: .Hack C: Tenjou Tenge D: Tenchi Universe

Update:  Hey, guys, not sure how my email to Barnes and noble got stuck in here at first, but it’s gone now.  Also, links have been added for each entry.  Enjoy!

Hey guys, Naru here, and I kinda hit a roadblock in the latter weeks of 2015. I normally churn out work for my stockpile on a regular basis, completing the posts you see on this blog weeks or even months before you see them, but through the month of December, I instead wound up helping take care of my elderly grandparents. My Grandfather(or “Poppy, as we called him when we were kids) broke his ankle getting out of the car, and had to go to the hospital. My grandmother wasn’t doing very well living by herself, so my brother and I took turns looking after her for about two weeks… Me from 9AM to 3PM, my brother from 5PM to 7AM. This took up the majority of our time, at least until they were finally able to move into their room at a very nice retirement home.

I love my Grandparents, and I’ve been continuing to happily escort Grandma to places like the bank, post office and doctor visits whenever she asks, as it’s the least I can do for them… But unfortunately, that didn’t leave me much time to write, so for the month of January, I’m going to be posting a few things that I wrote on VERY short notice, at least until I can get caught up.  You know, like last week.  One of the ideas I had that stood out to me the most was a top ten list of my personal favorites out of all the posts I published this year. I’ve done a lot of them, and with your help, I’ve had a lot more encouragement and support than the previous two years, so I’m going to be picking out the top ten that I look back on with the most fondness.

I guess for an honorable mention, I should point out the WakuWafu award, and the only reason it’s not making the list is because I wasn’t directly responsible for it. It came to me as a complete surprise from our new friend Krystallina, and it(along with an endorsement deal from a fledgling otaku site) caused my viewer count to skyrocket into numbers I’d never seen before. Thank you Krystallina, and thank you Wakuwafu.

Onto the list!

10: My Interview with Michael Joy

It’s been several years since I bought Seventh Moon from an independent publisher at an anime convention, but I’ll admit, I didn’t immediately read it. It took me a few years for my curiosity to over-power my apprehension, but when I finally did read it, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyably awful things I’d ever read. I’m serious, it was written so poorly, but I couldn’t put it down. I ordered his other big release, a paranormal romance called Red Ellen, and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s the first book I’ve ever read that made me laugh after reading just the first two words. This is the kind of material that I could imagine Tommy Wiseau writing.

I happened to bump into his account on Gaiaonline.com, at which point I realized that I just had to pick this guy’s brain. I had to know what kind of person would put this much passion and energy into a story that reads like the kind of bad fanfic that bad fanfics make fun of. Also, how many authors am I ever going to meet who live in my home town like he does? The interview turned out to be surprisingly interesting, and it’s one that I still like looking back on once in a while, which made it a shoe-in for this list.

9: My Review of KissXSis

When it comes to the reviews that made this list, you may notice a certain pattern in what I have to say about them… They were all, in some way, significant challenged for me, and I felt that overcoming these challenges would help me to grow as a critic. Kiss X Sis, as it so happens, is a show that wasn’t just a challenge to review, but a challenge to sit through, as well as something a friend of mine challenged me to watch. So I tried for the second time to sit through it, watching all twelve TV episodes with what I’m sure was a look of horror and disgust on me face, until it was finally time to put my thoughts down on paper.

It may have been one of the most painful anime I’ve ever had to watch, but I can’t remember the last time I had that much fun insulting something. I let loose on that review, criticizing every little thing about it, and even accusing it of being porn… something I hadn’t done since my review of Blood C. The satisfaction that I felt after giving this series a -4/10 was almost post-coital. All in all, I look back on it pretty fondly.

8: Watchmojo and Anime

Have you ever been so frustrated in something that you couldn’t take it anymore, and you just had to speak up? I have, and look no further than Watchmojo.com if you’re looking for the culprit. Watchmojo has spent a lot of effort on being the anime list people, despite the fact that they’re all clearly casual fans at best. What’s even more frustrating iis that they seem very intelligent and well read, but they still only have one list pertaining to novels. So why wouldn’t they stop pretending to be otaku,. and write about what they know? Books? Literature?

Well, if they weren’t going to refocus their attention, then the only thing anybody could really do is try to make their voices heard, but how to do that? The comments section, where everything you say will inevitably be ignored? With the uploading of their top ten underrated anime video, I’d had enough, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I wrote that long open letter to Watchmojo’s new anime guy, the one that would eventually become one of my most popular of the year, and I have to say, I still like reading it over from time to time. I’d like to think Watchmojo read it, but even though they stopped relying so heavily on votes shortly after I posted it, I don’t find it likely.

7: A Negima Retrospective

A passion project doesn’t have to be successful to please it’s creator, regardless of the amount of work that went into it. While it does kinda bother me that I went out of my way to watch every piece of visual Negima media that was available at the time, and yet nobody seemed to care about the finished product, I also recognize that I knew about Negima’s lack of modern popularity when I decided to dedicate 3/5 of August’s post on it. I love all three relevant posts that were made, and with the Retrospective in particular, I still enjoyed having a reason to go back and refresh my memory on the history of my favorite manga series while finally soldiering through alll of the stuff I hadn’t seen yet.

If nothing else, I can’t possibly not include this post after all the time and effort that I put into watching every single episode of the live action series… I’m not sure if I went into it in that post, but for the record, watching it involved some intense searching, terrible English subtitles, and having to sit through episode 23 with another computer on google translate so I could understand the french subtitles. Much like the Kiss X Sis review, I had to suffer for this one, leaving me feeling like I had a bright, red, profusely bleeding badge of courage on my chest.

6: My Review of Kill La Kill, My Review of Revolutionary Girl Utena

I put this one in as a tie, because to me, they both feel special for the same reason. See, you have to have been writing reviews for a long time before you can start to understand, decipher or otherwise interpret the depth and meaning of an anime, and especially if you want to dig into complex metaphors and symbolism. This time last year, I wouldn’t have had the ability to review either of these shows, and I honestly wasn’t planning to review either one until like a week at the most before I started. I originally watched both shows for different reasons: I watched Utena to break in my brand new copies of the special edition box sets, and I started watching Kill La Kill because I had been lucky enough to find the whole series online for an affordable price.

Now, depth is kind of a buzz word… When a show seems smart, or like it’s trying to say something, people who hate it will call it pretentious, and people who like it will call it deep, but neither one will normally be able to back up their claim. I wanted to know what the hell I was talking about before taking my own approach, and while Kill La Kill clicked for me more or less right away, I had to do a lot of research to figure out the general idea of Utena just to get a general idea of what I could say. I don’t think I’ve become a master at deciphering tough anime, and I’m sure I’m still a long way off from being what people call an intelligent reviewer, but these two posts are still proof that I’ve been showing improvement.

5: Top Ten Worst Anime Romances

I’ll be honest, this post would probably just be a runner-up if it weren’t for how damn popular it turned out to be. When I watched EF: A Tale of Memories back in 2014, one of the three main romances in the story struck me as odd, and my problems with it stayed with me for months before I realized there was anything I could do about it. If I reviewed it, then my biggest problem with it would have to be hidden under a spoiler tag. Eventually, I decided to throw spoiler caution to the wind, and do a top ten of some of the most terrible anime couples ever.

I mulled my options for that list over and over again in my head before my hands actually touched the keyboard, even though I knew from early on who EXACTLY would be number one. Ironically, my number one and ten picks wound up on Watchmojo’s best list on the exact same topic, but whatever. I still find it funny that people will message me asking how the hell I thought Edward and Winry from Brotherhood belonged on the list, when I’m pretty sure I left my very specific reasons in the post. I stand by every item on that list, and I still like to show it off to this day. also, I got to make an awesome plug for Bennet the Sage.

4: The Tender Trap: A Gotham City Fanfic

So, if you’re new to this blog, I don’t just do reviews and lists. I’ve also done quite a few fanfics. Some of these fanfics are never going to see the light of this blog… Such as a couple of lemons, as well as a very recent Watamote fanfic that I wound up hating and deeply regretting afterwards. Hell, the only reason I haven’t taken it down is because of how popular it’s been since release… I’ve had about ten positive reviews for it, and several requests for a sequel, despite the fact that it’s ugly, badly written, makes no sense, and featured a ridiculous amount of errors.  I’m never posting it here, so don’t bother asking.

And what makes matters worse is that a few months prior, I wrote a fanfic that I actually DO still love, and it’s received barely any attention at all! The fanfic was called The Tender Trap, and it was set in the Batman universe, and featured a villain that I’d come up with and had a lot of fun developing in my head. It was my first time experimenting with things like foreshadowing, symbolism, and themes, with the theme of choice being hubris… My new villain was one hell of an overconfident woman, and to create a sort of gritty film noir tone, I listened to Sinatra and Lana Del Rey the whole time I was writing it. I love how it turned out, but it only received one review on Fanfiction.net, and to this day, only one view period on my blog. It doesn’t matter, though… I still love it.

3: My Review of Toradora

I said earlier that writing about depth is a difficult thing to do. Well, it’s not the only thing that’s hard to write a review about. Namely, it’s incredibly tough to write a review about a series you love without sounding like a biased fanboy. And to be fair, I am a Toradora fanboy… It’s my second favorite anime of all time, and appropriately, it was the only anime I gave a 10/10 to in 2015. It’s also incidentally the most fun I’ve had out of any anime I’ve ever rewatched for a review. So with that much love in my heart for it, how did I manage to go through an entire review without sounding like a groupie?

Well, for one thing, I wasn’t universally positive about it. I criticized it’s occasionally ugly looking animation, even though it only really happens in scenes where the emotion is powerful enough to distract people from it. Instead of gushing about how much I love it, and how happy it makes me whenever I watch it, I spent a disproportionate amount of time discussing the characters, their histories, their motivations, and why the obvious tropes they feed into make perfect sense when compared to who they are and what they’ve been through. I was able to praise it from almost every angle while keeping a consistent balance of fanboy and critic, and to this day, it’s almost as rewarding to read as it was to write.

2: My Interview with Jennifer Paetsch

To quote the intellectual wordsmith Drake, this blog started out most definitively on the bottom. When I began, I didn’t have a fanbase, I didn’t know anyone on WordPress, I didn’t have any experience with anything, and yeah, it was rough going. Around spring of 2014, it started to really get to me, until my review of Avril Lavigne’s Hello Kitty gave me a small boost in views. Towards November of that year, I started to see regular ‘like’ notifications for the first time ever… And to make matters better, it was the same person liking almost every post I was putting out. Her name was “Little Monster Girl,.” and while I never returned her kindness back then… I’m not a very active member of the community, remember… I did check out her blog, which was pretty cool. Overall, just having somebody following my work in any way was a huge boost in morale for me.

Fast Forward to last summer, when out of nowhere, I got nominated for a Blogging Award called WakuWafu. It told me to pick three people to nominate in turn, so I picked a few people that were kind to me, one of whom was Little monster Girl herself, and with her response, an appreciated reader turned into an actual sort of friendship. Since I found her body of work interesting, I retooled my interview format from the Michael Joy post, and asked her on twitter if I could do an interview with her. The post went up in November, and with help from her reblogging it, it became the most ‘liked’ post I’ve ever done, with 29 bloggers having liked it to this day. I was also able to expand my audience, all thanks to the very person who kept me going almost a year before. That post doesn’t just hold a special place in my heart, but it’s also probably one of the most essential posts in my blog’s history, setting it perfectly at #2.

1: Bum Reviews: Knights of Sidonia and A Deleted Scene from Knights of Sidonia

For those of you who were expecting that interview to be my number one favorite post of 2015, I’m sorry, but I have to be honest with myself. Out of all the posts I did that were smart, challenging, or had some kind of special significance to the growth of my blog, the number on spot is going to have to go to a pair of dumb, easy posts that I wrote on the same day, but still released months apart. Those two posts are my Knights of Sidonia posts, which I still think are two of the funniest things I’ve written since a certain Lucky Star fanfic that you’ll never see.

Originally, I watched Netflix’s original anime dub for Knights of Sidonia the same week that I wrote my Kiss X Sis review, and for the same reason: I was on vacation, and a friend challenged me toi watch it. After watching one of the worst pieces of miserable shit I’d seen in my life, I got to watch a sci-fi series so incredibly stupid that I found myself constantly laughing at it, and actually enjoying it as a result. I’ve shat all over a lot of anime that I hated, and I take pride in doing so, but with Sidonia, I genuinely felt inspired to try something different. Not something original, mind you, but something different. I remembered how Jesuotaku had applied Doug Walker’s BUM Reviews format to her Gurren Lagann review, and with that spark under me, my favorite review of all time started brewing in my head.

While channeling Chester A Bum as best I could, I summarized Knights of Sidonia as though I really loved it, while pointing out every single thing about it that felt stupid or nonsensical. I made jokes, I pulled in popular memes, I changed the title to Nights of Sit On Ya, and I took the rare opportunity to write a comedic post… And it worked! I posted it on Myanimelist, back when you could actually use that site to gauge crowd reactions, and it took off in popularity almost instantly before getting deleted for being a gag review. My bad.

It hasn’t been doing quite as good in my blog, but it’s not doing too badly, either. Neither is the other post, where I replace the main character with someone much more inquisitive, as I rewrote one of the scenes that actually bothered me on some levels… The idea that aliens on the Sidonia ship aren’t assigned genders until they fall in love with somebody, thus they grow the genitalia of the opposite sex to said individual, wasn’t just stupid and ridiculous… It was kind of offensive, in a very hetero-normative way, and I knew they were just going to use it to add the genderless character to the main harem. I had to pick it apart, and I’m pretty proud of how both of these posts came out.

Will I write anything in 2016 that I wind up being as proud of? Will I be able to build up my stockpile enough that I can work at a relaxed pace? Only time will tell, so please, stick with me and The Fullmetal Narcissist blog for another year!

See you next week with the first full review of the year: My review of the comedy series Kill Me Baby!

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