Directors – Michael Chang, Ben Jones & Matt Youngberg, Screenplay – David Slack, Producers – Glenn Murakami & Linda Steiner, Music – Christopher Carter, Michael McCuiston & Lolita Ritmanis, Animation – Dongwoo Animation Co., Ltd. (Supervising Director – You-won Pang, Animation Directors – Yeung-soo Kim, Young-don Lee, Bong-il Park, Byoung-soon Park, Dong-joo Yang & Seung-woo Yang). Production Company – Warner Bros. Animation.
Scott Menville (Robin), Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Khary Payton (Cyborg), Hynden Walch (Starfire), Tara Strong (Raven), Keone Young (Commander Uehara Daizo/Saico-Tek/Chef), Cary Tagawa (Brushogun), Robert Ito (Bookseller/Mayor), Janice Kawaye (Nya/Nya/Timoko)
The Teen Titans face the villain Saico-Tek in a battle that ends up destroying their headquarters. They work out that Saico-Tek came from Japan and so set out on a journey to Tokyo to track down Saico-Tek’s master Brushogun. Upon arriving, they find that dealing with Japanese culture requires an adjustment. Everywhere they ask, they are told that Brushogun is a mythic figure that doesn’t exist. At the same time, they face an assortment of attacking giant monsters, robots, ghosts and cat girls. Robin faces Saico-Tek again in a battle in the streets but ends up killing him. This turns the Titans into wanted fugitives.
The Teen Titans are one of the numerous superhero teams that populate comic-books. Originally appearing in DC Comics in 1964, the group was conceived in terms of sidekicks like Robin, Wonder Girl, Aquaboy and Kid Flash coming together to form their own junior equivalent of the Justice League. The complement has changed over the years with a number of new heroes being created specific to the group.
On screen, the Titans made an appearance in the animated The Superman/Aquaman Hour (1967-8) but did not get their own show until the animated tv series Teen Titans (2003-6). This saw a film spinoff with Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo here. The show was later revived as Teen Titans Go! (2013– ), featuring the same voice actors but placing more of a comedic spin on the characters. This had three film spinoffs with Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018), Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans (2019) and Teen Titans Go! See Space Jam (2021). The DC Animated Universe Original Movies made two animated Teen Titans films with Justice League vs Teen Titans (2016) and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017). The Teen Titans subsequently made their live-action debut in the tv series Titans (2018– ).
Trouble in Tokyo was the sole film spinoff from the 2003-6 Teen Titans and was made just after the show’s cancellation. It retains the same voice actors from the tv series. The directors and the producing team are all people that worked on the tv series. In other words, this is essentially a full-length episode from the tv series, albeit where the animation, while it still retains the fairly simply drawn characters of the series, has been expanded out on a larger budget.
It is not clear why the filmmakers chose Japan as a location for the Titans to visit. The reason for something like this can sometimes be because the show has a large fanbase in that country. That said, this is a depiction of Japan that essentially strips the country to a series of cultural stereotypes – evident from the fact that the Titans fight a monster clearly modelled on Godzilla moments after arriving. At various other points, the Titans eat at a sushi restaurant (accompanied by gross-out at foreign eating habits), encounter Japanese ghost spirits, perform karaoke, while the villain of the show is a manga artist. There’s even a motorcycle chase when Robin escapes from jail where the filmmakers quote from the sequence at the start of Akira (1988).
Certainly, the attempts to approximate the neon lights of Tokyo make for some incredibly colourful and vibrant backgrounds during some of the fight sequences. On the other hand, the plot is not much more than the Titans visit Japan and have assorted encounters and battles – against a Godzilla lookalike, where Raven encounters ghosts, Beast Boy fights a cat girl, Cyborg eats everything in an All-You-Can-Eat Sushi restaurant; and Robin battles Saico-Tek.