Hello, I’m a unicorn. (sing to the tune of theme song) Eighties Mutant Ninja Turtles! Eighties Mutant Ninja Turtles! Eighties Mutant Ninja Turtles! Heroes in a half-shell, Turtle Power! Or, if you’re European– Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles! Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles…you get the picture. For my first TV show review, I’m going to discuss the 1980-1990’s TMNT animated series. Now be warned, out of the three TV series I’ll be discussing, this is my least favorite. This isn’t because the show is bad, far from it, I just think that the other two are better.
Yes, your precious 2003 series can do no wrong.
Yes it can, and I’ll get to that next post. Anyway, for this post, I’ll break it down to the basic plot and characters. Now remember, I’m not an expert on this series, so if I get anything wrong or you disagree with my sentiments, feel free to comment below.
The Plot: After being tricked into insulting their sensei by Oroku Saki, Hamato Yoshi is excommunicated from the Foot clan and forced to live in the sewers of New York. He finds four turtles in the sewer and keeps them as pets. One day, Yoshi discovers his four turtles are covered in a type of goo called mutagen. The mutagen had the effect of partially transforming the Turtles into whatever creature they had last come into contact with, and since Yoshi was the last being to touch them,they became part human and he became a… rat. Wait, how did that work? Erm, anyway, you all know the story after this. Splinter (no, I don’t know why he decided to start calling himself Splinter) trains the Turtles in the art of ninjitsu and names them after Renaissance artists.
The Characters: Well, as the song goes, Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines(that’s a fact, jack). Raphael is cool, but rude (gimmie a break), Michelangelo’s a party dude (party!), but let’s look at these characters and the villains a little closer.
Leonardo: He’s the leader.
No, really? I hadn’t guessed.
Textbox, I think there’s a Golden Girls marathon on.
Why don’t you go find out?
Whew, I think he’s gone. Where was I? Right, Leonardo. Out of all the Turtle’s, he’s the most serious and level headed, but wasn’t given much to work with other than that. I understand that, like Superman, Leo is a hard character to write. You have to make him intelligent without being Mr. Perfect. He’s a goody-two-shells and can sometimes come off as bland or go the other way and become sanctimonious. That’s kind of what happened here. He wasn’t given much of a character, because most of his personality centers around being a boy scout. Now, there were episodes that centered around him and tried to give him an arc, but the arcs were too short to actually mean something. In one episode, he fears that he is losing his edge and he does a little soul searching while the other three get in a mess of trouble. Leo realizes that he’s as competent as ever, and the credits roll. That’s it.
Donatello: He does machines (pull your minds out of the gutter). Donnie is the inventor of the group and a literal genius. The guy can turn just about any piece of junkyard material into a working and well oiled machine decades ahead of our time. He’s brilliant, no need for extra comment.
Raphael: He’s cool, but rude. That’s Raph in a nutshell. Instead of the brooding personality he has in most other incarnations, he’s snarky, and loves to break the fourth wall.
Oh, a kindred spirit.
Yep, and he’s actually one of the few changes in personality that I don’t mind. In most of his other incarnations, he’s brooding and grumpy, so it’s nice to see him be a little silly every once in a while.
Michelangelo: He’s a party dude. Here’s an interesting fact. For whatever reason, at the time the show was released in Europe, the censors really hated the idea of ninja and thought that Michelangelo’s nunchuku were too violent and decided to replace it with a grappling hook. The sword guy and the guy with over-sized forks were perfectly fine though. Anyway, Mikey is the most laid back and talks like a surfer.
Splinter: He’s the strict and wise master who trained the Turtles and his personality has stayed pretty consistent throughout the different incarnations. My one issue is that in the first few episodes they make a big deal out of turning him human again, but seem to forget about it after that. Donny is a genius, and is more than capable of figuring out a cure when he puts his mind to it, yet they only bring this up once.
April O’Neal: Oh deary, this is the point where I start to rant. In the comics, movies, and other TV shows, April is a competent fighter in her own right, and has been trained by Splinter. In this show, she is demoted to the resident damsel in distress, in the same vein as Lois Lane. Sure, she’s likable and tenacious, but whenever she actually is in danger, she is completely helpless. This is insulting to her great character that she should be treated as an idiot that has to be rescued all the time. That is just bad and they should feel bad. Speaking of bad, let’s talk major villains.
Shredder: Uh-oh, time to rant again. In every other version, the Shredder is the Turtles’ worst nemesis and ridiculously competent. Every time the Shredder shows up, you’d better grab some popcorn, because you know that things are about to get good. In this version, he is reduced to the bumbling lieutenant of a whining brain. Yes, the Turtles’ greatest foe is reduced to a lackey. Even as a little kid, I thought he was a cry-baby. At that same age, I freaked out about going onto the Tower of Terror at Disney World. I even remember the point where I realized that he wasn’t a threat. Just after he and Krang (more on him in a minute) are trapped in an alternate dimension called Dimension X, he whines, “But I don’t want to conquer Dimension X, I want to conquer Earth.” Oh, and I forgot to mention that the voice of the Shredder is none other than Uncle Phil of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Krang: He is the disembodied brain of a warlord in Dimension X who has been banished to Earth. He’s also the metaphorical brains of the operation. The Shredder answers to him and the two often bicker and whine like an old married couple. While this isn’t very threatening, I do find it pretty funny.
Bebop and Rocksteady: They’re the Shredder’s gangsters that volunteered to be mutated. Bebop was turned into a warthog human amalgamation, while Rocksteady became an anthropomorphic Rhinoceros. They’re the Shredder’s top henchmen even though they are complete morons. I honestly have no idea why the Shredder keeps them around; they’re more likely to louse up his plans than anything else. I don’t hate them, I just don’t understand why they were tolerated by Shredder.
Usagi Yojimbo: Okay, this is more of a fan-girl gripe than anything else, but really? Usagi Yojimbo? The character’s name is Miyamoto Usagi. Usagi Yojimbo is the name of the comic, not the person–er–rabbit. This is almost as bad as pronouncing Ra’s Al Ghul “Raaz Al Ghul” instead of “Raish Al Ghul”.
*Cough* Nolan Batman*cough* Arrow*cough*
Just because theysaid it that way doesn’t mean it’s right. Anyway, for what it is, I still enjoy this show. While eighties TMNT is arguably the most iconic version of the Turtles, it isn’t the best version. It is the Adam West’s Batman of the incarnations. It’s silly, but knows exactly what it wants to be. Eighties TMNT doesn’t ever take itself seriously and that works to its advantage. When you watch the show, you know you’re in for some crazy adventures and good jokes. Next post, I’ll look at the incarnation that isn’t just my favorite version of the Turtles, but also my all-time favorite TV show. In the meantime, sit back, grab some pizza, and watch some old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes! Cowabunga!