Reasons Why the ‘Ninja Turtles’ Were Lousy Ninjas


During the late 1980s and early 90s, during the years of my late childhood, we called are Pokemon ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Based on a comic series that served as a parody of current comic book trends, the creators found a collaboration with a new toy company looking for a product. As was the style of the time they looked to produce an animated series to promote said toys. So began one of the biggest consumer frenzies in pop-culture history. With their hip slang, violent ways and colourful support cast ‘TMNT’ was all the rage with boys too young to know what to do with girls (and some who knew but couldn’t convince any to do it with him). If you didn’t have Ninja Turtle toys, lunchboxes and VHS (what we called torrents) you weren’t cool.

Our fellow children in England were getting shortchanged though. They didn’t get ‘Ninja Turtles’, they got ‘Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles’. This was seen, naturally, as a great injustice. Looking back however, I wonder is this wasn’t the more accurate descriptor as the turtles are pretty crummy ninjas. I present ten reasons why:

Not Pictured: Turtles

NB: Yes, I know that the modern representation of ninjas does not resemble their historic role.

10. They have exploding shuriken.

Firstly we need to examine what we think of when we imagine a ninja. When they attack, it’s with stealth and efficiency. After a well placed ninja attack, you’d never know they had been there. Something that might put a damper on that would be localized explosions. In the original TMNT mini-series these bad-boys come into play – throwing stars that explode on impact. One could argue that they could be used as distractions and misdirection but what they actually use them for is blowing holes in walls.

9. Dubious friends.

Ninja’s need to pick their allies closely. They need to be able to depend on them in a pinch and rely on them to keep up the subterfuge. People who ninjas shouldn’t associate with? High profile reporters. Homeless vigilantes who get about in hockey masks. Never mind ninjas – no-one should associate with those people.

8. They wear bright, easy to spot colours.

In most media you’ll find ninjas draped in dark shades to help them blend in with the dark city. Sure, dark green might just work in this setting, but not when it’s offset by neon headbands.

Nobody will spot us now!

7. They constantly yell catchphrases while fighting.

Subtle. Nothing says stealthy master of combat like pausing after every blow delivered to yell ‘cowabunga’.

6. Their disguises look more suspicious then giant turtles.

Have you seen these matching outfits? They’d draw more attention than anything else they could choose from aside from Lady Gaga costumes. I’d be more comfortable with my child talking to a giant turtle wielding sharp weapons than a guy dressed in that coat.

"Sure, I'd love some free candy!"

5. They are greasy and out of shape from eating nothing but pizza.

It’s going to be difficult shimming up a drainpipe when your permanently grease coated fingers send your ass straight back to the ground. That is if your fat ass doesn’t have a cardio attack half way up. They’re not going to get much precision out of those weapons and throwing implements when you have slippy fingers.

4. They drive around in a giant yellow and green van with their names written on it.

What’s the plan here guys? Hope that everyone happens to be looking the other direction when you roll down the street?

Quick! Everyone get into this nondescript van!

3. They frequently interrupt battle for breakdancing.

I don’t remember any jiujitsu fighting styles that incorporated 1980s dance moves. I personally blame the turtles for every crummy competitive street dance battle movie that we’ve had heaped on use since.

2. Merchandising.

Hiding in plain sight is a powerful technique. Nobody will suspect a person who is moving with the crowd or appears to be just another civilian. The sheer number of TMNT merchandise that was produced during their heyday is enough to smother several small countries to death. Everyone is going to be pretty damn familiar with your image, making any attempts at stealth completely useless.

1. They’re giant turtles.

Sure the amphibious thing really works in your favour, but there isn’t much benefit to be a turtle. You’re going to be slower and less agile than your opponent, you’ll stand out more, your reach is severely hampered by the large shell your body is encased in. It also kicks the idea of blending in with the crowds right in the head, unless they’re donning their coats and infiltrating NAMPLA.