Animation Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

by Hedge

Growing up there were two staples of my television experience: Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was enamoured by the latter, going so far as to write them fan mail which I would then drop in the storm drain opposite my house. Apparently I was ‘advanced’ as a child.

I also quite enjoyed the 2008 revived series, which was a little darker and I liked the animated TMNT movie, although apparently not as much as I claimed at the time because until I went to write this article I had forgotten it existed. I could have done without the live action Saiban series though mostly because adding a female ninja turtle is dumb in my opinion. They didn’t need one to make it ‘accessible’. Girls are allowed like the boy turtles. 

Anyway. I’m a fan, is what I’m getting at and this year has seen the return of the TMNT to our screens which honestly delights me. DELIGHTS.

Many were skeptical but I went in with cautious optimism. I’m a big fan of what modern animation studios are doing – from Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, to The Legend of Korra (which I haven’t spoken about here at the house but which I could not love more than I do) and Transformers Prime, to yes, even My Little Pony (don’t hate, bro) – and TMNT is no exception. The series is pretty damn great with nice animation and great portrayals of the Turtles and Splinter. 

Although initially skeptical of teenaged April, I kind of dig it. She ends up alone pretty early on, and it explains why she is able to spend so much time in a sewer with her mutant pals and making her the same age as the brothers makes the romantic attraction to her held by Donatello a little less creepy. Sort of.

Although the series primary antagonist is still Shredder, he has taken a back seat in this first season to The Kraang, a race of brain-like aliens that inhabit robot bodies, known here as Kraangdroids. Those old enough will recall the character of Krang from the original series, and these guys are a similar deal, only there’s a bunch of them. From my investigations online (read: Google searching briefly) I’m under the impression that Krang himself will appear later as their leader. I dunno. For now, the Kraang have made a decent, if not cartoonish enemy for the Turtles and are shown to be responsible for the mutagen that created them and that also creates many of the series once-off monsters of the week.

It’s formulaic, and does have it’s downs in places but overall the series is really working for me. I like the way the brothers are portrayed as different, physically as well as in their personalities with each turtle having a unique body sculpt, height and colouring. Splinter is great and what little we have seen of Shredder is quite menacing. It doesn’t have the mature appeal of say Legend of Korra or the adult jokes of Adventure Time but it’s also not completely childish. 

In trailers it looked as though ‘cowabunga’ had been replaced by the equally inane ‘booyakasha’ and it sort of has, although it’s only been said twice and in the second episode that it was used there was an exchange between Mikey and Raphael about how weird it sounded so perhaps they’ll cease using it entirely. Either way it’s dumb but inoffensive. 

The animation is nice and the subtle anime-inspired 2D scenes and emotes are pretty cute and fit the Japanese heritage of the characters. Oh and it has a fucking great cast: Jason Biggs, Sean Astin, Mae Whitman, Rob Paulson, Greg Cipes, Hoon Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson, Nolan North- truly brilliant. 

TMNT is, like other revivals to 80s series is trying hard to reinvent for a modern viewer while retaining the charm of the original and like Transformers Prime, it’s managing to tread that fine line pretty well. It isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn great and I’d certainly recommend it for fans of the characters (and not just 80s series purists) and anyone wanting to get their kids into the characters.

You can harass the author of this post via twitter: @CAricHanley