Our favorite Mutant Ninja Turtles are back! So just how are the first two episodes?
The titan of cartoons and indy comics has returned. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are back in an all new cartoon series. Once more we're given a new origin for the Turtles and they go from the comfort of their sewers to the dangerous world above them: New York City. However the threats they find might be entirely other-worldly as they do battle with...the Kraang!!
Okay, TMNT shows who follow a truly epic predecessor haven't done well in the past. When the late 80s–early 90s juggernaut cartoon ended, the next Turtle incarnation we got was, TMNT: The Next Mutation. It was a horrendous live action show that lives in infamy amongst TMNT fans. So following the epic 2k3 TMNT series, how does this one fare?
Well, I looked at the series from all angles. First, I watched it without even thinking of what came before it. I went in as a new viewer oblivious to TMNT lore. The second viewing, I came upon it as an old fan and how it fared to the incarnations of the past.
Obviously, given TMNT has a large fan base I'll answer to that camp first. This is a really good adaptation for the most part. Right off the bat we're given an homage driven opening song in the 80s style. Throughout the episode there are little sprinkles and homages to previous Turtle incarnations. It hits all the right notes save for maybe one, April O'Neill, but more on her later. The only element that might scare older fans is the anime-esque way they do comedy and action. On the plus though, the show doesn't cram jokes down our throats every second. It plays to both audiences very well.
For newbies going into this show, I have to say the show did well showcasing the world of TMNT. The entire first episode focuses on all four turtles so viewers could get a good idea of each one's personality. Everyone was balanced fairly well in the first and second episode. By the end of course everyone will have their favorite turtle, but this time I'm really enjoying this version of Mikey, when in the 80s version my favorite was Dontello. In the first live action movie I preferred Raphael, and in 2k3, my favorite was Leo. Yes Mikey does act rather stupidly in the first two episodes, but that's been a hallmark of Mikey's character.
Of course the hardcore fan might actually scoff more at some of the new layers showcased in the first episode, namely Leo as a science fiction nerd (he's obsessed with an animated Star Trek-like show) and Splinter actually acts like a concerned and slightly overbearing father. The next episode continued that, while showcasing the secondary characters that'll be appearing, namely April, the Kraang, and the Shredder. Perhaps the biggest change is that while the usual TMNT mythos has an older April, here April, like the Turtles, is a teenager, which does slightly set up some new subplots. However, even though she had a bigger part to play in part 2, we never got a real feel for April other than being in over her head. Still, this is a promising development.
The element that surprised me the most was the underlying theme of family throughout the show. Not just in the relationship between Splinter and the Turtles, but how it factors into the rivalry between Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki (their feud costing him his family) and between April and her father (who I have to confess looked so poorly animated and reminded me of ESPN's Tony Kornheiser).
As for the computer animation, it was a mixture of good and bad (again April's father looked so out of place). The same could be said for the human guises of the Kraang, but that's sort of the point. Also I'll give the CGI animation a pass since Transformers: Beast Wars, Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Star Wars: The Clone Wars started off looking primitive as well when they first started.
Really the only issue I had besides April's father being kind of wasted was the revelation that the Kraang were responsible for the Turtles and Splinter's creation. It's sort of the cliffhanger at the end of part 1, but really they don't dwell into the how or why the Kraang are producing the mutagen. Nor do the Turtles actually look into their origins more. Instead, it's a catalyst for another mutant, which is cool and all. That was a feature I kind wish they explored more in the original 80s cartoon.
Overall, this cartoon was quite an enjoyable experience. It hit all the right notes and kick started the worlds the Turtles play in quite well. Add the fact it set up future subplots in terms of Splinter's past tragedy, the Shredder/the Foot, April's father, and the Kraang's ultimate scheme. I have to admit it's got me into watching another episode to see were this all goes from here.
4 out of 5