Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saw a revival in 2012. Being the third animated series in the franchise, the heroes were once again rebooted and started over from scratch. In the eyes of adoring fans, the show had a lot to live up to.
Its predecessor is considered a classic among American animation and so this one had a lot riding on its shoulders. After the sale of the franchise to Nickelodeon, it had the unenviable task of restarting the franchise. From the very start of things, I was interested in the series. I got into the previous series pretty late, but I found that I loved it a lot. It was a step up from the original series and had a ton as close to the original comics as you can get with Saturday morning cartoons. I wanted to see what sort of approach this new series was going to take. Would it be more like the original series or the early 2000’s series? Well, it falls a little bit into both categories. There’s a prevailing comedic mood in the show, but it doesn’t throw comedy at the viewer at the cost of any dramatic tension. When it’s there, the drama is done in a great style.
As of the first half of season one, the show is pretty stand-alone. There’s a very slight background story going on with the introduction of two enemies, Shredder and the Ultrons, but neither has a dominant presence. Shredder has sent his goons out and they’re the most visible impact that he’s had on the series. Well, he’s had one battle against the Turtles thus far and that definitely opens up the opportunities for something greater, but I feel like that won’t happen for some time yet.
The Turtles are dealing with criminals and unfortunate citizens who have come in contact with the green ooze that created them. Unlike the Turtles, the majority of those who came in contact with the ooze were not as quick to lead normal lives as our heroes – and that’s natural. The Turtles have never known anything else, but everyone else? They’re normal humans. Or they were.
While the episodic nature of the show is enjoyable thus far, it does leave me wanting more. The previous series was very story heavy and pretty serialized, so there’s that bit of a shock going into this one. Normally, I’m not one for episodic shows. I like story-heavy, serialized shows. Fortunately, this show does episodic plots wonderfully.
Starting with the obvious, Greg Cipes steals the show as Mikey. He plays a much younger Michelangelo than we’ve seen before and it works great with the character. Mikey as seen in this series is pretty naïve and trusting of others, it goes great with his naturally comedic nature. Cipes does a great job with the comedic delivery required of Mikey. While his lines don’t always work, I find myself laughing so much at lines that have no reason being funny and it’s all thanks to Cipes. It’s no wonder the show seems to focus on him more than any other character.
The other Turtles don’t have nearly as much focus as Michelangelo does but, surprisingly, Donatello gets his share of screen time. In this iteration of the series, Donatello has a crush on April (voice by Mae Whitman, who you might remember as Katara in Avatar: the Last Airbender) and that’s a new angle I don’t think we’ve ever seen done before. Normally, it would play out in an uncomfortable manner, but because of where the Turtles are in their development, it works. Mikey, and especially Donatello, are still fairly young and naïve, open to the ways of the world. You can’t help but root for Donatello as the love struck turtle. The voice helps so much as well. Donny sports this know-it-all voice that easily cracks and breaks into something more true to nature the moment he’s confronted with something uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, Rob Paulsen is voicing the nerdy turtle this time. If the name isn’t familiar to you, try giving the original series a watch and pay very close attention to Raphael.
Speaking of, Raphael’s an interesting character in this show. He’s cocky and brash, as you would expect from the character, but he’s also got a softer and humorous side. This version of the second-in-command has a pet turtle whom he confesses his feelings of love for on a near daily basis. Voicing him is Sean Astin, you might not know the name, but chances are that you’ve seen him before in the role of Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s loyal brother-in-arms as seen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Leonardo, the leader, has his typical arc of trying to bring his brothers together in the toughest of times…but that’s about it. This is an angle that sort of fails for me. It comes up often enough, but it’s just one of those things that doesn’t have the impact it should. It all feels so by the books and whereas the other guys have new angles going on, Leonardo’s biggest claim to fame in this series is being voiced by Jason Biggs and there’s something wrong with that.
That failing aside, this show provides very quick and smart writing. I can only imagine that given a stronger, more serialized story, this show would be downright amazing. As it stands, it’s a very fun show, but every so often you just wish it could be something more. Fortunately, those feelings are never strong enough to make me as a viewer bored with the show. I love what’s being done from week to week and if the first season is almost entirely like that, I won’t mind too much.
This show has so much going for it and one of its greatest strengths is its visuals. Style aside, there is some great fight animation going on here. The fights are fluid, easy to understand, and very fun to watch. When the Turtles take hits, you feel the hits, when they’re successful, you really get a sense that they overcame something great to earn their feeling of worth.
Now, getting down to that visual style, I’ll just say it: you need to give it a shot. If you’re not comfortable with the stylized manner in which the show is animated, I say just suck it up and give the show a watch. The character models have this uniqueness to them that gives you the Turtles in an ever so slightly new light than before – and it’s not just because the show is in CGI. The show treads the ground from 2D to full 3D from time to time and it works great here. It’s obvious that Nickelodeon is throwing a lot of money at this show, after all, they paid a pretty penny for it.
In addition to the basic style in which the show is animated, there are a lot of other stylistic queues to be found. When the Turtles are hiding, all you see is their eyes. When they go into battle, their irises disappear and they look fierce, you know someone’s going to get their butt kicked when that happens. And the comedy? Works amazingly well with the visual style and the exaggeration that can go on.
Someone I haven’t touched on a lot is April. More than anyone else, she’s seen a very dramatic change than in any previous series. She’s no longer an adult. This show gives us a teenage April who is hanging out with the Turtles after her father was kidnapped. Much like other aspects of the show, her presence hasn’t been felt too strongly thus far. She’s there often enough, but she so often falls to the wayside that you forget about her from time to time.
Overall, this is a great show. It’s a feel good show that’s written in such a smart manner and it just looks so pretty. There are a few flaws here and there, but for a show that’s only in its first season? It feels like the creative staff behind this thing just hit the ground running and have not stopped since it started. There might be a fumble here and there, but nothing so great that you’ll find yourself unsatisfied to the point of wanting to quit.