My past has just flashed before my eyes and it is green; so it's either another symptom of New York Comic Con withdrawal or the Ninja turtles are back again. You can make the argument that big corporation is once again cashing in our past i.e. Transformers or GI Joe, but who cares! Leo, Mikey, Donny, and Ralph are back! Nickelodeon has freshened up their look, but kept the same butt kicking style. So join me as I review the 4 disc set of Season One and relive my glory days before bills, taxes, and Justin Bieber. And I must warn you that spoilers are ahead.
Since this is season 1, the turtles are just getting their feet wet (pun intended - I couldn't help myself). I immediately like that Nickelodeon and co. took it back to the original TMNT cartoon series origin with Splinter starting out as human that turned into rat, as opposed to a rat that learned martial arts while observing his master. I know comic purest are going to be raging over that one, but I think it makes more sense. Have you ever seen your gerbil or hamster copying you while you pretend to fight? In any case, Splinter raises the four turtles as his sons and teaches them martial arts. When they get tired of hiding in the sewers, Splinter allows them to go up to the surface where they are first introduced to the Kraang robots and April O’Neil. They get taken down in their first fight but eventually they manage to save April, but not her dad.
The series then becomes about them looking for April's dad and meeting new people who then become mutants themselves. Trust me when I say that if you’re not April or the sushi chef, then you don’t want to be friends with the turtles because you will become a monster or a villain at some point. Yet it wasn't all bad, as the turtles also gained new allies, like Metalhead and Leatherhead. Shredder is introduced through a Chuck Norris rip-off, but his role is more like a final boss that lets his minions handle his dirty work. The turtles’ first meeting with the Shredder also seems to raise the intensity of the show, because they’re forced to become tougher and fight tougher enemies. Some Villains like Rat King and Chris Bradford/Dogpound, are even given an upgrade to keep up with turtles, though ultimately they become unwilling victims to the ooze (the stuff that mutates… everything).
Karai is introduce as being part of the Foot Clan and becomes a sometimes ally and sometimes bad girl. Yet the turtles are faced with a bigger threat than Shredder this time, as Kraang Prime looks to invade Earth and April becomes the key. At first, Shredder ignores the Kraang until he realizes that he can use them to defeat Splinter and the Turtles. Through the use of trickery involving April's dad, he manages to finally get his hand on Splinter, but Shredder is quickly beaten down. But only through the interference of Karai, Splinter's revealed daughter, that Shredder manages to survive. All of this happens while the Turtles unsuccessfully try to prevent the Technodrome from coming through a portal. Later they’re forced to break into the Technodrome to rescue April while avoiding Kraang's Prime, to save the day.
The DVDs are broken down into three cases with the first two DVDs cases having separate bios of two turtles on the inside covers and the last two bios of turtles share the same DVD case. It also comes with a small book that gives a summary history of the TMNT from a comic to now. The actual DVD extras contain an interesting comic, a theme song sing along, and a behind the scenes breakdown of certain scenes.
Let me start off with the wonderful job Nick and Co did with the presentation; if you follow my other reviews, you know I am a fan of visuals because if the animation looks horrible then I can't get into the story. This new TMNT series may have created the future of animation in the blend of CGI and anime/manga style. The majority of the show is in computer animation, but the expression of feelings (i.e. Don's love for April is expressed in manga fashion of exaggeration with hearts thrown in as a icing on cake). Its like the show creators decided instead of doing either hand drawn or computer art, let's add an element of both and it works. This new series also adds depth and growth to the characters; I must admit that the Turtles that I grew up with were "campy". It didn't stop me from getting the actions figures or watching all of their movies, but the show in my youth was ridiculous when compared to this series. You see the true love of a parent in Splinter, a leader maturing in Leo, and a badass becoming a team player in Ralph. I couldn't cover all the episodes in my plot overview without making this review go on for days, but each episode, except for the parasite one, deals with a character going through emotional or philosophical challenges and finding an answer by the end. That growth helps them to be better fighters and a tougher team and it shows in later episodes. I always like to throw a spotlight on a character that outshines the rest. And when you have a legendary cast, it’s tough to do. But Karai is my pick; in every scene she’s in, Karai has managed to be the darkness in the midst of light; tempting Leo to steal a sword, tricking April or saving the Turtles from Kraang's ship. She is complex and the fact that she is Splinter's daughter just makes her appearance and her actions even more interesting. I am awarding best episode to “I. Monster” for shedding light on an underrated character - Splinter. Most TMNT series used him as a teacher or a plot device to further the Turtles rage against Shredder, but “I. Monster” reveals a character that can kick ass when he is not holding back. I know that there will be people that say that Showdown part 1 and 2 had him playing a bigger part, and it was a mental battle within me between the two. Yet I think that I. Monster had to happen for Showdown to happen. Yoshi, Splinter's human self, would have lost to the Shredder, but Splinter fighting in rat style gave Shredder an amazing beat down. I know it is an overused cliché, but at the end of the episode Splinter tells them that he taught them everything they know, but not everything that he knows. I became a believer.
Overall, the series was great, but I did have some trouble with the end. Leo watches the last episode of his favorite show about the captain going down with his ship. It is easy then to fall into the TMNT's writer trap that this forecast a bad omen and Splinter's words added more flame to the fire. Yet the two incidents where Leo is "done for," he manages to survive. I think this was overdone. I don't know if the series creators didn't believe they were would be renewed next season, so they decided to close everything off with smiles and a happy ending. Yet I think this would have been a good start for the second season to have Leo go missing in the end. Right off the back, you knew they were not going to kill any turtle, but Leo being captured and turned into a Kraang soldier would have been more interesting than seeing the turtles dancing in the end.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete First Season is a must have for the TMNT fan past or present. Like the Legend of Korra, I always caught TMNT's episodes here and there, so I was unable to see a masterpiece in front of me until I was able to review it. This is the version I wish I grew up with, because it has heart, great fighting scenes and visuals, Karai, April, and more. I am giving this set out of TOV 5 stars a perfect 5 for being a worthy successor to the cartoon that I grew up with.