Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I got the toys, the TV show was on the air -- it all feel into place as a major part of my childhood experience. What has delighted me over the years, growing up, has been finding out the different, more mature, version of the Turtles. There was the grim and gritty comic books, which inspired the franchise to begin with -- which was nicely complimented with a more comic-accurate TV series in 2000.

When Peter Laird sold the franchise over to Nickelodeon, I didn't know what to expect. I had been enjoying   the 4th volume of TMNT, by Laird, but was saddened to see it end prematurely because of the sale to Nickelodeon. (BTW -- Just to let you know, Laird released a free digital edition of issue #32, finally continuing the saga! You have to do some work, to make the pages and images work for you. I changed mine to a PDF, and uploaded it to the free GrassComics Reader App. Just remember to number pages 1-(1-9), 2-(1-9), and so on. Otherwise the pages get out of order. Check out his blog for any future issues!)

ANYWAY -- there did seem to be some hope. A new TMNT Comic continuity was begun with IDW Comics. Its been fun, but I haven't followed it consistantly.

Then, of course, there is the new cartoon - airing on Nickelodeon. I have to admit, I was not into it at first. Everything seemed too quick paced, too goofy, ect. It felt like going backwards - instead of the more mature Turtles, I felt like I was being given cartoony Turtles once again.

Strange thing happened, though -- I had some episodes sitting on my DVR for the longest time. I suddenly got the urge to try an episode out once again. It featured Karai, Shredder, and the Krangg -- with a question of wether the Turtles could trust Karai or not. Something just sort of clicked for me. I don't know if it was the more action packed, more serious events in the episode -- but I was suddenly enjoying this. A quick trip to Target, I bought out their Turtle DVDs -- which nicely have the first season and half of the second season on sale.

Now I suddenly see the show in a new light. Yes - it is more goofy than the old Turtles. I simply was letting my pre-concieved notions, of what I wanted in a TMNT series, to cloud my judgement about what this show was offering. And boy, this show is offering a LOT!

For starters -- the character designs are really inspired. The Turtles mix a level of anime into their design, with bright colorful eyes, and personality skewed faces. The added bandages to their get-up seemed strange at first -- but I now realize how seemless that edition was to the characters -- improving the look and style with a subtle addition like that. There are also things, like the thunder bolt on Raph's chest, which really just draws you into the character's design, becoming a focal point/seemless accent woven into the character's personality.

The series does get goofy (sometimes too goofy, coming from Michelangelo, most annoyingly) - but there is geniune humor in all the characters.

The voice acting, also, is above-top notch. Andrea Romano, of the famed Batman and DC TV series, casts the voices -- so I implicitly trust her decisions. Seth Green is due to take over the role of Leonardo in season 3 - which I was initially concerned about; but I simply trust that the transition will be smooth and painless. (Any time Jason Biggs hasn't voiced Leonardo, I simply wouldn't have realized it if not for knowing about his absence.) The funniest one of them all has to be Rob Paulson. He played Raphael in the original series, but is now playing the voice of Donnie. What an inspired choice -- I mean, REALLY! He does the character such justice, and makes me care for all of Donnies' failing and foibiles in the TV show.

What has surprised me, also, has been the level of darkness, undercutting the series, here and there. There are some darn tragic figures in the series -- like Pulverizer, who douses himself with Mutagen, only to become a horrific ball of goo. April O'Neil's father is mutated into a horrific bat creature (and only happening after a year-long spell of captivity by the Krangg.) The darkest part, though -- has to go to the Shredder. They don't go into details, but he's responsible for the death of Splinter's family, nearly killing Splinter - and WORSE! I don't want to spoil the reveal, of what Shredder did - but it was really twisted, and adds a really henious level of villainy to the character. Sometimes I think the series goes too far with these tragidies -- but, I suppose, its well enough balanced for kids to see.

What is also fun about the TV series, I've quickly found, is the tie-in toys! The playmates line of figures offer up some really great figures, especially for $9-10, which is MOST appreciated, given the high cost of action figures these days. You do, however, have to pick and choose which figures are the best to buy. The TV show does have quite a bit of product advertising -- but it mostly revolved around vehicles that are useful to the TMNT group. The Shellraiser is my favorite - both in and off the show, as the vehicle makes a great display piece along with the figures.

I think I've made it pretty clear, I feel right into this series, head first. Its just been a spectacular bright spot, getting invested and into the series, these past few weeks.

I urge any TMNT fan, who didn't give the series a chance, to try it again. Its not the same Turtles as before. But, like I've spoken about before, different versions of the TMNT can happily co-exist. Appreciate this series for what it is; not what you wish it might have been. You'll simply have a lot of fun if you give it a try.

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