And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
TMNT: The New Cartoon Series & DVDouble Shots
by: Wes

Given that you're reading this site, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that you're no stranger to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Following their television debut in 1987, the Turtles took the world by storm with their wacky adventures. Action figures, movies, comic books, video games, electric toothbrushes, marshmallow-laden cereal, even concert tours and little-known anime incarnations -- one could hardly look anywhere without seeing the Turtles' enthusiastic green faces and word bubbles with "Cowabunga!" scrawled therein. And then, ironically in keeping with their ninja training, they seemed to fade away... without a trace.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are BACK!100 episodes and counting, baby.

Until 2003, that is, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returned with a brand spankin' new Saturday morning cartoon and corresponding action figure lineup. Despite these toys kicking quite a bit of ass -- if you ask me, they're cooler than the old Playmates offerings, though they lack the wackiness of the original line -- and the show providing fairly solid action, however, the green teens' reemergence has failed to capture the hearts of many of us who were virtually raised on Turtle power. This, of course, is unsurprising. Things change, after all, and while people may remember the Turtles and other childhood interests fondly enough to spend idle moments reading websites like, well, Scary-Crayon, mature adults can hardly be expected to wake up to watch Saturday mornings when things like responsibilities and social lives and jobs require their attention. Still, the Turtles' latest outing has more or less connected with the kids of today -- and although waning ratings have prompted the creators to take the show in a rather different direction for the next season ("TMNT: Fast Forward"; think TMNT 2099), the cartoon has been successful enough to make it past the 100 episode mark. Cowabunga!

BAXTER STOCKMAN WE LUV U!!!How the fuck does fur blush?

Among those of us big kids who have made time to watch the Turtles' second coming, however, the show has met with less than enthusiastic reviews -- largely because the new cartoon has very little in common with the old one. Like many cartoons of the 90s, the original TMNT show was pretty silly. Shredder and Krang's evil schemes were consistently pathetic (rendering the villains quite endearing); the Turtles seemed to care more about eating pizza and goofing off than, well, anything else; and the episode storylines were little more than borrowed and exaggerated sitcom plots starring various mutants and alien creatures. And it was precisely for this reason that we loved the Turtles. Because the show wasn't exactly striving to be serious fare, there really was no such thing as a bad episode. Terrific episodes were usually ones that featured such beloved supporting characters as the Punk Frogs, Baxter Stockman, the Rat King, and OL' LEATHAHEAD AH GAH-ROWN-TEE, whereas the less engaging adventures were the ones in which the Turtles were pitted against gangsters or generic alien villains. But aside from those, things were pretty much par for the course and we were happy.

This is the old Krang.This is the new Shredder. Yes.

The new show, however, attempts to be fucking hardcore. Whereas it was hard to come down on the old show because it remained wholly and obviously aware of its silliness, with the Turtles constantly turning to the camera and making wisecracks about the stupidity of the episode storylines and the convenient timing of various deus ex machina developments, the tone of the new show makes it much more susceptible to criticism. The strength of an episode is dependent upon the coherence of and interest generated by the proceedings. When dumb things happen in the new show, it's not funny or cute and there's no appropriate wisecrack from Raphael to make it bearable. It's just stupid. And whereas the vast majority of the old show's episodes were filler in that there wasn't really an ongoing arc outside of Shredder and Krang's attempts to free the Technodrome from wherever it happened to be stuck at the time, filler episodes in the new show seem wasted in light of the more serious storylines that these episodes could be exploring. I imagine that the old 'toon fans who worked the Turtles' new adventures into their busy schedule during the show's first season didn't get into it because there wasn't a whole lot happening back then. The whole KRANG IS SHREDDER thing probably didn't help matters much either.

I heart Karai.Who you gonna call?
"Oh snap!"She's too sexy for her dorag.

Recently, however, the second TMNT cartoon has gotten very interesting, so I'd recommend giving it another (or a first) look if it's not too much for you older fans to drag yourselves out of bed at <CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS> on a Saturday morning. Following the exile of the alien Krang Shredder thing at the close of the third season, his adopted daughter Karai (whom, if you didn't read the Mirage comics, you may remember as the final boss of TMNT: Tournament Fighters) has donned the fearsome armor, swearing to avenge his defeat at the hands of the Turtles. An outbreak caused by accelerated alien DNA has left New York City under attack by a number of savage mutant creatures, prompting the Turtles to don Ghostbuster-esque outfits and go on regular patrols to help contain the situation. In light of these events, LEATHERHEAD (not the villainous Leatherhead who speaks with a Cajun accent, but the intelligent and friendly labcoat-wearing Leatherhead) has become a regular on the show in order to aid the Turtles with his scientific know-how. Also, April is still pretty damned foxy.

Poor Donnie.I WANT TO EAT YOUR BRAINSSSS!!!

Oh, and as if our heroes didn't have enough to deal with, Donatello has been infected by the alien DNA and has mutated into a red-eyed monster thing that roars and kills people and stuff. And whereas the whole "secondary mutation into a terrifying monstaaar" storyline was kinda stupid when it happened during the last hurrah of the old show -- mostly because, like the latter seasons in general, it was far too serious -- the development fits the tone of the current show perfectly and admittedly has this reviewer rather invested in the events surrounding Donatello's fate. I mean, I know he's got to recover somehow because the Turtles have to go into the future next season and they've already made the action figures for it, but it still makes for pretty engaging television.

Introducing... the ShredderThe Turtles' first meeting with their greatest foe!

But like I said, the show wasn't always this interesting. Because the writers generally assumed that the target audience was unfamiliar with TMNT lore, information regarding the Shredder and the Foot Clan was gradually revealed over the course of the first ten episodes. Factoring in the filler eps included among these early shows, the Turtles' initial outing seemed particularly boring to me, as I more or less knew what was going on and just wanted to see Shredder hit the streets and start fighting already. The filler also presented a problem regarding the DVD releases. While I did enjoy some of the first season episodes and wanted to own them -- particularly the ones in which Shredder first donned his armer and started wrecking shit -- enough of them were misses to guarantee that at least half of the four or five eps typically included on each DVD would be lame.

As such, I'd had little incentive or desire to purchase the even the DVDs with episodes I liked... UNTIL NOW. For whatever reason, 4Kids and Funimation are now releasing budget "DVDouble Shot" volumes of several of their Saturday morning cartoons, meaning that you get two episodes from a given show for $5. And unlike the regular-priced, more inclusive volumes, these mini-volumes cut out the filler episodes in favor of focusing on the highlights. For instance, in Introducing... the Shredder, you get both parts of "The Shredder Strikes" -- two highly watchable and engaging episodes even for old fans of those Turtle boys.

"Look, would a guy in a kimono lie?""I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU ALL!!!!!!!"

These, you see, are the episodes that depict the Turtles' first encounter with Oroku Saki -- and like in the old show, he begins by trying to bring our heroes to his side. However, whereas before his kidnapping of Splinter had been pretty sufficient to show that he was not a decent guy, Saki meets Leonardo alone, without his armor, and attempts to convince him that he is in fact a good guy. (In that respect, it's not unlike the Shredder's initial meeting with the Punk Frogs in the original cartoon.) Of course, when Splinter reveals the truth about Oroku Saki in this retelling of his origin and the fate of Hamato Yoshi, the Turtles reject the Shredder, prompting him to bring the pain and start shouting death curses. You do not wanna mess with this Shredder, kids.

"He who lives without honor... will end without honor."We don't die, we multiply!

So after beating the holy hell out of the Turtles and chasing them around Manhattan, the two-parter concludes with a rooftop battle between Splinter and Shredder. In fact, when coupled with the flashback to Yoshi's demise, these episodes have a lot in common with certain scenes from the 1990 TMNT film -- making them pretty much required viewing for old school TMNT fans. Not only do they accurately summarize almost everything that's great about the new show, but they also contain quite a few features and developments that make for interesting comparisons to the older Turtles media. If you're anything like me, you could have a field day with this stuff.

"Tonight I dine on turtle soup.""I'M YOUR DJ NOW, PRINCEY!!!"

Take the Shredder, for instance. Though usually depicted as a semi-incompetent villain, ol' Shredhead had his moments even in the old cartoon -- but never came close to being this vicious. As ambitious as he was, I don't recall old 'toon Shredder ever killing anyone, but this one comes about as close to killing Hamato Yoshi on screen as one can in a cartoon with a Y-7 rating (gauntlets rise, gauntlets fall, Splinter mournfully looks away). As such, this Shredder is much more reminiscent of the movie one, though admittedly that one didn't get a whole lot of characterization regarding his villainous deeds apart from the murders of Hamato Yoshi and Tang Shen. Neither does this one, but his modus operandi quickly supplies an answer: HE'S IRREDEEMABLY EVIL. And whereas it was possible to actually like the original 'toon Shredder -- and even the movie one, given that he did exhibit some honor in taking on the Turtles solo in the final scene -- this one's just a brutal bastard who plays for keeps but doesn't play fairly in the least. Shit, given that he's KRANG and that "the Shredder" is a robot body (that's not revealed in these episodes, but I'm not apologizing for spoiling a three-year-old revelation), he arguably has more in common with MechWarrior and Virtual On players than he does with bona fide ninjas.

Old school!New school.

So if you come across these TMNT DVDouble Shots at your local retailer, I recommend snagging them if you're interested in checking out the current show but would rather sleep in on Saturdays and/or don't want to risk wasting your time with filler (though given the fever pitch at which the new show is currently running, it looks like the final episodes of the fourth season are all going to be pretty important). Whereas these DVD equivalents of music CD singles may not be as attractive with other shows -- for example, why pay $10 for a scant few episodes of "Dawson's Creek" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" when you can get entire seasons for $40? -- the $5 asking price and the fact that the regular Turtles DVDs are released in volumes (as opposed to season sets) make these inexpensive 4Kids TMNT offerings more or less worth a look.

He does what he wants!"This is just plain WRONG."

That said, I can't recommend all of them equally. Introducing... the Shredder is certainly worth the five spot, but while In the Beginning may prove interesting to old school fans for comparative purposes, neither of the episode it contains are very good. Moreover, one of them is part of a three-part story that would require you to buy the first volume anyway to find out how the action ends, thereby defeating the general purpose of these DVDouble Shot releases. Similarly, while Superhero offers two fairly decent episodes, it inexplicably contains the 12th and the 63rd episodes of the show. Not that you'd have much trouble following the action, mind you, but a lot of stuff happens in the interim that may present a few points of confusion regarding the latter episode. The Shredder episodes, on the other hand, tell you pretty much everything you need to know about what's happened thus far in exposition and flashbacks and contain two back-to-back episodes. Taking these issues into account, you'd probably be better off going with Introducing... the Shredder... even if he is ultimately Krang in disguise. :/

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