About the Show
Minor Character Spoilers
Ninja. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for a long time. Originally a comic series which was originally written as a spoof on other comic books, it has since spawned multiple movies, video games and even more comics.
TMNT is mostly known for the three TVs shows that has aired from the 80s, 00’s and the 10’s. While each series are quite different, each having their own merits, it's the second series (which aired from 2003 to 2010) that is my favourite. Here are three reasons why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 Series) is very good:
Reason 1: Great personalities for the Turtles
So who are these Turtles exactly? Let’s start with Leonardo, the leader of the team, an individual who is burdened by responsibilities and because of this he doesn't like letting his brothers down. His Ninja and fighting skills are arguably the strongest of the four. His chosen weapon is the twin Katana.
Next is Raphael, the hot head of the group. He gets into arguments easily and occasionally clashes with Leonardo and Mikey. Despite this, he is shown that he does care deep down for his brothers, and if one of his family or friends are injured or in danger – you better watch out! His weapons are the pair of twin sai. (or glorified toothpicks as Casey once described them)
Donatello is the resident tech genius. He is the calmest of the four and has a passion for science and technology. While his brothers are usually stronger, Donatello more makes up with his brain rather than using his muscles. He is shown to be the glue that holds the turtles together, since his brothers never clash with Don.
Last but certainly not least, we have Michelangelo, the jokester of his brothers. He rarely takes things seriously, preferring to crack a joke or come up with pop culture references, than “to be boring”. He lacks concentration with his Ninja training, he does has his moments and even surprises Master Splinter on occasion. His weapon is a pair of Nunchaku.
So that’s it in a nut shell - Leonardo is the ninja expert, Raphael is the hot head, Michelangelo is the jokester and Donatello is the tech expert. One of the best things about any adaptation of TMNT is just how likeable the turtles are, while having their own unique traits and personalities. While focusing on the turtles as a family is great, it's also great when certain episodes focus on one turtle only, giving some great back story and specific focus on certain episodes.
Because each Turtle is very different to each other, you as the viewer will naturally form a favourite (or if that is too hard, your least favourite) and it’s always with great interest on how the show explores all the turtles and more specially, your favourite.
Reason 2: Feels more like the original concept of the Turtles
The 2003 series is very different from the 80's series as it's darker and grittier, with less focus on humor. The original comics were originally not aimed at kids, as it was quite graphic and dark. (Think Batman) The series does give fans a taster of the comics, while still being aimed at children. This is quite a feat, considering how strange the concept of the turtles is at first glance. Teenage Turtles and a mutant Rat? Yeah, that is quite a strange concept – but one that works extremely well as a children’s animation TV show.
The 1980's series didn't really take itself seriously. It had a lot of “corny” catchphrases, forth wall breaking (which was a regular occurrence) and lots of jokes. While some humorous elements are in the 2003 series, it's a serious show with funny moments, not a funny show with some serious moments.
Of course, it isn't just the turtles, there are many side characters that appear throughout the shows run, some lifted from the comics, others are from the comics but changed drastically and others are original for the show. With the turtles living in one of the biggest cities in the world, there’s lots of crime for the turtles to deal with on a daily basis. Picture this: Street punks like the purple dragons, evil mastermind's like The Shreddar, muscularly big guys like Hun, scientists like Baxter Stockman, and alien races like the Triceretons, yep that is a lot of bad guys, all with varying levels of intelligence and motivation.
Don't worry, the Turtles aren’t the only good guys throughout the series too. Master Splinter is more like his comic counterpart, old and wise, a master of Ninjutsu, who cares deeply for his sons. Casey Jones is a regular character, who always has the turtles back after they helped him fend off an attack from the purple dragons. April is no longer a news-reporter, but owns an antique shop and learns Ninjutsu later in the series. There are episodes which give focus on these side-characters, making them much more than “minor” characters.
Reason 3: Excellent stories and use of story arcs
As you already know, since I mentioned it a few times already, the turtles originally appeared in a comic series. These comics made good use of story arcs and short stories, to keep the pace of the story different at different points in the timeline. While the show adds new locations, stories and characters that weren't from the original comics, the 2003 series is good at is adapting these comics into their own storylines and story arcs, (compared to the 80's series which had little story arcs) with either increasing or decreasing the size of the story compared to the original comic it's based on.
While the story arcs vary in length (the biggest lasting 6 episodes) the series also makes great use of single stories. These can vary from episodes which progress the story of the turtles vs their enemies, while some “filler” episodes (as fans refer them too) offer (usually) funnier stories which give a break from the more serious episodes. While all of these types of episodes are always entertaining, it gives a great mix of serious and funny stories which will satisfy both fans of the comics and the original TV show.
While there is dedicated fans of each series, the TMNT 2003 series remains my favourite. With loads of action, fantastic voice acting, strong characters and lots of great episodes, this more serious take of the turtles is the closest adaptation of the original comics we have seen, and it shows with it’s consistent quality. If all else fails then it's time to KICK BUTT!
My One Big Highlight
While I love all the turtles and the other main characters, it's the Shredder that steals the show. He is a very menacing villain, and one of the strongest villains I have seen in any animated show. It would be quite interesting for him to fight Spider-Man, in the Animated series, as I reckon it would be a close fight. Cowabunga!
Elephant In the Room
While the majority of the first four seasons are excellent, the 5th, 6th and 7th seasons try something very different. One is set away from New York, the next is set entirely in the future and the last has redesigned characters and style. If you like shows that don't change much throughout its run, then this version of the TMNT isn't for you.