Friday, October 26, 2012

TMNT 2012 Thoughts

You may be aware that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have recently received their newest television revival in the form of a computer animated cartoon on Nickelodeon.  I've never been a really big fan of the franchise but I've always had some interest in it so I decided to give it a shot.  I'm now caught up with all 5 episodes that have aired and have some thoughts I'd like to share.

What I like:
-The animation.  It's good.  It's skillfully done, it follows all of the principals most of the time and, when it doesn't, it's clearly intentional; dropping fluid animation specifically for the sake of comedic emphasis, and it works.
-The turtles' designs.  For the first time, all 4 turtles have totally unique bodies; they aren't just recolours of the same model.  They each have their own height and body type, and each part of their body is uniquely molded.  They even have character specific battle scars, such as Raph having a prominent crack his left pectoral shell.
-The stories.  The 2003 series hit a really good balance of still being a goofy Saturday morning kid's cartoon on one hand, while still treating it's audience with a bit of respect and having a lot of well-written story arcs.  So far, the new series seems to be doing that pretty good as well.  There haven't been any real arcs per se, but the episodic stories are well-told.
-The voice acting.  The first time I watched the 2003 series, I was really thrown off by Raphael's voice; seeing one of the Ninja Turtles and hearing a voice that deep coming out of him was really strange.  I quickly got used to it and ultimately really liked it in the end, but that initial awkwardness still stuck in my mind.  That's not the case in this show.  Each of the turtles sound very much like what you would expect to hear out of their appearance; Raph isn't super-gruff but he's still a hothead and still sounds the part.  Donatello, played by Rob Paulsen, is a particular standout; he's fantastic in the part.
-The character interactions.  While exaggerated in the manner of most children's cartoons, the banter between the turtles feels very genuine.
-Some of the humour.  There's a couple gags I'm not fond of (more on that below) but there are a handful of jokes in the show so far that are actually pretty funny.

What I don't like:
-The villains.  3 of these first five episodes have centered on a group of villains called The Krang.  If you're familiar with the 80's cartoon, and certain parts of the 2003 cartoon, to a lesser extent, you'll recognize that as the name of a single villain from them.  In the 80's cartoon, Krang was a secondary villain to Shredder.  He was an alien-brain-thing with a humanoid robot body.  The Krang in the new series are a large organization of alien-brain-things with humanoid robot bodies.
As for why I don't like them...they're boring.  They have an overly robotic way of talking (things like 'We must go to the place that is not the place that we are in because it is the place that we must be.') which, while I understand that it's meant for child-oriented comedic effect, gets really annoying.
-Mikey's running gag of naming villains and other things.  5 episodes in and this exact same, lame joke has been done 3 times:
Mikey: "It's Spider Bites!"
Others: "..."
Mikey: "Y'know, 'cause he's a spider and he bites--"
Others: "We get it!"
That's not the exact dialogue but the point is it's not funny, it makes me cringe, and it's a recurring theme.
-Anime expressions.  While it's not super-exaggerated, the turtles will often times adopt certain expressions that are staples of anime in response to some situations (usually in response to insults or fear).  I don't mind the concept of their facial features changing for the sake of expressions like that, it just bothers me that I can almost pinpoint exactly what anime the animators were watching when they decided to include those expressions (hint: it's Naruto).  If they had been more original with the (and I hate to use this term) cartoony expressions, it would have been better.
-April's design.  Not much to say about her, she just looks awful.  Her design looks like something rejected from the early production stages of a Pixar film.  She barely looks like something I'm supposed to think is a human being.  I'd say it couldn't be much worse but then I looked at her upcoming toy...
-The theme song.  Uuuugh.   The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" chant sounds just fine but the rap interludes are abysmal.

If the first 5 episodes are a good sample to go on (and they probably should be), it's a pretty good show and I think I'll try to keep up with it.  As of now, I think the 2003 series will probably remain my favourite but the new show definitely has the potential to change my mind.  If you haven't already, give it a shot.

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