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Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [Season One] (2018)

It's hard to avoid reboots or revivals because they seem to be popular these days and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has taken off again in a brand new series on Nickelodeon. The show was announced as soon as the 2012 CG-animated series was coming to an end.  A Risky and unusual move but it seems to be paying off. Although the franchise has been going for 35 years, I haven’t invested any time into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles until this came along. When Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was announced, it had a promo image and the style alone piqued my interest, as well as learning Rob Paulsen would be voice directing for this brand new series! I believe this is his first time doing so, he's one of the most well-known voice actors and has worked with Andrea Romano. So it was exciting to know he'd be a voice director for the first time and for a franchise he has been a part of since the first animated series!

Although I may not have a lot of knowledge with TMNT, I know that there have been many changes this time around. Their designs are one of the most obvious changes. They are designed after different turtle species instead of looking alike. Next, Leo is stripped of his leadership title and Raph is the leader because he is the oldest, April O'Neil is now an African-American girl, and Splinter has also gone through a lot of changes. Finally, they have mystic weapons, and that was established in the first episode. "Rise" has gone through a lot of changes to stand on its own while also paying respects to the entire franchise. While I can understand that many longtime fans may not adjust to these changes, it is worth noting that change can be good and every iteration of these beloved Ninja Turtles has something special to offer on its own.

The style is the major thing that drew me in because of the bold use of saturated colors, unique character designs, and how colorful it looked. The animation and music are other things that stood out to me. There is a lot of sharpness to it, almost like anime mixed with Batman the Animated Series vibes and it plays with a lot those elements like the expressions or texts on screen. I grew up watching action films and the series embraces that element to the fullest. This is even more true when the turtles look up to an action film star as their idol, Lou Jitsu! Not only does it have energetic music to amp up the fight scenes, there are also some musical numbers. The animation isn’t as flowy, although this isn’t a bad thing because like anime it gives room for characters to go off-model for some of the best expressions and make their fights have more impact.

Long-time fans are quick to point out the absence of Shredder, one of the most notable villains in the TMNT franchise. There is more focus on character development and world-building that it feels like filler for most episodes. The first episode is clunky because it's establishing many things at once but the pacing improves as the story progresses. Amongst all the new changes, there are also new faces and some new antagonists. Baron Draxum is the main villain, appearing in the pilot. The threat of oozequitoes is exposed to New York, after the lab accident with Baron Draxum. We are getting to know the characters as they explore New York and the Hidden Mystic City. Also, it plays off like the villain of the week format, as they meet new mutants who have bitten by the oozequitoes. Not all of the bad guys are mutants, there is also a bear robot and some humans. Baxter Stockboy is not as reoccurring but has shown up a few times. Foot Recruit is a member of the Foot Clan, normally working alongside Brute and Lieutenant. Big Mama is a yokai, another main villain the boys have encountered as they were collecting oozequitoes. She owns a hotel and runs the Battle Nexus as well. The turtles and April made some new allies like Bullhop, Todd Capybara, Senor Hueso, and Sunita.

Shredder is however hinted early when the turtles take on two members of the Foot Clan, Foot Lieutenant and Foot Brute. They make reoccurring appearances collecting "artifacts". The boys do try to stop them but fail to do so due to lack of training and not being informed about who the "foot faces" are or what exactly they are doing. Halfway through the season, some major plots are now the main focus as the boys learn more details about their lives. The half-hour specials help progress the story further and the short episodes start to add more of the plot. Evil League of Mutants and Shadow of Evil are two of the half-hour specials that are heavy on the continuity. Baron Draxum is working with the Foot Clan to collect the dark armor. Splinter gets more involved in Shadow of Evil after suspecting April might be working for the Foot Clan. Shredder is not a human, rather a real demon. Splinter's ancestor was able to defeat him back then but is now coming back. Posing a real threat to humanity, he now has to take action.

Many more secrets are uncovered and things start to shift, not drastically. Splinter is training them and informing them about their destiny. Unfortunately, the dark armor is complete and the boys have failed the mission to stop it from happening. This causes Splinter to take drastic measures, he looks to his ancestors for some answers. From that point, he is hard on the boys but the boys are also stepping up. They are on the way to stop the from the Foot Clan summoning Shredder and save April who is stuck with them. They are the Hamato Clan and Splinter is Hamato Yoshi who was living under the alias of Lou Jitsu. Ultimately, the old ways do not work for any of them and they go back to their old selves but Shredder has now resurrected.

Now, all the characters have gone through some changes, some more drastic than others. It's also worth noting that these changes are done intentionally. It's all about getting to know them and seeing them grow.

When it comes to the characters, it seems like Splinter got the short end of the stick. He went from a serious sensei to Danny DeVito with a rat tail. Splinter is the most different compared to his other iterations, he is a slacker. His first introduction wouldn't be the best first impression for longtime fans, it feels like an insult. I don’t entirely blame people for being put off by these drastic changes to his character. However, Splinter is incredibly flawed but this is what makes him interesting. They don’t have a student-sensei relationship this time, they are as close as a real family. Splinter isn't as involved in his son's lives. In spite of his appearance and immature behavior, he does step up when it's necessary. He did rescue those four turtles after all. Although he has raised them and loves them, there still seems to be some sort of disconnection between them. Nonetheless, Splinter will not hesitate to protect his sons and April. That is proven in Shadow of Evil, he doesn't think twice to risk his life for them like any parent would. Yes, in the beginning, he was either lazy or irresponsible but he always takes responsibility for his actions and he will always apologize to his kids when he does something wrong. Splinter has been dealing with his self-esteem and adjusting to all the changes but has been working on that. His defining moment was choosing to rescue his sons over his ancestors telling him to let his sons be sacrificed in the finale.

Leo's biggest change is not being the leader nor does he focus on becoming one. This allows him to grow into the role if given the opportunity, he has shown the qualities of one. Leo often acts goofy and lacks focus because he's too busy coming up with one-liners and as time progresses, he tones that down. His rivalry with Raph is not there either. They've had arguments a few times, it has never lingered. They work well best together in spite of some bickering. Their bickering comes from having some disagreements, not about leadership.

They all have their trademark thing, the difference is they aren't defined by their single trait. Instead, there is a lot of exploration and depth to these characters. There is a lot to learn about the turtles. They might share some similarities or have the same interests but they are very different from each other. One thing for sure is they are not four Mikeys, they are all teen boys so they act like their age. Their relationship is different than most iterations such as Mikey isn't treated like an idiot or is getting hit all the time. Yes, they are brothers but it's nice to see the brothers genuinely enjoy each other's company.

Mikey is still the youngest, he can be naive and his brothers are overprotective of him. He is artistic, loves to cook, and acrobatic. Donnie is the genius, deadpan, theatrical, and is the most emotional despite his nonchalant facade. Raph rushes into fights and thinks later. Although he has a temper, he is a softie with a teddy bear collection. Don't expect jokes at his expense. The boys might tease each other but never disrespect each other. Aside from this one time with Raph's fear of Mrs. Cuddles but they got their karma when Raph faced his fears.  Overall these changes are to enhance their personalities more. The cast have a hand in that as they seem to grow comfortable in their roles, giving them extra charm to their characters.

Rise isn’t afraid to let loose and have a good time. With their light-hearted approach, it makes their heartfelt moments and tense moments stand out. Even the bad guys can be seen outside of doing bad things sometimes, they are likable without feeling the need to redeem them. It's not as common these days to have these classic antagonists who can also be funny or do normal things. So this is a refreshing thing to see once more in an action superhero cartoon. There is a lot of build-up throughout the season. The boys and Splinter are learning to grow up but still stay true to themselves. This chapter has ended and now we will see what the next chapter brings.


IN A NUTSHELL:  Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a unique mystic re-imagining of the turtles full of action, comedy, drama, and sweet family moments. Just like Into the Spider-Verse, it manages to deliver in everything it does and stand on its own while paying homage to the past.