This is by far one of my favorite cartoon series of all time. I am indeed a Turtles fan and grew up with the 80’s version of the series, but it wasn’t until I watched its 2003 reboot that the world of the TMNT made a lot more sense to me. What was funny, for me, was that I never knew that this series was a comic until I saw this series. No, really! When I saw the 80’s series I thought it was a good, yet forgettable, cartoon but the reboot opened up a whole new world for me.
For starters, this new cartoon takes itself a lot more serious than the first one did. All the characters, were given more unique traits that made them, especially the Turtles, stand apart as individual characters. Leo became a true leader; Donnie was now an absentminded lab-rat; Raph was the bruiser with a heart and Mikey was a young, immature-yet-upbeat member of the team. Master Splinter likewise returns as their wise and lovable mentor, sharing a closer relationship to his “sons” which makes us think of them more as a family. Their new closeness also give the writers more room to add some well-placed jokes about generational gaps.
The premise might be a little confusing for a newcomer, but is filled with addicting subplots and story twists that cleverly mixed more mature and serious themes with the Turtles innate goofiness. Shredder reprises his role as a main villain, but with a new twist from the original series. Shredder is now an Utrom, an alien being, prisoner stranded on earth for a millennium due to his prison-ship being stranded on earth in Feudal Japan. This particular Utrom, called Ch’rell, uses the “Shredder” title as a persona to bring vengeance and destruction against his stranded captors. Their fight rages on for centuries, with the Turtles and Splinter being created as casualties of this struggle The Turtles are, of course, pulled into the conflict and fight to vanquish the evil Shredder.
As I mentioned before, the show dealt with some incredibly mature themes including honor, morality, torture and fear. In one instance Baxter Stockman returns as Shredder’s main scientist, though in this version of the cartoon each time he fails he gets mutilated… NO REALLY! Over the course of the series, Stockman is gradually reduced to nothing more than a brain in a jar–that’s harsh stuff! There is even one storyline where the Turtles have to protect a scientist trapped in a robot body while stopping an intergalactic war AND at the same time raises deep question on the nature of existence. Man, that’s deep!
April O’Neal comes back too and she is no longer a helpless reporter but a scientist in her own right with an antique shop and has a very compelling role. Even side characters like Usagi Yojimbo and Leaderhead come back bringing, beautiful arcs that expand the world of the Turtles and gave us compelling storylines such as “Nexus Battles” and “Turtles Through The Multiverse.”
All of this makes the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series THE best animated incarnation–nuff said. Yes, I know it had some episodes that flopped, but it also gave me the deepest Turtles experience that any animation has so far and has had the closest ties to the original comic (in spirit). Neither the first animated series nor the 2012 reboot come close to what this cartoon has done for the Turtles. I say if you can buy a copy of the DVD and watch it then GO! …just be sure to avoid “Flash Forward” and “Beyond.”