“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

It's The Lean Green Ninja Team

2014 was... not a good year for me. Or for anyone, by the sound of it.
But one of the slightly less soul-destroying parts was Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not the godforsaken mess that I'm certain Michael Bay's movie turned out to be (DEAR LORDE, THE NIGHTMARISH CHARACTER DESIGNS!), but the animated children's show.

I watch a lot of shows in the background at work. I've seen waaay too many episodes of Dinosaur Train and Octonauts. I would be perfectly fine if I never saw an episode of Dinosaur Train again (the show tries to be educational, with long monologues about different dinosaurs... but the dinosaurs have a train!). The first episode of TMNT I watched (out of the corner of my eye, whilst writing a lit lesson on Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi) was 'Of Rats and Men' from season 2. In retrospect, that was a weird beginning.

Sometimes when you stare into the void, ice cream kitty stares back at you.

When little boys get into a thing, they really get into it. So, for a few months, there was a lot of the ninja turtle vibe happening in my everyday life. I would get to work, help L get dressed in one of his turtle jumpsuits, dodging blows from miniature katanas and bo sticks, before getting out the textas for him to draw (beautifully rendered) tiny Donatello masks all over every drawing he did, then we would play with ninja turtle Lego whilst humming the ninja turtles theme song.

And... I... got into it. The show, I mean.

It's not a perfect tv show, by any means (season 3? What the Hell are you doing?), and it's definitely not on the level of the children's television taking the world by storm - not one of your Adventure Times or The Last Airbenders. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it.
I won't explain the show's basic conceit, because, really, the title says it all. They're mutated turtles who do ninjitsu. If you need more background info, Google is your friend. I won't comment too much on this incarnation of 2012 TMNT's relation to the previous versions, simply because I never watched them. I was too young for the 80s/90s version and too old for the 2003 version. And I don't think I will ever care enough to sit down with the DVDs... so. There. Not even interested. Partly because I'm sort of shallow.





... I'm going to go for the cuter, easier-to-differentiate-between-turtles version.

In terms of story, the quality and content varies greatly. Some episodes have a monster-of-the-week vibe going, which is OK, I guess; some episodes serve a greater plot arc, which I prefer... and some episodes are just batcrap insane. Season three, so far has consisted almost solely of the latter - and not even good, interesting examples of insanity, either. One episode was about Michelangelo befriending a horribly conceived frog version of Napoleon Dynamite: Napoleon Bonafrog, voiced by Jon Heder. It was ghastly. Worse still was an episode in which a female Big Foot and and a psycho redneck hunter (calling himself 'The Finger' and wearing the shrunken head of his mother around his neck) strode off into the sunset together.

I had always been mildly nonplussed by the whole 'MY BABIES, MY PRECIOUS INFANT CHILDREN' thing I see fangirls do... but TMNT has pretty much beaten that out of me. Now everyone is my own beloved son. (Though a real mother would have to be pretty messed up to get as much enjoyment out of their suffering as I do.)

Leonardo = my fave. Absolute fave. My precious bb.

From what I've heard about other versions, Leonardo has pretty much never been anyone's favourite before now, bc he's just too much of a 'boy scout', too noble and perfect. Well, apparently, just add some self-doubt and dorkiness to this flavourless stew and you get:


OK, let's talk about the girl characters, because this is a thing that is interesting to me.

April's thing seems to be that she's really... cranky? A lot? Which isn't helping me love her as a character. Neither is the show's obsession with Donatello's crush on April, which became a love triangle of sorts with the introduction of Casey Jones. Can we just ban the love triangle as a narrative device? It's the worst. Back to April's personality: it's one thing to have a feisty kick-butt girl who won't lean on anybody and who insists on being involved in the field work of being a ninja, but when she's the only one in the team who doesn't have 15 years of intensive martial arts training, it just makes her look sort of dumb? And I resent that. Also, animators! Resist the fetishising of April O'Neil! She's 15 in this version! Don't be gross!

The April crush also is the horrible, ugly Achilles heel of Donatello's character. According to two out of three kids (uh, two of the three boys at work) Donatello's crush is the only thing preventing him from being their favourite character.

Not because they hate girls or think crushes are lame - it's just plain ol' painful to watch. It's creepy, possessive, (at times) objectifying and incredibly awkward.

Any romantic shipping on this show is instantly mired in unfortunate bestiality/incest implications... which I had the displeasure to encounter more than once whilst searching for these gifs. NO THANK YOU, FANARTISTS. YOUR PHOTOSHOP RIGHTS ARE HEREBY REVOKED.

Let's just say I was majorly ticked at the fates of Irma (*spontaneously combusts*) and Karai. A show with four male main characters (les tortues), 2 secondary male characters (Splinter and Casey Jones) and 1 secondary female character (though the extent to which April can be considered secondary as the show develops is debatable) cannot afford the Irma plot twist. Not even a little bit. Not to mention, if you intend on dropping that kind of insane plot twist, try to do a lil' foreshadowing? Unless you're an artist working with a specific intent, plot twists should not come out of nowhere.

I do love Karai though, even when she embodies about half-a-dozen overused tropes. Somehow... the cliches work? Her mad ninja skillz don't feel implausible or shoehorned in, because it's a show about teenage ninjas. Her Catwoman-style 'ooo, I'm a sexy badass from the enemy clan who pops up every now and then to flirt with you, humiliate you and possibly team up for the greater good' thing sort of works? Well, like I said, ships on this show... eesh. Do not want.

SO, all in all, why does a twenty-something-year-old grown woman watch a television show aimed at pre-teen boys? Particularly one that she acknowledges to be deeply flawed, even for what it is?

Lots of things.

The animation can be such fun.

The turtles' facial expressions sometimes go all anime for no reason whatsoever.

Love it.

I also really enjoy the fight scenes.

This might come as a surprise, but in my book, a well-choreographed fight scene is second only to a well-choreographed dance scene. It's difficult to find good gifs of any of these, seeing as the fandom is (somewhat predictably) ship-obsessed.


Seriously, I eat that stuff right up, and there are almost Lord of the Rings levels of bromance going on here. Most of the stuff I resent about the decisions the showrunners make can be summed up by: 'stop getting in the way of the bromance'! Is Leonardo running off to chase Karai instead of seeing to his injured brother? Stop getting in the way of the bromance! Is Donatello bickering with Casey about April? Stop getting in the way of the bromance! Make something about loving, supportive relationships, particularly platonic relationships, and I will be all over it. Somebody commented on Splinter admonishing his turtle sons to "Seek victory, not fairness!" as being out of character and disappointing, considering Splinter's previous incarnations and their focus on honour and fairness - but in this version of the show, with Splinter portrayed as a widower and bereft father who has endured loss and who suffers nightmares about losing his 'unlikely' family - it makes a lot of sense. Splinter's priority is always the survival and well-being of his sons - and that's wonderful.

A perfect, flawless entity? No. But despite all the crap I'm still in to see what will happen next. Don't let me down, Nickelodeon!

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