Folks, after what turned out to be an abomination of trying to watch the complete series of M.A.S.K., I’ve turned my attention to a new cartoon: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.
Gomez was a big proponent of this and I did recently pick up the complete series in the Turtle Van collector box on Amazon Prime Day, so why the hell not? Well, I’ll tell you why not: the series is listed at 193 episodes which is hella daunting, especially once you consider how I just struggled to get through half of a 65 episode series.
TMNT was never my favorite show as a kid. I mean, it was definitely the hot shit and I certainly watched it and had toys, but maybe I was a bit too old to be genuinely swept up in the Turtle Mania of the time. To say my remembrance of TMNT is vague is probably an understatement. My best memories probably come from constantly playing the arcade game that was in every pizzeria in the early 90s. That shit was bananas.
At no point have I ever gone back and done any kind of re-watch with this series so I’m expecting to encounter a flood of memories as well as feeling like I’m seeing a lot of this for the first time. I’d assume more the latter than former. Really, I’m just hoping to enjoy and have fun with this after how much I hated watching M.A.S.K. And so, we begin…
Season 1, Episode 1: “Turtle Tracks” Original Air Date: Dec. 28, 1987
We’re introduced to a TV news report on how crime has overrun the city. High tech labs are apparently being knocked over by ninjas and reporter, April O’Neil, is trying to get the scoop when her and her news crew are approached by a gang of toughs. April’s crew immediately heads for the hills, but she tries to save her footage and slips into the sewers while being chased by the gang.
Four giant, talking turtles come to the rescue and send the bad guys packing before April passes out at the sight of her new heroes. The Turtles take her back to their lair so she can rest and when she awakens, she’s greeted by a grown, talking rat named Splinter.
Splinter then bestows upon April (and us) their origin story. He was once a well-respected ninja in Japan named Hamato Yoshi who was sabotaged by his arch nemesis, Oroku Saki causing him to be ostracized by the noble Foot Clan. Yoshi ended up in New York, living in the sewers while Saki took control of the Foot, turning them into a group of evil and crime who – apparently – love soda as they’re shown stealing full soda machines.
Yoshi takes in a group of four turtles who are literally dropped in his lap from a sewer above and treats them as his pets and friends. One day, Yoshi returns to his lair to find his turtles covered in a powerful mutagen that transforms whomever comes in contact with it into whatever they last touched. The turtles, obviously, into half people turtles and Yoshi into a rat because of his recent contact with them in the sewers.
Yoshi names his four “sons” after his favorite renaissance artists and trains them in the ninjitsu that he spent his life learning before being cast out. April is still uncertain what to make of this whole situation, but the Turtles bargain to help her get a story if she would report on their innocence.
They go out for pizza and April leaves to call her network to send a film crew, but she never returns. The Turtles get nervous and go looking for her and notice her satchel hanging from a rooftop of a building across the street which, realistically, would have been impossible during nighttime in New York.
But they notice it and go up there to be attacked by a gang of Foot Soldier robots. The Turtles make quick work of them and Shredder, the former Oroku Saki who has been monitoring the ordeal on a surveillance system recognizes their fighting style as being Foot influenced and wonders aloud if Hamato Yoshi is still alive.
The Turtles end up flooding the building by using its fire sprinkler system and escape safely with April just in the nick of time. Splinter watches some news coverage of the fight and recognizes the Foot uniform and immediately accepts that his old nemesis, Saki, is still alive and close by.
This was a really fun pilot episode. Obviously, I’m familiar with the origin after almost 30 years, but forgot how fun the animation, characters and writing were. Also, it’s impossible to hear any line from Shredder now without thinking of Uncle Phil. (If you didn’t know, Shredder is voiced by James Avery who played Uncle Phil on “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.) I’m actually completely into this because, although I remembered the origin, I felt completely unfamiliar to the storyline and how things advance. I’m genuinely excited to get to the next episode.
Solid, fun and entertaining. Made me want to see the next one.
And with that, we blow the doors open on me watching another cartoon series. I’m not committing to an every day schedule, but I’ll do my best. At least it seems – right now, anyway – that I’ll be motivated to continue watching.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Ep. 2!