3 out of 5
I hated it. I mean, 2012 TMNT was, by my opinion, the most consistent, intelligent, funny, and exciting version of the Turtles across comics, film, and TV (feel free to bicker), and had ended with a fantastic season of amazing tribute episodes. The IDW comic series had never really taken off for me and had beaten my 30 years of fandom into defeat with some really atrocious writing – though I’m trying to go back through it with different expectations – and then here comes this thing: Rise of the TMNT, which, setting aside all the lore fiddling, ditches storytelling for 15 minute soundbytes, flash-like choppy animation, meme-riddling dialogue, and a sense of visual overkill that feels indebted to the Bay films… I hated it. I, admittedly, hated it just based on the trailers, and then actually watching it pounded the final nail into the coffin of that fandom. I was now an old man who would talk about “my” Turtles, waiting for the day when Rise would end and another iteration would begin.
Meanwhile, thanks to IDW’s reprinting of the Archie and Image series, I was getting to read some things either as an adult for the first time – Archie – or for the first time period, with Image, as I had always had gaps in my floppy collection of that series, preventing me from really giving it a go. These are two drastically different takes on the Turtles, in comparison to Mirage, or to (once Archie got into full swing) the Fred Wolf cartoon, which are probably the two main comparison points for old school fans. Separated from any kind of expectations while reading these, since they’re already done and finished, I really enjoyed them. I knew I liked the Archie books, but I even dug out my floppies of the specials and minis that weren’t collected, and I found I really liked those too. And Image has been kind of a revelation: something that was non-canonized and always had a taint of Image-ness, but is actually damned impressive and fun. So I guess I kind of realized: we’ve been doing this dance of refiguring and modernizing the Turtles for decades. And I’ve had several years where I’ve been treated to a version I’ve really enjoyed – Peter Laird’s volume 4; the 2K series, and 2012 – and occasionally, as with Rise, and as, I guess, with IDW, there are going to be takes that I don’t necessarily like. But that maybe I should be appraising more from a high level than as a scrutinizing fanboy.
I no longer hate Rise of the TMNT. Hilariously, I kinda sorta love it at moments. It’s hyper-kineticness and ADD is kind of refreshing, versus the collect-em-all morass of the IDW comics, and once I moved past the sticker shock of Raph being team leader, and Splinter being a joke, the DNA is still there. Yeah, it’s a bit too-cool-for-school in the way that a lot of modern cartoons are, but what I think carries over on some level from 2012 is the respect for the audience in avoiding more obvious jokes and toilet humor and providing stuff that’s a bit more “organic” to each episode, even if each 12 minute episode is just a bottle of a new, random villain and some light TMNT dusting (e.g. the foot clan, a ‘mutagen’ like substance). The joke timing is pretty spot on, the voice acting is all quality, and while I think the skipping-frames flash animation is sort of abused, it really does add a nice kick to the visual humor and action, especially combined with the appreciably hand-drawn looking style of the show, which smooths out any CGIness for a kind of classic look that counters its modern zaniness.
That said, it’s still best in small doses; the ping-ping pacing is tough at length. The DVD – is it still really all that much more cost effective over bluray nowadays? – is a budget one, meaning no extras for its 7 episodes (8, if you count the opener two-parter as two), and there aren’t any chapters in any episode either, whether you ‘play all’ eps or individually, meaning you have to either fast-forward through the opening theme on each ep or sit through it, if you’re lazy / so inclined.