Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Ultimate Showdown (2012 animated series vol. 3)

3 out of 5

Developed by: Ciro Nieli, J. R. Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin

While I do think the way the Kraang race was implemented into the 2012 series ultimately paid off – obviously there’s the far-ranging reach of the mutagen, and Dimension X offered up some excellent plot extensions and antics later on, while the third person Kraang speak was generally worth a chuckle – they never really landed for me as a direct foe for the Turtles, so the takeover of the last half of season 1 for focusing on their invasion plans firstly swerves from the Shredder buildup, and secondly never quite feels as intense, stakes-wise, as it should.  Whether it’s because their collective mentality doesn’t offer the same kind of personality as singular baddies (even when Kraang Prime comes in, she’s sorta weak-sauce), or because they seem like they’re played off as jokes overall, I liked the new take on the race, but the episodes collected here, leading up to the two-episode finale, are mostly underwhelming due to this focus.

Some interesting relationships are certainly weeded in: Karai is a pretty excellently used “variable” from here on out, a smart parallel to the Turtles and their relationship with Splinter, and the Pulverizer starts out as sort of a lame gag but becomes a rather tragic character in his second outing.  And Cockroach Terminator is a funny episode in general.  The writing remains, on the whole, pretty sharp and surprisingly hilarious at points.

Animation-wise, whether it’s owing to my general disinterest in the Kraang as baddies, or perhaps animation budget had to go to the large Kraang army, these episodes also come across rather bland.  Some directors include some great choreography and action and humor beats (Juan Jose Meza-Leon’s and Michael Chang’s episodes stick out), but we’re still in the era where the streets of NY just seem empty, and there’s a heckuva a lot of gray in the color palette, perhaps to offset the Kraang pink, making things look somewhat drab as well.

The DVD includes some animatic comparisons again, and also the conclusion of the “comic” from the second volume.  So extras-wise, we’re good, the rating is more reflective of this set of episodes feeling rather average as compared to the first half of the season.