Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Paramount Home Entertainment brings us the latest adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the first DVD collection from the show’s second season: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem, featuring six episodes of the awesome CG-fueled animated series. The caliber remains high from start to finish, with the show continuing it’s blistering, frenetic, and sometimes insanely wacky adventures from the first season. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles easily remains one of the most enjoyable cartoons on television today, and this DVD release is another testament to its strong quality.

The second season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles picks up right after the major first season finale battle against Shredder and the alien conquerors, the Kraang. The Turtles are victorious, but not for long as a botched attack on the Kraang unleashes mutagen all throughout the city. And, naturally, mutant chaos ensues. The Turtles rush to contain the growing menace but find they’re already too late, as new threats and mutated villains emerge!

TMNT 08Even as the show moves into its second season, it still remains easily accessible. If you missed the first season, the first episode will get a new viewer caught up quickly while also pushing ahead with the new plotlines. And like the first season, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to embrace the history of the Turtles with nods to the previous incarnations of the beloved green-tinted crime-fighters. For fans looking for a fun, light-hearted take on the mythos, I guarantee there is no better take than this right here. In fact, this show easily surpasses the quality of the original 1980s series and even the 2003 series. Sure, all three versions are different takes of the Turtles, but this new one seems to be the most consistently pleasing one to date.

The writing is just top-notch here – the jokes all work, whether it’s the snappy dialogue or occasional visual gag. It’s successful because of the exceptional character work and pace put into the series. I’m still amazed, even as the show enters the second season, how defined these characters are. None of the characters ever appear to act out-of-character or off, the writers have nailed their “voices” perfectly. Every decision, every idea, every comment these characters make feels true. It also helps that this show basically gets to pick what worked from the previous incarnations and just run with it. Thankfully the creative folks clearly know what they’re doing, resulting in a real sense of family and camaraderie between the Turtles and Splinter, a great version of April O’Neil that doesn’t feel tacked on, and a real feeling of threat from the villains.

However, while I do enjoy this version of April, I’m not too sure I like where they’re going with her character. It looks to be really fresh, really bold territory, and hopefully it will pay off.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesIt’s easy to tell that Nickelodeon has pumped a fair amount of money into this series. It looks like it has a considerably high budget, the fluid animation and facial movements an obvious mark. The designs make each character feel unique to each other, but also instantly recognizable. In fact, be it mutants, robots, or aliens, no character feels out of place. What helps is that the series didn’t try to make the human cast look realistic – they still look very stylized and cartoony, which helps them fit perfectly alongside the Turtles and the mutated freaks the Turtles find themselves facing. They all look like they belong in the same world. The show looks superb.

The episodes included in this DVD release are”The Mutation Situation,” “Follow the Leader,” “Invasion of the Squirrelanoids,” “Mutagen Man Unleashed,” “Mikey Gets Shellacne,” and “Target: April O’Neil.”

All the episodes are fun tales more or less, with “The Mutagen Sitution” kicking off the season-long plot for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The ramifications from that episode play out bit by bit in the other installments included in this release – this includes some big news on April O’Neil’s role in the whole ongoing Turtles story, and a host of new bad guys coming out of the woodwork (or being altered and upgraded) due to the mutagen spill in the first episode. Be prepared for some unanswered mysteries and concerns as questions about the mutagen and how the Turtles plan to handle it feels a bit lacking right now (though will likely be explained in future volumes).

TMNT 12“The Mutation Situation,” “Invasion of the Squirrelanoids,” and “Target: April O’Neil” could be considered the more important episodes of the season, as they seem to move the mutagen thread along, while the others simply deal with the new villains that have jumped up due to the mutagen and how some of the characters feeling the effects of it. However, “Follow the Leader” has some great revelations too for Shredder and Splinter and is easily my favorite episode of the bunch. “Mutagen Man Unleashed” also brings Casey Jones into the series with a mighty fine introductory episodes that also deals with one of the more warped baddies the Turtles have faced. Also, fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze may get a kick out of “Mikey Gets Shellacne.”

Moving on to the DVD release, Paramount Home Entertainment has scrambled together a good single-disc release here. There’s a small amount of extras, but on par with previous single-disc Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases, and the video/audio quality is thankfully unchanged.

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The bonus features are light, but worth the thirty minutes or so it’ll take to watch them. We get more “Mutation of a Scene” featurettes, with each episode getting a nice five-minute (give or take) breakdown of early boarding and CG-work, and then comparing it to the final product. On top of that, the DVD also includes a short promotional “news report” about the rise of mutants in New York City. To note, the villainious Rahzar gets the character bio treatment on the DVD’s inside package art.

Moving on to the audio and video quality, it’s a fantastic release across the board. Given this is a DVD release, the audio and video is as top-notch as one can expect in the standard definition format. Audio is center-focused but crystal clear. Whether a wisecrack from one of the Turtles or a punch in the face, you should be able to hear it all. There is some color-banding to be seen here and there, but the widescreen video is also pretty excellent overall.

To wrap it all up, it’s yet another solid Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVD home video release from Paramount Home Entertainment. It’s encouraging to see the studio keeping up with the awesome CG-animated Turtle-toon as it enters its second season. With luck we’ll see a Blu-ray release for the show sometime down the line, but until then these DVD releases are solid and fairly-priced for both long-time fans and impulse purchasers.

TMNT 03Nickelodeon has created a genuinely great Ninja Turtles cartoon and it deserves a home in everyone’s collection. If you’re a fan of these four teenaged fighting machines, then I suggest you jump on the second season bandwagon right-away with the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem DVD collection.