The 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Series Is An Underrated Gem

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird introduced the world to the Heroes in a Half Shell in Mirage Studios' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 back in 1984. In '87, a kid-friendly cartoon about the mutant heroes spawned turtlemania. There were action figures, live-action movies, more comics (including IDW Publishing's current series, which is consistently solid), another animated show in 2003 and even a live-action series.

Back when it was announced that Nickelodeon was bringing Master Splinter, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello back to TV in a new animated series, there were concerns the new take on the Ninja Turtles would be too kid-friendly. Well, the opposite turned out to be true. Nick's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles delivered a ton of fan-service and embraced the era when the Heroes in a Half Shell made their debut.

After five great seasons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came to an end. Now, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is on the way, and the upcoming show promises to have "a younger and lighter feel." Before the new show debuts, let's celebrate Nick's 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja series, because it certainly earned the praise.

The 2012 character designs embraced the idea of "less is more." Instead of making drastic changes to reinvent the four mutant brothers, the show respected the franchise's history while only making small and totally organic changes to each turtle, which reflected their personalities and preferences. For example, Donatello was the tallest but also the skinniest since he's focused on using his mind over his body, but someone like Raphael, who loves rushing into a fight, was the most muscular one of the four brothers and even had a crack in his shell -- which was explained during a heartwarming episode in the final season.

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No Ninja Turtles story is complete without entertaining action -- "ninja" is in the title, after all. Thankfully, Nick's TMNT's action sequences had legitimately good directing and fight choreography. Whether it was displaying martial arts and melee weapon skills, focusing on stealth or unleashing wild brawls with a variety of tech and abilities, Nick's TMNT never failed to deliver pure popcorn entertainment when the Ninja Turtles and their allies had to face a threat. Longtime fans of the franchise are sure to appreciate several nods to classic action scenes too, like the choreography during the team's rooftop fight against the Shredder, or the time Leonardo had to stand alone against the Foot Clan.

The action is exciting, but at times it's also appropriately emotional and even heartbreaking. After all, this is a show that delves deep into the intense history between Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi. At the end of the day, the Ninja Turtles franchise is about the importance of family, and that's a theme that the show kept in the spotlight throughout its five seasons. There were constant jokes and a ton of fun fights, but there were sincere emotions displayed throughout, and the show had legitimate stakes.

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