The fifth and final season of the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series has finished airing all 20 episodes. From Nickelodeon Animation Studio and based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the series starred Seth Green, Sean Astin, Greg Cipes, Rob Paulsen, Hoon Lee, Mae Whitman, Josh Peck, Kelly Hu, Kevin Michael Richardson, Nolan North and Eric Bauza.
Before we all get hyped for the NEXT incarnation of our beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as yet another animated series is set to debut in 2018 called “Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, let’s reflect on how remarkable this five-season run of TMNT has been. To call this animated series a masterpiece wouldn’t be enough… Ciro Nieli, Joshua Sternin and J. R. Ventimilia developed this digitally animated incarnation of the turtles in 2012 and changed the franchise forever. Introducing a new generation of kids to the glory of Ninja Turtles wasn’t enough however and adults (much like myself) found themselves in love with a childhood property all over again. This was THE show that us nerds could watch with our kids and not get bored. I’d be lying if I wasn’t the one planning TMNT evenings with the kids so we could watch entire story arcs for our movie nights. This latest and final season, although re-titled for some strange reason, was perfect for those kinds of episodic binges as it contained several multiple episode arcs and acted like a series of mini-movies.
After the fourth season pretty much wrapped up the main story of the series, seeing Shredder defeated, master Splinter actually dying (for really real this time) and Casey Jones getting his signature hockey mask that we all know and love from the comics — this fifth season was if anything, a delightful bonus. But what a bonus it turned out to be. The first few episodes acted like an extended “post credits journey” to the fourth season’s final episodes, while the rest of the show featured some amazing stand-alone style adventures that took TMNT to a Mad Max inspired post apocalypse adventure, a Universal Monsters Halloween tale, a reunion with the 80s/90s Turtles and even a team-up with rabbit rōnin, Miyamoto Usagi!
The only issues I had with this send-off season, would be the renaming, new intro credits (don’t take away my signature song guys…. come on) and the actual airing of the episodes. Hell — they released the final three episodes on DVD over a month before the actual air date, making the final ‘new’ episodes to be shown on TV the Halloween story arc. It seems that the team originally planned to have the Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse 3-episode story as the actual end to the series (even having a “For Kevin and Peter” tribute in the credits). I wish they would have concluded with those episodes instead, as weird as they were I consider them to be a masterpiece even with the “abrupt-ish” conclusion and lack of April O’Neil/Casey Jones. Let’s face it guys, on what planet were we so lucky to get a Mad Max take on the Ninja Turtles featuring a bearded Raphael wandering the wasteland? I’m still blown away that this was a real thing that happened – it was beautiful.
Every single story arc really helped to tie up loose ends with secondary characters, including Mona Lisa, Raphael’s lizard alien love interest, all the way to Bebop and Rocksteady who really get their chance to shine in the crossover arc featuring the 90’s Turtles. The moment when those oldschool turtles shout Turtle Power! before charging at Bebop and Rocksteady, only to get mowed down by machineguns was one of the funniest moments in show history. The Usagi Yojimbo cross-over was wonderful while the Savanti Romero Halloween story was four action-packed episodes that has now officially become an October annual staple of mandatory viewing with the kiddos. The stand-alone episode ‘Lone Rat and Cubs’ is also a work of art, featuring Hoon Lee’s finest work to date as a voice performer, showing us how he kept his baby turtles safe after their initial transformation. I dare say it should be considered the best single episode of the series.
I’m going to really miss the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… The show that gave us Ice Cream Kitty and so much more had to eventually end and I think they did an admirable job resolving what will no doubt go down in history as THE definitive version of the TMNT… I just wish we could have seen a bit more of Donny and April’s relationship and potential romance play out as the series ended. As an added bonus – watch the Ice Cream Kitty music video to see what I mean. Greg Cipes was always one of the best voice actors on the planet, but his work as Mikey will go down as legendary because of this show. If you missed the airing of these final episodes, you probably weren’t alone as the network certainly botched the order and more… But look out for them on DVD (they should all make their way there soon) and if I had to pick a favourite arc it would be the Mutant Apocalypse one, because it’s some of the most brave and genre-busting stuff I’ve ever seen in a children’s animated series. What a day, what a lovely day. I’ll miss you TMNT 2012 – you were and always will be – the best.