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Featured TV on DVD Review: Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation: Volume One

September 1st, 2012

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation: Volume One - Buy from Amazon

The live action Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation arrived on TV in September of 1997. That's 15 years ago. It was made by the same company that made the Power Rangers, Saban Entertainment. So could it be described as a mixture of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers? If so, will it please the fans of either series?

The Show

The two-disc set begins with the five-part East Meets West, which begins somewhere in China. Chung I is maintaining a vigil over a mirror when his adopted daughter, Mei Pieh Chi, comes in. She is worried that he has become obsessed over the mirror and wants him to take a break. He refuses, but does ask for a cup of tea. When she leaves to get him one, he says the greatest evil may have awoken.

Back in New York City, we hear Raphael get into a fight with a fellow Turtle before taking off on his bike. It isn't long before he's in a fight with a ton of ninjas from the Foot Clan. Fortunately, Splinter senses he is in trouble and takes off to help. The rest of the ninja clan is in their sewer working on the usual things. Leo is attempting to break cinder blocks with his head, Michelangelo is mocking him, while Donatello is working on a satellite tracking system for the Turtles. When it is up and running, they see Raphael is in a fight and Splinter is on his way to save him, the rest race there as well; however, the fight is over before they even get there, as Splinter cleaned house. Shredder is embarrassed how easily his ninjas were defeated.

However, while Splinter implores the ninja to take their duty and Shredder seriously, he is contacted by Chung I through the dreamworld. He says the dragon, the threat he was worried about, has awaken and slipped through his mind to the dream world, making the place unstable and unsafe. Splinter doesn't listen and soon he is trapped by the dragon in the dreamworld and Chung I is taken out. Before he dies, he sends his adopted daughter to New York to save Splinter. It is then we see Mei Pieh Chi for the first time (she was previously always covered in robes). She's a turtle as well! (And when she joins the Turtles, she's called Venus de Milo.)

When she gets to New York, she finds Splinter in the Dreamlands and realizes the Dragon Lord is too strong to defeat by herself. She will have to teach the other turtles how to dream walk so they can help her defeat the dragons. But first, they will have to take care of Shredder. (Which they do. Really quickly. Frankly, it is anti-climactic.) On the other hand, teaching the Turtles to do anything besides fighting it a whole lot harder. Eventually she uses her special Shinobi abilities to bring the Turtles into the dream realm to that they can rescue Splinter. Unfortunately, this was the Dragon Lord's plan and he travels into the real world after them. Even worse, his annoying henchmen, Wick, also tags along.

That sets up the big bad guy for the show, but not the only bad guy. There's mafia Yeti named Silver. Seriously. Dr. Quease is a scientific genius without morals. He was wicked out of every scientific organization as a result, but the Dragon Lord doesn't care about morals. There's a big game hunter, Simon Bonesteel, who specializes in endangered species. And since the Turtles are unique, they are certainly endangered.

On a side note, the episodes are not quite in chronological order. They go from Truce or Consequences to Mutant Reflections skipping the four-part Unchain My Heart. This makes sense, because otherwise they couldn't split the season into two equal volumes. Granted, with only 26 episodes in total, it might have been a better deal to just release the show on one DVD instead of two volumes.

Overall Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation is unfortunately pretty bad. It feels more like a cheap clone of the Power Rangers than a continuation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. It doesn't have the same strong writing, it is missing the sense of humor and charm, the characters seem off, the acting is weaker. The transition from animation to live action was also a problem. Being limited to TV budgets meant the turtles costumes looked cheap, especially when compared to the movies. Most of the villains were not compelling, certainly when compared to Shredder. I didn't dislike Venus de Milo as much as some do, but her only real character trait was misunderstanding American culture, which is a major cliché. Finally, the action was much weaker than in the cartoons, because the actors had wear the Turtle outfits, which limited what they could do.

The Extras

There are no extras on this two-disc set.

The Verdict

If you are a hardcore fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation: Volume One might be worth checking out. However, it is important to keep your expectations low. If you were a fan of the show, the lack of extras is disappointing, but the price-per-minute isn't bad for TV on DVD shows aimed at this age group.

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