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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 5

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // August 29, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Mike Long | posted September 21, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Show

Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing. In my recent review for Scooby-Doo: Pirates Ahoy!, I applauded the movie for harking back to the older "Scooby-Doo" stories, which made me feel like a kid again. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember liking this show when it originally aired, but upon viewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 5, I found the show to be very clunky and dated. My memories of a charming show were crushed.

On the off chance, that you are reading this review, and yet are unfamiliar with the Turtles, I'll give a brief overview. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" started out as an independent comic book created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. In 1987, an animated series loosely based on the comics was brought to television. The show tells the story of four turtles, who were accidentally dropped into a city sewer. Once there, they were exposed to mutagen, which caused them to mutate into humanoid form. They were found by Splinter (voiced by Peter Renaday), a former human who was also exposed to the mutagen and mutated into a big rat. Splinter had come to America from Japan and was a ninja master. He raised the four turtles and taught them the ways of the ninja. Each turtle adopted a signature color and formed a distinct personality; Leonardo (voiced by Cam Clarke) (Blue) is the steadfast leader of the group; Raphael (voiced by Rob Paulsen) (Red) is sarcastic and quick-tempered; Donatello (voiced by Greg Berg) (Purple) is a mechanical wizard who loves to build gadgets; and Michaelangelo (voiced by Townsend Coleman) (Orange) loves to party and relax. The sworn enemy of the Turtles is Shredder (voiced by James Avery), an evil ninja who is bent on conquering the world. Shredder teams with Krang (voiced by Pat Fraley), an evil brain monster from another dimension who agrees to help Shredder and aids him in creating two mutants of his own, Rocksteady (voiced by Cam Clarke) and Bebop (voiced by Barry Gordon). The Turtles are aided by April O'Neil (voiced by Renae Jacobs), a reporter who helps to keep the Turtles informed. And while the Turtles accept their fates as heroes, they'd must rather be eating pizza.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 5 contains 12 episodes from the series. The episodes are as follows:

"Corporate Raiders from Dimension X" (Original airdate: 11/10/89) -- The Turtles are shocked to learn that a group of men in business suits are committing crimes all over the city. In order to investigate these robberies, they enlist the help of masked vigilante Casey Jones (voiced by Pat Fraley). They soon find that a familiar face is beyond the crimes.

"Pizza by the Shred" (Original airdate: 2/6/90) -- Knowing their love for pizza, Shredder decides that the best way to find the Turtles lair is to set up a fake pizza parlor and lure the Turtles to it. Meanwhile, Michaelangelo needs money to buy things for himself.

"Super Bebop and Mighty Rocksteady" (Original airdate: 10/9/89) -- Frustrated by their constant mistakes, Shredder builds robot versions of Bebop and Rocksteady to defeat the Turtles. Krang develops a mind-control device and plans to use April's TV station to broadcast the signal across the city.

"Beware the Lotus" (Original airdate: 11/1/89) -- Krang hires a female ninja named Lotus to take on the Turtles. While Lotus is a mercenary, once she meets the Turtles and finds that they are honorable, she is conflicted.

"Blast from the Past" (Original airdate: 11/3/89) -- Splinter recounts the origins of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

"Leatherhead: Terror of the Swamp" (Original airdate: 11/9/89) -- The Turtles get a frantic call from the Teenage Mutant Frogs (??) whose Florida swamp is being terrorized by a mutant alligator called Leatherhead (voiced by Jim Cummings). The Turtles head south to help the Frogs, and are followed by Shredder, who plans to recruit Leatherhead.

"Michaelangelo's Birthday" (Original airdate: 2/2/90) -- Unaware that a surprise party has been planned, Michaelangelo is convinced that everyone has forgotten his birthday, so he runs away. He soon runs afoul of Shredder, who is testing a new anti-mutagen device.

"Usagi Yojimbo" (Original airdate: 11/13/89) -- When Shredder's new device interferes with Donatello's new device, Usagi Yojimbo, a samurai rabbit is pulled from his home dimension into the Turtles' lair. The Turtles must now attempt to acclimate this stranger to his new surroundings.

"Case of the Hot Kimono" (Original airdate: 11/20/89) -- April's mystery author aunt helps the Turtles stop a ring of kimono thieves who have made off with Splinter's kimono.

"Usagi Come Home" (Original airdate: 12/5/89) -- Through coercion and blackmail, Shredder is able to convince Usagi Yojimbo to turn on the Turtles.

"The Making of Metalhead" (Original airdate: 11/27/89) -- Krang builds yet another robot to defeat the Turtles, this one being a large metal turtle. Meanwhile, the Turtles are quite sick with "turtle pox".

"Leatherhead meets the Rat King" (Original airdate: 11/29/89) -- Leatherhead ventures to the city to settle his score with the Turtles. He soon runs into the evil Rat King, who is planning to turn everyone in town into a zombie. The Turtles must now battle two of their greatest foes at once.

As mentioned above, I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it first aired back in the late 80s (although, I was probably twice as old as the show's target audience!). And, I remember the show being an interesting animated action vehicle. Well, either my standards have really changed, or the show simply isn't very good.

The thing that really jumped out at me about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is how silly the show is. Sure, comic relief is to be expected, and Raphael delivers many one-liners, but the overall tone of the show is often focused on the ridiculous instead of action and adventure. Granted, it's better that the show focus on laughs rather than violence, but the fact that the Turtles are superheroes is often an afterthought. The other striking thing about the show is just how limited and primitive looking the animation is. While the main characters are often acceptable, backgrounds and peripheral characters sorely lack in detail.

The show does have some positive points. I like the fact that the series actually has continuity and that characters and storylines from previous episodes pop up from time-to-time. And when the show is focused on the Turtles as heroes, it actually works. Episodes like "Usagi Yojimbo" and "Leatherhead meets the Rat King" offers some nice action scenes and interesting stories. Unfortunately, these episodes are two few and far between.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 5 makes a shell of a debut on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The 12 episodes offered here are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The video on this DVD leaves a lot to be desired. The DVD was clearly mastered from a video cassette source, and there are many times during the shows where it looks as if the tracking on said tape needed to be adjusted. (The top right hand corner of the picture will begin to fold over onto itself.) The image is jittery and littered with defects from the source material. The colors are OK at times, but they appear washed out in many scenes. Video noise is often visible.


The DVD features a Dolby 2.0 audio track. The track delivers clear dialogue with only a hint of hissing, but no distortion. The audio comes mainly from the center channel, with the front channels often duplicating this center channel audio. Thus, stereo effects are rare and unimpressive.


There are no extra features on this DVD.

Ah, another teens...hood...memory crushed. Viewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 5 reminded me just how tenuous precious memories can be. Yet, devoted fans of the series will no doubt treasure this DVD, especially when one considers that the "Usagi Yojimbo" eps on this volume. Oh well, maybe the upcoming "TMNT" feature film will recapture those old memories.
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