Nickelodeon's recent adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (usually known as "TMNT 2012") has finally come to a close after five seasons; ratings declined slowly with each passing year, but stayed consistent in the home stretch. That goes for the series' overall quality as well: it's certainly not without its highs and lows since 2012, but TMNT's top-tier visuals, deep roster of vocal talent, and diverse locales led to plenty of great moments along the way.
The end of its fourth season---which occurred during Super Shredder, released nine months ago---brought about a big shift in tone: the series was now Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with multi-part story arcs that were more self-contained than continually serialized. This final DVD collection, appropriately titled The Final Chapters, continues the anthology format with 12 episodes presented as four multi-part stories that feel different than one another in almost every single way. Like those special levels in Super Mario World, these episodes are unpredictable, entertaining, varied, and don't always make a lot of sense...but since you've gotten this far, you might as well finish, right?
"Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse" is presented as a triple-length 64-minute "special"---and frustratingly enough, with only one chapter---but originally aired as "The Wasteland Warrior", "The Impossible Desert", and "Carmageddon!". Bottom line? It's basically Mad Max by way of Frank Miller: Raph (sporting an Oscar the Grouch beard) drives around a post-apocalyptic landscape with "Donnie", whose memories have been transplanted to his own invention, Metalhead. Along the way, our grizzled heroes meet Mira, a female meerkat warrior, who's following a tattooed map that may lead to a wise old turtle and Paradise itself. I'll admit that Mutant Apocalypse really isn't the best way to start this collection (more on that later): it's just way too different than earlier installments, there's too much blatant cribbing of Mad Max for my taste, and we don't get much of a payoff either. Luckily, things get better from here on out.
"Monsters vs. Mutants" is a four-part story arc containing "The Curse of Savanti Romero", "The Crypt of Dracula", "The Frankenstein Experiment", and "Monsters Among Us!". It's one of the more ambitious animated Halloween specials in recent memory, as the four Turtles and April team up with future babe Renet (who first appeared in "Turtles in Time") after their trick-or-treating plans are postponed by invading monsters. During the trip they encounter Dracula, Victor Frankenstein and his monster, Igor, the demonic Savanti Romero (with his ally, The Pharaoh), and several other threats. There's a good mix of humor and horror here: that's something the series has always handed very well, so it's no surprise that "Monsters vs. Mutants" ends up being an enjoyable diversion that gets this collection back on track.
"Worlds Collide" is a self-titled two-part adventure that features several returning characters from Beyond the Known Universe including Sal Commander (Keith David), Mona Lisa (Zelda Williams), Bishop (Nolan North), and the villainous Lord Dregg (Peter Stormare), who has plans to lead an army of alien insects to Earth with the help of The Newtralizer (Danny Trejo). Obviously, a lot happens in just over 40 minutes and the pacing is good: for most of the right reasons, "Worlds Collide" feels like a season finale from earlier years that never happened. But since I liked Beyond the Known Universe so much the first time around, any reason to revisit that chapter is a pretty good one in my book.
"The Samurai" is a three-part arc that includes "Yojimbo", "Osoroshi no Tabi", and "Kagayake! Kintaro", and is easily my favorite one on this collection. There's little thought to the story's setup: our four Turtles simply materialize in an ancient Japanese-like alternate dimension, but everything about this adventure is gold. A lot of new characters make their first and only appearances here, including bad-ass samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi (Yuki Matsuzaki), his cocky young charge Kintaro (Evan Kishiyama), the mind-controlling Jei (Keone Young), and several others. Featuring plenty of terrific action, some of the series' most stylish animation, and an episode written by the one and only Stan Sakai (creator of the long-running Usagi Yojimbo comic), it's a top-tier adventure and one of my favorites in the series. The fact that it's technically presented as the last one (again, more on that in a second) makes this a great way to end things.
A word of warning: though these four story arcs are more or less self-contained, they're in the wrong order on this set. Most sites list them as airing in this sequence: "Worlds Collide", "The Samurai", "Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse", and "Monsters vs. Mutants"...so if you want to watch these in the correct order, just put in Disc 2 first. Of course, when you consider that the end of Season 4 and start of Season 5 were crammed onto the same collection and the three-part series finale came out three months ago, it's no surprise. Otherwise, I'm glad to have the rest of this show on DVD so quickly: it looks and sounds fantastic, and the lack of bonus features is offset by the number of episodes included.
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio, my only continued complaint about this series---and the last time I'll make it, probably---is that it still hasn't been made available on Blu-ray. Other than that, the stylish visuals look excellent from start to finish, boasting a moody color palette and solid black levels. Image and texture details are also very strong for a standard definition release, and this season's varied locales play to almost every technical strength with a great deal of variety and inspired touches. Aliasing and banding are present on several occasions (and honestly, they're almost expected on animated DVD releases), but it's no biggie when you consider the positives here. From top to bottom, fans should still be happy...even if, like me, they're still wishing for a long overdue bump to high definition.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent DVD's native 480p resolution.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also terrific, preserving the series' action-packed sound design perfectly well. Either way, TMNT regularly features plenty of subtle (and not-so-subtle) atmospheric touches, from the low rumble of approaching alien invaders to the steely clang of weapons striking one another. Dialogue is typically anchored up front and crisply recorded, while the sporadic music cues are dynamic but not overpowering. Overall, it's an effective mix that anchors the series' frantic, exciting pace perfectly. No optional subtitles are included, only Closed Captions support.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the interface is colorful and easy to navigate with a static advertisement beforehand. This two-disc release is packaged in a clear hinged keepcase a matching slipcover. Like pretty much every other volume of TMNT
, however, we don't get any bonus features...but to be fair, there's well over four hours of content on here for less than $15.
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Final Chapters is an enjoyable victory lap for one of the franchise's best animated installments to date. Featuring four multi-part, stand-alone story arcs with different stakes, characters, tones, and locales, there's a lot to like here but it's by no means a flawless collection of episodes. Most "kid's shows" rarely have a shelf life of more than a year or two, but TMNT has stayed remarkably consistent during the bulk of its five-year run. Paramount's DVD continues to impress from an A/V standpoint, and the lack of bonus features is offset by the amount of content here (and for the same retail price, even!). The Final Chapters comes Highly Recommended to die-hard fans; now all we can hope for is a Blu-ray collection of the complete series, pretty please with sugar on top.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.