It might surprise some of you to hear this, but in Japan, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were very popular through-out the 90â€™s. All three motion pictures were released theatrically and the animated series was dubbed and shown on television up through at least season 5 or 6. The Playmates toyline (released in Japan via Takara) was also a hot seller. There was even a long-running manga series that adapted episodes of the TV series initially and eventually began telling original stories. In 1996, to cross-promote the new Super Mutant Turtles and Metal Mutant Turtles toylines, Bee Media was given the rights to produce 2 OVA (original video animation) episodes set in the universe of the TV series.
The first one, â€œThe Super Turtles are in Danger! Debut of the Saint!â€, picks up where the Super Mutant Turtles manga left off with a brief recap of the previous events. Apparently, the Neutrinoâ€™s (those Hot-Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X) had built an ancient kingdom deep underground where they hid the Mutastones. The TMNT obtained the Mutastones as well as a new friend, the bubbly fairy-like guardian of the stones, Kris Mu. However, Krang, the Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady followed the Turtles down to the Neutrino Kingdom and stole the Dark Mutastone. With the power of the Mutastone, the TMNT gained the power of transforming into Super Mutants, while the Dark Mutastone had the same effect on Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady. And so the story beginsâ€¦
Out in Earthâ€™s orbit, the Captain of the NASA space shuttle Endeavor notices stars mysteriously vanishing in the sky. He reports back to NASA headquarters, though they think he just left his glasses on Earth (and this joke gets run to death through the course of 25 minutes). As it turns out, Krang is trying to awakening the demon, Dark Mu, from within the Dark Mutastone. Krang intends to use Dark Muâ€™s power to destroy the Earth. Shredder asks where he, Bebop and Rocksteady will live if the Earth is obliterated, to which Krang replies, â€œDimension Xâ€. The trio of villains donâ€™t take to kindly to the thought of that and have one of those crazy anime freak-out sequences.
In the Turtlesâ€™ sewer headquarters, Kris Mu senses that Dark Mu is awakening and the Turtles are deployed to prevent the catastrophe. Krang sends Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady to Earth to keep the TMNT busy and both sides quickly Super Mutate and engage in battle. Meanwhile, Splinter and Kris Mu sneak into the Technodrome to stop Krang while April Oâ€™Neil runs to get a camera crew on the scene. Splinter bursts into the Technodrome and starts making death threats, but itâ€™s all for not, as he and Kris Mu arrive too late. Dark Mu (a dominatrix chick in skin-tight red leather) awakens and natural disasters begin to occur all over Earth. In the Miami Wetlands, the Punk Frogs are startled by freak waterspouts. Elsewhere, in Miami Beach, the vacationing Foot Soldiers are having a barbeque (no, seriously) when theyâ€™re suddenly swept away by one of the waterspouts. As they fly away they collectively scream something that can only be compared to â€œThe Foot Soldiers are blasting-off agaaaaiiiiin!â€
New York City is then struck by a massive tidal wave, flooding the entire city (and probably killing untold thousands, but youâ€™re not supposed to think about that). The Technodrome surfaces and Krang unleashes Dark Mu. Dark Mu hits and unsuspecting Shredder with a burst of black energy that transforms him into the gargantuan Dark Devil Shredder. Dark Devil Shredder begins laying waste to whatâ€™s left of New York until Donatello comes up with a strategy: drop a building on him. With that out of the way, the TMNT then combine into the Turtle Saint and chase after Dark Mu into outerspace.
Dark Mu attempts to use her power to blow up the Earth, and it looks like itâ€™s going to work, as the Turtles canâ€™t work together well-enough to control the Turtle Saint and stop her. Kris Mu then grabs Dark Mu from behind (causing the villainâ€™s boobs to jiggle violently) and implores the Turtles to trap them both in the Mutastones once again. Splinter then telepathically contacts them and tells them to get their s*** together. The Turtles focus and use their Mega Final Saint Blade (Ultra Hyper Turtle Rocket Buster Omega Henshin GO!) attack to trap both Dark Mu and Kris Mu in Mutastones once again, effectively robbing themselves of their Super Mutation powers at the same time. The Turtles rematerialize in the space shuttle Endeavor and return to Earth, content to leave their old buddy Kris Mu floating helplessly through space for all eternity. Turtle Power!
The Japanese Ninja Turtles OVAs are veryâ€¦strange. While the American cartoon series rarely took itself seriously, the Japanese OVAs are just plain bizarre at times. The US show was typically tongue-in-cheek when it came to the humor, but the Japanese animation is just in-your-face with the gags. Itâ€™s different, but at the same time, kind of fun. I thought the Foot Soldiers vacationing in Miami was hilarious, especially since theyâ€™re all wearing Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses and dancing around to rock music. The cameo from the Punk Frogs was a great Easter Egg, though they only shoed 3 of them for some reason. Canâ€™t help but wonder what the Neutrinos were doing on Earth, though.
The animation by Bee Media is excellent, better than the early episodes of the American cartoon series which were drawn by Toei Studios (another Japanese animation company). Itâ€™s very fluid with a blatant anime-style, yet at the same time, they maintain the character designs from the American series for most of the characters, so the transition isnâ€™t incredibly jarring. A few of the characters look a little different, like April, who has a more â€œanime girlâ€ appearance going. Shredder, on the other hand, looks nothing like his American cartoon counterpart.
I would also like to say this: I *hate* the designs for the Super Mutant Turtles. The â€œWolverineâ€ masks are especially stupid-looking. But whatâ€™s worse is their weapons. I mean, Raph uses a spinning top for crying out loud! Losing the Super Mutations at the end of the OVA is no big loss, as far as Iâ€™m concerned.
The voice-acting is pretty good for the Japanese dub. Most of the voices are decent approximations of the American cast, all of them fitting for the characters personalities. The only voice I have trouble with, and the one most people remember best when they think of the Japanese dub, is Krang. Dear God. He has this ear-bleeding high-pitched voice thatâ€™s sorta like the result of Jerry Lewis and Alvin from the Chipmunks having some kind of monster baby. Then squeezing its balls in a vice-grip.
Thereâ€™s another OVA for the Metal Mutants toyline, which I will review soon. The TMNT anime OVAs are a very strange novelty and I almost find myself wishing more had been made, if only for the excellent animation and down-right wackiness.