5 Reasons The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cartoon Is Awesome

Tea Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had nearly as many incarnations as mutants in the series. There are the original black-and-white comic books, the 1987 cartoonthe 2012 CG cartoon, and the modern rise series. There are also the movies and the live-action series, The Next Mutationwhich people do not speak of.

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Yet, there is one Turtles cartoon that is often overlooked in conversations: the one that premiered in 2003 on Fox Kids, or TMNT for short. This incarnation deserves a lot more recognition, as it is not only one of the most faithful to the original comics, but also introduces new characters that would return throughout the franchise.

5 Stories Are Ripped Straight From The Comics

Tea Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons are inspired by the original comic books by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, first published by their independent company Mirage Studios in 1984. Many of the stories of the 2003 cartoon are ripped straight from these comics.

Such adventures include their first encounter with April O’Neilthe Turtles’ visit from time traveler Renet, and the original comic’s one-shots. Since the target audience was children, the cartoon couldn’t get too mature, but in terms of animation, this is the most faithful interpretation of the Turtles that one is going to get.

4 It Is The Edgiest Of The Turtles Cartoons

The fact that TMNT follows the Mirage comic books means that it has an edge. Much of the show involves the Turtles getting into conflict with The Purple Dragons, a street gang that also works for the Shredder. These encounters take the Turtles to seedy back alleys and rough neighborhoods. One episode sees the Turtles infiltrate one of their underground cage matches.

TMNT 2003 also features some of the darkest visuals of any Turtles cartoon. One episode depicts a silhouette of Leonardo beheading the Shredder, only to see his silhouette pick up his head and put it back on. Is this really for kids?

3 New Characters Are Introduced To The Turtles Lore

TMNT has the classic characters a Turtles fan would expect, including villainous scientist Baxter Stockman and vigilant Casey Jones. The show also introduced some new characters to the franchise.

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One of them was Hun, the head of the Purple Dragons and a henchman for the Shredder. Also introduced to the series was Angel, a girl that Casey Jones watches after for her grandmother. Hun would return in the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, and both characters would appear in the IDW comic book, where Angel ends up taking on the mantle of the vigilante Nobody.

2 It Introduces A New Twist On The Shredder

Fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are familiar with the basics of the Shredder. He is the major rival of the Ninja Turtles and their Master Splinter.

Spoilers for TMNT 2003 belowTMNT adds an entirely new twist to the villain. In this incarnation, he is actually Ch’rell, an escaped prisoner of a peaceful alien race, the Utroms, who wound up stranded on Earth thanks to his escape. The Shredder took on the guise of a human through use of one of the Utrom android suits. This twist ends up adding a whole new connection to the Turtles, as Ch’rell getting the Utroms stranded on Earth inadvertently led to them creating the ooze that mutated the Turtles in the first place.

1 It Features The Best Portrait Of Karai

Karai is sometimes depicted as the adopted daughter of the Shredder. She has often ended up fighting against the Turtles, but in the 2003 series, she doesn’t start off as a villain right away.

Rather, Karai appears as the lead of the Japan branch of the Foot Clan, returning to New York City in the “City at War” story arc to fill the void left by her father. She calls upon the Turtles themselves to assist her in ending the gang war that has torn the city apart. Throughout the series, she ends up conflicted between her respect for the Turtles and her loyalty to her father.

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