NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
If you get the chance, buy these. They feature an almost flawless sculpt and paint job from NECA, and they have good articulation with no real problems, and they come with their traditional weapons.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES!
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES!!
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES!!!
TURTLES IN A HALF-SHELL!
Is this your first memory of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Four happy-go-lucky pizza chomping, skateboard riding reptiles dressed in color-coded bandanas beating up on an evil master ninja, his pet talking brain, and other freaks and monsters? Seems like this is everyone’s first memory these days, but for me it was the evolutionary step that started in disaster.
Before the cartoons, before the three live-action films, and before all various animated adventures and a robust selection of toys and unrelated merchandise that drew in millions of dollars in profit was a tiny, relatively unheard of black & white independent comic book printed in 1984 that shared an identical title with identical character names, but that’s about where the comparisons stopped. They still beat up an evil ninja master but he and his fellow FOOT Clan Ninjas didn’t usually run away when they were defeated – no, they often met a much more horrifying fate that ended in broken limbs, concussions or UFC-style beat downs, violent stabbings or even an occasional decapitation or three. This was the real Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they all wore red and they all meant business without any of the silly joking or ridiculous multi-colored bandanas.
This is what I remember, but it’s been difficult to remember them for who they were because their image has been altered so often during the past 30 years. Thanks to the masterminds at NECA this not-so-subtle reminder was like a sweeping leg kick that dropped me on my ass – and I ‘m crawling back asking for more. In 2009, NECA produced a single line-up that included all four ninja turtles: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello all manufactured and designed like no other TMNT toy has ever been before.
Why am I bothering to review a toy that’s nearly five years old already? Because these action figures are the things legends are made of and sometimes it’s fun to take a look back at things that still make us happy today.
NECA’s first venture into Turtle-Land started with a huge colorful box set, shortly after that initial release each Turtle was sold as an individual figure found in NECA’s typical retail clamshell packaging which is what I am covering in this review.
The exterior packaging design utilizes a wide open window that lets you clearly see the toy inside and the assortment of weapons and extras packed within, while the lower exterior uses a simple black panel that reads the character name along with an illustration of their pre-Ninja days as four prepubescent turtles mucking around the spilled contents of a cracked TCRI canister. The interior card uses the classic comic TMNT logo floating above a New York City scene background ripped right from the comic book pages. Inside, each figure is held in place by a combination of the molded shell and some wire ties. On the backside, original artwork depicting each character as they were first seen in almost 30 years ago is shown as well as product photography that shows off all four Turtles placed in an exciting pose-off scene.
The plastic used to create the clamshell is very thin, it warps and bends very easily and doesn’t provide very good protection for the toys inside. If you are a MIB collector you will want to make sure nothing is ever stacked on these and are boxed or hung in a safe place free from items that may fall and damage the packaging. Truthfully, these figures are so great I’d be surprised if anyone can keep these sealed.
Knowing the #1 selling point of these figures would be the distinct character accuracy to the original comic book, NECA hired the impeccable artists known as The Four Horseman for bringing these four beauties to life, and frankly they’ve done an outstanding job. In my eyes I see no signs of artistic interpretations or liberties that would usually alter the appearance in the slightest way and to me are the biggest reason why I love these figures so damn much. It’s like they literally jumped off the page.
Measuring at 5.50” tall, all four Turtles share an identical mold: arms and hands, torso, shell, legs and feet – they’re all the same. The only two differences you will see are the two scabbards resting on Leonardo’s shell, and their character portrait using different expressions and bandana tails flapping in different directions. Even the expressions on their faces are easily telling – Michelangelo looks wolfish and mischievous, while Donatello’s expression is straight-faced and deadpan. Leonardo looks hostile and battle-ready; Raphael’s looks indignant and glowering, both of them with teeth exposed and tightly clenched together.
Even the smallest of details is given extreme attention. Deep wrinkles in skin, random pock marks, cuts and scratches to the outer and inner shell surface, even light texturing to their skulls add a worn and hardy appearance. The entire figure is composed of a strong acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic that gives these toys not only a nice amount of weight but also durability to them. The waist belt is made of a soft, flexible plastic that’s perfect for fitting a pair of nunchaku though I’d rather they just included built-in gaps that rests them onto on the shell. Items like knee pads and Leonardo’s scabbards are glued on but do not hinder the movement in any way. And yes, even a small nubby turtle’s tail is found at the base of the shell.
Painted or dyed, I can assure you the colors they’ve selected are perfect. Each Turtle comes in the same shade of Medium Green skin, Dark/Olive Green shell, Walnut Brown belts and padding, Cadmium Red bandana with black highlights, and solid white eyes.
The colors are solid all around, no splotches or sloppy applications and no colors overlaps the other at any point. What really makes their detail pop out is the light wash that fills in the pock marks and scratch marks on the carapace (the shell) and plastron (the belly). There’s also heavy black lines painted deep into the wrinkles of the skin and protective paddings to help add definition to their musculature form and outfit.
If there’s any other subject that NECA has mastered besides that flawless sculpture, it’s the articulation. Overflowing with positional opportunities each figure includes a hefty assortment of 24 total points of articulation.
Neck: A ball socket at the base of the skull, then a jointed pin with twist socket (3)
Shoulders: Jointed pin and twist socket (4)
Biceps: Twist socket (2)
Elbows: Single pin joint (2)
Wrists: Pin joint and twist socket (2)
Waist: Single rotating socket (1)
Hips: Jointed peg and twist socket (4)
Knees: Double pin-jointed (4)
Ankles: Pin joint (2)
Not too shabby! 24 POA is above-average for most American toy manufacturers today, and while it’s not an overabundance like a standard Japanese Revoltech, there is enough to give buyers a reason to sit down and really test the toys near-unlimited posing possibilities. The joints are fairly solid and are very well designed. The pegs are thick so you won’t have to worry much about them sliding out or breaking, and even the pins are flush with the sculpture and painted the same color so it all looks very natural.
Everything works really well in areas like the hips, knees, ankles, neck and elbows, but feels a little weaker in the shoulders so this would be one area that I would use extra caution with. The hands disconnect from the wrist sockets easily but still have enough grip strength to them so that they don’t just fall right out, plus the pin joint allows the hand to bend up and down. The neck is my favorite since it allows the head can turn, pivot and sway in almost any direction.
Including extra joints like this adds more realistic depth to the toy by letting them look in directions more naturally, and the tightness of these joints allows for great balance. The only problem is how unbalanced they all are. The undershell/belly (called a Plastron) is made of a soft plastic that allows for some decent forward leg movement but the weight of back shell and their rounded feet bottom make it difficult for these figures to do anything like standing leg kicks without assistance from their provided display stand.
Like any standard TMNT figure each character includes their signature weapons: Michelangelo gets his two nunchaku with metal chain links, Donatello has his wooden Bo staff, Leonardo gets his twin katanas, and Raphael comes with dual sai’s. The weapons are very nicely detailed and use simulated leather wrapping around handles, whereas Donatello’s bo staff looks like a beat to hell and bandaged. The Bo staff splits in two parts making it easy to place in his hands, and Leonardo’s katanas have pommels that unplug from the handle. In terms of durability, the katanas, and nunchaku are extremely fragile and will break easily if bent the wrong way or pulled on. Their hand grip is very tight so I advise great caution here. Raphael’s fingers are slightly different than the others, his fingers are spread open slightly and palm is open enough to not only grasp the sais by their handle but he can also alternately fit each spiked end between his fingers as he would traditionally hold them in combat. I highly recommend using a hair dryer to soften the hands if you’re going to be doing much repositioning with these weapons.
Since these figures are already five years old there’s zero chance NECA or any retailer will replace any broken weapons so you’re going to really hate yourself if you break one of these signature weapons. I managed to break the chain off one of Mikey’s nunchaku when I first got him. Sadly I received no reply from NECA’s customer support after waiting over two months, but was later saved by a friend of mine who gave me a spare nunchaku from a second Michelangelo he purchased.
If you purchased the separate clamshell figures you’ll get a few extras including alternate spiked wall climbing hands and a tiny baby turtle pre-ooze mutation with each figure. The wall-climbing hands also use pegged and socket joints, the difference are the wrapped spiked claws that rest on their palms. Considering their fingers stick out further than these claws do I consider these to do pretty much useless. The baby turtles are a solid sculpture with no moving parts at all, they are similarly painted with the details and weathered effects of the figures themselves – and they’re damn cute.
With Michelangelo you’ll also get three throwing stars. Each star has sixteen points, far more points than the typical throwing star so I’m assuming these are designed to look like they’re in motion and not just held. Donatello gets a TSRI canister with a hand painted label, and Raphael includes three curved silver throwing blades. There isn’t any place to store these bonus weapons so I suggest bagging them up along with the extra hands or risk losing them to whatever hairy, domesticated animal is wandering your floors.
And finally, each Turtle includes one of four street section parts: two sidewalk sections and two street sections. The street sections are segmented and only connect to the sidewalk by two small posts built into the street sections. They are nicely detailed and show bits of debris like rocks and pebbles, there’s a manhole cover and broken piece of wood. Leonardo’s fire hydrant and Michelangelo’s light post have their own places to fit and help lend the whole scene a more neighborly look. Each section can be moved around in any shape you like, and have a single foot peg to help balance the figures.
In traditional NECA fashion, variants are available in many forms and they’re all equally difficult to locate and could even make your wallet weep if you’re a financially-conscious collector.
The first time these set was available was at the 2008 New York Comic Con and packaged all four Turtles and their respective weapons. Shortly after that these figures were released to retailers in typical clamshell packages as individuals but this time include the alternate hands, throwing stars, mini-turtles and TCRI canister, and display stands. During the 2010 San Diego Comic Con the same box set from NYCC was sold but this time all four Turtles appeared in black & white, included the four-piece display stand, and only the main weapons. Lastly, all four Turtles were made available once more individually this time packaged in a small, can shaped container and main weapons only. I may have the list of included items with these box sets mixed up so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Either way you go, the box sets can run upwards to $300.00 typically, whereas the individual clam shell and canister packaged figures will run you about $80.00-$100.00 a pop! Depending on your luck you can probably score these for much cheaper on eBay but expect prices to jump based on character popularity. Average price looks to be $25.00-$75.00 for most auctions posted these days.
What can I say else about this line that doesn’t include further praise? It’s really difficult because NECA and the Four Horseman have literally raised (and professionally mounted) the bar to which I compare other American-manufactured action figures. If I had to pick any issues that could be used to improve these near perfect plastic specimens it would be this:
1) An alternate head. It would have been nice to have additional expressions to swap out, perhaps even swappable bandanas with different eye shapes. I also would have replaced the wall-climbing hands with a set of hands that allows the wrists to bend vertically. This would be a huge benefit especially for Leonardo and Michelangelo since much of their weapon movements are using pointed focused attacks.
2) The weapons are very fragile and near-impossible to replace these days. Being such, offering customers a way to obtain replacements would be a huge plus to fans everywhere.
NECA originally planned on releasing a second series that included Casey Jones, April O’Neil, Splinter, The Shredder and two Foot Clan Ninjas. Unfortunately something got mucked up somewhere (I suspect Nickelodeon’s recently complete acquisition of the license had something to do with it, or maybe even Playmate’s deal with Mirage) and they’ve never seen a final release. I’m not really a NECA collector because many of the properties just aren’t attractive to my tastes, but dammit I would have scoured the Earth to have these figures. Without a Master Splinter, The Shredder or Casey Jones this part of my shelf just seems incomplete.
But still, there’s no denying what we have here is still an exceptional product made by exceptional people and I can’t give it enough praise. I consider these figures to be grail acquisitions to the point that if my apartment was ever on fire and I only had a chance to save one shelf in my whole collection it’s probably going to be these four figures. The quality is fantastic, the accuracy of the characters is second-to-none, articulation is more than plentiful and a nice assortment of accessories is greatly appreciated by this reviewer. And best of all, no silly multi-colored bandanas or belts that reminds me of the horrors of the 90’s era Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Others may like the color variations but I like my Ninja Turtles the same way I like my meat: Red and Bloody.
Where To Buy:
UPDATE: If you are interested in getting your hands on the NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures then you will have to search eBay. Click this link to search eBay for these NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures.
Brian Borst resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was the Editor-In-Chief and Creator of the Toy Review section at the now defunct www.PopCultureShock.com for 3 years, and has worked for Toycom / Yamato USA as a Graphic Designer/Production Assistant and Sideshow Collectibles as a Marketing Assistant.