Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: “Monsters Among Us”

We’re returning to the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once again for a multi-part epic swarming with monsters. For those of you unfamiliar with the Ninja Turtles, as they’re colloquially known, I wrote about them here and, as prophesied, you can get a quick run-down of what’s what in the beginning of that article, though this is technically part of the Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which was the last season of the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series that was solely multi-part stories that tied up loose ends and provided plenty of fan service with a kicky new theme song evocative of Cowboy Bebop:

While a lot had happened in the series since the previously reviewed episode, the only thing that really matters is that they met the time traveler Renet (voiced by Ashley Johnson) and helped her defeat the evil time traveler Savanti Romero (Graham McTavish) who were both in the original comics and also appeared in the 2003 series. Also, Renet and Michelangelo kind of have a thing going. Uh, spoilers for the rest of this article, I guess.

We open on Halloween with Casey Jones and April O’Neil trick-or-treating. They don’t get very far before they’re attacked by wolves and vampires, one of which bites Casey and turns him. April calls the Turtles for help and they manage to arrive just in time to save her. Everyone is suitably dismayed by the horde of monsters attacking the city, but while they’re trying to figure out what’s going on a vampire bites April. The Turtles retreat with the intent of taking April back to Donatello’s lab but the monsters also have Frankenstein’s monster on their side. The creature’s surprise arrival gives the vampiric infection time to consume April and it looks like the Turtles are screwed.

Luckily for them, Renet arrives and air-lifts them to safety. Renet’s powers come from her Time Sceptre, a symbol of her capacity as a (junior) Time Master. She has a lot of bad news. Renet’s previous adventure with the Turtles resulted in Savanti Romero being imprisoned in the Cretaceous era and she was told to go check on him, which seems like a bad idea since one of her major character traits is genial incompetency. When she arrived, she discovered that Romero had tamed a dinosaur and he used it to help steal Renet’s back-up time jumper in order to travel through time to create the monster army currently ravaging the city. Even worse, he’s followed her with the intent to destroy her and the Turtles.

Renet whisks the good guys back in time to ancient Egypt, and shares that Savanti Romero started his plan by obtaining the mummy and she believes they should be able to stop the monster invasion from happening if they keep Romero from his goal. The only way they can think of to do this is by entering the pyramid in which the mummy is interred and after almost getting killed by various booby traps and a horde of lesser mummies, they enter the Pharaoh’s tomb and discover that they accidentally activated the curse. Savanti Romero is also there, and while Renet and the Turtles put up a good fight, he escapes with the Pharaoh which is not unexpected because it’s the first part of a four episode arc. The good guys give chase, though Renet’s Time Scepter only has a few jumps left and she doesn’t have the means to recharge it.

Renet and the Turtles arrive in Transylvania in the year 1300 where, in a bid to fit in, Renet uses some of the Sceptre’s limited power to give the Turtles a bunch of monster hunting equipment including outfits that are supposed to help them blend in. This proves to be a bad decision as the gear isn’t that helpful when they intervene in a werewolf attack. Furthermore, Renet can’t risk using the Sceptre again lest they be stranded. Oh, and while most of the Turtles get crossbows Donatello only gets a staff with a holy symbol on it that’s supposed to ward off vampires but he can’t use because he doesn’t have faith. This is clearly no one’s finest hour.

Raphael is separated from his brothers during the fight and winds up being attacked by Dracula. The only reason the series didn’t end here was because the sun rises and drives the werewolves away. Lacking any other options, the Turtles head west to Dracula’s castle despite the man himself pulling up in a carriage and warning them that going there will likely be their doom. Oh, and Raphael has fallen ill. The extent of this isn’t clear to the Turtles until they happen upon Vulko and his daughter, Esmeralda, who won’t help until Renet pays them off with gold from her magic wallet. It’s only then that they learn that Raphael was bitten by Dracula and, should he bite someone, will be forever turned. The only thing they can really do is go try to kill Dracula.

Unfortunately for them, Savanti Romero has already reached Dracula and, masquerading as Satan and weilding a UV light, recruited him to his cause. The carriage ride there is fraught with danger. First, Raphael wakes up craving blood but is put out of commission by a garlic necklace. Second, the pumpkin-headed guy up there manages to capsize Vulko’s carriage. Third, Vulko turns out to be the main werewolf that attacks them once they reach the gates of Dracula’s castle. Michelangelo cures him by forcing him to swallow a silver coin, but this victory is very short lived as Dracula arrives to obtain Raphael and be menacing for a bit. They both turn into bats and… well, you need to see this.

I want you to share this image with everyone. It deserves immortality.

That, readers, is what Raphael looks like when he turns into a bat. I would advise you to take a few moments to let that sink in, because I certainly needed to take some time and can’t look at that image without laughing. Everyone good? Let’s continue.

Our heroes, comprised entirely of teenagers and one man who should know better, follow the two vampires into Dracula’s crypt and find Savanti Romero and the Pharaoh waiting for them, along with Dracula and Raphael who really wants to drink Michelangelo’s blood. The villains split up to attack the heroes and come out on top, because this is part two of a four-episode arc. The Pharoah even turned Vulko back into a werewolf by pulling the silver out of him, so now the Turtles and Renet have that to deal with and so they chase the monsters to Germany in 1818, right outside Frankenstein’s castle.

Meanwhile, Igor is stealing a corpse arm when Savanti Romero and the others come to ask after his master, Doctor Frankenstein, but Igor is rightfully terrified of all of this. The Turtles are also completely over all of this, and Raphael has gone full Renfield, surviving off rats and spiders until Dracula allows him to actually prey on the innocent.

In the meantime, Raphael is content with going after his brothers with the help of the Pharaoh and Vulko. In other cartoons, it’s entirely possible that a character that’s been turned into a vampire would, perhaps, only be acting the part to be a double agent later on. In this series, Raphael is super into it and will totally tortue his brothers to death at Dracula’s behest. The plan is to use the Pharaoh’s magic to force Renet and the Turtles to experience their various fears, which gives Savanti Romero and Dracula time to convince Doctor Frankenstein that they’re there to help him finish his creation. It’s not long before Michelangelo realizes that the fears they’re facing aren’t real (he’s been the most competent and useful Turtle in this arc by far) and are a result of the Pharaoh. Instead of simply attacking, or sending Vulko in to attack, Raphael decides instead to… to… I’m sorry.

He’s doing it again.

He changes back and tries to convince his brothers to let him feed on them, which will somehow lead to them ruling the world. Instead, they try to convince him not to be such a jerk. Raphael refuses this offer and is about to attack when the sun rises, forcing the monsters to retreat.

They reach Castle Frankenstein quickly and gain entry by claiming that the Turtles are sick. Igor believes this claim and allows them to see Doctor Frankenstein, who immediately realizes that they’re giant turtles and is rather put-off by it. Leonardo takes things one step further and tells him they’re from the future, which Renet claims is a no-no because they don’t want to alter the future. Except their entire mission here is to alter the future, but we’ll trust Renet on this. Oh, and Donatello wants to help finish Frankenstein’s monster despite the fact that they’re there to stop Savanti Romero from recruiting said monster. He’s smart but certainly not wise, that Donatello. Nor, I suppose, are any of the others who could have realized this. Anyway, Donatello helps build the monster and Igor gets jealous.

Frankenstein and Donatello finish the creation and subject it to the usual lightning, bringing it to life. Initially, Frankenstein is not very keen on his creation but Michelangelo, once again, steps in to save the day and berate the doctor. He also names the monster “Frank” just in time for Savanti Romero and his monsters to attack. Well, Dracula just hypnotizes Frankenstein to tell Frank to attack the Turtles while the other monsters just watch. The tables quickly turn when Donatello shocks Frankenstein to normalcy, who then commands Frank to attack Savanti Romero and the others. Igor steps in, betraying Doctor Frankenstein by brandishing fire against Frank. This also results in the Pharaoh catching fire, followed by the entire laboratory going up in flames while the Turtles fight their adversaries once again. Raphael also chucks Igor out a window and we don’t see him again so it’s assumed this killed Igor.

Remarkably, things go fairly well for our heroes. Donatello manages to subdue both Vulko and Raphael while Leonardo successfully fends off Dracula. Renet even recharges her staff using the lightning storm and Doctor Frankenstein apologizing for his earlier words and calling Frank his son. Everything is coming up Turtles until the entire top of the castle explodes, allowing the monsters to escape with Frank. The only upside is that the Turtles now have the power to go back into the future to stop Savanti Romero and his monster army. Oh, and they have Raphael back, though he’s still an evil vampire.

The Ninja Turtles and Renet return to the present, right when they left, and immediately acknowledge that their attempt to fix things only made them so much worse. Things do not improve when Raphael screeches, summoning all the monsters to their rooftop location and forcing them to run. Oddly, all the vampires are completely naked with hair covering their bits but their models being identical. While this was probably done to avoid designing dozens of 3-D models it’s still sort of weird. This fact does not stop the Turtles from fighting their way back to their lair, where they think they’re safe.

Savanti Romero, back at the monsters’ hideout, is almost in full gloat mode and explains that he wants the entire world to be monsters as revenge against the Time Masters for mutating him into his current form. If everyone a freak then no one’s a freak, after all. Dracula is unimpressed with this plan, and scoffs when Romero suggests the Turtles might still triumph. Dracula, after all, has control of all the vampires which includes Casey Jones and April O’Neil, who are the only two non-nude vampires. They also know where the lair is, and they arrive with a small army right after Raphael has hypnotized Michelangelo into freeing him and escaped with the Time Sceptre. The Turtles fight their way out, but along the way April bites Donatello.

As the Turtles flee, Raphael brings the Sceptre to Dracula who plans to use it to go back in time and turn all of early humanity into vampires so that he’ll rule the world. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t know how to use the Time Sceptre which allows Savanti Romero to sic the Pharaoh on him. Dracula makes short work of the PHaraoh and the two are forced to continue working together. While all this is going on, Donatello finishes turning into a vampire and chases the remaining heroes to the surface.

They wind up in the middle of a monster army, and things look grim until Michelangelo manages to turn Frank back into a good creature. This turns the tide of battle, allowing Renet and the Turtles to go after the Time Scepter. It changes hands several times until Michelangelo accidentally cracks it, sending all the pertinent characters back through time.

They travel through medieval times, an unknown Japanese era, ancient Egypt, and finally the Cretaceous era. It’s here that Savanti Romero gains controls of the Time Sceptre and attempts to fix it while Dracula holds off the Turtles. As you can tell from the above screenshot, things do not go well for old Dracula. How not well?

This was a cartoon that aired during the afternoon, for children. Earlier, Leonardo also staked some vampires but they didn’t die like this. Plus, you know, Igor’s dead. There is a lot of death in this show. There’s a reason Shredder and Splinter weren’t mentioned at all in this review, and it’s not because they were off on vacation.

Anyway, with Dracula out of the way all the Turtles are back in action and with Frank on their side, Savanti Romero is vastly outnumbered. None of this matters as Renet just punches him right in the face, twice, and takes her sceptre and emergency back-up time jumper back. She takes all the protagonists back to the present and leaves Savanti Romero where he was at the beginning of all of this. Once they’re back in the present, they learn everyone’s changing back to their normal forms (except the vampires Leonardo staked, presumably, who are dead) and Renet thanks the Turtles and takes Vulko and Frank to beneficial times. The day is saved.

This happened in the first episode, Dracula just kind of hiding behind things a lot.

The worst thing I can say about this is that things kind of go in circles for the first three episodes, though this can easily be explained away with the protagonists all being teenagers. They thought they were helping out and doing their best, but in the end, they’re limited by their relatively limited life experience. It was fun seeing all the monsters fighting the Turtles, though I have no idea what was up with that pumpkin guy and I doubt I ever will. It’s well worth checking out if you’d like to see a version of the Turtles fight copyright-free versions of the Universal Monsters.

This is how the Turtles decorated their lair.

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