Manic Pixie Dream Ninja Girl: TMNT (2012): “New Girl In Town” (Spoilers)
2 February 2013 7 Comments
So there had been a lot of discussion in the lead up to this episode about Karai–how her design looked, what approach would be taken with her, what her personality would be like. Now, with the episode finally upon us, I can say two things with certainty.
I like this incarnation of Karai.
I don’t like that this characters is actually supposed to be Karai.
Yes, yes: new incarnation, new rules. April established the precedent: if she could be turned from a young adult into a teenager, then Karai can transformed from a somber, all business ninja into Young Justice‘s Cheshire. And yet, I don’t feel that the two are equivalent. To me, April’s core is that she is the turtles’ everywoman friend and confidante, which is something that can be shown no matter her age or profession. With Karai…
I suppose it’s the 4Kids’ cartoon’s fault. Their version of Karai, when one gets down to it, is also rather drastically different from her original comic book incarnation. To quote myself…
However, there are two notable changes to her character: not only is she no longer a mom, she instead the Shredder’s adopted daughter. While the first one doesn’t really have much of an effect except to make her substantially younger—she comes across as somebody in her early- to mid-twenties here, while her original version had to have been somewhere around thirty five–the second shifts her role immensely, turning her into a foil for the turtles by allowing the series to explore the question of what would have happened to them had they been raised differently, by a person whose teachings did not align with hir actions.
However, even with these changes, it made sense to me for the ninja character introduced in season 2 of that ‘toon to be Karai, as she is introduced playing the role that the original Karai played in the original “City at War” storyline. Not only that, I feel that despite their differences, they share a voice; faced with similar circumstances, I see them reacting in much the same way.
However, here it feels like the character may have been taken a step too far, in a way that makes me wonder why she couldn’t have been an entirely new character. Yes, she is meant to be the Shredder’s daughter, but that, to me, never felt like a core part of Karai–just a core part of her 4Kids incarnation. It gives me the feeling that the creators feel that Karai can be reduced to “the Shredder’s daughter”–or worse, as “the female Foot Ninja”, which feels like missing the point of the character.
And it’s a shame, too. I mentioned after the pilot that I appreciated that the writers had seemingly decided to make Karai and the Shredder’s daughter–who was by then being referred to as “Oroku Miwa”–two different people; I thought that having one more woman in the Foot than what we usually get would be a rather good thing, and would allow for a version of Karai more in tune with the original while still allowing for all those good plot points that come about by giving The Shredder a daughter . However, that no longer seems possible, which means not only that fans of Karai don’t actually get her, but that it’s very likely that she will now again have to bear the burden of being a Strong Female Character.
As for the episode itself…
Like I said, I liked Karai. I’m less sure of her interactions with Leo, which feel a tad artificial, as if both characters have already decided that they know each other without actually getting to know each other. I’m also not a fan of how the writers imply that a bond with one of the turtles must be romantic in nature. Still, she’s an interesting character, the most competent villain we’ve gotten so far, and she helped make this what is probably my favorite episode so far.
- A lot of e-ink has been spilled writing about Karai’s design, and I have to say, that personally, I like it, in theory. There’s some stuff about it which would have looked fine in hand-drawn animation, and less so on CGI–specifically the hair, which looks stiff and helmet-y here–but aside from that, it’s mostly fine.
- With Karai now here, the number of women with actual roles to play in the show has risen to a grand total of…two. While progress is progress, the fact that it took fourteen episodes to get this far remains nothing short of shameful.
- Snakeweed’s survival in the pilot had left me scratching my head a bit–I didn’t see him as the sort of villain with potential to be developed further. He seemed, basically, tailor-made to fill in the role Cinderblock and Plasmus played in the Teen Titans cartoon: big, destructive, time-filling villain. Given what we see of him this episode: yup.
- While I’ve been on the record about how much I don’t like April / Don, I did quite like Leo and April’s interaction here. It feels unforced and fun.
- This incarnation of Raph has always felt like a bully, and this episode did absolutely nothing to change that. Yes, some amount of teasing between siblings is to be expected (although not necessarily accepted), however, Raph’s propensity to threaten violence over every single thing and the way the show plays it for comedy feels incredibly wrong, and is the episodes only major misstep.
- Aside from that, the B-plot was fine. A bit less subtle than I’d like, but then I’ve already come to accept that TMNT don’t do subtlety.