Meanwhile: “The Shredder Strikes Back” Part 1

“He’s back…The Shredder…”–Leonardo


Written by: Erik Luke
Original Air Date: June 7, 2003
Introduces: Foot Elite
Teaser Narrator: Leonardo

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Mutants and the Things that Scare Them: “Notes From the Underground” Part Two

“I am Quarry of Tunnel Squad 3; the others are Stonebiter and Razorfist.” — Quarry

Written by: Greg Johnson

Original Air Date: May 17, 2003

Recap Narrator: Donatello

Introduces: Savage Foot Mutants

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Weird Science: “Notes from the Underground” Part One

“OOOooh-EEEE-Ooohh…!” — Michelangelo

Written by: Eric Luke
Original Air Date: May 10, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Michelangelo
Introduces: Quarry (unnamed); Razorfist (unnamed); Stonebiter (unnamed); Foot Genetics Team Leader

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Electric Boogaloo: Recap

In preparation for tomorrow’s (I hope) update on “Electric Boogaloo”, here’s a synopsis of what’s gone on so far.

The Story So Far

Over the past several years, the crime lord known as The Shredder has consolidated almost all organized crime in New York City under the control of his Foot Clan.

Twenty-oh-four: With the Shredder reportedly killed under mysterious circumstances and his 2nd in command Hun missing, the various elements of The Foot’s crime empire have begun fighting amongst themselves.  Thus far, three main factions have emerged: the Foot remnant, led by the Shredder’s Elite Ninja; the Purple Dragons, a street gang usually in charge of most of the Foot’s lower-level criminal activity; and The Five Families, a consortium of old-school gangsters that had been bought out by the Shredder, and who consider the current confusion to be their best chance at a comeback.

After a few skirmishes, the battle for control of the city finally grabbed the public’s attention when fifteen men were found dead at a Canal Street warehouse.  In response, the New York Police Department organized a special task force to deal with the escalating violence–one which, whether by design or happenstance, includes many of the same people who in 1996 formed part of the Gargoyle Task Force.

One of the people not in the Task Force is disgraced cop Longer, who relishes the opportunity to regain his lost reputation and honor.  To that point, he has begun investigating the strange going ons on his own, aiming to…what, exactly?

Thanks to a series of lucky accidents, the Task Force has been able to make some headway into the investigation, and they now have a vague idea of what they’re dealing with.  Meanwhile, task force members Martin Hacker and Lin Koyobashi have been making inroads of their own, and not quite of the positive type…

Dramatis Personae

The Detail:

Gordon Miller: Lieutenant assigned to head the detail by Chief of Detectives Sterns.  A pragmatist and realist, he has little hope of closing the case, but plans to do his damnedest.

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Good, Evil, Secrets and Lies: “The Shredder Strikes” Part 1 (Cont.)

Previously on Monsters of New York: Ian posted an unreadably long synopsis of TMNT episode 1.10: “The Shredder Strikes” Part 1.  Now, my thoughts.

—-

Busy episode: the turtles meet the Shredder, the viewers meet Hamato Yoshi, and we get another Hun fight. Unfortunately, although there are a handful of good things, they’re sandwhiched by a bunch of not-really-good ones, mostly involving this episode’s whole “Leonardo learns not to place his whole faith in weapons” subplot, which feels like something best reserved for another, worse, cartoon. While it makes a certain amount of sense as a character arc, it feels mis-timed: surely this was something Leo would have learned beforehand. It also feels manufactured, since Leo hadn’t shown any particular reverence for his swords before–nor any of the other turtles for theirs. Still, it could have worked somewhat, if the turtles hadn’t called back to it while fighting the Foot. The point had been made; the sledgehammer was not required.

If this subplot does anything right, is that it nicely sets up a moment in the “The Shredder Strikes Back”. But that’s not for a while yet.

This is another one of those episodes that really makes plain how constrained the writers initially were by the standards and practices imposed at the time. Hamato Yoshi’s death is included, but only because it can’t not be–it’s vital to the story.   However, it’s been made as bloodless as possible, by hiding the actual torture behind a conveniently obfuscating curtain and by keeping the actual murder (which I’ve always felt involved decapitation, although there’s obviously no evidence to confirm or disprove that) offscreen.   Still, the scene works rather well by keeping the focus on Splinter and his emotions, although one wonders how it’d had been handled had the writers been allowed the creative freedome they enjoyed during seasons 3 to 5.

I also really like the scene because it works on different levels. Had we never obtained any more context for the Yoshi murder, this scene would have still worked logically–The Shredder wanted some information, and he mistakenly though Yoshi had it; he didn’t talk, and now he’s dead. It makes sense, and it effectively encapsulates how bloodthirsty The Shredder can be. What’s more, it gives a more tragic air to Splinter story: he not just lost his owner/father figure, he lost him for no reason other than tragic bad luck. Of course, we eventually learn that there is a reason why the Shredder attacked Yoshi–one that brings the several ongoing subplots weaves so far together in a neat package–and works on that level as well, as a small part of a larger (much larger, as we eventually learn) tapestry.

This episode introduces the biggest difference yet between the cartoon and its source material: here, Splinter only tells the turtles about Hamato Yoshi because circumstances made it necessary for his sons to know the whole story, while in the original, Splinter specifically tells his sons about the Shredder so they’d kill him as Bushido demanded–it’s what he’d trained them for.  This will eventually come into play in the comic book version of the “City at War” arc, where the turtles have to decide between continuing Splinter’s feud with the Foot or allying themselves with them to stop the gang war ravaging New York.  Given that his original motives can make Splinter seem like a heartless bastard, I’m not saddened that his motivations were altered here.

And finally…the Shredder.  After a bunch of episodes featuring him as the nameless and cruel leader of the Foot Clan, we finally get to see him outside his office.  And he’s awesome.

Of course, we don’t really see him in action here–that won’t occur until the next part.  What we do see here is Saki in his snake in the Garden of Eden moment, and while he isn’t as smooth as, say, David Xanatos, he does a pretty good job of convincing Leo that he can be their ally–despite the fact that the turtles have been fighting his forces since episode one. While the “villain tries to bring the hero to his side” is a standard in cartoons–Gargoyles does it twice, although in a more complex manner than usual–it’s a trope that’s not really busted out once a villain has already been established.  Still, it works here because in theory, the turtles (or at least Leo and maybe Raph) could very well join the Foot, were it not for the Yoshi murder and the Shredder.  Remove those factors, and the prospect of them joining becomes considerably more palatable.  Leo in particular would certainly appreciate the Japanese trappings, and I’m sure he’d think that the group’s resources could indeed be used to do much good.  As for the Foot’s crime empire…he’d convince himself that it’s a necessary evil, particularly if he could help “improve” it from within (wether he actually could is another question).  And there is precedent–after all, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot Clan in the original comics, and it’s relationship with the turtles is not quite as clear-cut as it is here.

An additional factor here is that, at this point in the series, we’ve seen no evidence that the Shredder’s enemies are not what he claims they are.  So far all we’ve seen them do is stalk the other two groups and wax enigmatically–not exactly the stuff good guys are made of.  Until their allegiances are elaborated upon in future episodes, I’d half-thought that they were being set up as another group of villains.

Anyways, the Shredder.  It’s taken a while, but it pays of wonderfully next episode, as he proves to be a formidable opponent–the toughest version of the Shredder in the franchise’s history.

Random thoughts:

  • Splinter’s comment about how “Many things are said, but few are true” strikes me as funny, given a similar comment in the Gargoyles comics, “All things are true; few things are accurate.” Comparing and dissecting them both would take another feature and a better logician than I.
  • As he tries to persuade his brothers of Saki’s potentially good intentions, Leonardo notes that Mikey always wants to do good and serve a greater purpose. This detail will be further elaborated upon in the episode after the next one, “The Unconvincing Turtle Titan”.
  • Hun reaches his season 1 pinnacle here. In “The Way of Invisibility”, we learned that he was smart. In “Fallen Angel” we learned he was tough. Here we learn that he’s also scarily fast. Unfortunately, things go downhill for him here, at least for the near future.  Still, I remember going “whoa” when I first saw him leaping and kicking and dodging–huge guys aren’t supposed to do that!
  • By “telling them the whole story”, Splinter means “the whole story as the writers have conceived it so far”.  Eventually we’ll see that there’s a lot more behind Hamato Yoshi’s murder, and that Splinter knows a lot more than he’s telling.
  • Although Hamato Yoshi’s story is simplified considerably for this episode–it originally involved a love triangle, revenge, family ties, betrayal, exile, and two other characters–all in the space of five pages–it will eventually expand to resemble the original, and Yoshi himself, although dead, will become a much more prominent character than he was in any other incarnation where he is not turned into Splinter.
  • In all the seven years and hundred plus episodes of the series, there is little evidence that the Shredder ever learned the turtles’ names aside from Leonardo’s.  Leonardo himself is the only turtle he’ll ever refer to as an individual, at least if you don’t count the alternate universe Shredder in “Same as it Never Was”.
  • I was actually half-surprised when I initially found out that this was a two-parter.  Back then, two-parters were things usually reserved for season finales, so seeing multiple ones within a season was something that made the series stand out among stuff like X-Men: Evolution.

Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 6: Lauren Stanton

“Hey, Chung! Is that you?”

Detective Tri Chung recognized the loud, unselfconscious voice immediately: Lauren Stanton, newspaper reporter for the Daily Globe and, on any given day, one of the top five people whose face the detective did not wish to see. So close; another second later, and he would have been inside the men’s restroom and safely out of sight. Maybe it wasn’t too late; pretending the sound of his name had simply come from a particularly particular (and random) gust of wind, he opened the restroom door, entered, and hoped that decorum would keep the reporter out.

It didn’t work. With the customary chutzpah Chung couldn’t believe he’d once found attractive, Stanton followed him into the restroom and parked herself in the urinal next to his.

“Oh, good, it is you. So, how’ryou doing?”

“Fine…until a minute ago.” Chung grunted. Courtesy, he’d learned years ago, did not get you anywhere with Stanton. While rudeness wasn’t much more effective, it at least made him feel better. “What do you want?”

“Same thing as always. I’m working on a story, and I want to run a few things by you, make sure I’m on the right track.”

“And you’re sure it has to be me that you ask these questions to? You know, Vivian still doesn’t let me talk to you.”

For a moment, it seemed like a barb had actually gotten through to Lauren. He could have just imagined it though, as the reporter then rolled her eyes, all mock indignation. “Not my problem. I’m not going to tell her. Will you?”

Tri said nothing; the damage had already been done. “Fine. Can we just…not do it here?” he finally answered, using his head to gesture towards his nether regions. “Let me finish, and we’ll talk at the library.”


The courtroom library was empty save for the librarian and a couple of others, which lent the area preternatural (even for, well, a library) silence. This, in turn, amplified every sound Tri made to a level that made the detective afraid to move, lest his noise reverberate through the room and bring unwanted attention upon himself.

Lauren, on the other hand, had no such compunctions. Even with her so-called library voice, her entire being screamed “loud” to such a level that she’d attracted the librarian’s disapproving gaze even before the reporter had said anything. Not that Lauren had noticed.

“So basically, I’ll just tell you what I’ve got so far, and you tell me if I’m on the mark–is that okay?” she asked. She had her a notepad at the ready, despite the recorder she’d laid on the table. “So what’s this about ‘The Shredder’?”

Over the next half-hour, Tri did his best to answer the reporter’s questions truthfully, while avoiding the subjects Miller had forbidden his team from mentioning. As the interview went on, the detective grew increasingly more impressed with the amount of information the reporter had managed to dig up on her own. While she hadn’t learned everything, she’d put the pieces together and had correctly determined the cause of the war and the players’ role within it. Granted, most of the information would be useless in the hands of the police–it was mostly cobbled up from anecdotes and hearsay from various anonymous and non-anonymous sources, but that was, after all why Lauren had sought him out. As the interview continued, he felt himself getting more comfortable despite himself. Him and Lauren–just like old times. Funny how one night can change things.

“Okay, one final thing,” Lauren said. “How goes the massacre docks investigation?”

“We’ve made progress, is all I’ll say,” Chung answered–although personally, he wouldn’t call it that. Elisa Maza had told the detail about her encounter with Tony Dracon, and while Gordon had apparently found it worthy of follow-up–hence today’s visit to the courthouse–Chung himself had found the tale too suspicious by half. While a quick look at the records seemed to confirm that there had indeed been some strange business with the parole board and some big-time mobsters*, his suspicions about Maza’s encounter remained, particularly when it came to Elisa’s claim that Dracon’s life would be in danger if he was brought in. Even in the unlikely case that it was true, it wasn’t Elisa’s call to make. As for “Mr. Touch and Mr. Go”? Please.

“Well, thanks for everything, Tri,” Lauren said, as she place her notepad back in her purse.

“Whoa whoa whoa, Lauren. Is that it? If I’m going to risk my marriage talking to you, you better have something I can use. I can’t be doing all the giving.”

Lauren rolled her eyes once again, although this time, the gesture was accompanied by a smile. “You’re learning. Fine–I got this tip from an unsolicited phone call, so I don’t know how useful it is, but I heard that The Five are sending one of their own–guy named “Tony Jr.”–to Baltimore next week to score the drugs for operating capital. You might want to check that out.”

“Hmm…both suspiciously vague and suspiciously specific. Sounds like a setup. Anything else?”

“Nothing you can use or don’t already know–y’all know about the hockey-mask wearing vigilante, right?”

“Since early last year.” He’d been the subject of at least one police alert, but after realizing that his targets were all members of the Purple Dragons, they’d unofficially agreed to ignore him. After the gang war had begun, he’d even begun hearing expressions of gratitude among the force, an idea Chung didn’t like at all. “Anything in particular about him?”

“Not really. He’s around, he scares the crap out of people–that’s it. Well, I’ve gotta run. Bushkin’s going to have my ass if I don’t give him something by tonight. See you around, Tri.”

Tri followed Lauren outside the courthouse and then went his own way. He removed his cell phone from his pocket, and considered the potential hypocrisy of calling Miller with sketchy, second-hand information, decided that he could live with it, and made the call.

*          *          *

Ashi-gumi

(Redirected from Foot Clan)

The Ashi-gumi (足組, literally “Foot Group”), also known as the Ashishizoku (足氏族, “Foot Clan”), is the name of the largest Yakuza group operating in Japan,  with an estimated membership of 50,000 members and interests in prostitution, illegal gambling, smuggling, drugs, money laundering, extortion and real estate.

Bingo, though Longer, as the Wikipedia™ page came into view–his trip to the public library had not been wasted.  He hadn’t been expecting much from his online search, but given his failure to obtain any information from Kessler and Miller’s inability to get the detective back on regular rotation, he didn’t have many other choices if he wanted to continue on the trail.  He was surprised at the amount of information there seemed to be–he’d expected obsessive secrecy to be a given when it came to crime groups.  After opening a separate window for “Yakuza” for later perusal, he continued reading.

History

Although its current incarnation was founded in 1918, the Ashi-gumi has been in existence as the Ashishizoku since Japan’s Heian period, when it consisted of a tightly-knit group of brigands under the command of a man commonly referred to as the Kiruhito (literally, “person who cuts”, although the title is popularly translated as “The Shredder”) .  Often acting as mercenaries, the group existed in this form until 1600, when Tokugawa Ieyasu began using them for various purposes in his bid to unify Japan under his rule. Led by the then-Kirihito Saki Keiichi, the Ashishizoku proved instrumental to Ieyasu’s victory in the Battle of Sekigahara and the establishment of the Shogunate.  After Ieyasu established himself as shogun, Keiichi was granted the title of daimyo and his own territory within the Satsuma province, and many members of the Ashigumi were given the status of full-fledged samurai.

Despite their new legitimate status, the Ashigumi continued their involvement in illicit activities, acting as the Tokugawa clan’s extraofficial enforcers and secretly undermining various rival daimyos via espionage, theft, or assassination.  They also had covert involvement in the operations of the lower Tekiya (Peddlers) and Bakuto (Gamblers) classes, which further increased the clan’s coffers.   Although these activities were an open secret among Japanese nobility of the time, the Tokugawa’s patronage and their large numbers made the group unassailable.

After the effects of the Meiji Restoration restored power to the emperor and dissolved the daimyo system, the Saki Clan severed its ties to the Ashishizoku, leaving the group adrift.  While most of its members belonging to the samurai class became thieves or beggars, the ones operating as Tekiya and Bakuto continued operating under the leadership of Ameyama Shinji.

Longer was not an educated man; he knew the bare basics of U.S. history, and could name every president since Nixon, but anything relating to any other country was just Greek–or Japanese, as the case might be–to him.  Still, he felt he’d managed to get a good grasp of the gist of the Foot’s existence.  He moved on.

The modern Ashi-gumi

In 1918, the Foot Clan reorganized itself in accordance with the structure of then-fledging yakuza groups such as the Yamaguchi-gumi.  Now calling themselves the Ashi-gumi, the group quickly took over several smaller groups, quickly becoming one of the most influential organized groups at the time.

Since 1959, when it bought its main rival for the sum of 9 billion yen, the Ashi-gumi has been the largest criminal group in Japan, controlling up to 80% of the organized crime in the country.  It has also greatly expanded the scope of its operations into fields such as real estate, banking, and the stock market.  It is also heavily involved with politics, donating money several prominent members of the National Diet.

With the ascendance of current Ashi-gumi boss Sawaki Oroku in 1984, the cartel has also been expanding outwardly.  A 2001 joint report  by Japan’s National Police Agency and Interpol concluded that the group had operations in countries such as Russia, South Africa, and Mexico.  Since 2004, there have also been reports of significant Ashi-gumi activity in the United States, particularly in Hawaii.

Longer was growing frustrated: although the information was interesting, little of it was actually useful, and what little was useful was disillusioning.  The mafia was bad enough, but whoever the Foot were, they seemed to be operating on an entirely different level.

The Mon Controversy

After the Saki clan cast the Ashishizoku adrift in 1866, the criminal group continued using their protectorate’s mon (crest), the three-toed dragon, as their own.  The gesture remained unchallenged until the Ashi-gumi was officially founded in 1918, when the Saki Zaibatsu, headed by descendants of the Saki Clan , decided to take legal action to reclaim their family symbol.  After a protracted legal battle, it was decided that both groups’ claims to the symbol were legitimate, and since then both groups hold a joint trademark on the mon, and both currently use it as their official logo.

With that, Longer remembered where he’d seen the symbol from; the Saki Technologies building had been one of New York’s newest landmarks, and the same symbol that had adorned the dead man’s costume (now safely hidden inside his backpack after he’d  “retrieved” it from evidence control) could be seen across the city.  He made a mental note to check up on the company later on–in his book, anybody who willingly and knowingly decided to keep a logo associated with organized crime merited watching.

With his allotted time at the computer quickly winding down, Longer logged into his e-mail account and began composing a message.  After Miller had contacted him with news of his failed attempt to get him on the detail, it had become clear to Longer now that, barring a sea change in the NYPD’s makeup, he would never again do proper police work.   If he wanted to fight this war, or stop Ruffington, he’d need to try something else and after seeing that man in the Foot Clan costume, he now had an idea of what exactly that was.

Hey sis, Longer began.  Here’s hoping everythings okay in LAI need your help.  You worked on the costumes for that Justice Force movie, right?

*          *          *

Need to discuss elements of case with you. Free for lunch?

That had been the message Lin ( Koyobashi.Lin@nypd.nyc.gov) had received from Hacker (conspiracydebunker666@yahoo.com) earlier that day.  Despite the weirdness of the set-up–why just not talk in the office?–she’d fired back an e-mail agreeing with him  at a nearby Nightstone’s coffeehouse. When she arrived, she was unpleasantly surprised to see that the F.B.I. agent had apparently arrived some time before her, displaying more diligence than she usually like seeing in anyone who wasn’t part of her team.

“Lin.  Glad you could make it,” Hacker said, looking up from his copy of The Atlantic. “Do you plan to get something, or would should we just talk?”

“I’ve already eaten, thank you,” she said, as she sat opposite him on his table.  “So what is it you wanted to talk about?”

“Well, off the record, I found a couple of things…off with our experience with Kessler, and I wanted to see if you’d come to the same conclusions I did.”

” ‘Off’ is an understatement.  It’s like we stepped in the middle of a Christie novel.”  She gave a mock-shudder.  “And that Longer…I’m sorry, but the man is not normal.”

“Actually, it’s not him I was thinking about.  There’s something wrong with him yes, but I hardly he think he would have called for us if he intended to murder the man.”

“I’d say the opposite.  If you want to murder a man that’s being watched, the last thing you want is to be the only person with the opportunity to do so.”

For a second, Hacker seemed to consider this possibility.  “You’re probably right.  Still, I don’t think he’s responsible for it.  I think you are.”

If Hacker was expecting a heated reaction or outright denial, he was going to be disappointed.  “I’m sorry, I don’t get your meaning.”

“I’m saying that you, Lin Takahashi–not Koyobashi–are an agent of the Foot Clan sent to infiltrate the N.Y.P.D. to monitor and hinder the investigation on the gang war.  You killed Sean Kessler, and unless you want me to expose you, you’re going to have to do what I say.”

__

* One case in particular–that of Jack “Diamondback” Trent, who had been given 20 years for manslaughter and yet had been out in three–stood out.  Chung had been directly involved in that case, and distinctively remembered that the sentence had included no chance for parole.  The discovery had been the cause of much internal swearing on Tri’s part.

TMNT Re-Review: Episode 1.01 “Things Change”

“I gotta tell ya, this has been one mondo bizarro day.” –Michelangelo

“Things Change”
Written by: Michael Ryan
Original Air Date: February 8, 2003

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