Retro Toy Review: Ninja Turtles Next Mutation Raphael and Venus DeMilo (Playmates)
Happy New Year! What better way to celebrate than with a toy review that has nothing to do with the holiday? ;) I'm eager to explore every facet of the Ninja Turtle toy phenomena and that includes the atrocity that is Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. This live-action TV show was released during the death throws of Turtle mania in the mid to late 90's and tried to reimagine the TMNT property as sort of a Power Rangers-esque kung-fu show. (The Next Mutation was even produced by Saban Entertainment, the distributer for the Power Rangers.) The series flopped, and for a good reason: it was horrifically bad. But what about the figures? Let's check out Raph and Venus, the first and last (as far as I know) female Turtle!
Year Stamped: 1997
Size: 4 1/2"
Price: $7 for both, loose complete from eBay
Looks: Raph - Venus -
This is one case in which the figures not resembling the source material is a good thing. The character designs in the show are cheap and crappy, more resembling the Turtles from the Coming Out Of Their Shells concert tour than our beloved Turtles from the movies. The costume details for these figures are similar to the Next Mutation show (Raph has his arm/leg wrappings and jagged bandana; Venus has her shin pads and yin-yang symbols), but the sculpts have a style that's more comic booky and fun. Raph in particular has a great sculpt, with bulging muscles and an expression that exudes his bad attitude. Venus is a bit less dynamic, but much better (and more feminine) than the freakish man-woman-turtle from the show. Paint apps are sufficient, and more varied than most TMNT figures.
Articulation: Both -
Both figures have only 5 points of articulation: swivel neck, ball-socket shoulders, and ball-socket hips. The ball-socket joints are cool and move well, but the lack of forearm articulation common among many TMNT figures hurts their pose-ability and the use of their weapons.
Accessories: Both -
Both figures are equipped with a good deal of accessories. Raph comes with Blade Snappin' Sais, Rabble Rousin' Rake, Citrus Vice Shooter, Bodacious Bow and three arrows (weapon names courtesy NinjaTurtles.com). The bow and arrows are cool, and Raph is sculpted to hold them well. But Raph's other weapons aren't very Turtle-licious: the rake is flimsy, the citrus shooter is nonsensical, and the sais are friggin' ginormous. On the bright side, they're so big there's no chance that he'll ever have to go crying to Splinter about loosing one of his sais again.
Venus comes with a Battlin' Blow Gun, Thrasher Throwing Blade and Dagger, Full-Swing Fan Shield, and Bodacious Broad Sword (weapon names courtesy NinjaTurtles.com). The fan shield is distinctive and appropriately feminine, and the broad sword is one of the cooler TMNT weapons to come around in a while. But there are quite a few throwaway weapons here. The blowgun can go, as can the throwing blade. Also, Venus has noticeably fewer weapons than Raph. What's the deal?
Value: Both -
These figures cost just $7 for the pair. They aren't quite in mint condition, though. Raph is in pretty good shape with some minor paint-chippings, but Venus has more significant chippings and a somewhat shaky neck joint. If the figures were mint, the score would shoot up to a 5.
Coolness: Both -
Despite coming from one of the lamest series in all Turtle-dom, these figures are actually pretty cool. Not only are the sculpts cooler than the Turtles in the TV show they're trying to represent, but also the figures are made of a fun, rubbery plastic similar to the Movie Star figures. The rubber allows an interesting freedom of movement so that the limbs can flex and bend for all sorts of ninja action! And, I hate to admit it, but the idea of a female Turtle is just too idiosyncratic to pass up. Does this mean that the Turtles can finally reproduce? It seems like Venus has the same problem as Smurfette, in that she's the only female in a species otherwise consisting solely of males.
Overall: Raph - Venus -
Raph is a pretty solid Turtle, with a dynamic sculpt and rubbery action plastic. Venus has a less interesting sculpt, but both are still way cooler than the Turtles from the show. I'm surprised I like these figures as much as I do, and if the accessories were better (particularly Raph's freakishly disproportionate sais), these would be some of the strongest TMNT figures in my collection. It's too bad the Turtles in the series isn't as cool as the figures. You can watch the embarrassment yourself in this clip featuring the Turtles battling the Power Rangers. Ugh.