Many cartoons have been based on the perpetual fight against crime in the American urban scene, and one of the most popular over the years has been the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Initially comic book characters envisaged in the 1980s and first televised in 1987, the Turtles were seen as original and different, and have captured the attention and fondness of millions of children worldwide. They are a team of four heroic turtles who have been trained in Ninjitsu and roam the city of New York, fighting crime and injustice. They live underground, in the sewers, together with their sensei called Master Splinter, a martial arts expert rat.
The Ninja Turtles are named after four reputable Italian artists of the Renaissance era, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, Rafaello Sanzio and Donatello di Beto Bardi. As is the norm for cartoon characters, they can be distinguished by individual traits, consisting of differently coloured bandannas and work related paraphernalia. Leonardo, with the blue bandanna, is looked upon as the leader, due to the fact that he’s the oldest and the most skilled combatant. His specialty is handling the katanas, a type of swards of Japanese origin. He shows maturity and swiftness in making the right decisions. Raphael, on the other hand, which is (wearing the red bandana and wielding the sai, a particular kind of Japanese dagger) is a bit of a rebel and has recurrent violent outbursts, showing an overflowing youthful exuberance and constant eagerness to start a fight. Although he lacks Leonardo’s ripeness, he is very courageous and does not hold back in confrontation.
He is also somewhat cynical and has a satirical sense of humour. On the opposite pole is Donatello, whose brooding nature makes him more of a pacifist. He is recognized by the purple mask he wears, as well as his use of the bo staff, an instrument often used by martial arts experts. He has a scientifically-oriented mind, is creative and his ingeniousness often gets the team out of perilous situations.
And finally, the youngest, Michelangelo, with the orange bandanna and an expert in using the nunchacku ( a classical weapon used in martial arts, consisting of a pair of sticks, linked by a short string) is the team joker, the jolly and light-hearted one. His humour is an optimistic one, unlike Raphael’s.
Their protector and guide is sensei Master Splinter, an older mutant rat. Just like Master Splinter, the arch enemy of the Turtles is also a ninjitsu connoisseur, called Shredder, who engages in iniquitous activities through his group of trivial felons, the Foot Clan. The Turtles however have their own collaborators, such as sports enthusiast and vigilante Casey Jones, and April O’Neil, who used to be the assistant of a deranged scientist. Although there is a plethora of cartoons based on heroic teams who fight (and always defeat) criminals in order to protect the innocent, there is something ineffable and captivating about the turtles and their effective yet funny way of tackling villains.