TMNT Cartoon Teases Surprise Anime Ties

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a staple of American life at this point. The strange concept has become so commonplace that the idea of four man-sized turtles living underground with a giant rat who teaches them martial arts is known by nearly everyone. Originally introduced in the comics with a much darker tone, the Turtles were given their own animated series in 1987. Recently, a link between the anime director of such hits as Revolutionary Girl Utena and Sailor Moon and the TMNT came to light.

Kuniko Ikuhara has directed his fair share of anime titles during his career, making a name for himself with the aforementioned Utena and Sailor Moon for the well-known animation studio, Toei Animation. During this period in the late 1980s, Toei found itself contracting animators and directors from Japan to work on several of its animated series. My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, and the Smurfs were just a few of the series that were outsourced outside of the U.S. by Toei along with TMNT.

In an interview with the Youtube show "Cowabunga Corner", television writer David Wise talked about his time working on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the work that had been outsourced to Japan. Noting specifically the episode of TMNT titled "Hot Rodding Teenagers From Dimension X", Wise praised the animation found here, attributing the talents to the director of Toei Animation at the time. While not specifically naming Ikuhara, considering the anime director was working for Toei at the time in the role, connecting the dots leads us to infer that Kuniko indeed worked on this episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

TMNT
(Photo: Murakami-Wolf-Swenson)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has produced six feature films. The first three were released at the height of the franchise’s popularity, which was largely due to the hugely popular animated series, beginning with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1990. Two sequels followed.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze release in 1991, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III followed in 1993. The live-action film series was rebooted with 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was followed by the 2016 sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. There has been one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated feature film, 2007’s CG film TMNT.

There was also one made-for-TV animated film called Turtles Forever, which saw the cast of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series teaming up with the Turtles of the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series and the original comic book Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The most recent animated film, Batman Vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.

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