Nickelodeon Ninja Turtles Review: Leonardo

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It’s been a crazy few weeks for me as a toy collector. At the end of June, I was legitimately worried about what I was going to review because I knew I only had three LEGO Lord of the Rings sets left – that was it in my stockpile! After that, I didn’t have a clue of where to go. But then my favorite characters of all time showed up to rescue me: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Like most kids born in the mid 80s, I was addicted to the turtles. But unlike most kids, I never outgrew them. Once I was able to read, my cousin exposed me to the dark and gritty world of the TMNT comics, which in turn lead me to reading the Archie series on the spinner rack at Shop ‘n Save. And I stuck with them through every Saturday morning scarfing down bowl after bowl of Ninja Turtles Cereal that came with those awesome bowls or cracking open those disgustingly sweet Turtles Pies (which I still don’t know how m mom ever allowed me to eat something that green and cream filled).

But then the turtles faded and the Power Rangers rose up. But I stuck with them, reading the letters every week and eventually watching The Next Mutation on air and getting all the toys for my birthday when I turned 12 from my nana and papa. Then the turtles faded away again into obscurity until the 2k3 revival happened.

I distinctly remember wandering the KB Toys in the Maine Mall (yep, it’s actually called that – we only have one mall in the entire state) while my brother was shopping for something far more boring, probably clothes shopping. I stumbled upon the 2k3 releases of Raphael and Michelangelo. In expected fashion, my older brother mocked me for buying toys when I was 17.

That single action of buying two toys completely changed me. I went from occasionally perusing the toy aisle at Wal-Mart before a movie out of boredom to actively hunting down figures. Before I knew it, I had a complete run of the TMNT 2K3 line (along with near complete runs of Marvel Legends, DC Superheroes and SOTA Street Fighters). But my turtle mania didn’t stop at the toys. The Saturday morning after my senior prom, I woke up to watch the newest episode (It was Return of the Justice Force). But then that revival ended.

Now we’re in the midst of the fourth Ninja Turtles revival. After Nickelodeon bought them from Peter Laird, a new toy line is being produced and a new show is slated to air in the fall. And I can’t wait.

The newest figures have gotten released a bit early and all I can say is: wow. The TMNT Classics line is excellent, but the high price point and nostalgic feel make them feel more like collectibles than toys. So I’m going to start where I always start with the new line: Leonardo.

Leader and king of the katana swords! Hardworking, honorable and respectful, Leonardo is the Turtles’ fearless leader. Driven to be the perfect hero, Leo’s inexperience and (often) rowdy brothers sometimes get in the way of his goal.

Standing just under 4 and a half inches tall, Leonardo is a great looking figure. It’s easy to gloss over the past, but the fact of the matter is, Playmates has always produced some of the best sculpted toys out there. The style of the toy line is based on the upcoming CGI cartoon, but clearly draws inspiration from other sources, like IDW’s fascinating new series.

The most remarkable thing about Leo is how much texture is on him. All of the skin is given some level of contrast, like small nicks and scars that would make perfect sense for a sewer dwelling ninja to have. Around Leo’s hands and feet are wrappings that look amazing, and are a fine alternative to shoes and gloves, which would be a challenge for someone with such unique hands and feet.

There is one change made to the turtles design after nearly 30 years of them being unchanged: the feet. More specifically, the number of toes which is now three instead of the original two. The Turtles having three digits on the hand and only two on the foot never made much sense and the third toe here doesn’t really bother me. It looks right.

Leo’s “outfit” consists of well-worn knee and elbow pads, some canvas wrappings and his belt. The belt isn’t removable and is permanently glued to his carapace. Taking a page out of the NECA figures, the front of Leo’s shell is rubber allowing some extra flexibility by the legs. Leo’s shell is nicked and very well textured.

The head is a great piece as well with Leo smiling. The blue mask is vibrant, but the yellowed teeth look a bit odd at first glance – especially in contrast to the white eyes. I always assumed Splinter made the Turtles brush.

Articulation isn’t the most bountiful but is well above Playmates old standards. Leo has 11 points in all and they all work. The legs have a hinge and swivel joints at both the hips and knees which allows Leo to be balanced in a variety of poses. The arms are swivel and hinge at the elbows and shoulders, while the wrists are just cut. While the knee and shoulder pads limit the movement some, it actually ends up reminding me a lot of the older figures like Slash who had bent elbows. The neck is a true ball joint.

Paint is surprisingly minimal on the figure, but manages to work well. Only the bandages, pads, belt clasps, mask, eyes and teeth are painted. The rest of the figure gets his color from the plastic and the shade of green used on Leo looks really good. The paint applications are well done and stay in the lines, except on the insides of his hands and undersides of his feet – those are unpainted.

This version of Leo is trained in Niten Ryu, which is using both a katana and a wakizashi (a shorter katana). Both weapons are cast in gray plastic and look a bit stylized. The fit in the twin sheaths that plug into Leo’s back, though it is a snug fit. Further evoking the original 80s toy line is Leo’s other accessory: a rack of weapons. Cast in the same silver gray, this single piece brings back a flood of memories.

Once disassembled, the piece doesn’t work as a storage solution and will be thrown away. But included in it are a third sword, three kunai (throwing daggers), two 8-tipped throwing stars and what appears to be a railroad spike. The last one doesn’t make much sense to me, but I love the assortment of weapons and the fact that they aren’t cast in a neon color!

I’m honestly in shock at how well this figure came out. Leonardo looks great and actually has a decent amount of articulation that is useable! While things like a wash, painted accessories or extra articulation would make him better, there’s no denying that this is a good figure. As action figures continue to get more and more expensive, finding some this well made for $8 or $9 each makes me pretty happy. Though it is kind of weird they aren’t in scale with pretty much any other toy line. But who cares – because the Turtles are back.

Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wave 1
Leonardo | Donatello | Michelangelo | Raphael
Splinter | April O’Neil | The Shredder | Foot Ninja | Kraang

Wave 1.5: Metalhead | Fishface | Dogpound

Vehicle Packs
Dragon Chopper with Dragon Fang Foot Soldier

Written by jestergoblin

July 23rd, 2012 at 8:00 am

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