Donatello: the thinking man’s turtle
As a kid who grew up planning to be a crime-fighting vigilante, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were my heroes.
Not only were they giant turtles who fought everything from talking brains to dragon-vampires, they also had a kick-ass line of action figures that I played with every day after school, once I finished my juice box.
I was a kid who loved playing on the computer and had a crush on Ms. Frizzle; so, while most kids loved Michaelangelo, Donatello was the turtle for me.
Smart, witty and strong, I’m sorry Colleen, but no other ooze-mutated animal — turtle, rat or rhinoceros — can compare to the turtle in purple.
Combining the intelligence of the Blue Ranger with the kung-fu skills of the baddest Thundercat around, Donatello is the total package. He knows how to hack a computer as well as the history of feudal Japan.
He can surf on a computer chair and crack a joke while battling a horde of evil ninjas. He’s a fashion pioneer daring enough to challenge the conventional mixtures of the colour wheel and pair green with purple. There’s nothing that turtle can’t do.
Oh yeah, and in the first and third live action films, his voice was supplied by Corey Feldman. Street cred, what up?
Then you have Raphael. The unoriginal lone wolf. The clichÃ©d rebel who does things his way and always has the mayor, police chief or Splinter on his ass about his renegade ways. And like the extra redshirt guy who dies in every Star Trek episode, Raphael’s role in every adventure is the same. At some point, he will get angry at Leonardo, sulk off on his own and get his butt kicked.
Playing the turtles as a kid, Donatello was the most fun to play. All you needed was a big enough stick and you were ready to go. To play Raphael you had to steal a fork from the kitchen and cry if anyone tried to tell you what to do. It was the role everyone’s whiny cousin was born to play.
Outside of the movie set and the playground, Donatello’s character contributed so much more. Without Donatello’s innovation, there would be no Secret Sewer Playset, no Turtle Jetpack accessory kits and definitely no Super Sewer Helicopter with spring loaded missile launcher to fight against Krang’s giant half-naked robot body.
And what was Raphael doing while Donatello was creating aircraft out of discarded materials found in an abandoned subway station? Nothing, that’s what.
I mean, he couldn’t have been training to fight, unless he was spending all that time practicing how to get thrown upside down inside a garbage can by Casey Jones.
Not only that, Raphael was completely dependent on the other turtles to keep him in line. Without Leonardo there to reign him in, Raphael turned into a hooligan who used his ninja training to beat up thugs while wearing a motorcycle helmet.
Does Donatello need a helmet to fight crime? No, of course not. You know why? Because he’s a ninja. And ninjas don’t have to wear elaborate costumes because are sneaky. Because they’re invisible. I mean, does Raphael remember anything Master Splinter taught him?
I’d say more, but I’m afraid that Raphael will run away in anger and get his ass kicked into a coma again.
Seriously Colleen, for your argument you owe Master Splinter 10 ninja flips. Now!
Cool but rude, Raphael is the best Ninja Turtle
As with many of the world’s greatest debates, this one may not have a definitive end, but it is my responsibility to put forth the argument that Raphael is not only a great hero, but the absolute greatest Ninja Turtle.
My esteemed opponent, Karol, has stated that Donatello is the best. The point of this article is not to completely destroy his argument, which I could do quite easily, but to prove how infinitely superior Raphael is.
Raphael, for those of you who are among the Ninja Turtle uneducated, wears a red bandana and carries two sai as his weapons of choice. That alone makes him amazing, because the sai allows for rapid grip changes for multiple strikes and blocks, can be used lethally and non-lethally and with great skill (such as that which Raphael possesses).
Sai have even been known to fracture a katana’s blade. While true that his brothers’ weapons are also quite impressive, only Raphael uses a weapon that is not a generally offensive weapon.
Due to the fact that the Ninja Turtles have had several different adaptations, it is only natural that some small changes are made to characters. Raphael has evolved over the years in small ways, but he has always retained his hot headed impulsive nature.
In the 1987 cartoon series, the theme song describes Raphael as “cool but rude,” poking fun at Michelangelo for his spaced out behaviour and Donatello for being the huge dorky nerd that he is.
Many have viewed this hot headed nature as a negative, but because of this Raphael is always ready for a fight, although he has occasionally been outnumbered by the Foot Clan.
Had Raphael not gone off on his own, he never would have met April O’Neil who became a great ally and friend for the turtles. He also confronted Casey Jones, a similarly hot-headed individual, in a fight that Raphael lost, but his intense style of fighting so impressed Jones that the two became close friends and allies against the Shredder.
Raphael has often had intense bouts of sibling rivalry with Leonardo, the leader of the team, often questioning his choices and challenging his authority. These confrontations have many times led to Leo becoming a stronger leader, causing him to realize that his own logic must sometimes be balanced with the passion and intensity that Raphael possesses.
Raphael has also shown that he cares deeply for his brother, expressing pain and fear of losing him when Leonardo was nearly killed by the Foot to the point where Raphael even started crying. As Leonardo recovered, Raphael was the one who supported him the most, even helping him to create new swords and paying the greatest attention to the care of his brother. Where was Donatello? Probably tinkering with his computer.
Splinter, the leader and father figure of the Turtles, has described Raphael as passionate, strong, loyal to a fault and someone who takes on the burdens of the world. Raphael may disobey Splinter and Leonardo, which could jeopardize their safety, but Raph is the first to react whenever family or friends are in danger.
He is greatly aware that he and his brothers are the only creatures of their kind and ultimately alone. This has happened on numerous occasions, like when he stopped a blow from hitting Donatello using only his sai or kicking the Shredder away from Leonardo when he was about to attack. His desire to protect his family came to the forefront when, at the end of the first film, Raphael was the first to turn his weapons over to the Shredder in order to save Leonardo’s life.
Raphael has his faults; that is quite obvious. When it really matters, however, Raphael will always stand up for his family, friends and even complete strangers in trouble. Raphael is committed to protecting people from the evils of New York, whether that means he fights alone or with his team. It may mean he gets hurt badly — which some people may see as stupid — but he will always stand between the innocent and those who would take advantage of them.
image: Danni Siemens