Time for more Japanese TMNT madness from Hiroshi Kanno’s all-too-obscure early ’90s manga series: Mutant Turtles Gaiden!
Chapter 3 is the penultimate installment in the Mutant Turtles Gaiden manga, but it’s actually the finale of the ongoing storyline (the fourth and final chapter is, in fact, a standalone tale). So with that in mind, you’re about to get some closure on the ongoing arc of this series. Weird, unsettling closure and maybe a little G-rated bondage if that’s what you’re into.
As always, these hard-to-find comics have been translated and you can read along if you wish. Just head over to TMNT Entity for a full directory of links to all the Mutant Turtles Gaiden chapters and more!
“The Strongest Weapon: The Devil’s Monster”
Not that you need me to tell you this, but the story begins with the Turtles lounging around the sewer lair eating pizza. Donatello laments that the Shredder’s been inactive lately, only showing his face to rob a nuclear power plant. Splinter, who looks more like a shaggy dog than a rat, barks discipline at his students for being so lazy and tells them to go looking for Shredder.
Meanwhile, at the cleverly named “Nuclear Power Plant,” April is conducting an interview regarding the stolen merchandise. Was it yellow cake uranium? Mutagenic toxic waste? That inanimate carbon rod that keeps showing up Homer Simpson? Nah, just the super conductive coil to an experimental plasma energy device. And one that hadn’t had its programming installed, yet, rendering it completely worthless.
And speaking of completely worthless, down in the Shredder’s subterranean lair, Rocksteady is busy trying to explain how he forgot to steal the operating program. Shredder needs the coil to open the portal to Dimension X, so he decides to go back with Rocksteady to the power plant and get the program himself.
Now we have an opportunity to see one of Hiroshi Kanno’s more kickass redesigns of a vehicle from the cartoon series. Remember the driller modules that Shredder used in season 3 to taxi himself from the Earth’s core to the surface? They looked like this:
Well, Kanno’s version is like something out of your worst nightmare:
How exactly Shredder rode on the hood of that thing while it drilled through the ground is anybody’s guess, but it made for a pretty great entrance. Anyway, because this is ’80s April we’re talking about, she’s immediately taken hostage by Rocksteady while Shredder secures the operating program. The Turtles rappel down from their ninja stealth dirigible and arrive only seconds too late, but soon-enough to make the nuclear plant worker froth at the mouth and pass out.
I always knew Rocksteady had rabies.
April butt-dials the Turtles on her Turtle Communicator and they listen in on the Shredder’s monologue: he intends to use the stolen diamond from last issue and the stolen coils from this issue to open a portal to Dimension X and receive a powerful weapon from his mysterious benefactor who appeared in the first issue. Continuity! I hope you’ve been paying attention.
The Turtles follow the hole left by the driller module and arrive just in time to see the Shredder call forth his new engine of destruction: The Devil’s Monster!
Like the Technodrome didn’t look silly enough already…
That’s the head of a daruma doll on the top of the Devil’s Monster, by the way. It’s a cultural thing, but trust me; even if you knew what a daruma doll was, the gag STILL wouldn’t make any sense.
After an impressive display of firepower from the Devil’s Monster, Shredder orders the Turtles to stand still and be executed, lest he kill the helpless April O’Neil. Then, recycling pretty much the exact same conclusion from the previous issue, Kanno has Splinter conveniently arrive to tell the Turtles not to lay down and die. Because Jesus, the Turtles are way too willing to do just that in this manga series. So the Turtles destroy the coil and cripple the Devil’s Monster and Shredder escapes by rocketing away on the top of the creepy daruma head. But not before causing his base to self-destruct, of course.
The Turtles, Splinter and April survive thanks to the TMNT’s turtle shells deflecting the falling debris. This encourages Michelangelo to end the story on a pun that made translating the last page a real pain in the ass for me. “Never shell yourself short” was the best I could do. Go ahead and kill me. I deserve it.
While it was neat to see the overarching plot get some form of a payoff with this third chapter, it’s still my least favorite episode of Mutant Turtles Gaiden. The way it recycles the exact same ending as Chapter 2 is pretty lame, though I’ll give Kanno credit for making a joke at the expense of the “burning justice” cliché he used in Chapter 2.
I suppose what really bugs me is that Mutant Turtles Gaiden ended after the next chapter, so we never got to see more of Kanno’s vision for the TMNT and their adversaries. I would love to have seen how he’d interpret the real Technodrome. Would it have been a monstrous hell-beast redesign similar to the driller module, or would it have been a goofy cultural gag like the already Technodrome-ish design for the Devil’s Monster? We’ll never know, alas.
On the bright side, there’s still one more chapter to Mutant Turtles Gaiden! And it is hands down the weirdest and funniest, too.