Mandatory Nostalgia Battle: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
If you were an ‘80s or ‘90s kid, your afternoons were almost certainly defined by Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and, if you were lucky, your Saturday mornings were spent with sugary cereal, your favorite action figures, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wreaking havoc on Shredder. The TMNT and the MMPR have been a part of countless childhood memories, not to mention pop culture, for decades. While Ninja Turtles started out originally as a comic series, it almost immediately transcended the medium and became better known for the ‘80s cartoon series, the live-action films, and the multi-billion dollar toy industry.
Similarly, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers crash-landed in the United States after originally airing as a Japanese show called Super Sentai. When Sentai’s American counterpoint began airing in the early ‘90s, nobody knew what a sensation Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers would be. Since its debut in August of 1993, the television series has spawned a staggering 27 seasons, as well as three theatrical releases, a comic series of its own and, of course, lots and lots of toys.
The two properties share many similarities and they have just recently joined forces in a comic book series, which is the culmination of every ‘90s kid fantasy. But here at Mandatory, we can’t just enjoy nice things. Much like our 10-year-old selves with our action figures, we are going to make these two entities battle for supremacy. Who’s better: turtles or rangers? Would you rather be a teenage mutant or a mighty morphin’? Now is the time to find out as we present Mandatory Nostalgia Battle: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
Cover Photo: Nickelodeon
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Original Source Material
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were originally conceived as a comic book series. The series was created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. At first, the series was much darker than what it would turn into in other mediums. Shortly after publication, a toy company purchased the licensing rights and the turtles rose to heights never before seen. The Power Rangers started as a Japanese show called Super Sentai. When it came across the ocean, much of the original concept remained the same (teenagers in motorcycle helmets fight bad guys), but they added Americanized footage to the Japanese stock fight footage. The rest is history. In this category, however, we have to give the nod to the turtles, mostly because we respect the hell out of two guys who risked it all to create something they believed in.
Donatello. Leonardo. Michelangelo. Raphael. These names are as etched in stone as the sculptures created by their namesakes. Anybody who’s anybody knows the names of the turtles, their corresponding colors, and even the weapons that each of them use. The Power Rangers, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to navigate. The original five Rangers were Jason, Billy, Trini, Kimberly and Zach. They were later joined by Tommy, the green and white Ranger. Those are usually who people think of when the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers are discussed. But there were various replacements and an ever-revolving list of cast members with each new season. People remember the original five (or six), but they are not as legendary as Leo, Donnie, Mikey and Ralph.
What would the turtles be without their Master Splinter? Splinter is a mutated rat that serves as a father figure to the four brothers. He offers guidance, wisdom and a stiff kick in the shell when needed. He is also the one who trained them, both in martial arts and in their weaponry. Splinter is more than a master to the turtles; he’s family.
Zordon is a giant floating head that bosses Alpha-5 around all day.
When it comes to action, the Power Rangers gets the nod across the board. The turtles are ninjas and masters of various weaponry, but the Power Rangers have Megazords. Whenever they defeat their enemies the first time, Rita Repulsa (the main bad guy) “makes her monsters grow.” And they do. So the Rangers call upon their Zords, each of which come together to form the Megazord, a giant Godzilla-like robot warrior. The battles that ensue cause mass destruction to the city but they look so freaking cool that nobody seems to mind how many millions of dollars are lost on property damage.
The popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really started to take off once the toys were made. Some even argue that if it weren’t for the toys, TMNT wouldn’t have even lasted. The action figures, play weapons, video games, apparel and technodrome that you asked for every Christmas but never got because your mom and dad “couldn’t fathom spending that much money on a fake death star” even though it’s the only thing you ever wanted and now you live in a constant state of want and excess, requiring years of therapy, were a veritable cash chow for the past 30 years. The Power Rangers were no slouch, either. In fact, both stories are told in the fantastic Netflix series The Toys that Made Us, so you can see for yourself the impact both properties had on every ‘90s kid’s parent’s wallet. But, given that TMNT’s merch is literally what saved them from extinction, we have to give the nod to the guys in green yet again.
Here is where it gets competitive. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a very successful cartoon show in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s. It is the show most people think about when referencing TMNT on screen. There was also a very successful film that was, up until that point, the most successful independent film of all time. More cartoons, films and an ill-advised live-action series followed but none of them failed to capture viewers’ attention like the original cartoon or film. Similarly, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers had a few very successful seasons and a live-action film. Later, Power Rangers would drop the Mighty Morphin’ from their name and continue on for 27 more seasons, one of the longest-running television series of all time. Both franchises had varying degrees of success with their theatrical runs, but we have to give the nod to the Power Rangers, mostly because the third TMNT film is the biggest abomination ever put to film…and Michael Bay produced a couple Ninja Turtle films too, which automatically disqualifies the franchise from any goodwill.
Both franchises will forever remain in the hearts of those who experienced them. Reruns and repeat viewings are one thing, but for those who lived through the first runs of these shows, there was nothing like it. The best part is that it seems the two only grow more and more popular with each passing year. New fans are finding these two franchises every day and whether it’s teens with attitude calling on Megazords, or pizza-loving heroes in a half-shell, both of these properties inspire all of us to find our own hero.
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Both franchises will have a legacy that will endure forever but it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that we loved first, and they are the ones we will always love best.
Overall Winner: TMNT