When it comes to multimedia based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we find ourselves in a rare dry spell when it comes to television and movies. The final episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aired in 2020 with no new television series announced since. The show did receive a long-delayed finale in the form of a movie released on Netflix last year, but that hardly makes up for the otherwise lack of presence for TMNT on TV or on the big screen. The last transitions were much quicker when it came to the 2003 series to the 2012 series to Rise, but the dearth may soon be over as there is a new movie scheduled to arrive this summer. We’ll have to wait and see what that means for the franchise, but one aspect of TMNT has just continued plugging along and it’s the comics from IDW. There’s a main series that’s been running for years now, but much of the attention has been sucked up by the sidestory, The Last Ronin.
The Last Ronin is a flash-forward to a possible end for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when the lone surviving turtle has long graduated from the term “teenage.” I covered every issue here and found it to be mostly entertaining, but what I really loved about it were the character designs. Upon reading that very first issue one of my takeaways was “Man, it would be really cool to get an action figure of this guy.” NECA’s Randy Falk agreed when he basically gushed over the series so it was not a surprise at all when the company unveiled their own take on The Last Ronin.
The titular turtle arrives in the standard NECA Ultimates box with a fifth panel and artwork on the front. The art comes straight from IDW’s Ben Bishop and Luis Antonio Delgado. It’s mixed with product shots on the rear and inside panel and it’s the type of packaging that will likely catch the eye of someone who hasn’t been paying attention to TMNT and stumbles across it in Target. And how could it not? This figure depicts The Last Ronin, who I will just call Ronin from here on out since I remain committed to not spoiling anything, as he appears in issue number one. He’s sporting the black bandana, heavy hooded jacket, full pants, shoes, and gloves. Basically, he looks the opposite of how most envision a ninja turtle as he is covered from head to toe. Well, he has sandals on so I guess not head to toe literally, but the point remains. The turtles usually run around all but naked, but this guy does not. He’s also a hell of a lot taller than your standard turtle coming in at about 6.5″ to the top of his head, a little taller with the hood. This is in stark contrast to the old Mirage turtles or the cartoon ones, though a bit closer to the movie figures. In fairness, the Ultimates line from NECA is usually treated as a 7″ scale line whereas the cartoon line is closer to a 1:12 line. It’s not a huge difference, but worth mentioning. Despite that though, this turtle is supposed to be bigger than the rest. I think the reason given is because he continued to mutate the older he got. In the books, I want to say he’s taller than April or at least as tall, which is in contrast to the turtles normally being shorter than her. He’s also bulkier, wider, and less lean. At the same time, the head is smaller than usual and the limbs longer. He’s an altogether different sort of turtle than we’re used to seeing.
The sculpt for this one was handled by Paul Harding and he continues to impress whenever he’s handed something TMNT related by NECA. There’s a lot of detail on this guy that might not jump out right from the start, but a closer examination reveals a truly impressive figure. The face looks great. He’s got his teeth gritting, there’s wrinkles in the flesh, and the eyes are focused and angry. This is an older turtle and that point is driven home when you pop the hood off to reveal the ages spots on the top of the head. The hood just clips into the back of the head so it doesn’t pose a problem when posing and there’s an optional bandana “tail” if you prefer, though no down hood accessory like we saw with Renet. There’s great texturing on the jacket and shoulder pads with almost a mesh texture on the sleeves and undershirt. The pads and forearm gauntlets have some nice aging done to them to make it look like this is a turtle who has been in a few scraps. There’s detailing with black line work, as has been customary with all of the comic styled turtles from NECA, and a healthy dose of shading. Because this character is so muted in contrast with more colorful portrayals, the paint doesn’t scream out for attention like it did with the Utrom, but it’s still very clean and very well applied. Because he has a coat, this is the rare TMNT figure without an exposed shell, but you can get a sense that it’s there due to the subtle nature in which the creases are sculpted into the body. The rear also features the hoop and rope that is famously depicted on the cover of the first issue. NECA chose to do it with a combination of a sculpted ring and brown thread. It works into the body and I’m guessing it’s tied off somewhere inside of the figure, but it is a bit fragile looking so beware. And since that ring contains two hoops for weapon storage, you have to be very careful when inserting and removing weapons. Or at least, I’m making the assumption that you should be careful when doing so.
This turtle has a bit of an awkward look to him compared with the usual turtle, but he still has all of the articulation we’ve come to expect. And actually, with no visible shell he’s basically freed up to have a bit more than usual. The head sits on a double ball peg, but it sits right on top of the figure with barely any neck. I guess it’s due to the clothing? The look is right, but the lack of a neck means he has minimal range. He can rotate, but up and down is barely there and there’s not much nuance posing to speak of. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they’re a little tight. He can’t quite get to a horizontal pose, but can rotate around with the shoulder pads only impacting that part a little. The elbows are the controversial NECA double elbows with a hinge and swivel at the top and bottom. With a sleeved figure, it works fine and it isn’t the eyesore it is on a figure with bare arms. Still, I don’t know that it was the right call as we’ve seen the traditional double elbow work fine with the movie figures and the larger scaled figures and here we basically just get to a 90 degree bend. The forearm gauntlets really get the in the way of the bottom hinge being able to do much of anything. The swivel at both points works fine. At the wrists, we have the usual swivel and hinge and, I know I must sound like a broken record at this point, but NECA went with the wrong hinge once again for the gripping hands. This guy has a ton of weapons so it really sucks that he has horizontal hinges instead of vertical ones. This is a figure that should have both, but he lacks the ones he really needs most and it’s a shame. At the waist, we get a twist which is unusual for a turtle, but with no visible shell it’s not an issue here. It feels like a ball-peg, but you basically get nothing other than rotation at the spot. At the hips, the usual ball and socket are present and they get to almost a full split. There’s a little thigh rotation and double-jointed knees that bend past 90. At the ankles, we get a swivel plus hinges and an ankle rocker and they work okay. The ankle doesn’t go as far back as I’d like due to the shape of the shoe, but it goes forward pretty far. Usually it’s the opposite.
The end result is you get a figure that poses just alright. There’s not a ton of dynamic range here, but he is a bulkier turtle than we’re used to so not a ton was expected. He has these nice, big, feet so he can do some one-foot poses if you wish. The hips allow for some wide stances so he can look fairly menacing if you need him to. With this design, I am left wishing that NECA experimented with a butterfly joint so we could have a figure that can reach across its body, but I’m not aware of any NECA figure having that style of joint so that’s not something I could have expected. There’s just some two-handed poses I wish he could do with his weapons that he just can’t. I also feel like the heads needs to be better. Sit the head a little higher and that probably solves the issue. He’s a turtle, after all, he can have a neck.
The articulation, shortcomings and all, is probably still as expected. Where this figure is going to shine is with the overall presentation and the extras, and this guy has a lot of extras. Let’s start with the extra parts, shall we? Ronin has one extra head featuring a screaming or yelling expression. It’s every bit as good as the default one and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Popping one off for the other is also easy so changing things up is actually encouraged. There are two bandana tails, one is a swoop and the other goes straight back. They just peg in so they can be rotated. He also has his goggles which are sculpted plastic with an elastic band. To get them on, you will want to take the hood or bandana off first, slip the goggles over that, and then replace either the hood or bandana. This keeps the elastic under whatever is pegged in which will help to keep the goggles on as this guy’s head is basically a sphere so that elastic just wants to slide off right away. It’s definitely tricky to do with the hood, but pretty easy without. You could also just stick the goggles under the head which is how he carries them in the comic. For hands, we have fists, gripping, and open. The right gripping hand appears to be slightly more relaxed than the left with more spacing between the fingers which makes it good for the included sai if you want to put the center blade in between the fingers, which is always a popular look for TMNT even if it’s not exactly practical in a fight.
That lone sai is one of many weapons Ronin comes with. The idea is that this guy is like four turtles in one so he has the weapons of all. That means in addition to the sai he has one set of nunchaku, a katana, and a bo staff. The sai is a great sculpt. It’s a bit wider than usual and quite rigid and pointy. The “metal” has a nice luster and finish to it and it might be my favorite sai that NECA has done. The nunchaku feature two plastic handles connected via a real chain. The handles have a sculpted grip to them that looks nice and is different from the usual taped look we get. The bo staff is a bo staff. It has some tape and it’s well-sculpted and it looks fine. The katana is quite lovely. It’s long like a katana should be with a curved blade. The handle is lovingly sculpted and the paintjob is pristine as it has the same finish as the sai. The blade has some nicks carved into it making it look like a well-worn sword, but also one that has been lovingly cared for. It comes with an included black sheath which slots into one of the loops on the ring on the figure’s rear. There’s another slot there for the bo as well. The sai and nunchaku each have their own place on his belt and there’s a third loop on said belt for his tonfa. The tonfa is one of Ronin’s seemingly preferred weapons and it has a square design and it certainly looks like something you wouldn’t want to get struck with. It’s a little tough getting it into the belt loop, but it can be done and he can store all of his weapons. He also has a grappling hook which is a plastic claw type of instrument with more brown thread affixed to it. It can be wrapped around a stored weapon or bundled up and crammed through an unoccupied belt loop if you want. It’s kind of tough to pose since the rope is a literal string, but it’s cool to have. Lastly, we have a handful of throwables. Ronin has four shurikens which are really pointy. They’re presented in a gunmetal color and he can hold them between a thumb and finger. The last item is a grenade. It’s a tiny spherical object that can basically just be placed in one of the open hands or a gripping hand, though it more rests within them as opposed to being gripped. He has no storage for the shurikens or grenade so try not to lose them.
All of these elements add up to one impressive release from NECA. This figure of The Last Ronin is one of the best figures released in 2022. It perfectly captures the look of the character from the comic which is a comic that I think is going to be highly regarded years from now as one of the best TMNT stories ever told. This figure isn’t perfect, but it is very good and it’s just the start. NECA released alongside it an unarmored variant which they rather cleverly bundled with the missing tonfa (Ronin had two) and broken katana featured in the story which encourages collectors to get both even if they prefer one look to the other. I’m tempted by that other one, but haven’t taken the plunge just yet. More are coming as NECA has decided to make The Last Ronin a full-fledged subline for TMNT. Flashback versions of the turtles and Splinter are coming as are two versions of the Foot Patrolbot. I think I’m all-in so if you’re curious about any of those releases check back as they start to make their way to stores. It sounds like Leonardo is up next, but we’ll have to wait and see. This line has the potential to be the best TMNT subline NECA has going, and given the quality of the cartoon, Mirage, and movie lines that’s saying something.
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