It happens often with children’s programming where someone, somewhere, gets the idea that the show needs an audience surrogate. That is often true of a show where the main cast is older than the target demographic, which was the case with the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the name implies, all of the characters are at least teens or older where as the show’s audience was probably something like ages 4-10. I don’t know if that’s why we got a character like Zach, but it seems like a pretty safe hypothesis. What kid watching didn’t want to battle the forces of evil alongside their heroes? What would that look like if a random kid from the audience dressed up like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with stuff they found around the house and ran off to fight crime? Zach is the answer to that question and he’s profoundly lame.
Yes, even when I was a kid, I did not have any affection for Zach, the so-called fifth turtle. He showed up for the first time in the season 3 episode “The Fifth Turtle” and I thought it was preposterous. Sort of how I had a negative opinion of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, I felt like I was watching a very serious confrontation when I tuned into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every afternoon. If it weren’t for the turtles and the events I was seeing on television, Shredder and Krang would be ruling the world! I’m supposed to accept some dumb kid with a hockey stick could render aid to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I don’t think so.
Unlike my feelings for the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, my feelings for Zach haven’t exactly softened over the years. He’s a dumb part of a mostly dumb cartoon that I liked as a kid. He was a character I had no intention of ever purchasing, but lo and behold here we are. NECA bundled him with Smash, the leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, a figure I felt the opposite about. And my collection of toon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures is pretty damn complete so I’m not going to pass on a new character. I’m just going to have to find things about Zach to like.
In truth, the general aesthetic for Zach is not unpleasant. He really does look like a cosplay any kid could come up with. He’s got the bandana, and since he’s not a green-skinned turtle he could go with the color green for his mask, though he’s got a red sweatband over it. To simulate a shell he’s got a green trashcan lid which is about as good as a kid can do there and it’s attached via a belt and also goes over his backpack, which is just plain useful to have. Oddly, he went with a turtleneck for his shirt. Well, the choice of a turtleneck makes perfect sense, it’s that he went with yellow instead of green. Maybe to simulate the plastron of turtles? Also, he’s from a season 3 episode and the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang was already a thing so a green shirt with something on the front would have probably looked too similar. After all, when I was a kid I had a DIY Halloween costume that was a green turtleneck with a plastron crafted out of brown paper bags, which is basically what the CNT Gang rolled with. For pants, Zach’s got olive drab cargo pants which is as good as anything, plus some fashionable red and white sneakers that are pretty similar to the ones Bebop wears. Maybe they shop at the same place?
For the figure, NECA basically nailed it once again. To the top of his head, Zach is about 4.75″ and to the top of his hair around 5.125″ which feels pretty good for the line. I actually wish Baxter Stockman had this kid’s legs. They did a good job of reproducing Zach’s “costume” and even preserved the ability for the figure to wear the backpack with the trashcan lid over it. It’s a little tricky getting it all on, but not too bad and the belt on the trashcan lid feels very sturdy. He’s got his big, goofy, flock of blond hair which survived the transition from 2D to 3D just fine. I like how there’s a sweatband texture to his sweatband and the shirt and pants feature the usual two-tone approach to the paint. In terms of criticisms, I really only have two. For one, his face looks a little too full to be Zach. It’s really distracting because he looks like a kid I used to know. It’s not terrible or anything, it could just be better. Also, the paint on his bandana could be cleaner, though my other main criticism resides with the sneakers. The bottom of the shoe is cast in white, but painted red, so when that paint inevitably flakes off of the hinge it leaves behind white plastic. I hate when NECA does that and it’s something they’ve been better at avoiding of late, but apparently not here.
The aesthetic is good enough, and the articulation is pretty much as expected, though not without its flaws. Zach’s head sits on a little double ball peg and I’m happy to report the peg stays in place when popping off his head, unlike Usagi. He’s got good range there and there isn’t really anything to get in the way, which is nice. There’s no joint at the base of the neck. At the shoulders, we have hinged ball joints and he can raise his arms out just past horizontal, so that’s good. At the elbows, we have the controversial NECA double elbows with a hinged ball joint above and below the elbow. NECA likes these on sleeved arms and they’re okay. The range allows the character to bend past 90 degrees, but it looks awkward. I still prefer this to the single hinge and swivel though. No biceps swivel and the wrists rotate and feature a horizontal hinge. Again, vertical hinges would be better on the gripping hands, but that hasn’t been a priority for NECA. At the waist is a ball-joint that largely lets the figure swivel with little else. The hips are ball and socket joints and Zach can almost do splits, which is enough. He cannot kick back, and kicking forward causes the leg to want to go out to the side because the “diaper” piece gets in the way. There’s a slight thigh twist there and at the knees we have standard double-hinged joints. On my figure they are super gummy to the point where the joiner piece wants to flex as opposed to the hinges actually working. Definitely be very careful as you don’t want to shear that piece. No boot swivel, but the ankles hinge and have an ankle rocker, just be careful if you like that red paint on the hinge.
The articulation is largely acceptable and Zach can do what he needs to do. The only sore spot for me are those knees as they shouldn’t be that gummy. I wish they would use a firmer plastic for the joining piece because what’s there just feels too soft. The range though is pretty standard stuff for this line which is to say it’s adequate, but not impressive, and that’s okay. NECA clearly prioritizes the aesthetic when it comes to this line and I’m more than okay with that.
Zach is one of those figures that comes loaded with accessories. I’m surprised by the volume here especially because Zach appears to be mostly new tooling. He shares hands with the Neutrino men and some of the internals on the torso could be the same as well, but I think that’s it. The only place they saved some money is in some repeat accessories, but even they’re slightly different. Zach has his blue backpack which is a soft plastic that fits over his arms. It unfortunately does not open, but it has a tiny peg on the back of it that is removable and almost will surely be lost by many who own this figure. The peg is removable so that the trashcan lid can plug into it. The belt is glued to the lid and I found sliding it over his legs to be the easiest way to get it on. I don’t think it necessarily needs to plug into the backpack, but it does secure it a little better. I just wish that pack could open.
Zach also has his Turtlecom, one opened and one closed. It has a hole in the bottom of it and a purple, plastic, hose that plugs into it. The other end is intended to plug into the bottom of the backpack because it did that in the show for some reason. If you want that look for Zach on your shelf, definitely plug that sucker into the backpack before putting the trashcan lid on because it’s a pain otherwise. Zach also has a big, blue, diamond that I only vaguely remember from one of his episodes and a shard of a crystal, again, something I only vaguely recall. He also has his hockey stick, which is painted gray and actually is different from the one that came with Casey Jones. He also has an assortment of hands including gripping, fists, open, and an extra right gripping hand. The two right gripping hands appear to be exactly the same. Maybe the factory was supposed to duplicate one of the other Neutrino hands and messed up? Or NECA just tossed in an extra since they’re so small and could potentially be lost. Zach also has a second, mask-less, head and a pair of goggles that can be worn with it. The goggles make him look like Burger King’s Kid Vid, but he was the best member of the BK Kid’s Club so I get why Zach would want to look like him.
Perhaps the oddest accessory is Chrome Dome’s head. It looks just like the head that came with the figure only now there’s a hinged piece on the forehead that can be flipped up to expose some of Chrome Dome’s “guts.” The eyes are also painted differently to indicate that the unit isn’t turned on. There’s also what looks like a jumper cable as there are two, white, alligator clips on each end of a gray-black cord. Unfortunately, the clips do not function and are just frozen in place, but in the episode “Night of the Rogues” Zach was able to hook up to Chrome Dome to reprogram him. You’re basically intended to use the cable with the computer that came with Chrome Dome, though there’s no place to clip it to so you have to just finagle it somehow. The clip can kind of attach to the innards of Chrome Dome’s head, but it’s prone to popping off. The head can also be swapped with the original head if you have the figure. I actually had two Chrome Domes so this was ideal for me. Unfortunately, Chrome Dome’s head probably wasn’t designed to be removed with ease because getting it off sucks. It’s connected via a double-ball peg and I couldn’t get the head to come off with the peg staying in it. It took me awhile to get it out of the head utilizing a couple different sets of pliers and a lot of hot water. As a tip, the old head is hollow so when you get it nice and hot you can basically squeeze it which helped me get the ball-peg out. I was also lucky in that I didn’t necessarily care if I damaged the head since I have two. That crown piece is definitely fragile so be careful. It would have been nice if NECA just included a second dumbbell joint with this one since that would likely cost pennies and save some aggravation. And if you’re thinking of just replacing the old head, note that the hinged piece doesn’t quite sit flush on the head so it’s definitely not seamless, plus the hinge is visible. Neat idea, it’s the execution that could be better.
That was way more words than I ever though I’d devote to a character like Zach, so lets now pivot to his box-mate: Smash. Smash is the leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and runs the Slash for Cash dojo. He’s depicted here in his CNTG attire which is the same as the goon, minus the paper bag hat. Smash instead feels secure just going with the red bandana and feels no need to cover his face. The body here is largely reused from Burne, which we most recently saw repurposed for human Rocksteady. The torso is definitely different though as Smash is noticeably taller than both. The upper arms are the same, but needed different forearms to account for the elbow pads and wrist straps. The thighs are probably the same as Burne’s, but the lower leg is different since Smash has pants that end above the ankles (he ready for a flood?!). He then has the same style shoes as the goon, but bigger. The head is obviously different and since he’s much bigger, and stockier, than the CNTG goon the overlay is different too so it’s actually surprising how much new tooling is here. I was expecting Smash to be much more in-line with the prior figures.
And it’s good that NECA did that. I felt they should have with Rocksteady because he is just so small. Smash looks much better as a result, though he still has one issue in common and that’s those elbows. The hinge is above the elbow, so it looks stupid and I don’t know why they did it that way since his elbow only bends 90 degrees anyway. Just put the elbow pad where it should be. Aside from that, the aesthetics are solid here. The proportions for this body are still a little odd. I think maybe the head could be smaller or the shoulders broader, but it’s good enough. The paint is nice and clean on my figure with the only area being a little iffy is the mask. Some of the linework could be better there, but it’s still what I would consider good enough as that’s a delicate area. I still really like how this goofy costume turned out and Smash looks great with the rest of the gang.
As for articulation, we already know that isn’t the strong suit of this base figure. Smash does at least one thing better, but for the most part he’s as expected. His head is on a double-ball and works great, no complaints there. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they’re okay. He can’t quite do horizontal, which is a bummer, but rotation is fine and not hindered by the shirt. The aforementioned elbows are not great, they swivel and hinge to about 90 degrees, and I already said what I said about the aesthetic. The wrists rotate and hinge and, again, all of the hinges on the various hands are horizontal hinges which is a bummer. There’s a ball-joint at the waist for swivel and he gets a little tilt in all directions as well. The hips are ball and socket joints and Smash can nearly do a split, but kicking forward and back is not a strength and he only gets a little rotation at the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and can bend past 90 degrees. The feet have the usual hinge and rocker combo and the one thing this figure does better than Burne/Rocksteady is that his feet are big enough to allow for one-footed stances. There are no surprises here, good or bad, so Smash is as expected. He’s not one of the better articulated figures in the line, one could argue he should be better, but it’s not terrible. We pretty much know what we’re getting at this point.
Like his underlings, Smash comes with a variety of weapons at his disposal. For hands, he has fists, gripping, and chop hands. He also has four different melee weapons: a hand axe, a knife, a kama, and a crooked dagger that looks pretty wicked. He also has a grappling hook with a yellow rope attached to it which is pretty neat. There’s also a second head included that features a yelling expression and no mask. It’s nice to have, but I can’t see myself ever using it. Swapping heads is at least easy as the double-ball is buried in that neck and isn’t likely to come out.
The Zach and Smash two-pack ended up being a pretty solid release. It’s a no-brainer if you grabbed the previous set, and if you happen to like Zach well then you have to get him. And if you’re like me and have a dislike for Zach, you can still talk yourself into it given that it’s a pretty well done set. This set is currently hitting Target stores as part of the Fall Geek Out event and should be available online as well. If you’re like me, then you preordered this sucker directly from NECA so no hunting required. Because it was already offered on NECA’s website, it’s unlikely a restock will happen anytime soon so get it now if you want it. I doubt it will be a much in-demand set, but you never know. And for now, this actually closes out the NECA preorders slated to arrive in 2022 for me. It’s kind of a weird feeling to have the year be “over” already. Other figures and sets have been revealed that I assume are coming later this year, but for now, I’m all caught up and it feels odd.