Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Recap And Review – Season 3, Episode 20: Tale Of The Yokai


Last episode, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles met the time-traveling Renet and saved all of history from Savanti Romero, with Michelangelo having his first real crush in the process. On Renent, not Savanti, just for the record.

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The problem is that while trying to return to their own time, the Turtles were accidentally stranded in Japan about 16 years in the past. Surrounded by red-robed ninjas, they seemed to be in a bit of trouble. And we pick up right where we left off for “Tale of the Yokai.”

Turtle-Powered Recap: I mean right where we left off, too, as the brothers are all still in their “Mazes & Mutants” costumes. The ninjas believe they are yokai, monsters from Japanese legend. And they’re no ordinary ninjas, but the Hamato Clan, the one Splinter belonged to when he was still Hamato Yoshi. Of course that also means Oroku Saki is there …

After the Turtles bid a hasty retreat, Saki attempts to tell the master of the Hamato Clan about the yokai and gets ruthlessly teased by Yoshi. The two men try settling their argument with some sparring, which turns into a discussion about the depth of Yoshi’s feelings for Tang Shen. Their session ends when they see turtle shadows outside.

The Turtles, meanwhile, have taken to living in the woods, with Mikey complaining about living off berries and Raphael blaming Renet for their current predicament. Leonardo wonders if they might be in this particular time and place for a reason, and Donatello seems to back him up by mentioning the incredible odds against them randomly ending up there.

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Shen and Yoshi are busy having a heart to heart. She wants him to leave with their young daughter and see America, specifically New York City, but he feels honor bound to the clan. That doesn’t go over well with Shen, who says ninja are dying out anyway and more or less gives him an ultimatum. On her way home, she stumbles across Mikey and Raph tussling over food (after the former tried to make the latter eat an earthworm and bark “pizza”), and Saki comes running, sword drawn, to save her.

Despite a lack of smoke bombs, the Turtles manage to sneak off again, and once he thinks they’re alone, Saki makes a play for Shen, saying he’ll give up the clan and go to NYC with her. It’s obvious they used to be a couple, and the future Shredder says he’s changed. But an angry Yoshi sees the whole conversation.

Confusion reigns among the Turtles, and they squabble about whether or not they are changing history with their actions. Donnie pulls out a picture of the foursome with their human friends and sees Casey start to fade away — as Mikey notes that it’s “just like that movie!” Yes, yes it is.

The next day (I think), Yoshi and Saki are sparring again, and when it turns heated, their sensei orders them to behave like brothers. It’s clear this is Yoshi’s biological dad, by the way. As for the boys, they are off talking to Shen, who believes they are kappa, or turtle yokai, like the kind she heard stories of as a young girl. She also believes kappa like cucumbers despite Mikey’s attempts to persuade her otherwise. While Shen explains that Saki is not evil and that her choice is not as simple as it might seem, Leo says she should follow her heart. Alas, it’s not enough to get history back on track, with April’s picture fading away as well. Maybe they should play some Chuck Berry music?

Saki has gathered some of the Hamato ninjas, revealing that he was adopted as an infant and raised by his enemies. He sets the clan’s shrine on fire, and when the Turtles show up, he orders some of the ninjas loyal to him to finish the yokai. There’s a cool scene with ninjas and Ninja Turtles charging at each other, and …

We see Yoshi and Shen having another talk, though it’s quickly interrupted by Saki, who wants Shen to leave with him. Yoshi tells Shen to leave as there’s obviously going to be a throwdown.

The other battle isn’t as tough as expected since the Turtles cleverly use the ninjas’ yokai superstitions against them. Saki, armed with wrist claws, forces Yoshi back into the main dojo building as they struggle, and that soon catches on fire as well. Shen leaves her baby outside and runs in after them, though flaming debris keeps the Turtles from following. Tragedy arrives soon after, as Shen takes a claw slash intended for Yoshi, and more flaming rubble falls and burns Saki’s face. He leaves right before the ceiling collapses, scooping up the baby on his way and promising to take care of the girl he renames Karai.

Yoshi is pulled free of the dojo, and we find out Shen is dead from the looks on the faces of Leo and Donnie as they discover her body. After the Turtles depart, Yoshi comes to and realizes both his love and his daughter are gone.

It’s sad but destined, because the picture has returned to normal. Just as Raph mentions how they’re still stuck in the past, Renet returns, claiming that she’s been searching for them for six months. She also says the scepter must have brought them there to ensure Splinter survived, though there are questions about whether it was supposed to be that way all along. Both Raph and I are getting time travel headaches, but Renet drops them off in their own place and time and departs after giving Mikey a kiss on the cheek.

Favorite Moment: During their fight against the Saki loyalists, Leo goes over the top by announcing that the kappa will steal their souls … through their butts! Questioned about it by Raph, Leo states that it comes directly from Japanese mythology. Fact check time! And yes, the soul in Japanese folklore was thought to be located in the anus, so … he’s right.

Final Thought: Time travel tales are very, very tricky to pull off if you establish that tinkering with the past can change the course of the continuity you’ve set up so far. Futurama pulled off perhaps the best of these twists in animation by making Fry partially responsible for his own 1000-year cryogenic sleep. This episode didn’t quite rise to that degree of writing slickness, mostly because the Turtles ended up primarily as bystanders. Still, it was an effective device for showing us events that had heretofore only been referred to or shown in flashback. An overall thumbs up.

Next: TMNT 319 Recap and Review: Turtles in Time

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