Splinter (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Splinter as he appears in the 2003 cartoon series
|First appearance||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
|Created by||Kevin Eastman
|Team affiliations||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|
|Notable aliases||Hamato Yoshi
|Abilities||Highly skilled master of ninjutsu
Master of stealth
Keen sense of smell
Splinter has three origin stories, and which one is used depends on the medium. In the original version of the tale, he was Hamato Yoshi's pet, in others he is Hamato Yoshi himself, but always having been mutated into the form of a man-sized rat. In the 2014 film he is a mutated rat who learned Ninjutsu from a book he found in the sewer.
Mirage Comics, Original Films, 2003 Cartoon, Dreamwave comics, and The Next Mutation
In both the original comics and the live-action movies, Splinter was the pet rat of a ninja named Hamato Yoshi in Japan. Intelligent for his species, Splinter was able to learn his master's art by mimicking his movements while he practiced. Yoshi became embroiled in a dispute with a fellow ninja by the name of Oroku Nagi, and was eventually murdered by Nagi's brother Oroku Saki. Additionally in the 1990 film, Splinter escapes from his cage during the murder, and attacked Saki, clawing at his face, while Saki sliced his ear off. It is suggested this mutilation is the reason Saki took the Shredder disguise to hide the scars. While in the 2003 TMNT cartoon it was Hun's face who Splinter clawed.
Without a home, Splinter was forced to run away and live in New York City's sewers. Due to a traffic accident, four baby turtles and a canister of radioactive ooze were sent down into the sewer, where they mutated both Splinter and the turtles. Splinter named the four turtles Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo (after a book on Renaissance artists that he found in a storm drain) and trained them in the arts of ninjutsu, while still raising them as his own sons.
In the 2003 TMNT cartoon, he possesses a significant reputation as a ninja master; in a multi-part episode, he was revealed to be a champion of the Battle Nexus, a multi-dimensional-spanning contest where the greatest combatants of various dimensions come together to fight each other for the title of Battle Nexus Champion. When the Turtles first learn of the Battle Nexus, they participate as well, resulting in Splinter forfeiting when called upon to fight Michelangelo, as he wishes to allow his sons the opportunity to fight where he succeeded in the past.
In the 2003 cartoon during the Battle Nexus, Splinter is referred to as 'Hamato Splinter' indicating either that he regards himself as a member of the Hamato family, or that he took the name in honor of his dead owner.
In Fast Forward, Splinter was sent to the future with the Turtles. But when the Turtles finally found a way back to their time, Viral, a villain they met in the future blasted him with a decompiler ray that scattered his bits all over the internet. While Splinter wasn't seen much, the Back to the Sewers season dealt heavily with the Turtles going all over cyberspace to find all of his data bits. Splinter is restored at last in the final episode of the series, just in time to assist April and Casey Jones' s wedding, and help defeat the Cyber Shredder.
In the 2014 film, Splinter and the turtles were part of a science experiment where they were exposed to a mutagen, before being intentionally hidden in the sewers by April O'Neil as a child; her father was working with the Shredder's scientists before learning of Shredder's true agenda. After they mutate Splinter teaches himself Ninjutsu from a book before teaching the turtles himself, but he has no direct connection to Japanese culture or heritage, with no reference being made to Yoshi.
1987 Series, 2012 Series and Archie TMNT Adventures comics
In the 1987 TMNT cartoon, Splinter is Yoshi. He was a martial art instructor for the Foot Clan, based in Japan, and also had a passion for Renaissance art. One day he was framed by his rival, Oroku Saki (who would eventually turn into his future arch-enemy, the Shredder), for trying to murder their common dojo master. Being unable to prove his innocence, he moved away to New York City, where he lived as a hermit in its sewers and befriended the rats. One day, he came across four baby turtles which were accidentally dropped by a boy through a grate of the sewers. He kept them as pets and treated them like his children. But later, he found the turtles venturing near broken barrels that were oozing glowing pink chemical liquid. As he tried to recover them from danger and attempted to clean them with his bare hands, they were all affected by the chemical which was a mutagen. This mutagen transformed any living being into a mutant whose body became mixed with the DNA of any other living being it was most in contact with. The turtles, being in a pet store with people touching them and all around them, turned into young anthropomorphic humanoid turtles. Hamato himself, having been in contact more with sewer rats, became a humanoid rat.
Since then, Yoshi raised the turtles by himself, and gave them the names of his favorite Renaissance artists: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo, who were to be distinguished by personality and headband color. He also taught them the art of ninjutsu in order to protect themselves better, since people above ground would not accept them. And like many real life ninja masters, he also has a strong sense of honor and follows very strict rules which all four of his students take after and strongly follow.
Hamato was given the nickname "Splinter" by his students, due to his proficiency at breaking wooden boards. On one occasion Donatello was able to use the remnants of the ooze that transformed them to restore Yoshi's human self, but the process was only temporary and soon wore off; however, Splinter, having seen how humans could treat each other at times, concluded that he preferred his new state, particularly due to the relationship he had with his students. Master Splinter doesn't hold a father/son relationship with the turtles, as the Mirage Studios, Movie, and 2k3 stories suggested, but more of a teacher/student bond. In fact in Turtles Forever the old toon turtles are surprised when the 4kids turtles call Splinter father. However, in an episode called The Old Switcheroo, Splinter showed a glimpse of fatherly concern for Leonardo when he's slightly injured by one of Donatello's contraptions. Splinter also mentions in the series (episode; Snakes Alive!) that Leonardo is his most gifted student. Master Splinter even gets the chance to be human once more in an episode Splinter No More, but realizes he much more prefers being with the turtles. Master Splinter is always there for the turtles to give a wise/ungrasping quote or speech to try to ease the turtles' troubles. He'll also show a little ninja action just in the nick of time when it seems the turtles are in for impending doom that is inescapable. In this series, Splinter is voiced by Peter Renaday.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures from Archie Comics published the 1987 TV series in comic form and maintained Splinter's original human background even when they started publishing original storylines.
During Turtles Forever, the 1987 Splinter meets the Turtles from the 2003 series, with '03 Leonardo commenting during their time with this alternate Splinter that it feels right to be there with Splinter regardless of the differences between the two worlds. Splinter's assurances that he feels the same, coupled with his comment that Leonardo and his brothers will always be welcome there, helps Leonardo see the common similarities between the teams, regardless of their different styles and methods.
In the 2012 series, Splinter was originally a human named Hamato Yoshi and resided in Japan where he became an expert of ninjutsu. When his friend Oroku Saki sought the affections of Splinter's wife Tang Shen, Saki wished to discredit Yoshi in front of her. Yoshi lost his temper and the altercation ended their friendship culminating in a battle that burned down Yoshi's home killing Shen and seemingly their daughter Miwa. After moving to New York City, Yoshi had just purchased four pet turtles when he stumbled upon an exchange in an alley between two Kraang droids. Seeking to silence Yoshi before he could share what he had seen, a fight ensued and the canister the droids had been carrying smashed open splashing both Yoshi and his turtles with an alien chemical called mutagen. As the result, Yoshi changed into a humanoid rat after having had contact with a rat upon entering an alley, while the Turtles took on human characteristics. Realizing he could no longer live a normal life topside, he retreated to the New York sewers where he raised his pets as sons and taught them the ancient Japanese fighting art of ninjutsu.
Splinter's sons-along with their new friend April O'Neil-soon became involved in the conflict with both of Splinter's old enemies, the Shredder and the Kraang. Reluctantly allowing the group to get involved in these battles, Splinter appointed Leonardo as their leader and continued to offer counsel and lessons as they engaged various foes. Recognizing great sensitivity in April, he began training her as a kunoichi, and came to regard her with a fatherly fondness. He briefly became determined that the Turtles would not travel above the surface until they were ready to fight the Shredder, but eventually realized that he was only making them more fearful of his old rival. Splinter rarely ventured from the lair, and did so on only two notable occasions. The first was when he fell under the control of the Rat King, who attempted to persuade him to forsake his humanity and embrace the life of a rat, but whom Splinter eventually broke free from with the Turtles' help and defeated. The second was when Shredder kidnapped April with the Kraang's help and lured Splinter to his stronghold for a final confrontation. Splinter overpowered Shredder's men and engaged his old foe, whom he attempted to reason with by claiming that once he destroyed Splinter he would have nothing left. An amused Shredder then revealed that as Splinter had once "stolen" Tang Shen from him, Shredder had stolen something from him: his infant daughter Miwa, whom the Shredder had since raised as his own. Splinter nearly defeated Shredder, only to be attacked by Miwa, whom Shredder had named Karai and convinced that Splinter was behind her mother's death.
As the second series progresses, Splinter confesses his true relationship with Karai to the Turtles. He is briefly offered a chance to become human again when Donatello develops two samples of retro-mutagen, but one sample is destroyed and the other is used to restore April's father to normal after he is accidentally mutated into a giant bat, Splinter admitting in the aftermath that he has grown comfortable with his new life and family. Towards the end of the series, Splinter is able to convince Karai of the truth about their past, but she is subsequently mutated into a snake when Shredder's plan for revenge backfires (He had been intending to just use Karai as bait and mutate the turtles only), prompting Karai to flee when she regains control of herself to avoid endangering her father.
IDW Comics and 2014 film
The IDW Comics series which began in 2011 presents a new origin for both Splinter and the Turtles. All five were originally test subjects at Baxter Stockman's Stockgen corporation, a bioengineering firm. When agents of the Foot Clan break into Stockgen and attempt to steal an alien mutagen, Splinter and the Turtles are also picked up, but manage to escape and are exposed to the mutagen in a sewer. While the element of Splinter being Hamato Yoshi is still present, Oroku Saki is now the Foot Clan's medieval leader, with Splinter and the Turtles being the reincarnations of Yoshi and his sons. In feudal Japan, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot Clan initially known for his unruly temper and lack of discipline. With the help of his Master Masato, and the love of Tang Shen, he learned to temper that rage and became a skilled and honorable warrior. However, his contemporary, Oroku Saki, rose through the ranks to that of Jonin, and sought to make the Foot a clan to be feared. When Yoshi objected openly to a needless slaughter of a village connected to an assassination target, he and his family were declared traitors punishable by death. Yoshi could not save Tang Shen from being murdered, but did save his sons. With her dying breath, Shen made Yoshi promise to make his sons' safety his priority, not that of vengeance on Saki. Escaping into the night, Yoshi raised and trained his sons for eleven years until Saki and the Foot found them. His sons decapitated before his eyes, Yoshi swore that he would destroy Oroku Saki when they next met before he, himself, fell under the blade. Splinter credits their reincarnation the result of the prayers he (as Yoshi) made to Bhudda to grant him the opportunity to face Oroku Saki again. Only in present day, when first being abducted by Stockgen mousers, and later the Foot, does that wish come to pass, as Splinter comes face-to-face with Oroku Saki, now calling himself The Shredder. What began as an initiation to test Splinter's ninja skills quickly becomes a duel to the death once Saki realizes the truth. Despite his best efforts, an exhausted Splinter is bested by Shredder and almost killed until his sons arrive with Casey Jones to save him.
The live action 2014 reboot uses the test subject origin story, but Splinter is neither a reincarnation of Hamato Yoshi nor is he associated in any way with him. In fact, Yoshi is written out of the script entirely and Splinter simply learns ninjitsu from a discarded book after being mutated.
Splinter's physical appearance remains fairly consistent in all incarnations of the character, with slight differences. He is portrayed as an elderly rat dressed in robes. In the original live-action movies, he also lacks at least part of his right ear, which was cut off by Saki. In the 2003 animated series, Splinter is depicted as having gray fur as opposed to brown fur in his other incarnations. In the series TMNT: Back to the Sewers, his look is slightly changed to resemble the 2007 movie. In the 2012 series, Splinter is physically taller and younger than he was before in past incarnations. He also has a more rat like design along with distinctive body marks on his fur.
Splinter is portrayed as wise, intelligent, and a skilled "elderly martial arts master". He is nearly always calm and, even when angry, refrains from raising his voice. He is the quintessential calm, all-knowing wise master of all martial arts.
He cares for his adopted sons with fierce devotion, rescuing them in very critical moments in the series, such as when Shredder attempted to execute the four on a building, or when Bishop tried to literally tear them apart for science. He went berserk with fury when the Foot attempted to slay the Turtles with a robot Splinter and going all the way to Japan after the four had been kidnapped by the Tribunal. Anyone who tries to harm them severely is nothing more than a threat in Splinter's eyes, proved when he pounced on and attacked Casey when he stumbled into their home, not knowing he was a friend, of course. Splinter apologized for having nearly killed him (but he also quickly and angrily told Jones be more careful in the future). In fact, a recurring gag in the 2003 series is that Casey often and unintentionally annoys Splinter with his immature and accident-prone behavior, to the point of him being more than willing to send the turtles to the surface if this means that he will be free of Jones. But despite this, Splinter and Casey are in good terms with each other. Splinter even served as a father figure for Jones on occasion, visible when he helped Casey express his feelings for April, despite knowing little about (romantic) human relationships himself.
Splinter's concern for his adopted family likely stems from the loss of his previous family, through the murders of his master Hamato Yoshi & Yoshi's lover, Tang Shen. The loss of Yoshi was especially hard on Splinter. It is likely this, along with the grief from having failed to protect his owner/father figure/teacher, that caused him to be very protective of his adopted sons.
However, regardless of his love, he can be fairly militant to his sons, especially when they were very young and inexperienced. Splinter's main fear is that he and his family will one day be exposed to the outside world for what they are, and is understandably protective. He is not above disciplining the turtles whenever they become disobedient or unruly, (such as making them do backflips repeatedly in the second live-action movie, or being sent to the Hashi, a form of punishment in the 2014 film using chopsticks for balance).
Splinter isn't without his soft side. He has a normally tender and self-sacrificing heart, insisting the Turtles not give up their weapons when Hun took him as a prisoner in Rogue in the House, Part Two-(this was ignored by his sons, choosing to drop their weapons anyway) and was most hesitant about letting his sons die alongside him in Exodus, Part Two. Another characteristic is his dry sense of humor, cracking jokes while maintaining his serious demeanor.
Also, he could be heard telling everyone in "Reflections" that he thought the turtles, as infants, "were all so cute."
In the Ninja Tribunal series, he was haunted again and again with nightmares of his sons being slaughtered. When it appeared to actually happen, Splinter was lost in despair, but quickly turned to relief when it was apparent they had just been knocked out. He is also reluctant to allow his sons to be trained by the Ninja Tribunal, as he hadn't forgiven them for not helping Hamato Yoshi & Utroms combat the Utrom Shredder, Ch'rell (believing their cold indifference lead to Hamato Yoshi becoming a victim of the Utrom Shredder and felt if they had heeded Yoshi's warning then he might not have died in the first place).
In the Back to the Sewers, he admitted that, even when he was in pieces in Cyberworld, he had an intense yearning to see his family again.
Splinter is not completely cut off from the pleasures of modern culture: he enjoys soap operas. This is more fully displayed in Fast Forward, when his hobby is mentioned several times. It is also mentioned in both the 2007 animated film and the 2012 series that he very much enjoys many desserts, particularly popsicles.
In the 1987 series, he was voiced by Peter Renaday in the American version and by Hideyuki Umezu (TV), Yuzuru Fujimoto (NHK-BS2) and Kiyoshi Kobayashi (VHS) in the Japanese versions. The film Turtles Forever features this incarnation, voiced by David Wills.
In Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation Splinter is voiced by Stephen Mendel.
In the first two movies, he is voiced by Kevin Clash, and in the third, he was voiced by James Murray. In the 2007 animated film, he was voiced by Mako Iwamatsu; Iwamatsu died during production, and his student Greg Baldwin stepped in to provide a large share of Splinter's dialogue in the finished film (receiving a credit only for "additional voices"). Splinter was Mako's final role before his death. In the Japanese versions he was voiced by Kiyoshi Kobayashi and Joji Yanami in the first film, Michio Hazama in the second, Hideyuki Umezu in the third and Shoto Kashii in the fourth.
Splinter appears in most video games based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. He is a playable character in the 2003 video game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, TMNT: Mutant Melee and TMNT: Smash Up. On the game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from NES, he transforms into a human in the ending.
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- Simpson, Janice C. (2 April 1990). "Show Business: Lean, Green and on the Screen". Time. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
- Greenberg, Harvey R. (15 April 1990). "Just How Powerful Are Those Turtles?". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- Michael Bay's "Ninja Turtles" Casts Splinter
- "Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub Lend Voices To ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’". Deadline. Retrieved 2014-04-03.