Meaning: God has healed
Role: Brawn, First Attacker
Named After: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
Personality: Aggressive, Easily Angered
Splinter – Father
Leonardo – Brother
Donatello – Brother
Michelangelo – Brother
Casey Jones – Best Friend
Raphael is driven by his temper. He is easily angered, and translates that rage into beating down whoever is closest, whether it be friend or foe. Despite most being put off by his grumpy attitude, Raphael is genuinely kind, and will protect those he cares about, even if they are driving him up a wall. Raph has a habit of teasing Michelangelo and Donatello about their personalities, but his continuous conflict is with Leonardo, who refuses to allow Raph to walk all over him. The two are constantly at odds, especially when it comes to Leo’s desire for strategy first and action later. Raphael always believed that he would be a more effective leader, however his own temper often stops him from effectively taking charge when the opportunity arises. Raphael is a truly independent soul, but can work within a team when needed.
Raphael was immediately the most aggressive member of the group after mutation. From the very beginning, he was not afraid to do what needed to be in order to stop evil, going so far as to kill members of the Foot Clan when they got in his way. In the original comic, Raph’s temper was so bad that it even caused him to black out and go completely wild. However, he’d eventually return to himself. Despite picking on him in later versions, Raphael was very close to Michelangelo, often spending time with him and always protecting him.
To make him more kid-friendly, Raphael’s angry edge was removed in the 1987 series. In its stead was a witty and sarcastic humor that played well with the target audience. He was less confrontational, and the strong rivalry between himself and Leonardo was almost nonexistent. As a result, this subdued version was nearly a complete divergence from his former self. However, there was just enough of his hot-headedness left to make him the first to charge into battle against the Foot or any other adversary.
In TMNT: The Next Mutation, Raphael regained his some of his edge, but the interpretation here led him to be more of a rebel than an angry turtle. Despite that, he again had his feud with Leonardo, which helped fuel many episodes (especially those involving any feelings one of the boys may have had toward Venus di Milo). The 2003 series brought Raphael back to his former self, short of any actual killing. His temper was his driving character trait, his rivalry with Leonardo brought internal conflict for the team, and his interactions with Michelangelo and Donatello infused a bit of humor. This series also returned his loyalty to his brothers, even when he was at odds with them. However, he never had any qualms with disobeying Splinter to do what he felt was the right thing (something that was always part of his character).
When he showed up on television again in the 2012 series, Raphael was given his anger, his rivalry, and the dry humor. All three often pit him against Leonardo for a leadership position, while his dry humor borderlines on cruelty when directed at the butt of most jokes, Michelangelo. However, his softer side is also shown, including his loyalty to Leo during dealings with Karai, and his love for a pet turtle named Spike. Raphael has even been given the chance to serve as the team’s leader, and he grew by leaps and bounds once he truly learned how difficult it is to make dangerous calls on a daily basis.
Throughout the movies, Raph’s temper often put him at odds with Splinter. While he directed that anger at Leonardo’s straight-laced obedience to rules, his real issue was with his father, and the fact that he felt the authority was burdensome and unjustified. It caused him to run off on his own, and several times resulted in his own injury and capture. In the fourth movie, his rebelliousness was brought front-and-center, distancing him from the others and taking vigilante justice into his own hands. However, his temper has never reached the level that it was originally.
It’s worth noting that Raphael has always been the short, stocky brother, which may suggest that his anger comes from self-consciousness, rather than any actual rage. However, making the short, muscled guy the angry one also plays on that particular stereotype. While probably not the intent of anyone drawing the various series over the years, it is something that would undoubtedly come to mind as an appearance and personality that just “fit” together.
Raphael is a very one-dimensional character. While there have been flashes throughout history of other personality traits, Raph has been first and foremost about his anger. While that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if episodes were written in the right way, very rarely have there been stories that show him overcoming his anger, or using it as a focused tool to become a better ninja. It has almost exclusively been about Raphael getting angry, and that anger getting himself or someone else into trouble. Even that plot should teach a lesson about the dark road that a bad temper can follow, but somehow any lesson that might have been learned (if it’s ever even shown to exist) is forgotten by the next episode. The 2012 series makes better use of this aspect, because it’s not unreasonable for an adolescent to be a little bit edgier when he’s always told what to do, and has to compete with a perfect sibling.
Raphael has always shown promise both as a ninja, and as a creative character. While he does have that temper to deal with, his ninjutsu skills only inferior to Leonardo. Being the second oldest brother and the second best ninja certainly provides for most of the contention between the two, but there have been times when Raph has used it to his advantage. The fourth movie, specifically, shows him using his own skills to accomplish things once his older brother wasn’t around to cast such a large shadow over the others, and he channels his frustration successfully. As a character, there’s always the hope that he’ll have more of those “Ah ha!” moments about his own shortcomings, and rectify them to the best of his ability. The newest series has already started that trend.
Raph’s most important relationship will always be with Leonardo. While he has shown to be very protective of Michelangelo in the past, Leo will forever be his rival, greatest aspiration, and closest family member. He knows that Leonardo works hard and has accomplished much, and is obviously enviable of that to a degree. But he truly believes that there has to be a better way than strict, by-the-book training. He’s right, to an extent; every individual (and certainly every turtle) is different, and there should conceivably be different ways to find measurable success that mesh better with the idiosyncrasies of each. The only problem is that Raphael has never been given the opportunity to find that better way (although no matter what, heavy training from the ground up will necessarily be a part of it). Between Splinter’s very sheltered parenting, Leonardo’s clear success within the traditional methods, and his own temper often holding him back from focused thinking, Raphael has forever been trapped in another’s best way. This is probably the source of most of his resentment. However, if he were given a chance to find his own way, then there’s a good chance that his hot-headedness would either be diffused or focused into a weapon.
Raphael has always been an interesting character because he’s seemed like a fully developed individual, but when broken down is missing much beyond his temper in most incarnations. The root of his problem stems from a lack of individualization in television, where most of the series have him and the others only existing together. The 2003 series got away from that to a degree, often featuring episodes where the bulk of the action centered around one turtle’s individual adventures. However, that was rarely the case, and Raphael has suffered a bit from not getting more such opportunities.
Raphael is afraid of insects.
There is no ninjutsu discipline dealing strictly with sai technique (the closest analogue would be spear techniques, sojutsu, and throwing weapon techniques, shurikenjutsu).
Donatello is the one brother Raphael has no real qualms with.