Name: Oroku Saki
Meaning: Something that strips big objects into small pieces; Blossom, Hope (Saki)
Role: Main Villain, Arch Nemesis
Color: Purple & Silver
Weapon: Steel Claws
Personality: Angry, Evil
Hamato Yoshi/Splinter – Arch Nemesis
The Foot Clan – Followers
Kraang – Partner
Karai – Adopted Daughter
Oroku Saki is the leader of the Foot Clan, and arch nemesis to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their master, Splinter. As the Shredder, Saki commits cruel and evil acts in the name of his empire, establishing a reign of terror wherever he goes. Shredder rules with an iron fist, but like most dictators, does not get his own hands dirty whenever possible. He sends legions of Foot soldiers, his own mutant henchmen, and his daughter, Karai, to fight for him, and cares little if anyone should die in his service. Though he would gladly let others do the dirty work, Shredder will – with great pleasure – kill the turtles and Splinter himself, should the opportunity rises. He’s a ninjutsu master, easily on par with Splinter, making him more than a match for any one who stands against him.
Oroku Saki first appeared in the comics as a brother seeking revenge. Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Nagi were members of the Foot Clan, both competing for the love of a woman named Tang Shen. Shen only had feelings for Yoshi, for which Nagi attacked Shen, forcing Yoshi to kill him. Yoshi was banished from the Foot Clan for such an act, and he fled with Tang Shen to New York. Oroku Saki set out to avenge his brother, successfully tracking Yoshi and killing him after being put in charge of the American branch of the Foot Clan. He took up the mantle of Shredder, and warped his Foot faction. However, failing to kill Yoshi’s pet rat, Splinter, would be a mistake Shredder would live to regret. Eventually, he fought with Splinter’s students, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and was killed by them. Shredder would be resurrected a few times, cloned using a mixture of science and sorcery, but was always defeated. His death ultimately threw the Foot Clan into disarray until all branches were eventually united under Karai.
In the 1987 series, Shredder’s edge was removed to make him more television friendly (including literally scaling back the lethalness of his steel claws). Instead of the bloodlust that drove him to kill Hamato Yoshi, Oroku Saki pinned his nemesis’s kimono to a wall, guaranteeing that he would disrespect visiting ninja elders and be banished in disgrace. However Saki was able to continue his rise to power and stand as leader of the Foot Clan. Despite his cunning and skill, Shredder’s character during this series was silliness that led him to be more of a joke than a serious villain. He had moments that showed his cunning and true rage, but the driving point was that he was easily beatable for the heroes, if they just used their brains.
TMNT: The Next Mutation used Shredder as a villain for only three episodes during the run, with brief mentions here and there. He was still the leader of the Foot Clan, and told to be a formidable foe. However, the majority of that series’ conflict was focused around the Dragons, and the inner turmoil surrounding the four boys competing for the affection of Venus de Milo. Shredder did return as the main villain in the 2003 series, and seemed nearly impossible to defeat. In this version, Shredder was an evil Utrom named Ch’rell, who went from world to world, destroying everything in his path. Other Utroms captured him on Earth, and from the 11th Century forward he used an android body to become the villain known as the Shredder.
During his time in Japan, Shredder adopted and trained a young girl named Karai, and formed an alliance with the man Yukio Mashimi, who betrayed the Utroms to Shredder in an act of vengeance for love scorned. Eventually Shredder found his way to America, where he took his revenge on the Utroms’ other protector, Hamato Yoshi. Creating a human persona named Oroku Saki, Ch’rell Shredder formed a vast criminal network, and was eventually confronted by Yoshi’s mutated pet rat and his turtle sons. Despite being defeated (and presumed dead) several times, Ch’rell would rise again and again as the Shredder, until ultimately being defeated by three turtle teams in Turtles Forever.
2012 saw the return of Shredder, but as a mixture of previous Oroku Saki’s. Instead of his brother’s love triangle, it was he who loved Tang Shen, and killed her when she chose Hamato Yoshi. He still holds a deep hatred for Yoshi, and vows to kill him and his turtle sons. He commands his empire in New York, which includes the Foot Clan, new mutant warriors, and his daughter, Karai. Shredder is still on a mission, and he will stop at nothing until he completes it.
Shredder only made appearances for the first two films, ultimately dying at the end of the second when he drank a canister of ooze and was subsequently crushed by an entire pier. He was ruthless in the films, bending children to his will and enticing them to act as the lowest branch of the Foot Clan’s criminal organization. He created his own mutants, Tokka and Rahzar, to fight against the turtles, but they too were ultimately defeated.
Shredder has always had potential as a villain. He has the look, the disposition, and the skills to be a formidable opponent in any hero’s rogues gallery. Despite being the main villain, he was always a secondary character to the turtles, which meant that he suffered from a lack of character development. Of course, there was never a real need for any, because he was supposed to serve a singular purpose, and not be more than that. The best foes are those that show the audience some sort of sympathetic trait, and are thus layered in a way that the usual angry evil villain isn’t. Shredder, however, is a rare exception where simply being evil is enough to make him great. The fact that he had a lust for revenge and couldn’t care less about the sanctity of life (even for those closest to him) showcased his true nature in every single incarnation. And it was enough. There is no lamenting that Shredder was an underdeveloped character.
Everything about this character screams evil, right down to his design and choice of wardrobe. The cape, the claws, the silver helmet, and the dark colors all show a man shrouded by the blackest emotions of the human soul, and convey a sense of just how terrible he really is. This adds to what makes him such a worthwhile villain. Despite his lack of anything more, the audience knows so much about him just from a basic premise and appearance that a very real threat from a very real character exists, and creates the suspense that drives the “good versus evil” battle of all these various series. The result is a character that can just be as he is.
Shredder’s need for revenge on Splinter has never made much sense when the origin of Splinter is mutation from an ordinary rat. Needing to finish off Hamato Yoshi (and, by extension, Splinter when he mutates from Yoshi) is one thing. There, revenge is based on a perceived slight that is big enough to a petty man to warrant retribution. However, when Splinter was just a rat, Shredder’s revenge stems from being scratched and bitten. While no doubt a painful outcome (especially if the rat had rabies), getting slightly injured by an animal hardly seems like the kind of event that would require years and years of stewing over revenge, let alone action at all. It says a great deal about how petty and dark Shredder’s personality is (adding to his credibility as a villain), since he’s willing to waste so much time and energy on a rodent.
There’s also an uncharacteristic element to his relationship with Karai. In most incarnations, Shredder has adopted Karai as his daughter, but his personality has never suggested that he’d be able to develop the compassion necessary for a fatherly relationship, even in the basest sense. So how he’s able to show any affection for her (or her for him) is left as an aspect never quite answered, but not really needing one to be an effective vehicle for other interactions.
Shredder is one of the greatest villains of all time, and stands as an evil individual worthy of facing down any hero. He easily overpowers the turtles, forcing them to become better and better, until they can one day defeat him. Despite his many different forms over the years, Shredder has always held strong to the darkness in his evil soul, and will forever be a formidable adversary to the turtles and their allies.
Shredder was originally called “Grate Man”.
Saki is a girl’s name in Japan, meaning blossom and hope. So when the series made its way to Japan, Shredder’s name was changed to Oroku Sawaki.
The Shredder is left-handed.
Shredder is the only villain to appear in every incarnation of he Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.