I say it every year -- there's ALWAYS a Sixth Ranger.
On the other hand, it's hard to argue with the success that has been Power Rangers. For over a decade and a half, they've been keeping kids entertained with one new concept after another, that still manage to adhere to the same basic principle of a group of colorfully garbed teens, each in a distinct color of uniform more or less based on a central pattern, and generally joined later by a sixth Ranger who is somewhat more distinct, but still recognizable as being part of the group.
Sometimes there's variances. Power Rangers SPD, a couple of years back, actually had a total of seven Rangers.
And, of course, across it all, Bandai has been giving us a wide range of generally superb action figures, as Power Rangers has maintained itself as Bandai's #1 American product. Bandai is, of course, a Japanese company first and foremost, and is known not only for Power Rangers, but also Gundam, which sadly didn't catch on as well in the United States, as well as Ben 10, Teen Titans, and quite a few other products over the years. But they're as closely associated with Power Rangers as Mattel is with Hot Wheels.
Last year, during the run of Power Rangers Mystic Force, something unusual happened. The sixth Ranger, called the Solaris Ranger, never came out in a basic figure format -- at least not in the United States. There were Solaris Ranger figures, but none compatible with the basic Rangers figures. Bandai seemed more interested in turning out as many odd variants of the core group of Rangers as they possibly could, rather than stretching the cast to its logical completion in the basic line. I had to turn to overseas contacts to acquire a good, basic Solaris Ranger.
This year, we're enjoying POWER RANGERS OPERATION OVERDRIVE, and the five basic figures have been out for months. And I've been seeing more and more variants -- some of them pretty strange ones, too -- in the time since, to where I was concerned if we were going to get a Sixth Ranger this year.
I wasn't the only one. Although Power Rangers is not as popular among adult collectors as some long-running toy lines, it does have its fans, and the matter of this year's sixth Ranger and his apparent absence in the face of a growing collection sticking to the core five, was enough to compel one fan (and no, it wasn't me) to address a letter to ToyFare, complaining about last year's lack of a Solaris Ranger and hoping the same thing wasn't going to happen this year. ToyFare contacted Bandai, and presented their response that this year's Sixth Ranger, called the MERCURY RANGER, would see several figures released before the end of the year, including a good basic 5" scale figure.
Now, the Mercury Ranger is of the same scale as the basic Power Rangers released at the start of Operation Overdrive, but he's not quite the same type. Of the initial five "basic" Power Rangers, three of them -- the three male Rangers; Black, Red, and Blue -- were built with a sort of "game" programmed into them. Press their belt buckle and you'd hear a "revving" sound while their chest insignia flashed with a red light. When the little light in their helmet flashed green sporadically over the cycle, you were supposed to press the belt buckle again, and try to stop the "game" on the green light. Simple, but amusing enough, and a fair challenge of reflexes.
If you want a real challenge, try the game with two Rangers, one in each hand.
The Mercury Ranger doesn't have the game. He's from a new assortment of Operation Overdrive Power Rangers called "Mission Response", and not only can you get the Mercury Ranger here, but new versions of the other five. The other five look pretty much like their original counterparts, except their costumes have some extra armor on them, especially the three male Rangers. Now, I'm not going to say you shouldn't get them. They look cool enough. On the other hand, if you picked up the first versions of the Power Rangers from this concept, I'm not going to say you should knock yourself out getting the Mission Response ones, either. I don't plan to. Honestly, in appearance, for the most part, the Mercury Ranger more closely resembles the original look of the rest of the Power Rangers than he does the Mission Response versions, except for the chestplate.
Here's the gimmick behind Mission Response. The figures talk, but they contain something called an "I.D. Tech Chip" that unlock hidden sound effects when scanned into the Mission Response Vehicle, an impressive- looking piece of vehicular hardware pictured on the back of the package card. It looks like a futuristic cross between a fire engine and a tank, and appears to have quite a few features, including a couple of weapons stations on articulated extending arms.
However, I'll content myself with the Mercury Ranger. Structurally, he fits in very well with the basic five Operation Overdrive Rangers that kicked off this line, and indeed as one might expect seems to share some of the same parts. The one major structural difference is that the other five Rangers, at least the males, have a sort of double-jointed ball-and-socket hip construction, that honestly reminds me a fair bit of Marvel Legends construction, that the Mercury Ranger is lacking. He's well articulated at the hip joint. It moves forward and backward as well as outward, but there is that slight visual difference. I personally would've preferred a bit more consistency here, but then, looking back, one must consider again that this Mercury Ranger is technically part of a different assortment, although he's certainly otherwise wholly compatible with his team-mates.
The Mercury Ranger is mostly silver, and whereas the other Rangers all have a broad white stripe running down the front of their costumes and on the sides of their sleeves, the Mercury Ranger has a black stripe, framed by orange. The trim that on the other five Rangers is silver is a metallic steel blue on the Mercury Ranger. Everything is pretty much in the same place, but at the same time, it's clear that this particular individual is just a little different.
Now I would like to deal with one issue which has always sort of irked me in recent years. I'm sure it all comes down to economics for Bandai (probably why the articulation got cut a bit, too, and Power Rangers is hardly the only line I've seen it happen on -- Ben 10 and Teen Titans have been notorious for it compared to the pictures of prototypes), but I do get a little annoyed over the incomplete paint jobs. It's just a bit aggravating to turn a Power Ranger figure over, study its back -- which of course can't be seen in the package -- and see very distinct lines sculpted into the figure where clearly it should have been painted -- and wasn't. Frankly, I consider it a cheap shot. it's a disservice to the figure and to the fans.
And, not surprisingly, the Mercury Ranger was no exception. The bulk of the figure was not only molded in silver, but also painted in silver to make him more -- silvery. That's not the case with the back of the figure, and one can also see clear lines where black and orange would've been painted.
Up until now, I had attributed this to the fact that Japan is always one year ahead of us with regard to Power Rangers. In other words, they had these Operation Overdrive Power Rangers, whatever their Japanese name was (I think it was BoukenRanger) in 2006, whereas we got them in 2007. I also assumed that they got more completely painted versions. There's only one problem with that theory at this point, however...
Japan never got a Mercury Ranger figure.
Yep, it's true. I don't know how it happened, except to say that Bandai's decision-making processes as to who gets what and what gets made must be far stranger than I had imagined -- but Japan never really got a Mercury Ranger figure. The only thing they got was this barely-articulated PVC near-statue of the character.
Which, if that line of reasoning can be carried over to other not-quite-as-well-painted-as-they-should-have-been Power Rangers from previous years, means that, with all likelihood, some budget-buster at Bandai is being really stingy with paint supplies and/or the costs thereof right from the start. Which as far as I'm concerned is pretty ridiculous.
This is not to say I dislike the Mercury Ranger. I'm delighted to have him. Given what it took to get last year's Solaris Ranger in a compatible size format, and given that not even Japan got a Mercury Ranger figure, I was really concerned about this year's Sixth Ranger. And in fairness, the sculpted lines on the back of the figure are so distinct, that if one were so inclined, it wouldn't even take that much talent to fill them in. Just the right colors of paint and a fine brush or two. But -- it still shouldn't be necessary to do that.
But enough griping. This is still a very impressive figure, this Mercury Ranger. The overall design and color scheme are excellent. He manages to both blend in and stand apart with the rest of the Operation Overdrive Rangers, which is what the Sixth Ranger should do. Make no mistake, whatever I may think of their painting practices, Bandai generally makes excellent action figures, and certainly the Power Rangers fit into this category. They're well designed, nicely detailed, and certainly well- articulated. The Mercury Ranger is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists (well, glove tops), legs, and knees. His overall stance and built are suitably super-heroic. He stands about 5-3/4" in height -- 6" if you count the pointy thing on his helmet.
The figure does speak on his own. He doesn't need the Mission Response Vehicle to talk. Press his belt buckle and he alternates between "Go Rangers!" and "Kick it into Overdrive!" His chest insignia is a good representation of the Operation Overdrive emblem, with a little centerpiece that I am sure is the part designed to work with the vehicle. It almost looks like a tiny version of an LCD screen one might see on a wristwatch.
On the whole, the Mercury Ranger is an excellent addition to the Power Rangers Operation Overdrive set. He is entirely compatible with the initial "basic" Rangers that were offered in this line, as well as the new Mission Response figures. And it's good to see the Sixth Ranger officially join this year's lineup.
The Power Rangers Operation Overdrive MERCURY RANGER definitely has
my highest and enthusiastic recommendation!