One of the things that I always tend to say roughly once a year when reviewing any given year's crop of Power Rangers action figures is -- there's always a sixth Ranger. But there's something else that's always true as well...
There's always a Red Ranger.
Whatever other colors the core group of Power Rangers may adopt for their uniforms, which have generally tended to be four of the following: Blue, Black, Green, White, Yellow, and Pink, there's always a Red Ranger. And he's also the team's leader.
The fact that the Red Ranger is always the most prominent Ranger is evident even in the show. Several years ago, during whatever Power Rangers concept was running at the time, a special episode actually brought in every Red Ranger from every Power Rangers concept to date. This no doubt involved shaking the mothballs out of quite a few uniforms and finding at least a dozen stuntmen capable of some measure of martial arts.
Does it surprise anyone that we're commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Power Rangers? It's not often that a pop culture concept manages to have this sort of endurance. Although often considered rather campy and silly compared to pop culture/toy concepts of similar longevity, such as G.I. Joe or Transformers, there is simply no denying the fact that the Power Rangers has found a place in pop culture, and doesn't look to be going anywhere anytime soon. It's also found a pretty steadfast place in the toy aisles.
One of the secrets, if it can even be called that, to the longevity of the Power Rangers, has been the fact that after the original concept, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", had run for several years, the producers of the show started overhauling the concept every year. Although the basic character premise -- five young people dressed in colorful costumes, each costume reflecting a predominant color with a pattern shared by the entire group -- remained the same, as did the martial-arts- ish stunt work, the background stories tended to change rather dramatically.
This allowed Bandai, the toymaker, to essentially create an entirely new line of toys every year, and yet that entirely new line of toys was nevertheless based, at its core, on a proven name and basic theme.
The main part, toywise, of this 15th Anniversary celebration of Power Rangers, has been the release of a special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers. Larger than the approximate 5" scale common to most Power Rangers lines over the years, although size has varied somewhat, these 15th Anniversary Red Rangers are over 6-1/2" in height. And there's one for every major Power Rangers concept that has ever existed, right up to 2007's "Operation Overdrive".
It is my intention, as I am able to acquire these excellent action figures, to review each one, as well as provide a background into the Power Rangers concept from which he is a part of.. And we might as well start with the very first one -- MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS.
As a name, it was quite a mouthful in 1993 when it first came out. And strange as it seems today, the figures initially weren't that much of a hit. The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures were 8" in height, which was huge for the time, packaged in strange, triangular boxes, and since the TV show hadn't started to air, no one really knew what to think of them. They sort of sat on the shelves -- until the TV show started, and then you would have had better luck tracking down a needle in a haystack.
The Power Rangers were everywhere, and turning up in some very odd places. Bil Keane, artist of the popular long-running comic strip "Family Circus", dressed up one of the kids in a Power Ranger costume for Halloween. In an episode of the animated "X-Men" series, a character crashes into a TV studio (Called "Banzai") that is filming some rather familiar-looking costumed character -- and it ain't mutants. The background music for this not-quite-cameo was just as almost-familiar. It had THAT much impact.
Of course, it's common knowledge that the Power Rangers concepts are Japanese in origin, brought over initially by Saban, with footage of English-speaking actors added into the original Japanese battle scenes.
Interestingly, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was actually based on the sixteenth installment of the Japanese Super Sentai franchise, "Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger". Under the name Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the series ran from 1993 to 1995 and spawned a feature film, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
The second and third seasons drew on footage and elements from the Japanese series "Gosei Sentai Dairanger" and "Ninja Sentai Kakuranger" respectively, though the "Zyuranger" costumes were still used extensively. The series was produced by MMPR Productions and distributed by Saban Entertainment, and aired on Fox Kids.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the only one of the concepts to run for over a year, so it needed to fill in with some other material, obviously. The Movie seemed to feature mostly American footage. I recall seeing a brief "making of" segment about the movie, which showcased a couple of nasty-looking creatures unleashed by the villains that were computer-generated, which in the mid-90's was still very unusual.
The main villain for the original Power Rangers was a woman named (and this had to have lost something in the translation) Rita Repulsa. If you try to picture the Japanese version of "Witchiepoo" from the early 70's "H.R. Puf-n-stuf" TV series, although some what nastier, you've pretty much got it. She also had a screeching voice that made listening to fingernails running down a blackboard seem preferable.
The series took place in the fictional town of Angel Grove, California. Two unwitting astronauts on a lunar exploration discover an extra-terrestrial container, breach the unit, inadvertently releasing the evil witch, Rita Repulsa, from 10,000 years of confinement (which might explain her voice.). Upon her release, she and her army of evil Space Aliens set their sights on conquering the Earth. When the wise sage Zordon becomes aware of the release of the evil witch he was responsible for capturing so long ago, he orders his robotic assistant, Alpha 5, to find five "teenagers with attitude," to defend the Earth from Rita's attacks.
Zordon, for the record, looked like first cousin to the Wizard of Oz's creepy projected image, and Alpha-5 was basically the show's robotic comedy relief, but came across as pretty annoying.
Most of the villains on the show except for the leadership were costumed characters. The costumes were well-made and highly detailed. Unfortunately, they also lacked brain power, coming across more like cheap bullies than as viable threats to the universe.
Now, let's consider the Red Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
In the series, the Red Ranger was a young man named Jason Lee Scott, portrayed by actor Austin St. John. In the middle of the second season, Jason became a representative to a peace conference in Switzerland, and the new Red Ranger was named Rocky DeSantos, and was played by actor Steve Cardenas.
The figure is excellent. What Bandai has done for this special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers is they have created a basic body type, and an excellent one, that can reasonably accommodate any of the intricate uniform decoration patterns of any of the Power Rangers concept. Of course, a unique head -- or perhaps the correct term should be helmet -- sculpt is created for each Red Ranger.
The Power Rangers are ultimately a sort of super-hero, so they're going to dress the part, with rather super-heroic tights being the mainstay of their costumes through the years. The basic body design for these figures reflects this, with a "muscle body" that is somewhat exaggerated compared to real life, but which is nevertheless well designed and well-detailed.
The articulation is excellent. The Power Ranger is poseable at the head, arms, glove tops, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Additionally, there is a mid-torso articulation point that is so well designed you almost don't see it until you have the figure out of its package. This can be a particularly tricky articulation point to add to an action figure. Sometimes it can be worked very well into the basic design of the figure. The best example I can think of here is Star Wars Clone Troopers, where it can blend with the armor. It works fairly well on figures like Marvel Legends, where there is no great effort to conceal the articulation points. But I've seen it on some figures where it doesn't look very good at all.
On the Red Ranger here, it works and looks a lot better than it has any business, really, and kudos to Bandai for the design work.
There is one articulation aspect that should have been included, but wasn't. That would have been an upper-arm swivel. This does have the unfortunate effect of rather considerably curtailing the poseability of the arms on an otherwise supremely well-articulated action figure.
The uniform design itself is probably the most iconic of all the Power Rangers. Despite all of the concepts that have come since then, when people who are perhaps not as familiar or up-to-date on the Rangers as close followers would be, but who still have heard of it, think of the Power Rangers, this is the image they're likely to have in mind.
The helmet looks a bit like a stylized dinosaur's head. The Rangers use "Zords", huge robotic constructs, and in the case of the Mighty Morphins, these were robotic dinosaurs. The open jaw of the helmet encases the black visor, which is surrounded by silvery "teeth". There is a silvery human "mouth" beneath this.
The uniform is, of course, predominantly red. There is a white diamond on the front of the torso, and two additional white diamonds which stretch from the front, around the sides, and meet in the back. The belt, gloves, and boots, are white. The tops of the gloves and boots have red diamonds imprinted around their perimeter. The white belt has a buckle that is quite ornate.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this particular Red Ranger has proven to be a little on the elusive side. But the two that seem to be the hardest to find are the oldest and the newest -- the Mighty Morphin Red Ranger, and the Operation Overdrive Red Ranger.
Overall, however, this is really a spectacular figure, and part of a truly fascinating series. Despite a relatively common scale over the years, not all Power Rangers figures are really compatible across different concepts. This 15th Anniversary Red Ranger series is truly the first time that the main characters from all of the different Power Rangers concepts have been produced in a compatible format.
Honestly, I hope that Bandai finds some way to continue this particular series, as the Power Rangers concepts continue in the years ahead. Doubtless there will be more Red Rangers. And I'd like to think we wouldn't have to wait until the 20th Anniversary to get them in this format.
Meanwhile, the 15th Anniversary MIGHTY MORPHIN RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!