There are certain truisms about any Power Rangers concept. One is that there's always a Red Ranger. Another is that however many Rangers are in the core group, there will always be at least one additional Ranger added later on.
Another truism, at least in recent years, is that somewhere along the way, the core group of Rangers will undergo a fairly dramatic shift in their uniform designs. In both SPD and Operation Overdrive, for example, the Power Rangers acquired uniforms that were semi-armored versions of their previous outfits. These were reflected in the action figures.
And so it is with the current (at least as of this writing) concept, POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY. The basic figures have given way to the new "Jungle Master" uniforms, and by way of that, we've also gotten the seventh and eighth Rangers on the year, the Purple Wolf Ranger and the White Rhino Ranger. However, since these two represent new Rangers, I will not be reviewing them here. Please see their separate reviews.
Let's have a brief look at the Power Rangers Jungle Fury TV show and its story concept:
Power Rangers: Jungle Fury is the title of the sixteenth season in the American children's television series Power Rangers. The show premiered on February 18, 2008, and uses footage from the thirty-first Japanese Super Sentai series, Juken Sentai Gekiranger.
This series is unique in the fact that for the first time in franchise history, there are fewer primary Rangers than "other" Rangers to serve on a single team.
Okay, I want to deal with that for a moment, because it gets a little confusing. Technically, the Japanese concept for this show had three core Rangers -- the Red Tiger Ranger, the Blue Jaguar Ranger, and the Yellow Cheetah Ranger. The Purple Wolf Ranger and the White Rhino Ranger were, in Japan, the fourth and fifth Rangers. The Elephant, Bat, and Shark Rangers did not exist in the Japanese concept.
However, probably because three Rangers was considered too limiting, and since Zords representing these animals did exist (technically, so did a lot of other animals -- this show is like a zoo -- you've got animals represented in one degree or another for a gorilla, an antelope, and even a penguin, requiring some of the Rangers to pull double duty of a sort), it was decided to add three more Rangers. Hence the Green Elephant Ranger, the (Light) Blue Shark Ranger, and the Black-and-Silver Bat Ranger.
Nevertheless, since, as with any Power Rangers program, the Japanese battle footage is extensively used, it took a little more to work these characters in, and so from one standpoint, the team is still regarded as having three Core Rangers, and FIVE additional Rangers.
For myself -- this particular Rangers concept is weird enough without getting into that mess. Taking things from a strictly visual standpoint, the six Rangers that have been available in one form or another from the outset have more in common, and have been available as TOYS longer, than the Purple Wolf and White Rhino Rangers, whose uniforms are quite different stylistically than these six, to say nothing of the fact that these six have had previous versions, while the other two do not. There's where I'm drawing my demarcation line, and for the sake of a TOY review, I'm reviewing these six together, and the other two separately.
Back to the show synopsis: Many centuries ago, an evil spirit, Dai Shi, roamed freely across the Earth, waging a "Beast War" against the humans. Fortunately, through valiant fighting, the Order of the Claw, a group of kung fu martial artists, part of the Pai Zhua, were able to conquer the evil spirit and have since been able to keep him locked away. The secret of their prisoner and their duty to keep him under control was passed along from generation to generation of Pai Zhua members, three of which charged with keeping the Dai Shi from being released.
Now, in the present day, Dai Shi has escaped and three new warriors have been selected by the Pai Zhua to find and destroy the evil Dai Shi. The three teen warriors must go to where Dai Shi's ancient palace is located, a land once uninhabited, now known as Ocean Bluff. In their new home, the teen warriors must assume normal lives working at a pizza parlor under the guidance of their boss and new Pai Zhua master, R.J., who gives them the power to morph into the Power Rangers.
The original figures were quite interesting, and in my opinion quite different from previous Power Rangers figures in several respects. They didn't have the usual distinguishing points where boots, belts, and gloves might be. These characters seemed to be wearing one-piece bodysuits (except for the lone female, the Yellow Cheetah Ranger), with black patterning on them that to one degree or another reflected the animal each one represented. The only real distinguishing points were the helmets, white collars (a common point among Power Rangers figures), devices at their wrists, and shoes that were so ornate they looked like hi-tech sneakers and made me wonder if the Rangers had made a deal with Nike or something.
The figures were also notable for rather minimized musculature. After years of rather super-heroic proportions, this was very unusual. To a fair degree, it made them look a bit more realistic, if I dare use that word in a Power Rangers review.
The new Jungle Master figures have both similarities and differences from their original counterparts. The helmets are, as a rule, similar in design, and yet also more complex. The black patterning has largely been replaced by white. One thing worth mentioning. The prototype figures shown on the back of the package cards shows the white patterning outlined in black (or silver in the case of the Bat Ranger). This outlining is missing from the final figures. It's not THAT big a deal, but between that and Bandai's tendency, holding true in this case, to not paint the backs of their figures all that much, I do rather wish they'd stop cutting this particular corner so much.
Each Ranger is advertised to be wearing a "Powerized Uniform" -- whatever that's supposed to mean -- and comes with a little device called a "Jungle Tag". This is a little rectangular item, molded in the color of the Ranger and with a sculpted image, painted in gold, of the Ranger's representative animal on it. If you press the button it makes a sound, and if you plug it into the back of the Ranger and press the button, it makes a different sound.
I think the best way to review these Rangers is to take them in order, present a character profile, compare the "Jungle Master" figure with its original, comment on the figure as needed, and then the Jungle Tag. So let's start with the...
RED TIGER RANGER - Casey Rhodes - The Red Ranger; Casey is a novice member of the Pai Zhua, but is brave and instinctively protective of others. Initially, he is reluctant to accept his responsibilities due to his lack of experience, but he quickly learns to harness his inner power. He controls the Tiger Spirit. He is portrayed by Jason Smith.
The original figure had an almost entirely red bodysuit, with black stripes along the sides. The Jungle Master version has a considerable amount of white trim down the front and on the arms. The stripes on the side are more pronounced, and are red with silver in them. The Jungle Fury insignia, a sort of slash mark, is red instead of its former black.
The helmet is similar, but the visor is outlined in white, as are most of the visors of these figures, where before they were not. There are also more ridges, "whiskers", perhaps, along the sides of the helmet, tapering to the top. There's also a certain amount of shoulder padding, also common to most of the Jungle Master Rangers.
The Tiger Ranger's Jungle Tag, not surprisingly, has a fairly deep roaring sound on its own, and when you plug it into the back of the figure, it gives off a surprisingly impressive series of noises that amounts to a roar blending into a weird series of sci-fi noises -- very anime-sounding if I may say so -- ending with what sounds like swords clashing. Not atypical for the Rangers.
BLUE JAGUAR RANGER - Theo Martin - The Blue Ranger; Smart, strong, and a good fighter. Theo is fearless and commanding. He must learn the importance of working as a team. He has an identical twin brother named Luen. He controls the Jaguar Spirit. He is portrayed by Aljin Abella.
Apparently that twin brother comes into play at some point, because one of the episode titles listed for this show is "Blue Ranger, Twin Danger".
Similar to the Red Ranger, the Blue Ranger had a predominantly blue uniform with black markings on the sides, outlined in white. The new Jungle Master version duplicates the basic look, but adds a lot of white down the front and down the sleeves, and the formerly black patterning is now blue with silver. The Jungle Fury insignia is also now blue, and the figure has the shoulder pads.
The helmet is, as expected, more complex, and similar to the Red Ranger's enhanced helmet in that the ridges are more pronounced, more numerous, and more upswept, and the visor is outlined in white.
The Jaguar Ranger's Jungle Tag roars several times when you press it, somewhat more ferocious-sounding than the Tiger Ranger's, but also higher-pitched. Plug it into the back of the figure, and you pretty much get what the Tiger Ranger's one sounded like -- a roar followed by some sci-fi sound effects, and the clashing swords. It's not a bad series of sounds, though, and it sounds like it's right out of the show, so I'm not complaining.
YELLOW CHEETAH RANGER - Lily Chilman - The Yellow Ranger; Fun-loving and vivacious, Lily fearlessly accepts the responsibility given to her by Master Mao. She controls the Cheetah Spirit. She is portrayed by Anna Hutchison.
You know, the original version of this figure was rather problematic. Unlike previous Power Rangers incarnations, where while there was a distinct mold set for female Power Rangers, it did tend to follow the same basic construction parameters of the males, that wasn't the case with Jungle Fury. The Yellow Ranger wears a skirt, and the toymakers felt obliged to reproduce this as authentically as possible. Unfortunately, this cut the leg articulation to virtually nil, since the skirt wasn't especially flexible, and the too-small feet also had curved bottoms, and it was darn near impossible to get the figure to stand up straight.
I wish I could say that those problems have been resolved with the Jungle Master version, but they haven't, not to any significant degree. As far as basic markings, the Yellow Cheetah Ranger follows the pattern of the Blue and Red Rangers, in that the formerly black trim on the sides is now yellow and silver, and there is extensive white down the front and on the sleeves. But the legs are the same as before, and while I think the feet were redone and are somewhat more level on the bottom, I think the ankles are more delicate -- and one of the ankles on mine is bent rather badly outwards, and the legs are still forced together quite closely, and ultimately, the figure just doesn't have enough of a foot-base to stand up very well. I'm not sure but what the legs are a little uneven, even.
The helmet is, as one would expect, enhanced over the previous, with more pronounced ridges and "ears", and white around the visor. One interesting point is that the head of this figure seems to have a bit more articulation than the male Rangers. It seems to be on a ball-and-socket, and as such has a bit of a swivel-pivot capability to it that the male Rangers, whose heads turn from side-to-side, do not possess.
But none of these decorative or even functional enhancements can change the fact that, I'm sorry to say, this just isn't a very good figure. It makes one grateful that this concept only had ONE female character, and makes one hopeful that whatever the female population of the next Power Rangers concept, POWER RANGERS RPM, is, they do a better job with the toys.
The Cheetah Ranger's Jungle Tag makes a fairly short growling noise, perhaps amusingly lower pitched than the Blue Jaguar Ranger's. Plugging it into the back of the figure has the expected result of growl/sci-fi noise/clashing swords.
GREEN ELEPHANT RANGER - Master Phant - The Elephant Ranger. He is a
previous Pai Zhua master who possesses the spirit of the Elephant. He
retired after losing confidence in himself. Because of Lily's determination,
he regained his confidence and taught her how to use the Jungle Mace
and to channel his Animal Spirit. He was later captured by the Phantom
Beasts along with the other masters and his animal spirit transformed
into the Elephant Ranger. He was freed by R.J. (the Wolf
The original version of this figure had a surprisingly complex design on his chest, more black than green, which could have passed as a sort of hi-tech outline of an elephant's trunk as much as anything. There were two short silver extensions on the helmet that looked like little tusks.
The Jungle Master version of this figure has switched the colors. What was black is now white, but the uniform is still predominantly green, and I don't believe there's as much white on this figure as on the previous three, although there is more white down the legs than there was black down the legs on the original version.
The helmet is the real kick. The visor has been outlined in white, of course, but the sides of the helmet far more resemble elephant ears than the original. I never even made that connection until I saw this Jungle Master version.
The Jungle Tag for the Elephant Ranger makes a trumpeting noise on its own, and -- well, that's all it did when I plugged it into the back of the figure, too. But I think it's a little defective. It didn't want to plug in very well. I checked the other Tags, and they all do the "sci-fi noise/clashing swords" bit, so I'm going to say that's what this one is SUPPOSED to do. Now -- where's my small screwdriver... Okay, I'll finish the review first.
BLUE SHARK RANGER - Master Finn - The Shark Ranger. He is a former Pai Zhua master and R.J.'s father. He is master over the Shark spirit, the techniques of which he tried unsuccessfully to teach to R.J., causing a rift between them that is not mended until R.J. proves his strength by demonstrating his own control over the Wolf Spirit. Later, he is captured by the Phantom Beasts along with the other masters and his animal spirit is transformed into the Shark Ranger. He now fights along with the other Rangers. He is portrayed by Paul Gittens.
Of all of the Jungle Master Rangers, the Shark Ranger has easily undergone the greatest appearance shift. The original Shark Ranger was a sort of dark turquoise in color, almost too close to the dark blue of the Jaguar Ranger. He had a black pattern on his chest and arms that looked like shark fins in relief.
That black area is now white, but far more significant is the fact that the basic color of the uniform is a distinctly lighter (and for that matter, brighter) shade of blue, and honestly looks a lot better for an aquatic-based Power Ranger. It does a nice job of setting him apart from the Blue Jaguar Ranger, as well as the Purple Wolf Ranger, who's just a little too bluish-purple for his own good, in my opinion, at least compared to a Japanese version I got a while back. But that's another review entirely.
The helmet's visor has been outlined in white, and the fins on the top and sides are more ridged than before, and he seems to have a sort of fin extruding from the base of his helmet that wasn't there before.
I was curious what the basic form of his Jungle Tag would sound like. Sharks, which certainly dangerous predators, aren't noted for being particularly noisy to the best of my knowledge. And I figured it would be a little too much for this thing to play any aspect of the theme to "Jaws". Bandai doesn't need trouble from Steven Spielberg and John Williams, I'm sure.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Jungle Tag for the Shark Ranger makes a splashing noise on its own, and does the sci-fi noise/clashing swords when plugged into the back of the figure.
BAT RANGER - Master Swoop - The Bat Ranger. He is a former Pai Zhua master who possesses the spirit of the Bat. He formerly was R.J.'s mentor and taught him to fight without the aid of sight. Though blind, Swoop manages to see things further than they really are and teaches Theo how to focus and trains him to use the Jungle Fan and to channel his Bat Animal Spirit. Was later the first to be captured by the Phantom Beasts and his animal spirit transformed into the Bat Ranger. He was freed by R.J. and now fights with the other Rangers. He is portrayed by Oliver Driver.
This figure is a little tricky in both versions. I'm not sure whether to call him the Black Ranger, or the Silver Ranger. He has both colors on him. And since the trim colors on the other Rangers utilize black, white, and silver, and those are the main colors of this guy's outfit, he must've given the costume designers fits if they were trying to maintain any sort of consistency.
I'm honestly not sure how "bat-like" the patterning is on either version of this character, but I would have to say that of all the Rangers, his costume has changed the least. The silver trim has been replaced by white, and the patterning is almost identical, except there's a lot more white down the legs on the Jungle Master version than there was silver on the original edition.
The helmet honestly isn't all that different, although it does have one distinct difference in that two "points" on the center of the helmet are much more raised than on the original version. On the whole, the sculpted details look -- well -- sharper, for lack of a better word.
The Jungle Tag for the Bat Ranger makes a weird sort of flapping noise with a low-pitched screech worked into it. This must've been another one that they had a little trouble figuring out a decent sound effect for. Bats don't tend to be that noisy.
Of moderate note is the fact that while the Red Tiger, Blue Jaguar, and Yellow Cheetah Rangers have traded in their formerly white collars for black ones, the Elephant, Shark, and Bat Rangers retain white collars. Not sure if there's any significance to that.
A few points regarding all of the figures (although the Yellow Ranger is exempted from some of these). The figures all have good articulation. They are fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. I have one complaint here -- the upper leg swivel, whether through design, assembly, or whatever, tends to be extremely loose on quite a few of these figures. This includes the Purple Wolf and White Rhino Rangers. I tend to prefer much tighter articulation than this, especially on something fairly crucial like the legs. I almost wondered if it was a deliberate design aspect for some reason that I couldn't fathom, but after studying the entire line-up, I have to say that it is simply an unfortunate occurrence that occurs too often. If Bandai intends to maintain elements of their current figure design into the next iteration of Power Rangers, this is something that needs to be dealt with.
Another observation. Some of these figures seem to be looking downwards, extremely so. And while their heads can turn from side to side, they do not move up and down. This isn't as annoying as the leg problem, but it's worth mentioning. I'm not sure why the figures would be designed to look like this.
Finally, a paint issue. There is a LOT of white paint on these figures, and the figures are generally molded in their uniform color. I think it would be beneficial for Bandai to let the figures dry completely before assembly. This would alleviate two problems -- the need to make hand-painted corrections (got two of 'em here like that), and the unfortunate tendency of painted parts to stick -- especially elbows in this case, and some knees. Worse if the paint chips off in the attempt to get the part to move.
I don't want to sound overly negative. I believe that, by and large, Bandai makes excellent action figures -- some of the best around. And while Power Rangers isn't a concept that has caught on with collectors to the degree that other lines have, I think that generally, the basic concept from year to year of colorfully-yet-uniform-costumed super-heroes is pretty cool, and the designs are generally very impressive. I have been enjoying the Jungle Fury Rangers, I look forward to Power Rangers RPM, and hope for many more years of Rangers beyond that.
BUT -- that doesn't mean there aren't a few issues that need to be dealt with -- issues that haven't tended to be a problem in the past, and which I don't wish to see be problems in the future. Hence my criticism, which is intended to be helpful, not to condemn.
My final word here? Despite a few glitches, these are still very cool figures. The concept may have received more of an overhaul from its Japanese counterpart than most Ranger concepts in years past, but I think the result was a whole group of very interesting Rangers on the year. And in some respects, these Jungle Master Rangers are improvements over their originals. There's something about the white trim that makes them look more -- Rangerish -- somehow.
With all that, the POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY JUNGLE MASTER RANGERS
definitely have my enthusiastic recommendation! Go get 'em while you
can, and don't forget the Purple Wolf and White Rhino Rangers!