One of the things that I always tend to say 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 generally the team's leader.
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. For this review, I'd like to review the Red Ranger from POWER RANGERS IN SPACE!
Power Rangers in Space was the fourth Power Rangers concept, presented in 1998, after Mighty Morphin, Zeo, and Turbo, and was actually the last series to carry over a majority of continuity from its predecessors. It was very nearly the last Power Rangers series, as well. After mediocre ratings from Turbo, there had been a general feeling that "Space" would be the last Power Rangers series/season, and the show even went so far as to present a two-parter at the end, entitled "Countdown to Destruction", that wrapped up as many hanging storylines and plot threads as possible.
Wikipedia presents the following information on the series and its production background: Power Rangers in Space is loosely based on, and involved footage from, the Japanese television show "Denji Sentai Megaranger". The show was a turning point in the history of the Power Rangers franchise, as the season brought about the end of six seasons worth of storylines and was the ending of the practice of having the Power Rangers be a continuous serial-style show with a regular cast that carried over from one season to the next. Due to Power Rangers: Turbo's low ratings, this season was also meant to be the last as the crew had a lower budget than the last few seasons. However, the ratings for this season proved strong enough to move the show on.
The storyline synopsis is as follows: When the Power Rangers: Turbo lose both their Megazords, and have their Power Chamber destroyed by Divatox and her army of Pirahnatrons, they leave for space (minus youngster Justin Stewart, the one-time Blue Ranger, who stays behind to live with his father), in search of their old mentor, Zordon. They come across the new Red Ranger, Andros, who initially doesn't trust them, but after they help him in battle and help save his Astro Megaship, he gives them all new Astro Morphers, allowing them to transform into new Space Rangers. With the aid of new allies and old, such as the Silver Space Ranger, Zhane, and the Phantom Ranger, they face the monstrous Dark Specter, his herald of evil, Astronema, Astronema's loyal general and adopted father Ecliptor, and the homicidal "Psycho Rangers."
For the bulk of the series, the plot involves the Space Rangers trying to find Zordon, who's being prepared for death at the hands of Dark Specter so that the monster could absorb his powers into his own. To keep the Rangers from doing this, Astronema and Ecliptor launched attacks on Earth to keep the Rangers busy saving the planet instead of traveling to alien worlds, while past villain Divatox was reduced to planet hopping while taking Zordon from planet to planet to hide him from the Rangers.
This culminated in the eight episode Psycho Rangers arc when Astronema released evil, insane robotic Rangers on Earth to hunt down and kill the Space Rangers. The arrival of the Psycho Rangers came on the heels of Andros discovering the truth about Astronema, that she was Karone, his sister. It took time for her to come to grips with this, but she proved to the Rangers who she really was by turning against Dark Specter and rejoining her brother. The remaining Rangers realized they were wrong about her and accepted her. This did not last long, as the arrival of the sadistic Darkonda resulted in Karone being re-brainwashed and Ecliptor being defiled when Darkonda (who had multiple lives) forcibly gave Ecliptor cybernetic implants to remove any trace of good within him.
In the final two parter of the series Countdown to Destruction, everything came full-circle when Dark Specter attacked the Earth and all remaining strongholds of good in the universe while absorbing Zordon's life into his own at long last. The Space Rangers, having lost two out of their four Megazords, fought hard to defend Earth, but even with weapons such as the Battlizer, they were overwhelmed and forced to regroup. Darkonda decided he was done with being an underling and destroyed Dark Specter with a weapon meant for Earth, but was wiped out as well. Astronema was now the "Queen of Evil" - since Dark Specter was gone, and Andros, in a last-ditch effort, went to the Dark Fortress to try to turn her back to good.
As the five remaining Space Rangers fought on Earth, Andros found Zordon in the Fortress. Although no longer in danger of losing his power, Zordon told Andros to shatter the energy tube, allowing his energy to wipe out the forces of evil (those allied with Dark Specter). Andros refused and Astronema attacked. Andros, unable to hurt his sister, was beaten badly in the process. Astronema was about to kill her own brother when Andros deflected her fire back at her, killing her. Ecliptor came in and his caring for Astronema returned after seeing what had happened. The two of them fought, with Andros winning. Finally, he shattered the Zordon's tube, allowing Zordon's essence to expand throughout the universe, but killing him in the process. Almost all of the known villains in the Power Rangers universe were disentegrated into dust, while Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa, and Divatox were changed into normal humans, no longer evil. The Rangers down on Earth are excited that they won except Ashley who thinks that Andros is not coming back and is saddened by this though The Dark Fortress touched down on Earth, and Andros, with his sister's lifeless body in his arms, emerged. As he cried for her, she came back to life and the Rangers were overjoyed. Andros, Zhane, and Karone decide to stay on KO-35 and the other Rangers want to go back to Earth. Andros and Ashley walk hand in hand and share a tearful goodbye. Ashley is depressed and misses her boyfriend Andros so much. Andros says to set a course for Earth and Andros and Ashley share a joyful hug in each other's embrace, Zhane and Karone came on board as well and they all headed to Earth.
There are several notable things about the Power Rangers in Space series. For starters, the show brought in a host of guest-stars along the way, including a return appearance by young Justin, and assorted Rangers and other allies from previous Power Rangers concepts, including the Gold Zeo Ranger.
Then there are the Psycho Rangers. This was especially interesting. It seems that it is often a popular thing for a pop culture concept to create evil counterparts of its most prominent heroes. The Justice League of America has the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, evil incarnations living on an alternate Earth. The Star Trek universe has the Mirror Universe, which has turned up in the Original Series, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. The Psycho Rangers, although merely robots and not some alternate-universe counterpart, were still essentially evil Rangers, right down to the color-coded costumes, although the design particulars of the costumes were pretty scary-looking. No one would've mistaken this team of Rangers for good guys. A shame there were never figures of them.
Also, the show was the first Power Rangers series to be completely serialized, in that the entire season would be one whole story with plots continuing from each episode. This was a concept that was proving itself in more "mature" science-fiction at the time, notably the Dominion War story arc in Star Trek Deep Space Nine.
Bottom line, the producers were doing everything they could, despite a lower budget, to make this Power Rangers a success and hopefully keep the franchise going, even if the two-part "Countdown to Destruction" was something of a hedge against that, in bringing the story to a conclusion. However, the ratings picked up nicely for this newest Power Rangers concept, and as the very existence of this 15th Anniversary line of Power Rangers proves -- it worked. The Power Rangers would continue.
The series also featured the wildest team-up of all time. In the fourth episode in the series, "Shell Shocked", the Power Rangers met the -- TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES! At the time, in 1997-1998, Saban was also producing a live-action Turtles series called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation". The show ran for one season, and while fairly decent, was notable especially for the controversial addition of a female Turtle. As to the episode in question, the Turtles were brainwashed by Astronema and forced to fight against the Rangers. When the Rangers managed to break Astronema's control, they and the Turtles teamed up and defeated Astronema's force. Before departing, the Turtles had one request from the Rangers. In the end, they are seen space surfing on the Rangers' Galaxy Gliders.
As for the Red Ranger from Power Rangers in Space: Interestingly, he is the first major Red Ranger who was not native to Earth. His real name was Andros, and he was a native of the planet KO-35. This was a Ranger on a mission, specifically to defeat Astronema and recover his sister. The other four Rangers were all carryovers from Turbo. The former Red Ranger from that concept, T.J. Johnson, became the new Blue Ranger. Andros, the new Red Ranger, was played by actor Christopher Khayman Lee.
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 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 costume design is fairly straightforward, but it is interesting, and is decidedly sci-fi enough to fit into a concept calling itself "Power Rangers IN SPACE." The helmet is mostly red, although it has a black rectangular visor that is somewhat upswept. The visor is framed in white that continues in two bands around the back of the helmet. There is a flat space of silver near where the mouth would be. There is also a black oval on the top of the helmet that, if memory serves, on the original Power Rangers in Space figures, lit up. No such special features exist on any of these 15th Anniversary figures, nor do I consider that a particularly big deal.
The bulk of the uniform is, of course, red, with high white gloves and boots, a white belt, white bands around the shoulders, a but of yellow around the collar, a gold belt buckle, and a white band across the chest and back. Interestingly, there are five rectangular shapes on the chest, in black, yellow, red, pink, and blue, the colors of the five Power Rangers in this series.
Given that, as far as I know, this is the ONLY figure in the entire 15th Anniversary Series to have any measureable amount of this color blue or pink on it, I can only imagine what the materials requisition for the production must have been like. "Uh, yeah, we'll need 2000 gallons of white, 2000 gallons of black -- and somebody run to the hobby shop and get a 4 ounce jar of pink, okay?" Still, considerable credit should be given to Bandai for paying that much attention to the detail. They are to be commended for it.
On the whole, this costume design is probably one of my favorites from any of the Power Rangers concepts over the years.
And overall, 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. Heck, I wouldn't mind seeing them backtrack a bit and give us the Red Psycho Ranger -- just to make it a little more interesting -- although given the heavily armored look of the characters, it probably wouldn't be possible to fit him into the existing body mold format. A shame.
Meanwhile, the 15th Anniversary "IN SPACE" RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!