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 one of the most sci-fi oriented Power Rangers concepts in the entire run -- POWER RANGERS S.P.D.
This was the Power Rangers concept for 2005. It was based on the Japanese Super Sentai series "Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger." S.P.D. stood for Space Patrol Delta (in Dekaranger, it stood for Special Police Dekaranger).
The storyline for SPD is as follows: The series takes place in the year 2025, after Earth has welcomed alien beings to live peacefully with the human race. But peace is short lived, as the planet-conquering Troobian Empire turns its destructive attention to Earth. When the Earth's first line of defense, the S.P.D. A-Squad, ultimately turns traitor, the protection of the planet falls to their replacements: the B-Squad Rangers, and their doglike alien commander, Anubis "Doggie" Cruger.
When two reformed thieves join the team as the Red and Yellow S.P.D. Rangers, tensions threaten to tear them apart. With the alien threat growing stronger every moment, the Rangers must put aside their differences and go into action as one!
Using teamwork, intergalactic weaponry and the usual Zord vehicles to battle evil, they unite to become one of the ultimate forces for good: Power Rangers Space Patrol Delta!
Delving further into the early aspects of the story reveals a surprisingly complex storyline: The A-Squad was the S.P.D. Academy's elite team. During their early appearances in the series, they only appear morphed and are sent out to face the newest threat to the planet's safety. However, something seems to be wrong with the A-Squad, as mentioned by the B-Squad's Green Ranger, who had the ability to sense other people's "auras", and sensed something wrong with A-Squad. The reason for this was later explained when the A-Squad revealed their true allegiance and kidnapped Commander Cruger.
Following this treachery, the B-Squad battled with the A-Squad. B-Squad eventually managed to overcome them, but the A-Squad upped the ante by unleashing their own Megazord. In the ensuing battle, the Omegamax Megazord was disabled and the Delta Squad Megazord was destroyed, but the S.W.A.T. Megazord proved victorious. The A-Squad was found guilty of treason and was subsequently disbanded and jailed.
Some of the characters on the show were strange even by Power Rangers standards. The team's commanding officer, the aforementioned Anubis "Doggie" Cruger did indeed bear a significant resemblance to the mythological Egyptian character Anubis, throwing in blue skin and a certain reptilian look. He is a Sirian, an alien species resembling humanoid reptilian dogs. He is in S.P.D. because he is trying to find his wife, Isinia, who was abducted by one of Emperor Grumm's underlings.
SPD was also the only series to have SEVEN major Rangers, the core team of five, plus both the Shadow Ranger and Omega Ranger. Honestly if you start counting everybody on the show that could lay some claim to the title "Ranger", this show had Rangers out the wazoo. It even had occasional appearances by Rangers from the concept preceding SPD, which was called Dino Thunder. I'm not even going to try to figure out the continuity of this mess.
The show even managed to have its own sort-of version of Quark from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. There was this alien called "Piggy" of all things that was a turncoat informant for the Rangers, the Troobians, and Broodwing. He opened a restaurant after winning the lottery, and managed to be a worse dresser than even Star Trek's favorite Ferengi.
The Red Ranger from SPD was cut from a different sort of cloth than most. Initially, he wasn't even much of a hero. His name was Jack Landers, and he was originally a criminal on the run from S.P.D., until Doggie Cruger chose him to be the Red Ranger. Like all of the SPD Rangers, Landers had a "genetic power", which in his case was "molecular phasing" -- the ability to pass through solid objects. At the end of the series, he retires from S.P.D. service, and Schuyler "Sky" Tate, the Blue Ranger, becomes the Red Ranger. This probably suited him a little better, since Tate was the son of a famous Red Ranger, he wanted all his life to be the Red Ranger, but was chosen to be the Blue Ranger. He very rarely strays from the rules. His genetic power was the ability to create force fields. Landers was played in the series by actor Brandon Jay McLaren.
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 for the SPD Rangers was easily the coolest I had seen in many years, possibly ever. Along with whatever prominent color the Ranger had -- Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Pink -- the left side of the uniform was in black, including the entire left sleeve, and the border pattern on the front of the uniform, outlined in white, formed a large number, 1 through 5, for each of the Rangers. The Red Ranger, obviously, was "1" (the Blue Ranger was "2" which is probably how he qualified for subsequent promotion to Red Ranger later on).
The costume also features an "SPD" insignia on the right, a badge on the right sleeve, fairly short white gloves, silver bands around the boots and gloves, and a silver belt with the SPD insignia on it. The helmet design, unlike some of the more animal-themed Rangers over the years, is more straightforward in design, with an upswept black visor, a silver plate over the mouth, a badge on the center above the visor, and two red diamond shapes surrounded by silver trim on the sides.
About the only "glitch" worth mentioning is that since apparently the entire body is molded in red, doubtless a standard practice for all of the Ranger figures in this series, the left arm is painted black, except for the articulation joint at the shoulder, which was left red and looks just a little obvious. It probably would have been too much of an additional expense to specifically mold just one part in black, and painting it black might not have worked since the paint might have gotten scraped off through movement, and it really isn't THAT big a deal, but it does show.
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 S.P.D. RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!