REVIEW: POWER RANGERS SAMURAI - GREEN, RED, BLUE SAMURAI RANGERS
In recent years, most Power Rangers concepts have offered a second complete set of Rangers, sometimes with an extra or two along the way, somewhere roughly midway through their run. Generally speaking, this second set of Rangers, although representing the same characters as the initial set, is somewhat more ornate.
For example, both SPD and Operation Overdrive received somewhat armored incarnations of their respective teams. Jungle Fury, although not armored, received a second team whose costumes were somewhat more ornate than the first.
The two recent exceptions to this have been RPM and Mighty Morphin. RPM received entirely new Rangers, that were created specifically for the toy line. Mighty Morphin, coming along in the days before secondary costumes tended to appear, with a few of the Rangers having gold shoulder padding previously exclusive to the Green Ranger.
And now we have Power Rangers Samurai. The initial team of Ranger figures to emerge in this line, referred to as "Mega Rangers", were surprisingly ornate in and of themselves. The new, secondary team of Rangers, dubbed simply "Samurai Rangers", more or less turns the previous pattern on its ear somewhat, in that they actually have simpler costumes than the previous Mega Rangers.
To be perfectly honest, I don't have the slightest idea which ones may have come first in the television show. I haven't caught the program. I have seen a number of photos from the show that indicate that both uniform designs do exist, so both are entirely valid within the concept.
Finally, I came across the three main male Rangers for the team -- Red, Green, and Blue -- in their "Samurai" outfits. I would like to use this review to have a look at them. First, however, a little history about the show itself.
Power Rangers Samurai is the nineteenth season of the American children's television series Power Rangers. With Saban Brands' buying back the franchise, the show is produced by SCG Power Rangers and began airing on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons on February 7, 2011. As with all Power Rangers programs, Power Rangers Samurai is based on one of the entries of the Japanese Super Sentai Series; in the case of Samurai, the source series is Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. Saban Brands have said the show will have a "brighter tone and gets an infusion of fun and comedy that wasn't present in present in recent seasons."
The Samurai Power Rangers–Red Ranger Jayden, the stoic leader; Blue Ranger Kevin, the devoted second-in-command; Pink Ranger Mia, the big sister; Green Ranger Mike, the creative rebel; Yellow Ranger Emily, the youngest and most innocent; and Gold Ranger Antonio, the expressive fisherman/tech wiz– fight the evil Master Xandred and his army of Nighloks, who want to flood the planet with the waters of the Sanzu River.
Centuries ago in Japan, a dark force threatened our universe, bringing a civilization to its knees, until a clan of brave warriors were called upon to destroy this ancient evil – Samurai warriors defeated them with power symbols passed down from parent to child. But now this darkness has returned and plans to flood the Earth, and the future of mankind rest in the hands of five ordinary teens with one extraordinary destiny — They are the Samurai Rangers. Led by the fearless Red Ranger, this team was summoned to train as Samurai's under the teachings of Mentor Ji, armed with high-powered weapons and mighty Megazords. They have one mission – to defeat the sinister Master Xandred and his army of Nighloks and make our universe safe from evil once and for all.
Several things are worth mentioning here. First of all is Saban's reacquisition of the Power Rangers, which had been in the hands of Disney for years. Now, nothing against Disney, but they hadn't really done much with the Rangers for a while, which is also one of the reasons we got a slightly reworked rerun of Mighty Morphin last season. It's likely that had Saban not stepped in, we might have seen the last of the Power Rangers.
I suspect that especially with Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics, they just weren't interested in spending money on the Rangers anymore. Now, Disney is a massive corporation with a great many very large irons in the fire -- movies, cartoons, Disney Channels, theme parks, Pixar, and now Marvel Comics. The Power Rangers simply didn't rate. Saban, on the other hand, while certainly a perfectly decent company, is no Disney. They can devote more attention to the Power Rangers because they have a greater stake in its success.
In regards to that, I was amazed by how quickly Power Rangers merchandise vanished from the Disney Store. I have several very cool 12" Power Rangers figures from Overdrive and Jungle Fury, that were Disney Store Exclusives, that I am now particularly pleased to own as such. And with this most recent wave of Power Rangers figures, Saban has put their name as part of the logo. It's not overwhelming, but it's definitely there. It's not just "Power Rangers Samurai" -- it's "Saban's Power Rangers Samurai".
On that note, I am amazed at how quickly Saban and Bandai were able to get the initial waves of Power Rangers Samurai figures to the stores. The first ones turned up right on schedule right around the 2010 holiday season. Given the usual turnaround time on action figures from design to actual production, this was astounding.
One last note about the program. I had several people who were familiar with the Japanese incarnation of these Rangers, the aforementioned Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, tell me -- prior to the return of the Rangers to Saban -- that they would have been very surprised to see this particular version of the concept turn up in some Americanized form outside of Japan, as more than any previous Rangers/Sentai concept, this one had a lot of back story in Japanese history, culture, and mythology. It certainly shows, in the character design and in certain aspects of the Westernized version, but apparently, someone found a way to do it.
Now, let's consider the three characters behind the Red, Green, and Blue Rangers:
Jayden is the Red Samurai Ranger, also known as the Samurai of Fire. He is the leader of the group. He also has a secret that he keeps from his fellow Rangers. His father was also a descendant of the Shiba Clan and gave Jayden the Lion Foldingzord. Jayden is generally calm and serious, though he considers others' feelings and is willing to do anything to help his friends. He is also being targeted by a mysterious half-Nighlok, half-human warrior named Deker, who wants to find a formidable opponent for his katana Uramasa. Jayden is also a strong leader, overcoming the Beetle Disk's powers when the other Rangers needed help with another one of Xandred's Nighloks. Jayden wields the Fire Smasher and pilots the Lion Foldingzord along with the Tiger Zord. He formerly piloted the Beetle Zord, which is passed on to Mia, then Mike. Master Xandred soon learns that Jayden can write a special symbol or seal with his Samuraizer that can ultimately trap him forever, and for that reason he starts targeting Jayden. He also does know that the seal cannot be permanent if the user doesn't have enough symbol power. Jayden is always concerned for the other Rangers, and even once attempted to leave and fight alone to put them out of risk and initially refused to allow Antonio, the Gold Ranger, to join them for the same reason.
Kevin is the Blue Samurai Ranger, also known as the Samurai of Water. He is an honest, devoted swordsman who dreamt of becoming an Olympics swimmer before being summoned to fight against the Nighloks. Kevin is second-in-command and whenever Jayden is not around, he will usually be the voice of reasoning that everyone listens to. Kevin is extremely loyal to his friends and is very serious about it, even considering quitting the Rangers after he raised his sword against Jayden (though it is under one of the Nighloks' influence). Kevin wields the Hydro Bow and pilots the Dragon Foldingzord along with the Swordfish Zord, which he caught with the help of a mysterious fisherman. It was Kevin who came up with the idea of the Battlewing Megazord.
Mike is the Green Samurai Ranger, also known as the Samurai of Forest. He is an avid video gamer and the lazy rebel of the group. He is very close friends to Kevin and Emily. Mike also wants to train harder in order to catch up to Jayden and Kevin's progress. Being the slacker of the group, he's very irresponsible, once using the Beetle Zord disk when Jii told him not to and skipping out on training when he felt that he wasn't doing well to hang out with his old friends. He can also be somewhat cocky and tends to joke around, but he is kind and usually means well. Mike wields the Forest Spear and pilots the Bear Foldingzord and the Beetle Zord, which originally belonged to Jayden and Mia.
It should probably be mentioned, given the length of the Red Ranger's profile relative to the others, that there's ALWAYS a Red Ranger in any given Power Rangers concept -- which is how Bandai was able to do that series of Red Ranger figures for the 15th Anniversary of the concept several years ago -- and more often than not by far, he's the team leader. The other colors tend to vary -- Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow, White, Black -- but there's ALWAYS a Red Ranger. Not entirely sure what the appeal of the color red is in Japan, other than perhaps their national flag, but such is how it is.
So -- how are the figures? Really excellent, and in one very important aspect, a distinct improvement over their more ornate predecessors, the Mega Rangers.
As I said several paragraphs back, I was both impressed and amazed at how quickly Bandai was able to get the initial Power Rangers Samurai figures to market. Now, as cool as those figures are, as well designed, detailed, and sculpted as they may be, the male Rangers in the line, which distinctly came out first, had one consistent problem that might well lead one to think that they were just a little bit -- rushed.
The legs were preposterously loose. No other real problems. The sculpts were good the paintwork was neat, all the other articulation was fine -- but these Rangers were so wobbly in the hips they could barely stand up and be expected to remain standing. Ironically, when the female Pink and Yellow Rangers finally turned up, using an entirely different set of body molds, of course, they didn't have the same problem. However, when the Gold Mega Ranger appeared -- recently -- as part of the new assortments, he used the same body molds as the previous male Mega Rangers and -- yep, he's got really loose legs.
I refuse to believe that my luck in purchasing action figures is so bad that every single one of them, including one purchased months after the others, would have the same problem, and it would be a relative rarity in the line. I have to believe that these loose legs are a moderate design flaw, due possibly to rushed production.
I am very pleased to report that the Samurai Rangers do NOT have this problem. Their legs are just fine. We'll see what happens when I finally get the Yellow and Pink ones -- and for that matter the Gold, but I certainly have no complaints about the Red, Blue, and Green Rangers as far as any aspect of their articulation is concerned.
Typical for Power Rangers through the years, the Rangers have nearly identical uniforms, differing only in primary color and helmet design. The basic design of the Samurai Rangers is a distinctive colored helmet with an ornate symbol on the front, in black, outlined in white, that also serves as the helmet's visor. I'll discuss that in a paragraph or two.
The costumes have white necks -- extremely common for many Rangers concepts -- and the Rangers wear colored shirts, that almost look like tunics, since there is a black band, highlighted in white, that seems to wrap itself around the collar and then taper diagonally along the right front side to the belt. The Rangers are wearing white gloves with black bands near the top, wide gold belts with large round buckles, black trousers -- an unusual feature for a Power Rangers uniform -- and colored boots with black bands near the top.
There is also a gold emblem on the shirt, moderately star-shaped, placed right about where Captain Picard or Sisko from modern Star Treks would be wearing their communicator badges.
Overall, it's an impressive costume design, and to be perfectly honest, it blends in better with previous Power Rangers teams better than the more ornate, almost armored look of the Mega Rangers. These guys honestly look more like what a person expects Power Rangers to look like -- not to malign the other designs.
Let's consider the helmets. The visors are very odd. In Power Rangers Samurai, the Rangers not only have different colors, but each one represents some sort of different element. The Red Ranger represents Fire, the Blue Ranger represents Water, and the Green Ranger represents Forest.
Now, I don't read Japanese. However, what I assume to be the actual Japanese symbols for Water, Fire, and Forest are pictured on the sides of their packages. I have to believe that these would not simply be made up. But here's where things get a little strange -- the helmet visors are designed to resemble the respective Japanese symbols! Now, given that the actors wearing these helmets have to be able to see where they're going and what they're doing to some reasonable degree -- especially since they're stuntmen -- and since you're not going to make up foundational elements like Water, Fire, and so forth, just out of the blue, then I'd have to say that the producers of the original Samurai Sentai Shinkenger series were extremely fortunate in that the symbols of the respective elements weren't anything that couldn't ultimately be modified into a workable helmet visor.
How close are they? Well, assuming the symbols on the side of the package are fairly traditional interpretations -- not too bad, really. Of course, some accommodations had to be made. For one thing, the symbols aren't necessarily symmetrical. For another, they did have to allow the actors wearing them to see.
Imagine trying to turn certain letters of the English alphabet into helmet visors. Some would work better than others. You might also get better results depending on what you made the letter look like, and certainly there are countless ways to draw letters of the alphabet. I have literally hundreds of fonts on my computer. Some plain, some fancy, some extremely unusual.
It strikes me that the more ornate symbols of the traditional Japanese alphabet do not lend themselves quite as well to excessive stylizing. However, a certain amount can be managed, while keeping them reasonably recognizable.
The symbol for Fire, the Red Ranger's emblem, looks more or less like an upside-down "Y" with a somewhat vertical detail to the left, and a longer diagonal one to the right. The helmet visor for the Red Ranger retains the upside-down "Y", but enlarges the side details and makes them match, allowing for a symmetrical helmet design, and decent visibility for the wearer.
The symbol for Forest, the Green Ranger's emblem, was likely the easiest of these three to modify. It looks like a Christian cross with two extra diagonals pointing downwards on either side. For the helmet, the lower part of it was shortened, and the "crossbar" was broadened somewhat to allow it to become the visor, but it's almost certainly the most readily recognizable of the three.
The symbol for Water, the Blue Ranger's emblem, may well have been the trickiest of the three. In its traditional form, it looks like a small number "7" followed by a large letter "K". For the helmet, both parts of the symbol have been unified and rendered more symmetrical, resulting in a helmet visor that looks like a broad letter "X" with a vertical "I" running through the middle of it -- almost looks like a really mean-looking asterisk. And frankly, of the three, I think visibility would be the worst in this one.
The figures stand about 4-1/2" in height. That's pretty short relative to recent years, but they took on this smaller size with the previous Mighty Morphins, and apparently it's the new standard. Technically speaking, no one Power Rangers team of figures is especially compatible with another. They've redesigned them every year.
The figures are certainly well articulated, and are fully poseable at the heads, arms, elbows, glove tops, legs, knees, and boot tops. And as I said before (but it's just so good to say it), the legs are a lot tighter than on their Mega Rangers counterparts.
Each Ranger comes with three accessories. Each one comes with an identical sword, with a gold handle and a silver blade, and a silver device of some sort that looks like a cell phone as much as anything. Then each one comes with a distinctive accessory of its own, color coded, and bearing the specific Ranger's symbol somewhere on it, in silver. These tend to be rather preposterously large for the figures, but they're cool looking enough as far as basic design is concerned. The Red Ranger has a large rifle-like device, the Green Ranger has a staff, and the Blue Ranger's weapon -- well, that took a little more to figure out. It's an odd-looking thing, and as nearly as I can determine, it's some sort of blaster gun with two archery-type bows attached to the front of it in an "X" configuration. Definitely on the bizarre side.
So, what's my final word? I'm very pleased with these figures. Again, without maligning their Mega Rangers predecessors, I like these uniform designs a little better. They fit better with the overall expected motif of Power Rangers. And certainly, correcting the loose articulation of the earlier ones is a big plus. They're well-designed, well-articulated, and neatly-painted.
The back of the package also shows a Samurai version of the Gold Ranger, but he appears to be rather short-packed at the moment. There is no sign of the Yellow and Pink Rangers, which troubles me, although I have heard that they are expected. It's been said that Saban would like to get two years out of the Power Rangers Samurai concept, rather than the usual one year, so if that remains accurate, there's plenty of time. Let's hope so, anyway. As such time as I am able to obtain the Gold Samurai Ranger, and the Yellow and Pink Samurai Rangers, you can look forward to reviews of them.
Meanwhile, if you're any sort of Power Rangers fans, these are some very cool figures, definitely different from their predecessors, and certainly worthy additions to any Power Rangers figure collection!
The RED, BLUE, and GREEN SAMURAI RANGERS from POWER RANGERS SAMURAI definitely have my most enthusiastic recommendation!