Monday, February 7, 2011

Power Rangers Samurai

As a guy who grew up in the 90's and watched Fox Kids, I was a fan of the Power Rangers series.  While I stopped watching it religiously after Disney took over, but kept track of the series throughout the remainder of it's initial run...with the exception of Jungle fury, which plain sucked.  As such, in recent years I started looking up other Tokusatsu (Japanese live-action series)--mainly of the Kamen Rider series.  But I took brief looks at Shinkenger and Goseiger, and found them to be rather well-written series, if albeit silly and/or message heavy to draw in the kids.  As such, when I heard that Power Rangers Samurai, the adaptation of Shinkenger which was delayed a year, I decided to take a look at it.

Turns out, I should not have preempted House for it.  The series has nothing special going for it.  While in the classic manner of Toku adaptation, it has many scenes recycled from the source material, it is easy to tell that either the writers are having difficulty adapting the Japanese culture-heavy source matter into a non-japanese series (as originally believed by this writer back when they heard that Disney would not be continuing the series last year), or more likely, the writing staff for the last several Power rangers series stuck around.  Instead of an origin Episode as is tradition, the series opened as if they were midway into the series, with a number of abilities already unlocked.  Good for a Pilot episode to pitch for pickup, but not something that should be shown as a series opener.  Hopefully they will circle back, but it's already looking to be a lowpoint.
The music is rather bland and generic, and the opening is just a remix of the original "Go Go Power rangers" theme.  It may have worked back in the ye olde days of Zeo and Turbo-as sequel songs, but those series had closely tied together plots.  To not take advantage of sword-wielding warriors in writing a theme is a mistake.
Oddly, character actions are close expy's of the Skinkenger counterparts as far as I can tell.  Red's calm and collected, Green's got something to prove, blue's...Well, the blue, yellow and Pink rangers of the group didn't have a lot of screen time, so characterization's not that fleshed out yet.  I had heard Paul Schrier had returned to the series as Bulk, his scene with Skull's son "Spike" I found to be the highlight of the episode.  I did not know Bulk and Skull were related, or either had siblings.  May just be a term of endearment to a close family friend, however.  That's more likely. a word, lame.  They didn't use the prop morphers in the manner of the Skinken group.  They opened the phone, and used it to draw the kanji for their element to change forms, where as the Skinkenger folded the phones into calligraphy pens to do the same.  This lost step makes all the difference, as drawing something in the air with a phone just looks stupid.  Doing it with a pen looks cooler.  The morphing sequence once commenced has one big flaw. The Rangers are seen in their training garb as the sequence begins, then are covered in a Ninja-version of the same clothing which includes a facemask, THEN changed into their ranger form. WHY the second costume?  It's not needed!  I did like how the sword wasn't part of the equipment on the ranger form initially, and must be caught at the end of the transformation sequence.  That was good.
  In calling the Mechs for the series, in addition to the actions Performed in Shinkenger (Drawing a transformation kanji over a origami box which grew into the zord), the rangers also changed their swords into more stylized control sticks than their Japanese counterparts, and morphed forms into a stylized armored form.  There's also a new cockpit for piloting.  That hasn't been done since the original MMPR seasons...For primary zords at least.  The Lighspeed season had to do it for the America-only Titanium Ranger, and for unmorphed use of the zords the Disney staff had to recreate some of the sets used in the Japanese versions.  While I have no real complaints over the cockpit or the Sword change, the armored form was a waste of supplies.  Why would you need armor while in a giant robot, and not use it when you battle on foot?  It's just doesn't make a lick of sense.  Something that detracts from these changes is there's no obvious foreplanning for the other mech's that later become available and combine.  It requires that new scenes be shot for summoning those zords, as the prior method of summoning them is no longer available due to the change to the swords.
Ah the Villains.  As this was an episode was probably meant to be run chronologically later,  Not much about them is explained.  They want to induce fear in humans so the River they are trapped in will rise and overflow into the human world...which sounds pretty close to Shinkenger's villain's motives.  The monsters of the week have to return after some time to said river or they become weakened as their bodies 'dry out'.  It gives a plot-relevant reason for retreating in the midst of a battle, something prior series haven't done or used often.
  I guess a lot of the complaints I've had is the series didn't open as a translated version of Shinkenger.  I'm not.  I'm saying that the changes they've made to differentiate from Shinkenger were poor choices, and could have been made more subtlety as opposed to the big effect changes that really weren't required.  The story for the episode had flaws due to it not being preceded by an introduction episode, but the plot held well and was par for an early character development episode. The series may improve somewhat as more context appears, but I'm not going to keep hopes up.
Nostalgia:  Take me away tot he Good old days.
Once more, I leave you with a clip:  of the Bulk scene of the episode in full.  Goodnight everybody.

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