“Watch out, I’m gonna take this Nighlok alone!” – Mike, Green Samurai Ranger
First off, thanks for all the love on my last article, the in-depth look at our favorite non-Tommy Ranger: Jason. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out; I curse a lot and there are pictures.
I will not fart around on this one, however, because I am passionate about the topic we are covering today. So, class, take a seat and we can get right to it.
I shall preface with a rough summary of what we know of as Power Rangers Samurai and Super Samurai, which will collectively be referred to as just Samurai or PR or whatever else is conjured of the laziness I force to transpire. Samurai was the tale of 5, later 6, teens who are the youngest in a generational warrior line that protects the earth from the frequent attacks of a transdimensional warlord wishing to claim the resources of our planet so his evil empire may flourish. Their story is significant because their leader is thought to be the one who can end the conflict decisively, as no one else has yet been able to, including his own father. With the aid of a happy-go-lucky fisherman, a hopeful but strict mentor, a mysterious young lady, and a fellow warrior from an apocalyptic dimension, the five put their lives on hold to make a desperate attempt to save their world when no one else can.
Now, I could have used the wikipedia summary, couldn’t I? Of course, but I wrote up my own based on my own observations on the show. I saw the show in a certain perspective based on what I observed strictly from the story. If you didn’t know that the above summary was the plot of a Power Rangers season, it might sound kind of cool, wouldn’t it? Let’s agree right now that the premise does not suck. In fact, let’s confront the big Japanese elephant in the room and talk about how similar Samurai is to the beloved counterpart (and footage source) Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.
Here’s a big point where a lot of you hater-haters get off on ragging on Samurai: it’s a rip off of Shinkenger. In fact, you could even say that minus the apocalyptic detail, the summary I gave above could be used for a Shinkenger summary. I will admit it: Samurai is a plentiful rip off of Shinkenger. However, I preferred this over Saban attempting to create an original story line around a story that is clearly Japanese themed, right down to the fucking suits. There is no logical way to adapt Shinkenger for an American audience without confronting the Japanese themes that are in the footage Saban primarily uses anyway.
This is why Power Rangers Turbo was a colossal failure and almost got the series cancelled, but more on that later. I mean, really? What else could Samurai would be about? The fact is, with Saban having recently reacquired the Power Rangers franchise, it was simply easier for them to adapt Shinkenger straight across without any creative hassles. Simply put, it would have been too hard to turn Samurai into something like In Space or Lost Galaxy.
Besides that, Shinkenger is cool. You can’t complain about how it was ripped off of Shinkenger when Shinkenger wasn’t that bad to begin with. Nobody bitched about The Departed and how it was based on, or rather ripped off of (which is the real meaning behind terms like “based on” and “homage”) the Chinese movie Infernal Affairs. Both movies were considered excellent, but some people rag on the chronological latter simply because it was an adaptation; we, as humans, have issues with change to things we hold dear and important, which is fine. However, all those people who use the rip-off argument in the case of Samurai, which I have seen often, have no validity.
Then there are those who simply can’t stand how they stuck with the original scripts and stories, right down to the camera angles (specifically the first episode “The Team Unites” contrasted with the third episode of Shinkenger, “An Extermination Skill Contest”), but honestly, if you want to complain, do it to Toei. I will say that, compared to Saban’s version of the story, Saban did a better job. Specifically in the case of “The Team Unites”, I feel that Saban took the basic premise and improved upon it based on how we, as an American audience, would accept it.
The episode was unabashedly Mike-centric, and seeing as Hector David Jr, was easily the strongest actor of the six Rangers, I have to say that I feel like he topped the Sentai versions of those scenes. The message of his disillusion with Ranger training and his eventual renaissance of inspiration was much clearer and made that much more intense by the actors in charge, especially David Jr. The morphing sequence in particular is a step up over the (dare I say it?) boring Chiaki; Mike made it clear that he was in ‘warrior’ mode at that point and showed a certain level of intensity that I would expect to see from someone going into battle, which I did not see in the Shinkenger version.
So, that’s my argument for that: they didn’t ruin or dislodge anything, no harm has been done, and in some cases they improved upon their source material. It was either that or make another dumb story that doesn’t fit and would piss off both fans and Toei. It was the best compromise that we, as involved fans, could hope for. Besides, we need to have a little bit of faith in Saban in this next year during Megaforce, and even afterward. They are attempting to do us a service as older fans in a limited capacity; the only reason that Rick Medina, Rene Naufahu, and Bulk and Skull/Spike came back was because of us. Even the fucking theme song was a reference to everyone’s favorite collective season! They want to get us pumped up or involved, and if we don’t, it will be a failed business model for the franchise and forever remain in their notes: catering to the fans of the first ten years doesn’t work and they bitch about our show because they can’t handle the stuff they don’t like.
Speaking of the familiar faces, fans had a few issues with Bulk’s presence. Many found his role in Samurai dumb and unhelpful. Let’s review: a dumb, unhelpful (in fact, downright destructive) character from the 90s shows up in the same show 20 years later as a dumb, unhelpfully destructive character. WHADDYA KNOW? It’s like people expected him to suddenly be a smarted-up yuppie in the vein of Wes Collins’ corporate dad from Time Force.
Fuck no. You get Bulk, you get bullshit, no questions asked. His existence is solely meant to provide comic relief to the little ones; even as a security guard, he was a mean fuckass. That’s what kids want and everybody thinks he is hilarious, no matter what show he’s on, when they were 8 years old. When he shows up for Power Rangers 50 as a dumb, unhelpful grandfather, the new fans just starting are going to be angry and confused like we are now and wonder how they ever thought his abusive ass was funny.
This is a perfect chance to segway into what I consider my best argument of the article: the new fans. At the heart of this discussion, Power Rangers is a kid’s show. It is unreasonable for us the older fans to expect the franchise to have aged as we did. Groups of us have already lost interest; think of how many mutually involved friends you had whenever you joined the Power Rangers phenomenon that no longer actively participate in the fan base today. Many have accepted that Power Rangers is a kid’s show, and many of us who do still watch probably catch flak for continuing to do so; I know that I certainly have. I have my own philosophical reasons for doing so, but we must accept that Saban is attempting to cultivate a new fan base for the next 20 years, and the show itself is not necessarily geared towards us anymore. If adults are part of their target market at all, the majority of them are going to be those of us who have kids so we can watch and appreciate together.
To be honest we have been pretty selfish as far as what we believe we, as a fan base, deserve from both Disney and Saban story-wise. The fan base has to continue when it turns 40; I cannot honestly say that I can see myself continuing to write these articles and appreciate the show as much as I do now when I myself turn 40 years old. I can’t help but think about a three-year-old similar to me who just got done watching Samurai and now patiently awaits Megaforce as I patiently awaited Zeo when I was a child. One day, another armchair philosopher is going to have to go back and look at the franchise as I have In order to make sense of it and to give back for all the things the show has given him morally, spiritually, and physically. In order to do that Saban has to get his attention as a four year old. I have personally seen a neighbor boy catch an interest in the franchise just like I did and it is intriguing to see him stay involved and be surprised and actively grow as a result of the show. His own fan base has been created just like ours was except for the fact he has 20 years of shows to catch up on.
If you really can’t stand how much of a kid show Power Rangers is I recommend you look for independently produced tokusatsu. If you haven’t heard of Battle Hero Absolute or Gun Caliber, look them up on YouTube right now; the shows are produced by amateur filmmakers recreating our beloved heroes the way The Dark Knight recreated Batman, men who wanted a little bit more out of their Japanese superheroes and decided to make it in their own artistic vision. In fact, I will issue a challenge right now: if you think you can make a better version of Power Rangers, or Shinkenger, or shit, come up with your own story. I dare you to do it; I would love to see more independent tokusatsu, as I’m sure most of the toku community would. Of course, this is all off-topic.
So let’s talk about Samurai again, because I know the number one complaint was targeted at the acting. As a matter of fact, it was so bad that the number one worry many fans have (and even myself back when Saban announced it at Morphicon last year) about Megaforce is that the acting is going to be worse. In further fact, there are some, who I sort of consider conspiracy theorists, who say that the Samurai creative team, including our beloved Jonathan Tzachor, forced the actors to dumb down their performances. If this is true, we must realize it was in the interest of appealing to kids, which no one can blame them for, especially considering that it is by far NOT the worst acting in the entire series. As long as the series is geared towards kids, not one single actor will be able to deliver any of those lines seriously or with the gusto we would expect from a production like The Avengers; no matter what year it is, it is difficult to balance the grown-up issues and themes with selling toys. Again, if you want to see this genre taken seriously, go see Battle Hero Absolute or Gun Caliber, or if you have the mettle, make your own series. Or jump in a body of water.
On top of this, I feel like Samurai has earned its place in the Power Rangers franchise. The material was handled as well as it could have been, considering the circumstances surrounding its development. Power Rangers is/has been/always will be a long term adaptation of Super Sentai, no matter what we want it to be. The best thing we can do as fans (besides buy Saban’s toys, which we already do) is have a little understanding that Saban’s writers have a hard job. They have to take what amounts to about half of a foreign TV show and turn it into something that American children can relate to while inventing a brand-new story that keeps them hooked. Think about sitting through all of Goseiger trying to figure out what the hell kind a TV show it’s capable of being based on the budget number Elie Dekel gives you on a moist cocktail napkin. This was the biggest issue with Turbo: its source, Gekisou Sentai Carranger, was a parody of the entire Sentai franchise up to that time, and the writers at Power Rangers decided to take it as seriously as they took Zeo. You may as well try to turn Blazing Saddles into a Korean love story; it’s simply an insane notion.
Conversely, look at Power Rangers RPM: for those of you who are familiar with Engine Sentai Go-Onger, you would agree that the series is pretty retarded. I have a theory that Go-Onger was so dumb that even Disney thought it was simply too stupid to directly (or even indirectly) adapt for American audiences. This is where the RPM story comes in: the Disney creative team threw everything out of the window and made the most original Power Rangers story since In Space. However, they could’ve borrowed a handful of story elements from Go-Onger just like they did in Operation Overdrive; the counterpart, GoGo Sentai Boukenger, is also universally considered pretty good, and yet OO is considered one of the worst Power Rangers seasons in the history of the franchise. If we agreed that adapting a cool Sentai series also makes the American series cool, then what was wrong with Operation Overdrive?
It comes down to how the concepts are handled: not only was Operation Overdrive the most overtly racist season since the first Mighty Morphin’ (I would not have had as big of an issue if the black Ranger was not made literally a thief), It didn’t handle the themes of adventurism, exploration, and treasure hunting as well as the characters in Boukenger. Yes, while the characters in Samurai are ethnically misplaced, Saban’s team didn’t water down the themes of honor, courage, and duty as seen in Shinkenger. A successful Power Rangers season is supposed to inspire interest and leave a place in someone’s heart to the point of buying the toys, and gosh darn it, I bought two Figuarts Shinkenger figures from Toys R Us. In honesty, Turbo and Operation Overdrive did not do the same because they were not handled effectively by the American writers, but I refuse to say that about Samurai. In fact, I will admit that I can’t wait to see the Samurai Rangers team up with the Megaforce Rangers, which we all know will happen; Saban just HAS to have all the actors down for Saban-era team ups in their contracts.
This brings me to my final point: Saban has a history of looking out for their fans. There were no Forever Reds or well-structured team-ups during the Disney phase of the franchise; Jungle Fury and RPM didn’t have any at all. The ones we DID get, like Once A Ranger and History/Wormhole (whichever one is official) seemed rushed and shallow. In the Saban-era, we got near-legendary stuff like Reinforcements From The Future, Forever Red, Trakeena’s Revenge, and even a Turbo team up despite the fact that all but one Ranger had joined the next team! They even teamed up with Masked Rider; yeah Masked Rider wasn’t all that hot, but it would be the only significant Sentai/Kamen Rider team-up we would see until Taisen, and it actually remained pretty cool as long as Masked Rider was associated with the Power Rangers. Saban does NOT skimp on fan service.
Either way. at this point we have to give Saban time to give us exactly what we want. They are clearly paying attention to their fans through social media now that they have the ability to, through facebook, twitter, and even the Power Force, of which this site is a member. They have been paying attention to us and we need to give them time to get their actors contracted so that we can see another Forever Red or Forever Blue or Forever Green or Forever Whatever; even, as cupofwater03 has said he would like to see, a big episode titled Always A Ranger. Saban is not in charge of the actors that worked with Disney, and thusly could not bring the entire RPM team back in the manner we probably wanted them to. This is dependent on the fact that Saban is still working with non-union actors while Disney was working with union actors and they could get whoever they wanted without much hassle. This is sparked the Tobias Reiss/Eka Darville debate; we’ve all heard it, and we’ve all heard the no-resume actor who voiced Scott’s voice in Clash Of The Red Rangers; it was so specifically Eka that not many are able to deny it. As far as I’m concerned, black magic is the only feasible reason that a total stranger could’ve gotten down all of Scott’s little specificities in a voice that sounded at least 95% like Eka’s (especially on the “time to get in gear” line; come on! What do YOU think?).
Hater-haters of Samurai need to get over themselves and accept a few little hidden truths about Saban Entertainment: they love their fans, they appreciate the legacy they stumbled into 20 years ago, and they usually don’t let us down, but I think that they have learned by now exactly what Power Rangers is all about. I am absolutely sure that ever since they reacquired the franchise and started talking to Toei during the filming of Goseiger/Gokaiger that they’ve been planning the 20th anniversary with deliberate purpose. They need time and acceptance from us if we want to see anything specifically included FOR us, because believe you me: PR is watching and listening (public relations, but it’d be cool if Tommy Oliver was actually Big Brother). Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,”; I say, “Have some understanding for the people who make your favorite TV shows, even if you think one isn’t so great.”
If you’re still convinced that Power Rangers Samurai was a big flaming turd, I don’t know what else to tell you with logic. At this point, all I have left are insults and berating comments. if you have any logical examples to prove that I am wrong about any of the above, you’re free to comment or open up the discussion on our facebook page. I will listen to reason and publicly say I am wrong/you are right in my next article if you can prove it. Of course, a lot of this comes down to opinion; I have included as many facts as I think I could muster in this article to sway your opinion, but if you’ve got the perception to prove me a loon, present it.
All that being said, I can’t wait for Megaforce. Now that Saban’s back in charge, I expect their same-old/same-old fan service they’ve always given us, and with the 20th anniversary finally here, we are stepping into a new area of opportunity for them to recreate the franchise. Sure, the “Go Go Megaforce” thing is weird, but I promise that it won’t be as awkward as the Jungle Fury glasses. We’ll be fine. That’s all for this article.
Thanks for reading; I’ve got plenty more good stuff coming up next week. Remember to catch Megaforce when it premieres tomorrow (Saturday, February 2). You’re going to see a lot more Ranger psychological profiles and big-picture introspective articles like this one coming up in the future. I’m always taking requests, so if you want to see a specific character (Ranger, villain, supporting character, mentor, extra) get deconstructed, I can do it as long as they have a speaking role. Maybe even beyond that; think I can judge a character just based on body language?
What article do YOU want to see finished first?
“A History Of Conflict In Power Rangers” “Rangers In The Fight Of Fate vs. Free Will” “A Study In The Stability Of A Canonical Continuum: The Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Stuff of Power Rangers” “The Power Rangers vs. The Avengers: An Analysis”
Until next time: be brave and press on regardless.