September 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Dairanger (So Far)



Henshin daaa!
(Woh Woh Woh Woh Woh)
Kiryoku daaa!
(Woh Woh Woh Woh Woh)

 Fellow users at Rangerboard suggested a couple of weeks ago that I take a look at Gosei Sentai Dairanger and offer my thoughts.

 A problem with Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that really stood out to me was the pretty overwhelming focus in the child-of-the-week rather than offer the time for character development for the rangers.

 Here with Gosei Sentai Dairanger, the characters are modern day young adults who happen to be descended from the ancient Dai Tribe of Southern China (which was part of the Daos Empire) who become the Dairangers to fight against the Gorma tribe, a formerly harmonious tribe from the empire back in the day who then decided to take over the world. With the Gorma's revival, the rangers are assembled. Each have high levels of Qi powers, which give them the abilities of high speed, time manipulation, among other powers.

 I liked that the rangers were modern day folk that got more of the focus than the Zyurangers had. Master Kaku, the team's mentor/leader, usually had more of the answers to problems than Barza, and served as much more of a sensei to the group. I agree with fellow blogger Sean Akizuki when he said he thought Lin, the Hououranger, looked more like she had at least some Caucasian blood, even though the character was half-Chinese, half-Japanese. Being half-Chinese myself, I could definitely see some Caucasian features in Lin.

 Kou, the Kibaranger, is shown pretty much right off the bat as a bit of a brat (in a good way), as he's mischievious, somewhat reckless, and a bit perverted (if you don't know by now, he's always grabbing Lin's breasts). An episode that really got to me with Kou was when a new girl came to his class and he discovers her mother has no love for her daughter and is emotionally abusive, him not knowing that it's really a Gorma scheme perpetrated by Akomaru (Gorma Lieutenant Colonel Shadam's son) and a monster of the week, designed to make Kou lose faith in his long-lost mother, but ends up having the opposite effect.

 Speaking of the Gorma, they prove themselves early on to be an incredibly dangerous threat to human existence. In one episode, they gather children with a monster to sacrifice them by decapitation with a scythe. Most of the members of the Gorma tribe wear elaborate outfits of black leather (don't ask), and the Archbishop Saw looks like a Caucasian man in a Klansman hat. Scratch your head if you have to...

 Overall, though, the series is quite entertaining, with a strong cast (even if it doesn't have the late, great Machiko Soga as the villain), great music, and even a bit of a Return of the Jedi homage with Ryou and his Gorma father in a two-parter. There's also no lack for character development, with pretty much every ranger getting a chance to shine. The ranger roll call is most definitely worth a mention as well, as it's one of the best I've seen so far and one of my favorites of Super Sentai.

 If you haven't watched it yet, this blogger highly recommends it, especially if you understand Japanese and you can watch past the 23 episodes that have been subbed so far LOL.

September 5, 2010

Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger vs. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: A Semi-Direct Comparison


Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

 I guess a comparison is inevitable between the Super Sentai incarnation and the American-made adaptation. Though it's unfair to directly compare two very different shows, there are aspects that are worth analyzing.


Of course, the very basic premise is the same. Five young adults transform to fight an evil witch and her monsters of the week.

The Rangers and Their Allies

The cast of Zyuranger
Dan, Mei, Geki, Barza, Boi, and Goushi

The cast of MMPR
Clockwise: Billy, Jason, Trini, Zack, and Kimberly

 The rangers themselves are worth a Venn diagram of sorts. When it comes to relatibility to an American audience, it's no surprise that the beloved team of Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy, Kimberly, and later Tommy wins out, especially since they're in more episodes than the Zyurangers. In Zyuranger, the rangers were waken out of a cryogenic sleep from the age of the dinosaurs and have to adjust to a modern world. Though we could see some personality in those rangers (Mei wearing a different hairstyle each episode, Goushi being serious and determined), too much screentime, however, is given to young children characters who are usually the target of Witch Bandora's schemes (more on Bandora and Rita later). This also hampers the amount of usable city scenes for MMPR, as well as scenes with Totpat/Baboo and Bukbak/Squatt setting a trap.

 The character with the most development in Zyuranger is definitely Geki, the Red Ranger. Over the Green Ranger arc in that series, he learns that his reasoning with his vengeful brother Burai is ineffective, and he must fight him instead, but he is hesitant because Burai is his only living family. We especially see development at the end of that arc when he refuses to kill Burai when he wins their battle, instead extending his hand in brotherhood and in invitation to fight alongside him. 

 With the rangers, what it comes down to is simply a matter of screentime. With a less complicated history for the rangers and villains, as well as less emphasis on children as the target of evil schemes, MMPR has more time for us to learn and get comfortable with the rangers' personalities. As the series treads on, we see Kimberly develop from a shallow Valley Girl to a strong, unselfish young woman, as well as Billy changing from the stereotypical nerd to a ranger that could certainly hold his own in a battle.

Barza

Zordon

 The mentors of the teams deserve a look as well. Barza, a wizard from the Zyurangers' time, is, like Zordon, an old enemy of the villain. Because he was obviously more mobile than Zordon, he was able to awaken the Zyurangers out of their sleep and come face to face with Bandora in the first episode. Unlike Zordon, however, Barza often didn't know the remedy or antidote to some conditions or spells brought on by Bandora's schemes, instead looking them up in a book from his library or having to figure it out with the rangers. Did I mention he carried a lot of guns and other weapons with a friend in one episode?

 Zordon is an interdimensional being who was trapped in a time warp by Rita Replusa when he trapped her in her space dumpster. He, along with his robot assistant Alpha 5, provided the morphers and the knowledge for the five "teenagers with attitude" to fight Rita's monsters. Zordon was aware of the cures and antidotes for spells (very smart story and budget-wise), and was able to transport the rangers to a location via the Command Center. Zordon was more open with the rangers than Barza was with his, as Barza wouldn't give a reason why he didn't want Burai awakened, only to tell the truth after Burai awoke.

 I guess these two are somewhat tied, since they're too different in concept to name a winner, though Zordon definitely advanced the story better.

The Villains

Witch Bandora

 This is practically like choosing between cake and ice cream. But seriously, if you've seen both series, you know what I'm talking about. Witch Bandora and Rita Repulsa are two characters that are surprisingly different, yet ever so similar. Other than the obvious (language and voice), the two's motivations are pretty unlike each other.

 In grief over the death of her son Kai, peaceful queen Bandora sells her soul to Dai Satan (Lokar in MMPR) and gains dark magic powers, slaughtering the dinosaurs and causing the war that devastated the Zyurangers' tribes. Her schemes in Zyuranger are almost always aimed at children to use them for her ultimate scheme near the series' end. Even by MMPR standards, some of these plots are truly ridiculous. The Zyuranger episode that was the basis for "No Clowning Around" had a plot involving a bitter child under a monster's guidance kicking soccer balls containing sneezing powder. Makes you really appreciate the cardboard cutouts.
 Bandora in personality is considerably more sadistic and smug, having a larger vanity as well (remember when Rita was sick in "Food Fight"? Bandora was depressed that she overate after her release and decided to go on a crash diet). Because of more screentime in Zyuranger, she takes many oppurtunities to mock the rangers as well as threaten them. Of course, the ending of Zyuranger signals that even though she's trapped once again, she's regained at least some of her former goodness. Did I forget to mention she had her own theme song too?




Rita Repulsa

 Rita, on the other hand, was born into an equally evil alien family (see Rito Revolto and Master Vile in season three). Other than that, not very much of her past was revealed. One thing Rita had over Bandora was more appearances and more episodes, especially after the Sentai footage was exhausted. Being human and not in a monster costume, Bandora was harder to dub and as this site shows, her scenes and close-ups were heavily edited to allow Barbara Goodson's voice to fit.
 Changes occurred, of course, when Lord Zedd entered the picture. The first thing he did was cast Rita out in a dumpster not unlike the original. When she returned to the palace, she concocted one of her very few plans that actually worked: to slip Zedd a love potion and marry him, hoping to take back control.
 Over the rest of MMPR, we see that Rita and Zedd have more success in their evil plots than either of them did seperately. I also noticed that Rita had waaaaay less headaches after marrying Zedd... (hint hint)
 By the time Power Rangers Zeo came, they fled the palace as the Machine Empire approached and took Zedd's zord Serpentera to Master Vile's, though somehow, the next time we see them, they're driving around in a Winnebago. That's one for Ripley's.
 In the Power Rangers in Space finale "Countdown to Destruction", Rita and Zedd are affected by Zordon's purifying energy wave, turning into humans who then dance off together. Rita's redemption is taken to the next level near the end of Power Rangers Mystic Force, where she's revealed to be the Mystic Mother.
 In the Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive two-parter "Once a Ranger", it is revealed that Zedd and Rita had a son by the name of Thrax, who called out his parents for becoming good. This, of course, opens up a discussion as to when Thrax was conceived and imprisoned by the Sentinel Knight.

 Another difference was during the "Green with Evil" arc, as Rita was directly responsible for the evil Green Ranger, while in Zyuranger Bandora had almost nothing to do with Burai's revival.

 So who wins here? Bandora had a better backstory, but Rita had the advantage of Lord Zedd. This is most definitely a tie.

Bukbak/Squatt and Totpat/Baboo

 Totpat and Bukbak were generally more competent than Baboo and Squatt, though both pairs were seen as the comic relief of the villains. In Zyuranger they had human forms (a possible reason for Bulk and Skull in MMPR), and Totpat was a vampire who in one episode actually tried to suck a girl's blood.
 In the end, Totpat and Bukbak were sealed away with Bandora, while we never see Baboo and Squatt again after the first episode of Power Rangers Zeo. This one's probably another tie, although Totpat and Bukbak were, as I mentioned before, more competent, I liked Baboo's voice better than Totpat's.

Grifforzer/Goldar

 Grifforzer and Goldar were both the muscle of the group. A big difference was that Grifforzer took a vow of silence until his wife Lamie (Scorpina in MMPR) returned, and even after she returned, he rarely spoke. Goldar, on the other hand, was almost always speaking (thanks to US-made footage), and as the series progressed and Lord Zedd appeared, he became more and more of a comic relief. Grifforzer and Lamie ended up having a child at the end of Zyuranger, while in season three of MMPR Goldar was paired with Rito Revolto, blowing up the Command Center right before Zeo, and losing his memory with Rito and working for Bulk and Skull until they regained their memories and escaped. Goldar is seen in the first episode of Power Rangers in Space but not in "Countdown to Destruction", leaving his fate unknown was eventually destroyed by Zordon's energy wave. I feel really bad...
 As serious as Grifforzer stayed, Goldar simply had better staying power and managed to survive two changes in evil regime, among other events. He even had a humorous exchange with Lord Zedd in one episode:

 Zedd: "The tide is about to turn."
 Goldar: "Duh, what tide?"
 Zedd: "IT WAS A METAPHOR, YOU NIMROD!"

To me, Goldar takes all.

 Pleprechuan/Finster

 There's some difference between Pleprechuan (pronounced on the show as Puripurikan) and Finster. While Finster was totally loyal to Rita, Pleprechuan sometimes insulted Bandora behind her back and when frazzled he would curse "Puri puri." Finster became out of commission when Lord Zedd arrived, and lamenting for the good old days, he is happy to see Rita return. After that he made monsters again, though only sporadically. This one's probably a tie too. Although Pleprechuan is slightly more irreverent, one of Finster's unused monsters has a hilarious description:

"I'm making a monster that eats cars and smells like a fish."

 I guess it goes to show that Finster isn't so uptight.

Lamie/Scorpina

 Lamie, was, as I mentioned, Grifforzer's wife. She also carried out more than a few of Bandora's schemes on children, and took on disguises as well. Because of the difficulty in dubbing, Lamie's scenes were severely cut and because of that Scorpina only appeared a few times in MMPR. Scorpina disappeared in "The Mutiny" and only reappeared once in "Goldar's Vice Versa" played by a different actress (who looked pretty close to the original). Because of simply more screentime, Lamie takes it here, though, no matter which series she was on, she was definitely eye candy.

The Writing

 As I said before, MMPR's simplified storyline allowed for more ranger character development, but overall Zyuranger had a much more serious plot and backstory. It really depends on what part of the writing you love the most. A big reason for the changes was the cultural differences between Japan and the United States. It's not unusual for a kids show in Japan to have guns, death, rape, and rear nudity. It's the same reason that many anime series are edited and slightly rewritten to remove these references. It should also be worth mentioning that when Burai finds himself in the Lapseless Room, the child guide Clotho resembles a Klansman. No joke.

 Toei did not resurrect the character of Burai after his death to teach viewers a lesson. Tommy was brought back briefly as the Green Ranger and then was reintroduced as the White Ranger (whose Sentai counterpart was from Dairanger, the next Sentai series over). Many other Sentai incarnations had characters who died but whose Power Rangers counterparts survived scuff-free or were badly injured. Once again, a tie.

The Music

 Zyuranger had orchestral music while MMPR's catchy rock score (as well as the Bulk and Skull theme) was composed by Ron Wasserman. Again, two different flavors here. In terms of American tastes, Wasserman's hooks and lyrics would win for the younger crowd, while Zyuranger's score would probably be a hit with a wider audience since it's more orchestral and the theme song's pretty good too. I say Wasserman's music wins here, because of its versatility beyond the original MMPR series, especially since the "Go Go Power Rangers" theme was given a new twist for Power Rangers Zeo.

Things MMPR Has Over Zyuranger

Lord Zedd

Two words: LORD ZEDD

 A new era began in "The Mutiny", when Lord Zedd, the true Emperor of Evil, arrived on the scene. He was lauded by fans as a badass replacement for Rita Repulsa, as well as for coming up with better evil schemes. Unfortunately, the television parent watchdog groups of America didn't feel the same way, and as a result of their lobbying Zedd was significantly toned down, the final straw for many fans being "The Wedding" three-parter. Many thought that after that Zedd was more of a softie than a badass. Personally, I do agree, but I still like Zedd and Rita as a married couple because as the famous Linkara pointed out, the two accomplished more together than either of them did apart. Zedd's sense of humor just killed me sometimes, like in one episode:

"What is it this time, Finster? A monster that blows itself up?"

 If it were up to me, I'd still have Zedd and Rita married, but still have Zedd be a badass.

Skull and Bulk

 Ah, Bulk and Skull. It's slapstick comedy at its finest. They would have great comedic moments in an otherwise preachy episode. The original Green Ranger arc in Zyuranger had Grifforzer grow giant and rattle a bus. Putting Bulk and Skull on the bus in "Green with Evil" was a stroke of pure genius. A favorite of mine is when the two invent cockroach kung fu. Bulk demonstrates some peculiar moves to the juice bar patrons, while Skull lies on his back and makes jerky movements, to which Bulk says "Not the dead [cockroaches], dummy". "Foul Play in the Sky" demonstrates Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy's comedic timing whenever Bulk and Skull scream in unison.
 In season three, the two joined the Junior Police Force, with their training being accompanied by an amusing song that sadly was never heard again in the series. The two kept appearing throughout the series, through Zeo, Turbo, and in Space. "Countdown to Destruction" showed that Bulk and Skull had developed from high school bullies to true heroes who stepped up when it counted.



Rito Revolto

 Rito Revolto, Rita's brother, debuted in season three, bringing along the villains' new footsoldiers, the Tenga Warriors. Unlike other characters added later in the series (like Ninjor), Rito was charming, somewhat easygoing, and could do a lot of damage in a fight, such as when he destroyed the Thunderzords. He made a good comedic match for Goldar that season and in Zeo. Although Rito was originally from Super Sentai, he was not from Zyuranger, but from Kakuranger, the Sentai series two years after.
 Rito also had the hilarious habit of calling his brother-in-law "Ed" (a reference to Zedd's in-suit actor Ed Neil). Zedd would usually angrily reply "IT'S ZEDD!"

 Ron Wasserman's music totally sets the atmosphere of the series, so to I shall leave off with the immortal "Go Go Power Rangers". Enjoy, and happy trails!

Fictional Things I Wish Were Real

 Okay, so it's no secret that most of us want a fictional character, thing, or series of events to be real. Here are two of mine:

A photo of Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore.

 In the Simpsons episode "22 Short Films About Springfield", we come across a photo of Sean Connery as James Bond, but autographed by Roger Moore. Not that that's impossible to occur in real life, mind you, but seriously, what are the odds?

Glove World

 The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Rock Bottom" has Spongebob and Patrick enjoying a fun-filled day at Glove World, an amusement park devoted exclusively to gloves. Stuff one can buy there includes glove hats, glove balloons, glove action figures (as well as gloves for the glove action figure), glove flashlights, and glove candy dispensers filled with glove candy ("Eewww, glove flavor."). Wonder how this place affects those allergic to latex...