February 9, 2011

Review - Power Rangers Samurai Episode 1 "The Team Unites"

 The first episode of Power Rangers Samurai is a mix of both the old and new. Rather than describe the plot, I'll just run down the list of my thoughts on the episode.

 Being based on the third episode of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, the episode puts its main focus on Mike, the Green Ranger. This is understandable, as having seen the first two episodes of Shinkenger, they, like many early episodes of Sentai, don't immediately establish the series' hallmarks such as the megazord. This series has already established the team's formation and the acquiring of their megazord. This placement in time is quite a refreshing change, though. This would definitely allow for flashbacks and such later on.

 Most other seasons of Power Rangers start with its focus on the Red Ranger, who is usually the leader of the team. Some Red Rangers are like Mike, being the inexperienced newbie who's suddenly put on the team, often in place of the truly intended person. Jayden, the Red Ranger in this series, is serious and highly dedicated to the way of the Samurai, much like his Sentai counterpart Takeru. This, being only the first episode, doesn't look that much into the rangers' personalities, but hopefully this series will delve more as the series goes on.

 Bulk and his nephew Spike only have a short scene, which made me think a bungee cord (that accidentally attached a shelf to Bulk's robe) would take off the robe. Instead, the cord pulls that shelf down, and the bowling ball that was on it falls on a skateboard. The skateboard, acting as a seesaw, launches a paint tray into the air, and throwing paint on Bulk's face. Bulk's underwear is not comically shown, however. That honor goes to Kevin, the Blue Ranger.

 With Spike, it's the voice that gets me, but not in a good way. I don't want to unfairly compare him to Skull, but Spike seems a little too old to have a cracking, high-pitched voice that usually indicates the early onset of puberty. That said, since this is only the first episode, I'll let it slide just this once.

 The villains are, like many in Power Rangers, mainly courtesy of redubbed footage from the original Sentai. Master Xandred and the Nighloks are pretty close to the original (at least so far), intending to generate tears from human misery to flood the Sanzu River and allow them to enter the living world. The choice in voices are rather interesting to hear after years of Disney ownership had rendered most of the villain voices to be generic, since those voice actors were New Zealand natives trying to hide their native accent. The lone female of the group, Dayu, speaks with an airy tone that will remind many die-hard fans of Astronema from Power Rangers in Space, while Octoroo, the elder of Xandred's followers, has a voice that is incredibly close to Finster from MMPR.

 On the subject of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, the same iconic theme song, with some minor alterations, makes a triumphant return here. Zeo was the last time the theme got a facelift, and let's face it, as much as we love the song, it would have to be updated again for it to be used here. Thankfully, Noam Kaniel, the composer for this series, did the near-impossible to recharge Ron Wasserman's theme, and IT KICKS ASS!

 Kaniel plays a large hand in establishing a similar feel to the early days of MMPR, mainly in the background music. The villain scene after the opening has the music from Rita Repulsa's plotting scenes on the moon. The MMPR theme has a firm place in the background music as well, but Kaniel also introduces new incidental music that goes well with the show and the older theme, not making that look older by comparison.

 MMPR (aw hell, Power Rangers in general), is infamous for over-the-top bad puns in battle. The first encounter between Mike and Rofer, the series' first Nighlok, is riddled with these, an obscene amount even by Power Rangers standards (though I gotta admit, it's not everyday a monster-of-the-week tells his footmen to "get their daily greens"). These are more or less ditched in the latter part of the episode. Hopefully, they'll cut down on those.

 With the episode's pacing and light-hearted humor, this is about as close as it gets to the tone of MMPR. You can tell Saban, after doing the impossible in buying back Power Rangers, has made a real effort in putting its famous stamp back on the franchise. To those unfamiliar with the good ol' days of the franchise, these homages are all-new, but to us, the die-hard fans, it's a sign that things ought to be looking up from here.


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