My Thoughts On: Power Rangers Samurai / Super Samurai
So instead reviewing any particular episode.. though I may do that at some point I wanted to just share my thoughts about the series as a whole… or in this case both Samurai and Super Samurai as there basically the same show.
POWER RANGERS SAMURAI
When it was initially announced that Power Rangers was returning after the giant highpoint of a series ending that RPM had provided I was happy but honestly not that overjoyed. It mostly stemmed from a comment in the original press release saying that the new series of PR would be “infused with an element of humour and fun that the more recent series’ had been lacking” (Not an exact quote but that’s how I remember it).
Now my problem with that statement is that I personally thought that it was down right untrue. To the point that I wondered weather anyone at Saban had actually watched episodes of the the last 3 series. Yes I’ll agree that Operation Overdrive was a bit of a let down but it did have high points. Jungle Fury had a fantastic leap in quality for fight scenes and bouts of professional writing (though that coincided with the writer’s striker) and RPM to top it all off was dark, funny and self referencing and I would go as far as to say it was almost a love letter to PR fans. So I wasn’t happy with the notion that the series would be moving away from what got me really hooked on it again. But lets not go personal on this yet and and look at it objectively…
Power Rangers is a kids franchise first and foremost. Kids are the target audience and while most people will know it as a TV show it’s really just an advert to sell toys. So with that in mind the highest priority will be to make sure that its the age of the viewers that will be buying of having the toys bought for them are satisfied. So we’re looking at something that brings back the nostalgic value of the old Mighty Morphin era as that’s when the series gained its most popularity and sales.
This is where things start going down hill a bit for me. Now I grew up on the original power Rangers and it is great to watch the original show again and bring back my fond childhood memories but when I was that young it was easy to get lost in the show. Cheesiness, bad acting and low production values aside it still had a fun charm to it and also hooked millions of kids for a good few years. Now I was 23 when Samurai started airing and finding that charm in something like that over again isn’t nearly as easy.
Now naturally as an older viewer I’m not as receptive to writing aimed purely at kids as I would be as a child, obviously. However had Mighty Morphin been a brand new show airing now I would have still found things I liked it in. Compared to Samurai; Mighty Morphin had many more positives to it and no amount of nostalgia is going to make up for the act that Samurai is a heavily flawed show.
Now with Mighty Morphin having been re aired… something I couldn’t bare to watch given the new additional effects to the show were generally horrid, yet they probably worked as a great set up for children getting them into the origins of the show; introducing them to the theme, characters and general light-heartedness of the show in a way that Samurai was able to piggyback on when it premièred. Let’s not forget Samurai has been very successful so far; incorporating elements from what made Mighty Morphin so popular from a remix of the theme to returning comedic characters and clichés. Now a lot of older viewers are probably (like me) coming off of a break in Power Rangers and with RPM still in our memories. Now RPM wasn’t perfect either, but having said that it managed to be something that hit that perfect balance of a show that both kids and adults could watch and gave a serious show that wasn’t afraid to be fun and self referencing with a strong plot and characters.
So where does Samurai and Super Samurai fail and succeed? Let’s break it down and look at what makes up the show:…
Now the first thing that anyone is going to notice about Samurai is the original Go Go Power Rangers theme tune newly remixed, again its openly referencing MM (Mighty Morphin) and with Ron Wasserman back it feels like its the old nostalgic show re imagined for a new era. I would have to say that as a opening song it hits all the right notes but this wasn’t taken far enough for my liking. When it comes to music on PR (Power Rangers) Ron Wasserman IS Power Rangers and nothing could have stated this more then if like in the original series we had proper songs and not the midi arrangements we’ve been force fed over the post MM era. Even RPM gave us a little of that in the first and last episodes. While it at it Super Samurai never got a theme remix which as an ‘apparently’ new season it deserved something in the way PR Zeo did.
Now the plot of the show is something that I don’t want to really focus on but it still has to be mentioned. But for the most part you can generally sum the plot up in two words: ‘See Shinkenger’. For the most part there has been very little deviation from the plot of the original Sentai, while various production steps were taken to allow more freedom with Zord use. The Invention of Mega Mode and the Zord cockpits are all brand new and serve the purpose of allowing them to play out their own plots in zord battles and hide set changes in Shinkenger when there saving footage of newer Zords by having their own sets and carefully splicing footage (Something that the original MM also did early on in season 2).
While the plot is just a retread of the original Sentai the effectiveness of this hinges on the actors and actresses of the series. My problem with this is that it tends to be the main cast that fail when it comes to the acting, with the older supporting and voice cast generally turning up surprisingly good performances. Now I’ve read a fair amount about casting walkouts when the details of the contracts and pay were revealed to the potential actors which seems to have made it that the characters in the lead roles were not the first or even second choices. Generally this seems to be down to Saban Brands being cheap.. (guess they really are trying to copy Mighty Morphin in every way.) There was also something about a block on the actors being able to act in anything else again for 2 years, this seems like Saban future proofing their actors for the 2 seasons of Samurai and a possible cross over. So if the pay and working conditions didn’t cause the mass walkouts then that possibly did.
Anyway getting back on track… The generally cast puts on awful performances. Alex (Red Ranger )is the best of the rangers acting wise, as should be noted by his nomination for a kid’s choice award. He is the centre of the show and most of the dramatic plot lines are reserved for him. Second to that would be Antonio who gives off a standard ‘crazy’ 6th Ranger performance which is entertaining for most of the time. The other 4 actors while looking the part are so monotone and boring in their performance that its quite depressing, though watching an early episode of Samurai and then a Super Samurai episode you can see improvements. Unlike the MM era there’s very little battle outside of the Ranger suits as well so I don’t even know if these actors are just failing on the martial arts/dance side of the ability scale as there’s never really any opportunity to show it off. (MM was cast actors based on martial arts, dance and gymnastics ability)
The expanded cast of the show is generally a lot better, probably due to them being older and more experienced actors. The strongest ones would have to be returning actors to the PR franchise. Bulk and Decker (Previously played Cole Evans, Wild Force Red Ranger) So their accustomed in how to act and entertain in PR. Decker is a wonderfully complex and fun villain and Bulk is as stupid as error but shows a nice family side that adds growth to his character. Some of the other villains voice actors are OK.. Daiyu is pleasant to watch while Octaroo is downright annoying!
Now lets talk about the feel of the show… Its the first series of PR that was shown in HD, which fits nicely in with the Shinkenger footage which was also HD. Its still very easy to notice when the footage switches from one to the next though, and some aesthetic changes really take you out of the feel that the Shinkenger footage sets up. Given that the Samurai Rangers are supposed to part of generations of Samurai along with the zords. The new American footage and sets feel out of place. Most of all would have to be the new Zord cockpits. Everything is a very plastically white and clean, not at all the style that would fit with ancient Samurai. While this look does look nice, the Mega Mode suits look very cool when Shinkenger suits have been copied in the new clean plastic material they look woefully fake compared to the original footage… again Octaroo is the best example of this!
I’m not sure if the new materials used for the suits and sets are cheap or high budget.. while its does provide a cool look as mentioned before Saban is stingy and either all the money went on the new designs or like everything else it was spending as little as possible. There is even a shortage of new fights in the show; with very few occasions when combat takes place outside of suits and when they do its mostly Shinkenger footage. Though there was some nice diversity in the opening Super Samurai Episode.
On the subject of making Samurai and Super Samurai 2 seasons instead of one is actually pretty pathetic. Though I’m sure it makes sense from a marketing sense. You get two years worth of toys out of one licensed Toei show and the Samurai brand can be extended buy making each individual series shorter. Sentai shows are normally 51 episodes long, so for the most parts there’s always a ton of unused footage so you could make a much longer season if Saban were prepared to make a little extra footage of their own to make up the time. However Saban chose to make 2 incredibly short seasons of 20 episodes and drag them out over the years with a few episodes marked as specials. That doesn’t even work out as a new episode ever 2 weeks.
The madness of this idea even effects the plot. Saving the Super Samurai powers for the Super Samurai season meant that footage of Shinkenger had to be cut so that those suits were never shown and the plot device of the black box that activated those powers is just dragged out beyond belief to the point of the last 5 episode of season 1 feeling like filler and having no actual climax… Though Mighty Morphin was again guilty of this to a degree; that was because they were having new footage made so it was far more acceptable.
I guess in summary Samurai wasn’t the return to form that I was hoping for with PR being made once again by Saban. There are things I like about the show. Samurai has had some good moments but its so far failing to match the high note that RPM left on and was at through a lot of the series. I’ve already put my thoughts on the Clash of the Red Rangers movie and that is actually one of the higher points of the despite being shown as a special and out on continuity with the rest of the show. The power ups come out of nowhere and only features one RPM Ranger.
I can only hope that their back on form by the time they start adapting Gokaiger. I’ve read that they had Toei film a giant opening brawl with PR only rangers so that’s certainly a step in the right direction and while I may like Samurai there are many that do and it’s certainly brought it back into the limelight so with any luck we have much better series to look forward to and for now… lets just hope that Super Samurai does the rest of PR and Shinkenger a bit more justice instead of copying blindly.
I’ve also done a full review of the Samurai/RPM crossover movie here:
Power Rangers Samurai: Clash of the Red Rangers
Posted on 05/25/2012, in TV / Web Review and tagged alex heartman, Bandai, Decker, Jayden, jungle fury, nickalodeon, operation overdrive, power rangers, rick medina, rpm, Saban, samurai, Shinkenger, shogun, super samurai, super sentai. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.