Ranger Station Episode 26: Gung Ho!
With 800 episodes over the course of 22 years, the Power Rangers television show is arguably the single most successful live-action superhero franchise of all time, and certainly one of the strangest. Adapted from Japan's long-running Super Sentai series, created by manga legend Shotaro Ishinomori, the Power Rangers combined the giant robots and monsters of their Japanese counterpart with a completely different set of secret identities and problems, and became a pop cultural phenomenon. That's why we're looking back with an in-depth guide to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including its source material, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, the Power Rangers and the Zyurangers gain a powerful new ally, but that's overshadowed by Bulk and Skull's most amazing wardrobe change yet.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 26: Gung Ho!
Writer: Mark Hoffmeier
Director: Robert Hughes
Original Air Date: October 25, 1993
I've mentioned it before, but I really don't think you can understate how important it was that the actors in the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers tended to do their own stunts. That's not a knock on the later shows and the incredibly talented roster of stunt people that have worked on them, but there's a lot to be said for actually seeing the Rangers themselves throwing down with Putty Patrollers.
That is, after all, the core of the appeal, right? Power Rangers --- and Super Sentai, of course --- are martial arts action shows, and while it might be the robot dinosaurs that make for the most impressive visuals, it's the regular-sized karate that kids tend to have the most fun with when they're playing. I mean, I don't know what you were doing in fifth grade, but I can assure you that I had a really hard time finding even a small robot dinosaur on the playground at my elementary school. Spin kicks, on the other hand, while not exactly something that you should've been doing at recess, were definitely pretty easy to come by.
I bring all this up because this episode puts the spotlight on the actors and their martial arts more than anything we've seen previously. It makes sense that they would, too --- we're still drawing from the same episodes of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that formed the basis of last week's story, and since they're stretching out the source material, they have to rely more on original American footage to finish up the episode. Throw in the fact that they've been doing their best to cover up the lack of Japanese footage of the Green Zyuranger by basically having JDF go off by himself to just scream at the camera and swing around katanas and quarterstaves, it's easy to see why wound up with this episode.
I mean really, when you think about it, of course it makes sense to have Jason and Tommy entering a Teenage Ninja Tag-Team Competition held at the Youth Center.
What else would they possibly do?
The problem is that Jason and Tommy are a little too competitive for their own good. This is something that hearkens back to Tommy's first appearance, where he was pitted as a rival against Jason in the Angel Grove Karate Tournament, but it's also something that I think everyone watching this show really wanted to see. They've done a pretty great job setting up both characters (and actors) as pretty badass martial artists, and when you have the two of them on a team like that --- and when there's a built-in history of the characters fighting each other --- then it's natural to want to see them finally settle it once and for all.
On the other hand, the idea that they're not good at fighting as a team doesn't hold a lot of water when they are actual Power Rangers who have been fighting as a team for the past four episodes. If there was going to be a rift there, you'd think it would've come up when there was something a little more dramatically pressing than just a "Ninja Tournament." I suppose it's easy to explain that one away, though. They're obviously willing to put aside any differences when the fate of the world is at stake, but you could argue that something that wasn't quite as important would give them the room to try and assert themselves.
Either way, they have to get it together if they're going to beat Bulk and Skull, appearing in this episode as Earl Hebner and Steven Universe's Tiger Millionaire:
This is, for the record, the single most amazing pair of outfits that these two characters will wear --- that any two characters will wear --- for the entire 800-episode franchise, but that's not the best thing about this scene. The best thing is that Bulk and Skull are not entering the Ninja team finals themselves.
Instead, they're sending in their ninjas.
Okay, so first of all, this means that there are just straight up ninjas running around Angel Grove, California. That's not actually hard to believe by itself --- there are, after all, gigantic dinosaur robots also running around Angel Grove, and once you've got that, teenage assassins devoted to the ancient art of invisibility aren't that hard to believe.
But even more importantly than that, this means that Bulk and Skull have access to ninjas. Where's the episode where they're holding auditions? Negotiating their managerial contracts? Buying that giant golden dollar sign medallion? If that's one of those extras in the DVD set, I am going to buy that tonight.
While the Rangers are gearing up for their ninja battle, Rita has decided to put her freshly mined Super Putty work by upgrading the Puty Patrollers into an unstoppable new army.
Sure enough, the Putties attack the Rangers at the park, overwhelming them to the point where they have to teleport back to the Command Center. According to Zordon, there's no way that the Rangers will ever be able to defeat the Super Putties on their own, so naturally, he's going to send Zack, Trini, Billy and Kimberly off to fight them for a while while Jason and Tommy go on.. a quest!
Now, clearly, Zordon is trying to teach them a lesson about teamwork here. I mean, he cuts the map in half so that they have to work together, so clearly, he's doing this all on purpose. That's all well and good, but is it really the best time to have a team-building exercise when the other four people on the team have to go get in a fistfight with indestructible moon golems?
According to a bodiless space wizard, it definitely is.
So while the rest of the Rangers take on the Super Putties, Jason and Tommy head over to a nearby mountain, where they find a grouping of dinosaur statues and correctly assume that this is what Zordon sent them to look for. But then, rolling out of the misty swamp that is apparently right next to a mountain in the California desert, oh snap, it's TITANUS!
Tommy and Jason don't know it's Titanus yet, of course. To them, they're just encountering a truly gigantic robot brachiosaurus tank made of cannons that breathes fireballs. It's trying to stop them from getting up the mountain, so they morph, but even that can't take them to the statues.
Clearly, they have to work together. To that end, Jason offers Tommy the Power Sword, since his superior skill will allow him to deflect Titanus's fireballs while Jason uses his greater strength to run to the top of the hill. But rather than allow him to go unprotected, Tommy lends him his shield.
That deafening sonic boom you just heard was every ten year-old in 1993 fist-pumping simultaneously.
Once he's up there, Jason finds a chest full of weapons --- weapons that, oddly enough, clearly have the word ZYURANGER written on them --- and with that, the Super Putties are soundly defeated.
But what of the Team Ninja Finals?
After finding out that Titanus is not an enemy but "a valuable ally and friend," Jason and Tommy use their newfound skills in teamwork and shirtlessness to defeat Bulk and Skull's unnamed ninjas. And seriously? If you want to see what might be the best action in the American half of the show, go pop this episode on Netflix. It's prety awesome.
As I mentioned above, this episode is still drawing on the source material found in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger's 29th episode, "A Mystery? The Attacking Beast Knight God," in which the Zyurangers found themselves battling against Bandora's version of Frankenstein.
If you were paying attention then, you might recall that at the end of the episode, Dora Franke was doing a pretty good job of breaking Daizyuzin down into His component parts, taking advantage of the fact that Burai has been trapped in his ghostly apartment trying to keep his life candle from burning out. Since we've already seen the Power Rangers defeat Frankenstein, it's easy to figure out where that goes, but for the Zyurangers, there's a little more to it than that.
With Dora Franke seemingly impervious to damage, the spirits of the Guardian Beasts whisk Geki and Burai away to a distant land where, after appearing to them in the form of Moai heads and dinosaur statues, they task them with recovering Beast Knight God King Brachion.
Yes: BEAST KNIGHT GOD KING BRACHION.
He, like Dragon Caesar, is a Guardian Beast without a master, and when his power is combined with Daizyuzin's, the Zyurangers will finally be able to defeat Bandora's new monsters. The only problem is that BKGKB isn't too keen on being woken up. As the two brothers struggle to reach a stash of new Legendary weapons, they find themselves confronted with by --- stop me if you've heard this one --- a gigantic robot brachiosaurus tank made of cannons that breathes fire.
They are a couple of very perceptive young men.
Needless to say, Burai and Geki end up working together to get past Brachion, swapping sword and shield to get the job done and recovering their new weapons, the Thunder-Slingers. With those, the Zyurangers are able to take out Bandora's new crop of Golem Soldiers --- and not only that, but by combining them with their Ranger Guns, they're able to knock a giant-sized Dora Franke back to set him up for being impaled by Gouryuzin. Normally, this is the end of the battle, but here, it just tears Dora Franke's face off like a scene out of RoboCop 2.
And the worst part is, he's still alive. It's at this point that Bandora appears in the sky to inform the Zyurangers that a) they are idiots, and b) Dora Franke is immortal and just gets stronger the more they hurt it. It is now Zombie Franke, and all kinds of trouble are brewing for the next episode, which is literally called "SATAN COMES!!"
Exclamation points included.
In Ranger Station, each episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be graded on a scale of one to ten in five categories, with a final score awarded with a maximum of fifty points.
- Weirdness of the Monster: The only monsters in the American version were the Super Putties, which aren't all that interesting after 25 episodes, even if they are mass-produced disposable golems. Zombie Franke, however, is terrifying, so I guess we'll split the difference. 5/10
- Deviation From the Source: Aside from the monster, Geki and Burai's struggle to work together hews pretty close to Jason and Tommy's. Unfortunately, the source material lacked ninjas --- something they'd more than make up for in 1994. 4/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: They somehow employ a pair of ninjas together????? 8/10
- Moral Lessons: Teamwork is a good thing for kids to learn! You never know when you're going to have to slug it out in the ring with a pair of mysterious ninja, after all. 6/10
- '90s Fashions: See below. 7/10
Total For Episode 21: 30/50