Ranger Station Episode 29: Island Of Illusion, Part II
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, Mighty Morphin hits rock bottom as Quagmire teaches us about the value of confidence six times.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 29: Island of Illusion, Part II
Writers: Stewart St. John, Chris Schoon, and Shuki Levy
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: November 3, 1993
All right, look: Power Rangers is for babies.
Don't get me wrong, I love it. I'm a firm believer in the idea that not everything has to cater to an older audience, and like a lot of media that's made for children, I think there's a lot of enjoyment and entertainment to be had from sticking with it or revisiting it as an adult. At the end of the day, though, I think it's important that we all take a moment and realize that this is a show made for tiny children. I mean, I was eleven years old when these episodes first hit television, and to be honest, I was probably nearing the top end of the show's target demographic even then.
But while I recognize that this is a show for children, I have to imagine that even the tiniest infant babies would be ready to check out about five minutes into "Island of Illusion, Part II."
This is my pick for the single worst episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and it's probably in the running for the worst episode of the entire 23-year franchise. It's not just that it's a glorified clip show, albeit a clip show with a framing sequence that requires so much original footage that you start to wonder why they bothered, it's that it's mindlessly repetitive --- and by Power Rangers standards, that's saying something. See, while the normal episodes have a repetitive nature that I find comforting --- kids fight monster, monster gets big, robot shows up, monster explodes --- this episode is something more along the lines of a tiny rhyming man who shows up every few minutes to say a little poem about believing in yourself.
That's not a metaphor, either.
As you may recall, we left off last episode with Quagmire --- the poet dressed as Robin Hood --- believing that the Rangers were Rita Repulsa's allies, and consigning them to their fate of being slowly erased from existence by the Island of Illusion. The first to go was Zack, whose fear of snakes reared its ugly head, but once Kimberly convinces Quagmire that they're actually Rita's enemies, he decided to help out.
It seemed that the Island of Illusion can pretty easily be bested if you just show a mild display of confidence, and while that seems like a pretty simple solution, the Rangers have to be reminded of it with a rhyming couplet every single time one of them starts to fade out, which happens one at a time to everyone in the cast.
The overall effect is both annoying and tiresome, but to be entirely fair about it, it's actually pretty interesting to see what scares the Rangers. With Zack and Trini, it's something that we've seen before --- snakes and heights, respectively, with flashbacks to the episodes where they dealt with that stuff --- but for the others, it's another example of the show being pretty revealing about the psychology behind the characters.
So here's what we're dealing with.
First, and by far the strangest, is Kimberly's hallucination of an angelic Bulk and Skull trying to help "a defenseless woodland creature" get back to its home, and this destroys her mind. The very idea that Rita could magically force them to be nice --- even in something that they have been told at least five times by this point is only an illusion --- shakes her faith in the world to the point where she starts to fade out.
And that's kind of surprising. The Rangers have always been pretty upbeat and positive about most things, so you'd think that they'd be all for looking for the best in people. Since this gag doesn't land quite right, it ends up speaking to a view of things that seems both deterministic and pessimistic, a view that people are inherently incapable of change without the intervention of some omnipotent force. On the one hand, it seems pretty out of place for a character who's meant to be perky and optimistic, but on the other hand, it does go a long way towards explaining why all these do-gooders seem to have no problem constantly humiliating their classmates with various foodstuffs.
Next up we have Tommy, and much like his Halloween costume, his illusion flows pretty logically from the events of "Green With Evil." When his illusion hits, he starts seeing the others as Putty Patrollers, and while he tries to fight them off, they eventually begin to multiply until there are too many to fight. The reasoning here is pretty clear --- the thing that Tommy fears most is being abandoned by his new friends, and once again being overwhelmed by Rita, a foe that he has proven that he cannot defeat on his own.
Trini's up next, and this is where things start to break down a little.
Rather than waiting for an illusion to show up, Trini just sort of works herself into fading out with a general sense of fear, which eventually just turns into a flashback about how she was afraid of heights for two minutes back in Episode 2. I actually like the idea here, that Trini's greatest fear is being afraid, and that her anxiety about letting someone else control her emotions and get to her, but the execution just feels like they didn't want to come up with anything and just decided to have Trini work herself up and then immediately talk herself back down.
When we get to Billy, though, it completely breaks down.
Billy's fear is that he's found a problem that he can't think his way out of, and while that's a good idea, it makes absolutely no sense in this context. At this point in the story, Billy has seen four out of six Power Rangers conquer Rita's illusions with the bare minimum of effort. That is a Power Rangers quorum. That's a 100% success rate so far, which means that the actual math of the situation is on his side. For Billy to just suddenly start doubting that's the case for absolutely no reason doesn't really make any sense at all.
Fortunately, we end this sequence on another decent idea.
While Jason's illusion starts off with Goldar and Rita hitting him with what could accurately be called "mild teasing," the main focus of the sequence is that Jason is afraid of being a poor leader, and of inadvertently leading his team to disaster. It's a nice callback that serves as a reminder of how Jason sees himself --- the very first image of him that we see in the series is, after all, as a teacher, someone guiding students and doing his best to mentor them.
Finally, after an interminable string of Quagmire's rhymes, the Power Rangers free themselves and escape from the island, returning to the Megazord to finish their battle against Mutitis and Lokar. With a second wind, they quickly form the Megadragonzord --- which is basically the Megazord wearing the Dragonzord as an elaborate hat --- and then drop the whole thing onto Titanus to form the Ultrazord:
Thanks to the Ultrazord, Lokar and Mutitis are defeated, although Lokar manages to escape with a quick retreat rather than being blown up. And with that, we head back to the Youth Center for the dance contest that we were promised in the last episode, in which Quagmire is the DJ.
All in all, a pretty disappointing anticlimax, and it's a real shame. The monster designs for this pair of episodes were great, I just wish there was a better story that used them.
Oh hey, look at that, it's a better story that uses these monster designs.I mean, really, not to be the "well in Japan, it's better" snob or anything, but let's be real here: Would you rather watch 20 minutes of Quagmire telling the Rangers to believe in themselves, or of Great Satan bursting out of Hell to battle God in the form of robot dinosaurs? Yeah. That's what I thought.
So let's pick up where we left off with Episode 31 of Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, "Reborn! The Ultimate God!"
As you may recall, the last episode involved Great Satan and Satan Franke (formerly Zombie Franke, and even more formerly Dora Franke) had been drawing power from the most evil black magic spell, which involved the sacrifice of 13 children, whose bodies have now been merged with a sinister pillar in the middle of Tokyo. We pick up there, with Satan Franke delivering a pretty sound thrashing to Daizyuzin, a beating so severe that even Burai and Dragon Caesar can't even things out when they show up to join the fight.
Satan Franke blasts them with an acid that can eat through any metal, and things look grim --- so grim, in fact, that Daizyuzin speaks to the Zyurangers Himself:
With that, Daizyuzin and Dragon Caesar fall, and the Zyurangers are all ejected.
But they don't land on the streets of Tokyo. Instead, they find themselves in Burai's chamber --- the one Clotho of the Fates created that exists outside of time. Clotho's there, too, and at last, he reveals the secret of the Green Candle that's been counting down Burai's fate: Instead of going into a magical sleep like the rest of the Zyurangers, it turns out that Burai actually died 170 million years ago:
The only reason he's up and walking around now is that Daizyuzin asked Clotho to bring him back to life, after foreseeing the suffering that Satan Franke would cause. They need to stop him, but to do that, they need... Ultimate Daizyuzin.
Yes: This show just revealed that God Himself, who is made of robot dinosaurs, has a Final Form.
As for why He's not currently Ultimate Daizyuzin, it seems that He was wounded in His previous battle with Great Satan, and lost the ability to achieve that perfection. So naturally, He needs a bunch of teenagers from Dinosaur Times who were working at a noodle shop two weeks ago to help Him out and allow Him to regain His ultimate form. To that end, the Zyurangers set off on a quest gain ultimate divine power and save the world.
Or at least, that's the plan.
In practice, they end up getting distracted when they run across the American Camp Village, where a passel of young campers are afflicted by Satan Franke's disease-causing breath, and Geki decides they need to help:
One would think that the best way to help them would be by resurrecting Ultimate Daizyuzin and defeating Satan Franke, but you know Geki. Dude's all heart.
Unfortunately, their plan to get these kids some medical attention is also derailed when Grifforzar, Lamy and a bunch of Golem Soldiers show up with a promise to end their lives, leading Burai, Dan and Goushi to hold them off while Boi goes for a doctor and Geki heads off to complete the mission. Mei, for the record, is stuck tending to the sick kids.
When Geki finds that he can run no further, however, he ends up leaping off of a waterfall at Clotho's urging, and the rest of the Zyurangers vanish from what they were doing to appear by his side, mystically arriving at a shrine to Daizyuzin. According to a plaque, they have to "shout out their duty," but no one is quite sure what that means until Mei suddenly announces herself as the Warrior or Love. The rest of the team follows suit --- Boi, the Warrior of Hope, Goushi, the Warrior of Knowledge, Dan, the Warrior of Courage, Burai the Warrior of Power, and finally, Geki, the Warrior of Justice.
Thus, the prophecy is fulfilled. Daizyuzin and Dragon Caesar are resurrected just before they reach the melting point,and Geki calls for their new technique, Sovereign Fusion, creating Zyutei Daizyuzin --- which, for those of you who may have missed it earlier, is basically just Daizyuzin wearing Dragon Caesar as a very elaborate hat.
Zyutei Daizyuzin makes short work of Satan Franke, but for Great Satan, they decide to pull out all the stops, summoning Beast Knight God King Brachion and forming the true Ultimate Daizyuzin, unloading the Grand Banisher on Great Satan and sending him straight back to Hell. The children are freed, Bandora is defeated, and Daizyuzin has regained Divine Perfection! What a blessed day.
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: I suppose that the "monster" this week is Quagmire, who is less weird and more just... inexplicable. Astonishingly, he never comes back, but I get the feeling that there would've been an episode of Hexagon out there that would've blown minds by revealing what that guy's deal really was. 8/10
- Deviation From the Source: A rhyming man telling you to believe in yourself six times isn't quite the adventure that Resurrecting God's Most Perfect Form is. 9/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: In the dance contest at the end of the episode, Bulk takes a (fully expected) pratfall, leading Skull to jump in and start a tap routine to help save his friend from humiliation. 8/10
- Moral Lessons: Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. 3/10
- '90s Fashions: Tommy spends the entirety of this episode just straight up wearing his gi pants, his black belt, and a hoodie. That, my friends, is A Look. 7/10
Total For Episode 21: 35/50