Ranger Station Episode 7: Big Sisters
With almost 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 help out a young friend who can't stop pulling pranks, and the Zyurangers help a tribe of monkey-people who have been cursed by God for failing to protect dinosaur eggs. So, you know, basically the same thing.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 7: "Big Sisters"
Director: Jeff Reiner
Writer: Gary Glasberg and Shuki Levy
Original Air Date: September 10, 1993
It's probably clear by this point that, for me at least, the most fascinating thing about Power Rangers is seeing how much it can change things from the source material --- and what doesn't change. I mean, you can swap out attitudinal teenagers for dinosaur royalty all day long, but unless we're talking about one of those rare episodes that's all original footage, they still have to follow the same beats once they get to part where the giant robots show up and start shooting lightning out of their swords.
In this episode, though, there's one more thing that they have to work in: A minor character who never shows up in another episode, who has to have the same outfit and hairstyle (in the form of a pretty hilariously obvious wig) as her Japanese counterpart, for the sake of one scene in a story that, in every other respect, could not be more different.
Here's how it goes down in the American version: We open, as we almost always do, on the Angel Grove Youth Center, where Kimberly and Trini have volunteered to be "Big Sisters" for the day for a local youngster named Maria who, it turns out, is a bit of a hellion.
But honestly, isn't that Ernie's fault for keeping the Hot Water Shutoff Valve right there where anybody can get to it. Seriously, who puts that kind of thing in a hallway?
Anyway, the girl's name is Maria, and she is Troubled. As we'll find out later, her father just doesn't understand her, which has a) led her to play cruel pranks on people like ruining their morning showers, and b) caused her father to foist her off on local well-meaning teenagers to solve her problems.
Which, of course, they do. As is so often the case on Power Rangers, literally every mental problem from fear of heights to feeling ignored by your parents can be solved in roughly two seconds with the right choice of words. In this case, all it takes is Trini and Kimberly telling Maria that they want to be her friend and her antisocial tendencies are permanently corrected, leading them to turn their attention to other matters.
Meanwhile, up on the Moon, Rita Repulsa is up to one of her sinister schemes. As she reveals to her henchmen --- including Goldar, whose species is still up for debate --- she wants the Power Eggs so that she can hatch a monster that even Zordon's power won't be able to stop.
She even cooks up a monster, the Chunky Chicken, in order to go get them, a deviation from the source material that, since we're already getting a couple of eggs involved here, actually makes sense thematically. There's just one problem: The Power Eggs have been sealed away for thousands of years, and the only person who can reach the treasure chest where they're kept is a child. You can probably see where we're going with this.
Now, I don't want to start pulling at the strings here or anything, because when we start doing that, the whole show's going to fall apart and we're going to be left without any teenagers summoning the God Horn to destroy a giant chicken, and none of us want that. With all that said, though, it's worth pointing out that the in 1993, the population of California --- where Angel Grove is canonically located --- was 31.27 million people. Even if she limits herself to one state, Rita should have plenty of children to choose from that don't have an immediate personal connection to the Power Rangers.
Maria's picnic with Kim and Trini is interrupted by a squadron of Putty Partrollers who kidnap the kid and head off to parts unknown, leaving her ersatz Big Sisters to gather up the rest of the rangers and rescue her. And if that wasn't enough of a problem, their Communicators aren't working, meaning that they can't teleport to the Command Center to get help from Zordon.
Fortunately, Billy has a solution. Behold! The RadBug!
I know that it's been five episodes since Billy accidentally invented teleportation, but at least with that, he was piggybacking on existing technology that Zordon had up in the mountains. With this, he has, while in high school, invented a flying Volkswagen that does "zero to 3,000 in 2.8 seconds" in his garage. Just so we're clear on this, that's just under Mach 4, which means that Billy's Volkswagen is faster than the estimated top speed of the SR-71 Blackbird.
That may actually be even more impressive than piloting a giant robot Triceratops, but to be fair, one has to imagine that the emissions are terrible.
With the Rad Bug, the Rangers beat feet to the Command Center and fill Zordon in on the situation, and he, in turn, tells them about the Power Eggs, and how the "ancient sorcerers known as the Morphin Masters hid a universe of power within two mystic power eggs." So, y'know, that's all cleared up.
The short version is that Rita getting the eggs would be bad, so the Rangers need to save Maria and throw them into the ocean --- the eggs, I mean. Throwing Maria into the ocean is optional, although Zordon would probably recommend against it. Thus, it's back into the Rad Bug and off to the cave of the Morphin Masters:
When they arrive, Goldar and the other monsters --- including the Chunky Chicken --- are already in possession of the eggs, and just in case you were worried that there might be some suspense involved in the conflict this week, the first thing the Rangers do is throw the eggs back into the ocean --- something that's extremely impressive when you consider that they appear to be in the middle of the desert.
With that taken care of, though, they still have the Chunky Chicken to deal with --- and the bad guys still has Maria. So while Rita heads off looking for the eggs on her flying pennyfarthing, the Rangers throw down with the monsters:
It is not a very challenging fight, so Rita, sour grapes as always, orders the Chunky Chicken and the other monsters to tie up Maria --- or, you know, a child who definitely looks like Maria and is certainly not someone from another country who is wearing an outfit that's close to but not quite the clothes Maria is wearing and also does not have a wig.
Also, have I mentioned that Maria is dubbed? Because she is definitely dubbed.
Fortunately, the Megazord shows up --- one of the few instances of the Megazord showing up before the monster is bumped up to giant size --- and catches Maria before she falls to the pavement. With her last trump card gone, Rita up-sizes the monster, leaving it to be quickly Power Sworded back to the dust from whence it came.
With that done, we get a rare glimpse of Angel Grove's TV news reporter as he fills everyone in about the latest giant monster battle:
And with that, Maria is returned to her father with all ills cured, except for the part where now she has nightmares about a giant chicken trying to murder her with scissors.
Okay, so you know how Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger has been getting steadily weirder, even beyond just how far it deviates from the familiar plot of teenagers dealing with monster crime? Well folks, hold on to your butts, because this one's the weirdest we've gotten so far --- and we don't even have to get past the titles before it starts.
The source material for "Big Sisters" is a pair of episodes from Zyuranger: "Run! Prince of the Eggs!" and "Monkeys No More!"
So just who is the Prince of the Eggs? Well, his name is Euro, and he arrives in Japan on a very suspiciously familiar flying Volkswagen:
That's him in the back. In the front, we have Crockle, an inventor, and his wife, Daisy. They've made the journey from their kingdom on Dalos Island for two reasons, and the first is to introduce Prince Euro to a girl that he has a crush on, Emiko, who is also suspiciously familiar --- or at least, her clothes are.
The second reason is to talk to the Zyurangers, because they have fallen down pretty hard on the job. It seems that when Bandora killed the dinosaurs --- yeah, you heard me, when the witch Bandora killed all the dinosaurs before being exiled to the planet Nemesis --- the last two eggs were put into a chest and cast into the sea, where they eventually washed up on the shore of Dalos, where they were taken in by the Apelos tribe at the behest of the spirits of the Guardian Beasts:
And I don't know about you, but when a bunch of dinosaur robot spirits appear in the clouds and tell me to do something, I do my best to keep up with it.
This, incidentally, is a point of some contention in translation. On the official DVD release, Prince Euro refers to the Guardian Beasts as their gods, as in "we promised our gods we would protect the dinosaur eggs." I have, however, seen other translations a while back where Euro and the rest of the Apelos refer to their task as having been appointed by capital-G singular God which, while a small change, is going to make things really weird in a few minutes.
Alas, Bandora found out they had the eggs and sent a giant Grifforzar to get them back, and since the Apelos don't have a giant transforming dinosaur robot to fight him off with, they ended up having to stash them in a cave and go see the Zyurangers for help.
It's worth noting that the actual scene where they arrive in Japan --- in the middle of Emiko's kitchen, no less --- is pretty amazing. It's a crowded scene that looks like it's actually shot in a house, and there's one long shot from a handheld camera of the (un-transformed) Zyurangers and the Putties fighting each other that moves through the house in a really cool way. If you get the chance, go out of your way to see it, it's awesome.
Anyway, with Prince Euro in Japan, Bandora unleashes her latest monster, Dora Cockatrice, a giant chicken with a pair of scissors that can cut through space, creating portals to other worlds, and promptly kidnaps the kids.
Fortunately, Crockle has magic glasses that allow them to see the portals, so once the Zyurangers get over looking like huge dorks...
... they're off to search the city for dimensional portals.
But while they're at it, Emiko and Prince Euro, trapped in a dimension that looks an awful lot like the back lot of Toei Studios, get into a fight when she notices he has a tail. At first, she suspects that he's a monster, but it turns out that the Apelos were tricked by Dora Cockatrice into eating the forbidden fruit of the field they were guarding for their gods, and were cursed to become monkeys as a result.
All of this, incidentally, is related to Emiko while she's strung up behind an old factory in an attempt to get Euro to spill the whereabouts of the eggs. He gives in and tells Bandora where to find them, but she drops Emiko anyway --- right into the waiting palm of Daizyujin, who shows up at the nick of time.
The second episode's even weirder.
The Zyurangers, the Apelos, Bandora, the monsters and Emiko all head over the Dalos Island to see about these dinosaur eggs, and when Bandora finds out that there's a magic barrier protecting them, she blocks off the entrance to the cave, dooming the dinosaurs within and thereby keeping the Apelos from being forgiven by God for their various dinosaur- and fruit-related transgressions.
There is, however, a second entrance to the cave on the other side of the mountains, but it requires going through an area called the "Field of Bombs," which, as you might guess, is never anyone's first choice for travel.
I don't think they ever mention why there are a bunch of people with face paint and hand grenades hell-bent on turning a part of this island into Fury Road, but I suppose that's just something you have to get used to when you live in a world built on Super Sentai rules.
Euro and Emiko get separated from the Zyurangers, and from each other as well. When Emiko and Euro meet up again, however, she tells him that she found the entrance to the cave, and leads him right to the barrier protecting the dinosaur eggs --- right around the time that the Zyurangers find the real Emiko tied to a tree. It turns out it was all a ruse, with Dora Cockatrice showing off his shape-shifting powers yet again in order to get the eggs.
Which, it turns out, is not quite as effective as it might be, what with the five heavily armed karate warriors and their giant robots standing right outside.
In the struggle, though, the eggs are once again chucked into the sea and lost forever, which is very upsetting for the Robot Dinosaur Gods that our heroes are always riding around in.
But then Emiko steps up and chastises the gods themselves, with Geki and the rest of the Zyurangers stepping up to back them up. The gods forgive the Apelos, everyone loses their tails, Emiko gets a princess dress, and everyone lives happily ever after for the next week or so until another monster shows up to stomp around Japan.
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 gotta say, between "Chunky Chicken" and "Pudgy Pig," Rita's getting downright insulting with these monster names. 7/10
- Deviation From The Source: I am sorely tempted to hand out our first perfect ten for this one, but in all fairness, they did try to keep Maria/Emiko's outfit the same across an ocean, and that deserves to be acknowledged. 9/10
- Bulk And Skull Friendship: Okay, so like, Bulk and Skull are barely in this episode and literally only show up at the end so that Bulk can get a bowl full of vegetarian chili --- the script is very specific --- dumped on his head for a big laugh at the end of the episode. Skull laughs. It's heartbreaking. 1/10
- Moral Lessons: Man, I don't even know on this one. Don't turn off the hot water to get attention? Don't shirk your duty to the robot dinosaur gods lest ye be turned into a beast of the forest? Who even knows anymore?! 5/10
- '90s Fashions: I really want to know where Jason was buying his not-quite-Zubaz workout pants. 6/10
Total For Episode 7: 28/50