Ranger Station Episode 12: Power Ranger Punks
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, it's the single best episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers --- and the single most bonkers episode of Zyuranger, for the exact same reasons!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode 12: Power Ranger Punks
Writer: Mark Hoffmeier
Director: David Blyth
Original Air Date: September 20, 1993
When I started writing this episode guide, I pretty much did it because there was one episode --- just one --- that I wanted to write about. And now, this week, we have finally gotten to it, because this is the one... where Billy and Kimberly become punks. And by that, I mean that it's the episode where they're actually teenagers with attitude for about fifteen minutes.
The idea of a character "going punk" is something that pops up a lot in otherwise square media, and "Power Ranger Punks" is even better than that one episode of Quincy, outranking everything except for that one issue of Jughead where he gets a mohawk and insists that Archie refer to him by his new handle, "Captain Thrash." But I think I'm getting ahead of myself here.
We open on the beach, where the Rangers are having some fun with a good-natured game of volleyball. While they're setting and spiking, however, Baboo is planning on doing a little spiking of his own, biking down from the moon on Rita's spacefaring pennyfarthing so that he can dose their refreshments with a "Punk Potion" that he cooked up:
To keep them distracted, he sends a bunch of Putty Patrollers to break up the game, and the result is one of the weirdest fight scenes in the entire show. It takes longer to describe than it does to watch the actual scene --- and with 800 episodes of Power Rangers available on Netflix, this is one you should go check out immediately --- but the whole thing is chopped up and shown out of order, jumping back and forth between different shots seemingly at random. We see characters get knocked down and then suddenly be back up throwing punches, and sometimes it's in slow motion or sped up, like a VHS prototype of Zack Snyder's favorite trick. The whole thing's weirdly disjointed, and given that the fight scenes on Power Rangers tend to follow a pretty set formula, it makes for a weird time.
What matters, though, is that the Rangers win what they call a "close one," and then immediately go back to playing volleyball. Well, three of 'em do, anyway. Billy and Kimberly, thirsty from the exertion of nearly being beaten to death by karate golems, head over to a nearby picnic table for a glass of what appears to be Sprite sitting out on a hot day with no ice. Refreshing!
But alas, the refreshment only lasts a second before the Punk Potion takes effect, immediately ramping up Billy and Kimberly's aggression to a whole new extreme:
Fortunately for the other Rangers, their transformation into Punkhood is so violent that Billy knocks over the rest of the glasses with a sweep of his arm, preventing them from suffering a similar fate.
The next day at school, Zack is wearing the most amazing outfit ever, but even his new sartorial peaks are put to shame when Billy and Kimberly show up with their new look:
Truly, they are punks of the most authentic sort.
I have to say, Billy's outfit is a little over the top, but really, it's not that much different from what Jason and Zack wear on a daily basis. He's got a few more accessories, sure, like that silver cow skull pendant that he's wearing, but that sleeveless shirt is like one pack of red dye away from being in Jason's regular rotation. Kimberly, however, is getting the way better end of the deal, basically rocking some Roxy-from-Gen 13 cosplay.
Now, if you've been paying attention, then you are no doubt already aware that Angel Grove High already has a couple of resident punks --- sometimes three or four, depending on who was on set that day --- and it's not long before Bulk and Skull take notice of Kim and Billy's new look. They're understandably surprised, but they get even more shocked when Kimberly suddenly demands a date with Skull:
This'll be important later, especially because in the series so far --- and continuing for the rest of the season --- Skull has displayed a bit of a crush on Kimberly. For his part, Jason Narvy plays Skull's reaction to this as a very apprehensive kind of surprise. This is, we can assume, something that he wanted but never really thought he'd get, and he isn't quite sure how to react for a second before he finally goes for it.
Bulk, on the other hand, is immediately suspicious of Kimberly's intentions, and protective of his best friend, but after a bit of manhandling by Billy, the date is set --- and Zack is very disappointed.
Clearly, Billy and Kimberly are no longer fit for Ranger duty. Someone who would steal Bulk's lunch money clearly can't be trusted with a Zord, although to be honest, it would be kind of cool to see a giant robot triceratops running around doing dirtbag teenager things, like hanging out by a convenience store trying to convince an adult to buy it booze.
So when Rita decides to send a monster called the Terror Toad down to take advantage of the Rangers squabbling among themselves, Zordon decides that it's probably a good idea to just teleport Kimberly and Billy directly into a force-field cage in the Command Center until they can sort out this whole problem that they don't really understand. And with that, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers somehow managed to capture the exact felling that you have when you talk to your parents after the first time you hear a punk band.
The good news is that Zordon can cure Billy and Kim of these strange new desires for fast-paced three-chord rock songs and leather jackets. The bad news is that it requires the Singing Squash, a plant that he discovered on a distant planet thousands of years ago, and the Rangers are too busy fighting the Terror Toad to go get it themselves.
One of the interesting things about this bit --- to me, anyway, and in all likelihood only to me --- is that for the flashback of Zodon's trip to Dramak V, MMPR uses footage of Great Sage Barza from Zyuranger. At the very least, this gives us an idea of what Zordon looked like before he was entubed, and if your'e the kind of person who likes cooking up Power Rangers/Super Sentai fan theories, you could even build this out to explain Zordon and Barza's relationship as something more like an Earth-1/Earth-2 situation. Or you could also just recognize that MMPR was not exactly shy about using Japanese footage in ways that didn't really make a whole lot of sense.
It does, however, raise the question of just what the Singing Squash was used for back then. Was the Punk Potion a problem "eons ago?" And if so, what were those punks like?
So! While Alpha is sent to recover the Singing Squash --- and prove in the process that he can pretty easily take out an entire platoon of Putty Patrollers while he's at it --- the Rangers head out to fight the Terror Toad, a giant weird frog that eats the Rangers and then gets huge stickers of their helmets on its stomach to show its victory:
This isn't really explained here, but don't worry: It's not really explained in Zyuranger, either.
Eventually, Alpha gets the Squash back to the Command Center and gets Billy and Kimberly to drink it, snapping them out of their punk phase and making them question the actually pretty fashionable clothes they've been wearing all day:
With that, they're cleared to head out into battle, and in what I believe is the only instance of this happening on Mighty Morphin, we get a fight scene that doesn't end with the monster growing huge and being taken out by the Megazord. Instead, after Billy and Kimberly realize that the Terror Toad's weak point is actually the "face" on its neck, Kimberly straight up shoots it in the throat with arrows and then shoots it in the mouth and it dies.
That is hard.
With that, our major problems have been solved, but there's still one final issue in play: Kimberly's date with Skull, who shows up at the Youth Center on Saturday in a suit jacket ready to take her out for French food. Keep in mind, this is a date that she asked him on, and when he arrives at the appointed time, her reaction is a blunt "Ew," followed by a "Yuck" by Trini, and then Billy showing up to call them neanderthals, and then laughing at them when they fall down.
Real talk: I liked them better when they were punks.
I think it's become clear by now that the producers of Power Rangers were willing to take some pretty big liberties with the episodes of Zyuranger they were very loosely adapting, and I always figured "Power Ranger Punks" was one of the ones that had nothing to do with its source material. I was wrong. It's the exact same story.
There are a couple of differences, though. For one thing, Zyuranger's "Be Careful of Shaved Ice" comes way later in the series. It's episode 24, well after their Green Ranger shows up, which might be why the 2010 "Re-Version" changed things up to put it as episode 21, after "Green With Evil" and a few other episodes.
Also, it's way weirder.
There's no attack from the Golem Soldiers, Volleyball has been swapped out for tennis, and instead of warm Sprite, it's shaved ice that provides the medium for Totpat's Punk Potion --- hence the weird-even-for-Japan episode title --- but otherwise, our opening sequence is the same. Dan and Mei's reaction, however, is a little more immediate and extreme, with Mei in particular going to some next level punkery and smashing a chair over Boi's head before stomping away from the tennis court.
Their clothes are a little different, too. While the punked out Billy and Kimberly still kept their color scheme, Mei and Dan are soon walking around Tokyo straight getting into fights with street toughs with a whole new style. Mei even gets a tattoo!
Seriously, it's like the Final Fight fan-film that I've always wanted.
Barza realizes immediately that something's up and tells Geiki, Goushi and Boi that they have been dosed with a poison that gives them an evil spirit, and that they can only be cured by a potion made from mandragora, and to compound that problem, they have one of Bandora's monsters to deal with: Dora Boogaranan. I assume all of this sounds pretty familair, but this is where things start to diverge.
Unlike their American counterparts, Dan and Mei don't just stay locked up in a cage for the episode, and instead apparently go on a full-on crime spree of truly shocking proportions. First, we see a yakuza gambling den where Mei is cheating the patrons, causing Dan to bust in and pull out a sword while telling them they're all going to die, and then they literally hijack a cocaine deal.
Seriously! I'm not kidding! It's a cocaine deal!
And it ends with Mei and Dan shooting everyone else there with actual guns!
Other than the fact that they show up later in their "standard' punk outfits --- and that this is, you know, a show for babies --- there's no indication at all that this stuff did not actually happen, so I guess you can chalk up a good half dozen murders for the Pink and Blue Zyurangers?
And just in case that wasn't hardcore enough for you, Barza's quest to get the Mandragora is a little more intense than what Alpha goes through to get the Singing Squash:
Eventually, Barza cures Dan and Mei with the laughter of the mandragora, and they join in the big fight against Dora Boogaranan --- who, incidentally, is another monster that seems like it's breaking that whole Greek Mythology pattern they were working with for the first few episodes. But there's a difference here, too. In Zyuranger, Mei ends up as the last Ranger standing with all of the others absorbed into Dora Boogaranan's stomach, and rather than just shooting at him, she ends up rigging up some Predator style traps in the woods that fling arrows directly into his throat before finishing the job herself.
And with that, the day is saved. The Rangers all go out for ice cream, and while you might expect the cops to show up and start asking questions, the worst that happens is that the street toughs from the start of the episode show up asking the Rangers to teach them how to be badasses too. Fight on, Zyurangers! Just... maybe not quite so lethal next time?
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: Terror Toad is pretty incidental to the plot, but the whole thing where he's a giant frog who can display the helmets of the Rangers he eats on his stomach is pretty darn memorable. 7/10
- Deviation From The Source: This one could not be closer, other than the understandable reduction in the amount of murders. To be fair, though, the Zyurangers didn't humiliate their school friends for no reason, so I think we can probably call that a wash. 1/10
- Bulk and Skull Friendship: Not only does Bulk immediately step in when he thinks Kimberly's playing a cruel joke on Skull by asking him out --- which turns out to be correct! --- he's also willing to fight the entire team at the end, albeit through the medium of volleyball. They will always have each other. 8/10
- Moral Lessons: "Becoming interested in new things is the sign of moral failing and you must be locked up until these feelings pass, and also it's totally okay to fake ask someone out as long as it's someone all your friends can laugh at later in the day." 0/10
- '90s Fashions: OFF THE CHARTS 10/10
Final Score: 26/50