Ranger Station Episode 31: Calamity Kimberly
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, Kimberly has a bad day that gets superheroically weird, and Bandora gets super into Dragon Ball Z.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 31: Calamity Kimberly
Writer: Tom Wyner and Juliane Klemm
Director: Terence H. Winkless
Original Air Date: November 5, 1993
So here's one of the weirder things about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. If you watch Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, as we have been doing for this column, then you'll already know that things tend to be pretty straightforward. I mean, sure, you've got your magic karate royalty from dinosaur times, and that seems like it's pretty complicated at first, but generally, everything they do involves Bandora trying to murder children in increasingly over-the-top ways, and the Zyurangers showing up to stop her with the help of God, who exists in the form of robot dinosaurs. For better or worse, there's not much plot to the show beyond that --- and certainly almost nothing that gets away from their mission to stop Bandora.
The Rangers, on the other hand, are generally doing the same sort of thing --- fighting increasingly over-the-top monsters sent by Rita to destroy them --- but they're doing it while they have all these weird sitcom plots grafted onto the action. You've got Zack trying to get a date, or Jason trying to help Cousin Germy get more confidence, or --- as we'll see next week --- Tommy trying to land a role in a television commercial. There's game shows, school dances, part-time jobs and ninja competitions.
In other words, the show has the same kind of plots that you'd see on a regular sitcom --- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is always like two minutes away from just straight up turning into an episode of Saved By The Bell, right up to the point where the monsters show up to be blown up with a giant lightning sword. And that setup has never really been more clear than in this week's episode.
It's your standard sitcom setup: Kimberly's having a string of ridiculously bad luck that starts as soon as she wakes up, which goes on so long that even the tiniest of babies in the audience can tell that this is not her day. She's got bad hair, a broken mirror, her only non-pink dress has a hole burned into it by a drycleaner, an earthquake that seems to only affect her house, and a thunderstorm that trashes her umbrella and soaks her on the day that she's supposed to present her handwritten pep rally plans to Mr. Caplan. Worst of all, though, she's worried that her misfortune is going to ruin an after-school date with Tommy!
If this was, say, Good Morning Miss Bliss, you'd see this exact same opening, but it would go into the familiar setup of the brainy character trying to prove that there's no such thing as "bad luck," or the wacky comedy friend offering up bizarre but seemingly effective remedies for getting back on the right track.
But this is not those shows. This is Power Rangers, and that means that when one of the characters is having a bad day, a space witch who lives on the moon is going to try to kill her with a monster.
In order to take advantage of Kimberly's hard times, Rita decides to send down a new monster called the Samurai Fanman. We'll get more into who this dude is and how he came to be in a second, but for now, all you need to know is that despite his not so great name, the Fanman is a serious threat. He has a whole bunch of strange super-powers, but the most dangerous right now is a magical jar that he uses to shrink his enemies down and store them, presumably for future murder purposes.
And whether it's her continuing string of bad luck or just the engine of coincidence that drives the grand, complex machine that is Power Rangers, that's exactly what happens to Kimberly, ending her romantic walk through the park with Kim trapped in a magic jar and Tommy inexplicably rendered comatose by a strong wind.
With one of the Rangers jarred and their most fearsome warrior rendered unconscious and surrounded by a whole gang of bad guys, you'd think Rita would take this opportunity to just straight up stab Tommy in the heart, or throw Kimberly into the nearest garbage disposal. She does not.
Instead, she decides to just wait this out and see how it goes. As Zordon helpfully explains, the jar is actually a portal to a pocket dimension that only exists for a short time, and when it vanishes, Kimberly's going with it. It's the classic sort of supervillain plot that requires someone to just sort of wait around for a while before they actually die, but to be fair, the kind of cruelty that you'd get from letting someone stew in their miserable fate before they are erased from this plane of existence is exactly the sort of thing Rita would do. I mean, it's not quite Bandora resurrecting Satan or anything, but then, what is?
But the Rangers won't let their pink pal die without a fight. As soon as they're told what's going on, Jason resolves to "morph to the Samurai Fanman and we'll kick him into another dimension"...
... which, while it sounds pretty tough, also gives me the idea that Jason still doesn't really know what the word "Morph" means.
But for all their tough talk, the Rangers aren't quite up to the task. As soon as they attack the Fanman, he uses his fan --- just in time to head off questions about why he's not called the Samurai Jarfellow --- to quite literally blow them away.
Having successfully defeated their enemies, Goldar, Squatt, Baboo and the Fanman decide that it's time to kick back and celebrate what more-or-less amounts to about 40% of a victory. To that end, they head off to what Zordon describes as the Putty Bowl restaurant, an outdoor dining space that is staffed by Putty Patrollers in waiter uniforms, where they can snack to their heart's content while shaking up the jar that holds Kimberly.
Okay, a few things about this. First, where is this restaurant? It's not on the moon, because the Rangers go there in the next scene, and if they could just go to the moon and fight Rita and her goons at their own headquarters, this show would probably have even more trouble filling up 20 minutes than it already does. So are we to believe that there's just a straight up restaurant somewhere in Angel Grove that is staffed by semi-sentient clay monsters given a mockery of life by a space witch? And if so, is it open to the public?
Second, while the Rangers are watching on the Viewing Globe, someone dubbed in a sound effect of a Putty Waiter farting when he bent over to give Goldar his glass. That's like school in the summertime, Power Rangers: No class.
Anyway, the Rangers show up, and while you'd think the Fanman would go back to, you know, the fan that has worked so well for him so far, he instead decides that it would be a good idea to try to hit the Power Rangers with a rake.
He sticks with the rake even when Rita embiggens him with her magic wand --- only using the fan, which has proven to be 100% effective, after he's already all but defeated. Spoiler warning, but this choice doesn't work out very well for him. Even with Kimberly and the Pterodactyl out of the picture, the Dragonzord gives the team the edge after Tommy wakes up, and once she's free, well, we're thirty episodes in at this point. You know how it goes from here. Megazord, Dragonzord, Ultrazord, explosion, guitar squeal.
With the monsters defeated, the Rangers catch a news report about their exploits, and Kimberly accidentally blows up a television set. The bad luck plot remains unresolved.
Okay, so, remember how I was talking about Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger being pretty straightforward? Well, usually, it is, even moreso than other, more complicated Super Sentai shows. This week, though, we're watching Episode 36: "A Dinosaur Is Born," and it's a little complicated.
If you've been paying attention, you may recall that there have been a few episodes of Zyuranger that have dealt with the last dinosaur eggs, which Bandora has been trying to get before they hatch so that she can finish off the job that the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event started. This week, though, the eggs have once again washed up upon the shores of Japan, where they are immediately found by a pair of children.
Unfortunately for those two, their discovery is soon taken away from them by Touru, a local bully who looks like he's trying to Casual Cosplay as the Hulk.
While all this is going on, Bandora is up on the moon, and rather than using her telescope to keep track of what's going on down on Earth --- and recovering those dinosaur eggs that she so desperately wants to sacrifice to Satan --- she's getting super into Dragon Ball.
Wait, no, sorry, wrong Son Goku. Bandora is actually reading the famous classical Chinese saga, Journey to the West, and getting super mad that all the monsters are defeated by heroes. She gets so mad, in fact, that she's determined to set things right, so when she finally discovers that the dinosaur eggs are back in play, she immediately gets Pleprechaun to cook up a new monster.
Behold! Dora Kinkaku!
He is, of course, based on Kinkaku, the Golden Horned King that battles the Monkey King in the middle section of that saga, which is why he has all of these super-powers --- the fan, the jar, the hairs on his face that can be thrown like darts to create explosions --- that might seem unrelated to an uninformed American viewer (ie: me), but are all actually drawn from a single source.
Like his American counterpart, he ends up trapping the Pink Zyuranger in his jar --- but unlike Kimberly, Mei's not alone. She gets sucked in there with the kids, trapped in the bottle while the rest of the team is blown away by the fan. And this is where things get really weird.
Rather than just being sent flying, the Zyurangers end up falling between dimensions, and are drawn into a strange, multicolored realm where they are spoken to by the spirit of Daizyuzin Himself. Or, well, a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Okay, fine, they talk to a bunch of action figures.
Seriously: Those are straight up toys. And that is both ridiculous and also kind of amazing.
Back when Caleb Goellner was an editor here at ComicsAlliance, he and I had a conversation where he talked about how the true genius of Tokusatsu shows was that they just make all the weapons and equipment on the show look like cheap toys to begin with, so that when you get the toy versions, they always look super accurate. For this, though, they just 100% got the actual action figures --- like, from a store! --- and then put them in a circle and turned on the fog machine in order to represent God speaking to His defenders. That's nuts.
Anyway, Daizyuzin reminds them of how He works and all the different ways that the Guardian Beasts can combine --- it is seriously just a toy commercial in the middle of a show that is already a toy commercial --- and caps it off by telling them that the dinosaur eggs will hatch in 60 days, so they should probably get them back soon.
And yes: Just in case this wasn't weird enough already, there are puppets.
All of this happens so that the Rangers are properly motivated to go rescue Mei, which is weird because it implies that Daizyuzin thinks that they were going to just shrug their shoulders while Bandora killed their friend. But it does the job.
For her part, Mei is a much more active captive than Kimberly was --- when Bookback leans down to look into the jar, she straight pulls out her bow and shoots him in the eye with a tiny arrow.
Which is probably why Dora Kinkaku tries to set her on fire.
At this point, you might expect Barza to step in and direct the Zyurangers to Kinkaku's hideout, much in the same way that Zordon does in the American version. This does not happen, and for a moment, it's tempting to believe that the original version wasn't quite so reliant on cheap narrative exposition tricks to get its storytelling done. They do, of course, it's just weirder: The Zyurangers find Dora Kinkaku because the dinosaur babies are telepathically sending the sounds of their heartbeats directly into Geki's brain, and he just has to stand there turning around in place until he figures out which direction to go.
This show is great. This show is great.
With that, the Rangers get back to fighting, but Dora Kinkaku is so strong that they summon the Guardian Beasts before Bandora uses her magic wand to make her monster grow. She does, though, and just as things look dark, Burai appears to summon Dragon Caesar and give the Zyurangers a fighting chance to free Mei and the kids.
With Mei free and the Pteranodon summoned, the Zyurangers can unite the Guardian Beasts with Beast Knight God King Brachion and put an end to Dora Kinkaku forever. Thus, the eggs are returned to Ultimate Daizyuzin, who allows Brachion to incubate them inside its neck (?!) for the next three months.
It's a victory, but with Burai's candle all burnt out, we must ask... at what cost?!
Fight on, Zyurangers!
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: In all honesty, Samurai Fanman only really seems weird until you find out that he's pulled whole cloth from Journey to the West, and the question of whether Journey to the West is itself weird is beyond the scope of this column. 5/10
Deviation From the Source: I think we can all agree that things would've been a lot more entertaining if Kimberly's bad luck could've resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. 6/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: There's a part when Kimberly responds to Skull making a joke about how she broke a date with him in a very immature way by claiming that she has never asked him out. This is clearly false --- see "Power Ranger Punks" --- and Bulk has no choice but to battle Tommy for his best pal's honor. 7/10
Moral Lessons: Luck is 100% real and can result in your death at the hands of a monster. 2/10
'90s Fashions: Kimberly's floral print dress over a pink singlet looks like it was bought from the garage sale that happened when Blossom got canceled. 7/10
Total For Episode 21: 27/50