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REVIEW:
POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY VILLAINS: EVIL MELLE & EVIL SPACE ALIEN
By Thomas Wheeler


One of the intrinsic parts of the current Power Rangers concept -- Jungle Fury -- is that the various Rangers are each affiliated with a certain species of animal. The Red Ranger is technically called the Tiger Ranger. The Green Ranger is the Elephant Ranger. The Bat Ranger I still think is asking for trouble from DC Comics, but that's another matter entirely.

So it really shouldn't be all that surprising to learn that the villains in Jungle Fury are also identified with various animals, as well. Some of them have been turning up as action figures recently. This review will look at both EVIL MELLE (with Flit the Fly), and, as it turns out, the rather seriously mis-named, or under-named, anyway, EVIL SPACE ALIEN.

In the earliest days of Power Rangers, the villain figures generally didn't amount to all that much. They were usually very poorly articulated, even if they were nicely detailed. By contrast on most counts, the Ranger figures were a little lacking in sculpted detail (on the other hand, they could sort of get away with it, and even their live-action counterparts on the TV show weren't generally as ornately designed and outfitted as some of the villains), but were far better articulated.

In recent years, however, the villains have gotten to be generally more poseable. Are they a match for the Rangers in articulation? Well, that's a good question. There are so many types of Ranger figures available in any given year these days that the answer to that question really depends on which Rangers you're talking about. Let's suffice to say that most of the villains in the Power Rangers toy lines these days have a comparable level of articulation to the Rangers, while retaining their generally ornate appearances.

One of the villains in the Power Rangers Jungle Fury line that's pretty hard to miss, courtesy of a very unusual color scheme, is known as "EVIL MELLE". The package technically reads, "Evil Melle with Flit the Fly". I'll get into THAT part of it later. But this is a female villain -- somewhat unusual to be made as a figure -- and given that her outfit is a very ornate, if also pretty ugly (IMHO), costume whose main colors are a reddish-pinkish-purple and a dark turquoise green, with some bright freen highlights, she sort of stands out in a crowd.

It took a bit of doing for me to track down the origin of the character, mostly because of some name discrepancies. In Japan, the character is known as Mele. On the TV show she's called Camille. Precisely where the name "Melle" comes from, I'm really not sure. about the discrepancy, but it might have been nothing more than a lack of communication between the toy and TV producers. I wonder if perhaps Bandai had some trouble being able to use the name "Camille" for the toy package.

The description of the character is as follows: Camille is the female servant of Dai Shi (the main bad guy in the series, and more on him shortly), an ill-tempered user of the Chameleon spirit, which gives her the ability to camouflage into her backgrounds and use her tongue as a weapon in battle. She can also change into a Chameleon-like warrior for her battle mode, using a pair of sai as her weapons of choice. She remained quietly inside a wall until Dai Shi returned in Jarrod's body, resuming her role as his second in command. She serves Dai Shi out of devoted passion, proving herself by perfecting her abilities by withstanding the Claw Cannon and absorbing a bit of its energy before saving her master from Naja, slicing off his Life Talons. Her other various abilities include boosting the power of the Rinshi Beasts. She is portrayed by actress Holly Shanahan.

The fact that Camille, or Melle, is affiliated with a chameleon is evident in several respects on the figure, and for that matter with the figure's accessories. The figure's helmet, while not particularly lizard-like in appearance, does have a small horn on the front, and a curled shape in the back. These are attributes which can certainly be likened to the average chameleon. The long tongue, thankfully NOT an action feature on the figure, would also qualify.

The shoulder pads and chest armor of the Melle figure are distinctly scaly. Really, though, to a fair degree, the lizard-like properties end there. The rest of the dark turquoise areas of the costume, which very ornate and nicely sculpted, aren't particularly reptilian in appearance. And the pink-purple sections appear to be intended as representative of just fabric, some sort of undersuit underneath the armor.

This isn't a criticism. It's still a very interesting action figure. And heck, how much does the Jungle Fury Red Ranger really resemble a tiger?

Melle's articulation is excellent, if slightly skewed at one point in a very strange way. There's an "Alien Arm Action" in the right arm, which is activated by another curly section of armor along the back. This makes the arm snap back at the shoulder. Why it does this I will explain shortly. But what's unusual is that the "action" arm has no other articulation. It is poseable at the shoulder and that's it. Conversely, the figure's left arm moves at the shoulder, and also has an upper-arm swivel and an elbow joint!

Why the "action" arm could not have been similarly articulated is beyond me. There's no apparent reason for it. I would have to speculate that in the budgeting of the figure, the "action" took the place of the articulation. I never feel that this is a good trade-off, if indeed that is the case here.

Melle is otherwise articulated at the head, legs, upper leg swivel, and knees. Overall, very impressive. She also has one distinct advantage over the other female figure in the Power Rangers Jungle Fury line, the Yellow Cheetah Ranger -- Melle can stand up on her own. If one thing is annoying the heck out of me about the Jungle Fury line, it's that the lone female Ranger figure has these tiny feet with curved bottoms, and hindered leg articulation so that it's dang near impossible to get the figure to stand up on her own. Melle doesn't have that problem.

Let's discuss accessories, and here's where the character gets REALLY strange. Let's start with "Flit the Fly", who's actually mentioned on the package. This is a small, vaguely humanoid fly, a non-articulated figure with some hand-painted detailing, especially the silver wings on the back. He stands about 1-1/2" in height, on two legs, and he has four tiny arms up front. The figure doesn't really stand too well on his own, because he's a little top heavy and front-heavy. He has a huge head with massive red, segmented eyes, and what looks like a silver microphone head for a mouth. He appears to be wearing a white shirt with black suspenders, but I suppose this could be his natural coloring.

Flit is an anthropomorphic fly that Camille ate some time ago. During Zord battles, Flit breaks free to monitor the Rangers' fight as a Battle Commentator and is voiced by Kelson Henderson. According to my friend who gave me some of the additional information I have referenced here, this barely scratches the surface of how annoying this character is. He says: "Flit is an incredibly irritating character who normally resides INSIDE Camille until he forces his way out of her mouth so he can supply an annoying sportscaster like commentary on Zord battles, at the end of which Camille normally swallows him again using her VERY long tongue to catch him."

However, this character's obviously annoying tendencies -- Melle's tendency of coughing him up and reswallowing him notwithstanding -- might go some way to explain Melle's other accessory in the toy package... it's a fly swatter.

Rather nicely made one, too, although it looks a little small to really do considerable damage to Flit (who from the sound of it has it coming to him), but it also explains the "action arm" of Melle. Raise the arm, put the fly swatter in her hand, activate the spring-action, and try to put Flit out of EVERYBODY'S misery. I mean, seriously, this sounds like a character that no one on the show would have much tolerance for...

Now, let's consider the so-called EVIL SPACE ALIEN. Turns out there's a lot more to him than this rather generic name would seen to offer.

"Evil Space Alien" has been a sort of catch-all generic term for the basic soldier-type bad guys to crop up in any given Power Rangers concept. They're the cannon fodder, generally lucky enough to be turned out as an action figure. They might have some other name within the series, but "Evil Space Alien" seems to cover it. One of the few notable exceptions were the Triptoids during the Dino Thunder concept.

When the "Evil Space Alien" for Power Rangers Jungle Fury came out, right along with the six major Rangers, not long before Christmas 2007, something struck me about the figure -- he was way, way to ornate for a basic soldier type. I had a hunch there was something more to this figure than being some generic soldier-type. And I found that this "Evil Space Alien" was about as far removed from a "generic soldier bad guy" as it was possible to be. He was, in fact, the lead villain of the series!

His name is Dai Shi, and he has a rather complicated origin. As best as I've been able to determine, Dai Shi is technically an evil spirit, currently in control of the body of an individual named Jarrod, who was among the group of young people that comprised the first group of Jungle Fury Rangers. It's worth noting that the first three Rangers all have cat species as their animal specialties -- tiger, cheetah, and jaguar. Jarrod's animal specialty was that of the lion, and this is certainly reflected in this figure.

Jarrod is described thusly: A student at Master Mao's temple and wielder of the Lion spirit; Jarrod was highly skilled and earned the chance to become one of the guardians of Dai Shi's prison. Unfortunately, Jarrod's arrogance and excessive violence forced Master Mao to dismiss Jarrod and select Casey instead. In response, Jarrod attacks Mao, and although Jarrod was no match for him, he accidentally freed the evil Dai Shi from his prison. Jarrod flees, but is taken over Dai Shi as he runs away, becoming the evil master's vessel. Jarrod blames Casey (the Red Tiger Ranger) for his expulsion from the Order of the Claw. In battle, Jarrod assumes a lion-themed armored form. All of his past good deeds were erased by Carnisoar in order allow Dai Shi to reach a higher level of evil.

As for Dai Shi himself, it says: An ancient evil that wanted to rid world of the human race and believed that animals should be the rightful rulers. He has returned from being sealed by the Order of the Claw generations ago. With his reassembled evil army at his command, he seeks to continue where he left off, starting the "Beast War" anew.

Just to link all of this chaos to the figure itself, the friend/Ranger expert I sent an inquiry to about this explained, The black and gold lion is the "powered up" form of the main bad guy, Dai Shi, sort of an "Evil Ranger". The villain is essentially a former student of the same academy as the three main Rangers, they use Tiger (Red), Cheetah
(Yellow) and Jaguar (Blue). His animal form was a Lion. Possessed by the essence of yet another ultimate evil being, he gets the new look, a rather unfortunate taste for fur cloaks, and a super sort of Ranger form. Which is what the figure is!

That makes sense. The figure could ALMOST pass for a Ranger. There are some minor similarities in certain respects, which I will discuss. But the figure clearly has a sinister look to it, and is distinctly too ornate to be a Ranger, just as it's too ornate to be a run of the mill "Evil Space Alien".

Precisely why this figure wasn't released under the name Dai Shi, or even Jarrod, is anybody's guess. Maybe the names couldn't be trademarked, or maybe Dai Shi translates into something unpleasant, or was just too foreign-sounding for Bandai America to think of as usable on the actual toy. I would suspect that anyone who is watching the show on a regular basis will know darn well who this "Evil Space Alien" really is, much in the same way that certain G.I. Joe figures who got renamed for various legal reasons some years ago probably kept those names about as long as it took for their purchasers to remove them from their cards and start calling them by the names they'd always known them.

And since Dai Shi is easier to type than "Evil Space Alien", and is technically more accurate character-wise, guess what I'm going to call this figure for the rest of this review?

So, what do we have with this figure? Someone who almost looks like a Power Ranger in certain respects, although one who's really gone overboard in the accouterments. "Evil Ranger", indeed -- and a bit tacky with it. The most apparent evidence of a Ranger background, apart from a fairly "heroic" physical build that is well in keeping with the other figures in the line, is around the helmet and faceplate. Much like any number of Power Rangers of years past, the face is obscured by a visor. It's a little hard to tell without a close look, because the visor is black, and so is much of the rest of the helmet, and for that matter the vast majority of the figure. But there is a visor there, outlined across the bottom in gold. A portion of the black helmet itself extends over the top of the visor, before you start getting into the gold lion-head profiles on the sides. The rest of the helmet, whatever it may look like, is covered by a huge furry mane, molded in plastic in considerable detail, with a gold stripe down the middle of it. Although this mane is somewhat flexible, it does hinder the head articulation a bit. The head of the figure does turn -- just not very far.

The bulk of Dai Shi's uniform is black, and is clearly designed to look like rather ornate black armor strapped over a black uniform. Then we come to the rather impressive accents. Dai Shi has spiked gold shoulder blades -- and I do mean blades -- three gold claw-like spikes emerging from the backs of his arms, gold lion-head like images around his wrists, protective armor at his lower torso and sides, three more gold spikes coming out of the sides of his legs and gold claws on his feet.

Then there's the centerpiece. There's a huge black lion's head dead center on his chest, with a stylized mane accented in gold, complete with silver eyes and silver teeth.

Here is where the figure's action feature comes into play. Although Dai Shi was part of the initial assortment of Jungle Fury Power Rangers, which featured a "Shock Sensor Sound Fury" effect, whereby if the figure was moved or jolted sufficiently, it would sound off, Dai Shi does not share this feature.

Just as well. Not only do I find knocking a perfectly good action figure around just to make him sound off to be rather distasteful, but a couple of these guys are so twitchy that they'll go off if someone sneezes in their direction.

That doesn't mean that Dai Shi's action feature isn't just a little -- disconcerting in its own right. Push the triangular button on the waist armor of the figure, and you can make the jaw of the lion on his chest open and close. Now, whether it does this on the TV show, and precisely to what effect, I am not certain, although I can't imagine that anyone would care to face an opponent who's wearing an armored uniform that might just actually bite a piece out of you.

The overall articulation of this figure is excellent, although not quite to the level of the Rangers themselves. Dai Shi lacks the wrist swivel, upper leg swivel, and ankle articulation that most of the Jungle Fury Rangers have, but he can still move at the head (a bit, anyway), arms (outwards as well as forward and back), elbows, legs, and knees. And at the very least, that's still a far cry from the earliest days of Power Rangers villains, when the bad guys were little more than non-poseable lumps of plastic -- which is why I didn't collect them back then.

The painted detail on Dai Shi is excellent, if sparse, but then, that's no doubt in keeping with the character as he appears in the show. Black is the main color here, with a fair amount of metallic gold trim, and a little bit of silver. Bandai has the unfortunate habit of not painting the backs of their figures as extensively as they should -- no doubt a cost saving move -- and while the back of Dai Shi is rather ornately sculpted, I have to be honest and say that I really don't see that many areas that might have needed paint in the first place. Certainly nothing all that significant. So I'll give Bandai the benefit of the doubt on this one.

For accessories, Dai Shi comes with a large sword that doesn't appear the least bit lionesque. I was prepared to say that it didn't seem to have any particular design whatsoever, until I held it at a certain angle and realized that part of the hilt clearly resembles the head of a chameleon, sticking its tongue out to connect with the very ornate blade of this sword. While a chameleon-like sword may seem incongruous to give to someone so clearly obsessed with his lion image, consider that Dai Shi's female servant, called Camille in the series but listed as "Evil Melle" in the figure line (am I sensing some communication problems between show and toy line, perhaps?) uses the chameleon as her primary animal form. Although there's nothing on record about it, I wonder if she gave him the sword.

By the way, just for the record, there are foot-soldier type bad guys in Power Rangers Jungle Fury. They're called "Rinshi". No idea if we'll see figures of them at any point. There was no indication of them in the coverage from Toy Fair 2008, which showcased both the Spring and Fall assortments of Power Rangers (and for the record, Rinshi or no, there's a lot to look forward to!).

So, what's my final word on this figure? Well, apart from what I feel is a horrible misnaming, giving the generic "Evil Space Alien" name to the main bad guy in the series, this is an excellent figure. Nicely designed, well articulated, quite ornate, and well-detailed and painted. And certainly a key player in the concept.

DAI SHI -- excuse me -- EVIL SPACE ALIEN, as well as EVIL MELLE (with Flit the Fly) from the POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY line definitely have my enthusiastic recommendation!