REVIEW: POWER RANGERS "CHASE" FIGURE - NINJA STORM GREEN SAMURAI RANGER(S)
For the past couple of years, the POWER RANGERS action figures, whatever the main concept might be, have tended to throw a few additional "chase" figures from earlier Rangers concepts into the mix. I find it interesting indeed that Power Rangers has been around long enough to warrant this sort of nostalgia trip, and that the audience that "grew up" with it is at a point where Bandai apparently feels it might well be interested in "collectible" action figures through these "chase" offerings.
In 2009, during the run of Jungle Fury, there were four such figures. We obtained all-new versions of the Green and White Rangers from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the Gold Ranger from Power Rangers Zeo, and the villainous Lord Zedd.
Now in 2010, there are two "chase" figures available; one is the Titanium Ranger from Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue.
The other figure is the GREEN SAMURAI RANGER from POWER RANGERS NINJA STORM. And he's made even more interesting by the fact that there are not one, but two distinct versions of this figure, and even a little moreso given where one of these versions turned up.
Let's consider a little conceptual and character background, first of all, with a little help from WikiPedia.
Power Rangers: Ninja Storm was the 2003 incarnation of the Power Rangers concept, and was based on the Japanese Super Sentai series Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger. This series is unique in the fact that it was the first to feature only one female Ranger serving on the team (although the 10-episode mini-series Alien Rangers featured only one female Ranger), the first season where the Blue Ranger was female, and was the first season to begin the series with three rangers instead of five like the previous seasons.
A skateboarder (Shane Clarke), a surfer (Tori Hanson) and a motocross rider (Dustin Brooks), are students of the Wind Ninja Academy in the vicinity of Blue Bay Harbor, under the tutelage of Sensei Kanoi Watanabe and his son Cam. Although it seems as if they will never be good enough to be full-fledged ninja, they are the only three left when the evil ninja master, Lothor, arrives on Earth and captures all the other students. Their sensei, who was transformed into a guinea pig by Lothor, decided that they would become Wind Power Rangers and gave them Wind Morphers to allow them to transform. As the Wind Rangers, they fought to save the world from Lothor and his space minions, using Zords created by Cam for emergencies.
Over time, they were joined by the Thunder Rangers, Hunter and Blake, as well as Cam, who gained Green Samurai powers in a trip to the past.
Eventually, the Rangers managed to defeat all of Lothor's minions, unwittingly overloading the Abyss of Evil (to which they were all sent upon their demise). The Wind Rangers were able to stop evil from spreading across the Earth, and sealed Lothor away in the Abyss of Evil... along with their own powers.
Now powerless, Shane, Tori and Dustin became teachers at the rebuilt Wind Ninja Academy, aided by Cam and a newly human Sensei. Hunter took a job as the sensei at the Thunder Ninja Academy while his brother Blake continued his racing career.
As to the specific character of the Green Samurai Ranger, his full name was Cameron Watanabe, the son of Kanoi Watanabe, head of the Wind Ninja Academy -- the guy who got turned into a guinea pig. He originally was behind the scenes of the Ninja Storm operations, until going back in time and retrieving his mother's heirloom that allowed him to morph. He wields power of the samurai. He was portrayed by Jason Chan.
As you might have figured from reading this, Ninja Storm was a little different than some of the other series. As stated, it started out with three Rangers, not five, who were outfitted in Red, Yellow, and Blue. They were later joined by two others, who were outfitted with uniforms that were predominantly Crimson and Navy, which was certainly a change.
Cameron, the Green Samurai Ranger, essentially represented the inevitable "sixth Ranger" that tends to come on the scene distinctly later than the core group, although that was probably a little more variable in this instance than usual. However, as the "sixth Ranger", he's a logical contender for this series of "chase" figures, which has tended to be devoted to "sixth Rangers", what with the Green and White from Mighty Morphin, the Gold from Zeo, and the Titanium from Lightspeed Rescue.
I found the Green Samurai Ranger at, let's say, a fairly traditional mass-merchandising retailer. I was very pleased to have him. Honestly, I knew that the Titanium Ranger was expected to come out, but I didn't know about the Green Samurai Ranger. Still, I wasn't about to pass him up.
But things took a turn for the weird when, later that same day, I happened to stop into a store called Ross. Ross is one of those "clearance outlet" type stores, that has mostly clothing, but some other stuff, and usually has a small, frequently chaotic toy department in the back of the store, which is generally filled with clearance merchandise from assorted popular lines that for one reason or another just didn't move.
Stores such as this, and I would be inclined to put TJMaxx and Marshalls in the same category, have benefited from the unfortunate demise of K*B Toys. Such items as this would previously have likely ended up there. Now these stores are getting them, and they're generally worth a look. You never know what you might find.
I certainly didn't expect to find what I found in regard to Power Rangers! Not only did they have one of the newest assortments of basic Power Rangers RPM figures -- which unfortunately leads me to believe that Bandai wants to bring a quick end to this line so they can push their Mighty Morphins as much as possible while Power Rangers even still exists as a concept -- but they had a Green Samurai Ranger figure, that was DIFFERENT from the one I'd gotten elsewhere, including having different ACCESSORIES, and a different illustration on the back of the card!
There was no question that it was part of the same basic concept -- a chase figure being offered within the RPM line. The card was ALMOST the same. The only difference in the front of the card was that it featured three languages instead of two. Instead of English and French, it had English, French -- and Spanish. Apart from that, the card was identical. Mostly green background (which certainly differentiates it from the RPM cards), with the Power Rangers Ninja Storm logo prominently displayed, and the figure in the package.
The back of the card was another matter. The back of the package card of the Green Samurai Ranger that I had purchased at the standard retailer bore the "Power Rangers Super Legends" logo -- a catch-all term for Ranger figures from any concept -- and showed both the Green Samurai Ranger and the Lightspeed Rescue Titanium Ranger. A larger area of art further down the card focused on Power Rangers RPM, showing the five basic Rangers, plus the three "Paleozord" Rangers which were created specifically for this line.
Conversely, the card back for the Green Samurai Ranger that I got at Ross, while it also had the "Super Legends" logo, ONLY showed the Green Samurai Ranger. No Titanium. I hope that doesn't mean he's not coming out! The card art further down the card also focused on RPM, but it showed variants of some of the established Rangers, that have been given additional armor and helmetry, as well as the "Evil Grinder" bad guy figure. I have seen these figures in the stores, both regular retailers and clearance stores like Ross.
As to the accessories, both Green Samurai Rangers come with a green sword and a black sheath for the sword. However, the Green Samurai Ranger that was available at the standard retailer came with a small figurine of the Sensei, in guinea pig form. It's about an inch high, non poseable, and dressed in a grey robe. It's astounding well-detailed for something so small. The face has brown fur, except white around the muzzle, and two little black eyes which -- I'm glad it wasn't my responsibility to paint these. The robe has white sleeves, and a brown belt around the waist.
Conversely, the Green Samurai Ranger which I purchased at Ross lacked the guinea pig, but actually came with a larger accessory, a gold vest that could be snapped onto the Ranger figure!
Now, as to the two Green Rangers themselves. They're excellent figures. They stand very slightly over 5-1/2" in height. Each has a green helmet, white collar, and predominantly green uniform. An emblem can be found on their chests, which looks as much as anything like a gold diamond with wings, outlined with a thin line of gold. The Green Rangers have green gauntlets and white gloves, and green boots. They have black belts and black cuffs to their boots.
The most notable aspect to their uniforms are the sleeves. These are greyish silver in color, and have a sculpted criss-cross pattern, to make them look as though they are, I assume, some sort of chain mail armor. This does tend to make all of the Ninja Storm Rangers rather distinctive from other Ranger concepts in this regard.
The figures are both very neatly painted, and also very well-articulated. They are poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and they have a swivel joint at the tops of their boots.
What's different between the two is the visor of the helmet. The Green Samurai Ranger that is available at standard retailers has a visor that is black, framed in gold, and looks like upswept wings, as much as anything. Below this image is a curved white line that more or less frames the lower face.
The Green Samurai Ranger that I purchased at Ross has a visor that is black, framed in gold, but looks more like a four-pointed star, again with the curved white line beneath it.
Now, I'll be forthright here. While I have been a longtime fan of the Power Rangers figures, I haven't paid as close attention to the television shows. Let's be honest here, they do tend to be rather campy stuff, and I've tended to find that a little of them can go a long way. So I really wasn't sure what the justification was for two distinct versions of the same character. Fortunately, I had a friend who had this information, and he even explained the gold vest that the Ross Ranger came with.
In his words: The Green Samurai Ranger has two modes, the one with the gold jacket, which is his standard look, and "Super Samurai Mode", where the helmet top rotates 180 degrees, and he drops the jacket which, since it tends to crush rocks underneath it, is shown to be incredibly heavy. As such it seems to have been more of a deliberate limiter, and without it he can move much faster and use a lot of strength otherwise needed to wear the thing. He can only stay like this for something like a minute before powering down.
Well, that answered THAT handily enough. It makes sense, too. The "four-pointed star" visor isn't quite as dramatic as the other one, and the four-pointed one is the one that comes with the gold vest, or jacket, as my friend called it.
Impressively enough, the heads of the figures even reflect this 180-degree rotation, to a point. The back of the head of the "four-pointed star" helmet does show the "upswept wings" visor, and the "upswept wings" helmet does show the "four pointed star" visor on its back. However, and I want to emphasize this a bit, the heads of the figures CANNOT be rotated all the way around and take the other's place. The "back" visors do not have the white curved jawline.
So, there is an entirely legitimate reason for two versions of the Green Samurai Ranger from Power Rangers Ninja Storm, and honestly, I think it's very cool that Bandai went to the effort to give us both versions, even with different accessories, although this was also appropriate, since one wears the vest and the other doesn't. Still, that guinea pig can't have been easy for the painters.
And yet, a couple of mysteries remain. Why do these figures have different card backs? Why does one show the Titanium Ranger from Lightspeed Rescue and the other does not? Believe me, THAT concerns me, for as I write this, we're very close to the annual changeover in concept, and I'm already seeing the new Mighty Morphin toys. I want that Titanium Ranger! The biggest mystery, though, to me, is -- why has one version of this figure shown up at a standard retailer, and the other one apparently made its way directly to Ross, a clearance store, and at a reduced price?
Frankly, I doubt I'll ever have the answer to that one. I'm just glad that I noticed that there was a difference between the two, and that I have both of them.
So what's my final word here? Hey, if you're a Power Rangers fan, these are a couple of very cool figures. And be sure you check your local Ross, or whatever clearance-type store you might have in your area. That's more than likely where you'll find the second version of this Ranger, and you really should have them both.
Bandai has done a very impressive job with both of them, and they'll both make excellent additions to any Power Rangers collection.
The POWER RANGERS SUPER LEGENDS NINJA STORM figure of the GREEN SAMURAI RANGER definitely has my highest recommendation -- BOTH of them!