One of the things that I always tend to say when reviewing any given year's crop of Power Rangers action figures is -- there's always a sixth Ranger. But there's something else that's always true as well...there's always a Red Ranger.
Whatever other colors the core group of Power Rangers may adopt for their uniforms, which have generally tended to be four of the following: Blue, Black, Green, White, Yellow, and Pink, there's always a Red Ranger. And he's also generally the team's leader.
Does it surprise anyone that we're commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Power Rangers? It's not often that a pop culture concept manages to have this sort of endurance. Although often considered rather campy and silly compared to pop culture/toy concepts of similar longevity, such as G.I.Joe or Transformers, there is simply no denying the fact that the Power Rangers has found a place in pop culture, and doesn't look to be going anywhere anytime soon. It's also found a pretty steadfast place in the toy aisles.
One of the secrets, if it can even be called that, to the longevity of the Power Rangers, has been the fact that after the original concept, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", had run for several years, the producers of the show started overhauling the concept every year. Although the basic character premise -- five young people dressed in colorful costumes, each costume reflecting a predominant color with a pattern shared by the entire group -- remained the same, as did the martial-arts- ish stunt work, the background stories tended to change rather dramatically.
This allowed Bandai, the toymaker, to essentially create an entirely new line of toys every year, and yet that entirely new line of toys was nevertheless based, at its core, on a proven name and basic theme.
The main part, toywise, of this 15th Anniversary celebration of Power Rangers, has been the release of a special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers. Larger than the approximate 5" scale common to most Power Rangers lines over the years, although size has varied somewhat, these 15th Anniversary Red Rangers are over 6-1/2" in height. And there's one for every major Power Rangers concept that has ever existed, right up to 2007's "Operation Overdrive".
It is my intention, as I am able to acquire these excellent action figures, to review each one, as well as provide a background into the Power Rangers concept from which he is a part of. For this review, I'd like to review the Red Ranger from POWER RANGERS LIGHTSPEED RESCUE!
This series, which debuted in 2000, was the second series which did not follow the continuity established by Mighty Morphin/Zeo/Turbo/Space. By this point, the decision had been made that not only would each yea see a new line of Power Rangers toys, but the entire concept and storyline itself would be overhauled. However, there is a certain amount of lingering continuity. In what one has to assume is some sort of "multiverse", all Power Rangers concepts are considered "canon", and crossovers are not unheard of.
The Japanese seem to love this sort of thing. Look at Gundam, for another considerable example of this practice.
As for the production of the Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue series, here's the story: Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue was based on the Super Sentai series "Kyuukyuu Sentai GoGo-V" (ever get the feeling these things lose something in the translation?). The series is unique in several respects: It was the first incarnation of Power Rangers to have the Rangers' identities to be known to the public from the onset, as opposed to previous incarnations where a Ranger's identity was to be kept secret, revealed only in extreme circumstances. All of the members are over the age of 18 and had previous professions before becoming Power Rangers. It was also the first where the Rangers powers, Zords and weapons were man-made and had no mystical or extraterrestrial origin whatsoever.
The storyline synopsis is as follows: Lightspeed Rescue takes place in the fictitious city of Mariner Bay, California, which was built on an ancient demon burial ground. When the demons threaten to rise again, a government organization called Lightspeed Rescue, headed by Captain William Mitchell recruits four civilians and his own daughter to defend the city. Each of the four civilians chosen had a special area of expertise: Carter Grayson, the Red Lightspeed Ranger, was a fire fighter in the local fire department; Chad Lee, the Blue Lightspeed Ranger, worked as a lifeguard and marine animal trainer at a local marine amusement park; Joel Rawlings, the Green Lightspeed Ranger, was a stunt pilot; Kelsey Winslow, the Yellow Lightspeed Ranger, was an extreme sports athlete; and Dana Mitchell, the Pink Lightspeed Ranger, was a nurse and practiced medical arts. The five Power Rangers were aided by a team of scientists and engineers led by Miss Angela Fairweather, and operated out of the Lightspeed Aquabase, an underwater military compound that also deters the hydrophobic demons from directly attacking the base.
The five Rangers would be joined by Captain Mitchell's son, Ryan Mitchell, long thought to be dead, who would become the inevitable sixth Ranger, the Titanium Ranger. Together, the six Rangers would prevail against the demon forces time after time, culminating in a final showdown where, in increasing Power Rangers tradition, much of the weapons and other equipment that was used by the Power Rangers over the series was destroyed.
In addition, Lightspeed Rescue featured a reunion reappearance of characters from Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy, the series which preceded Lightspeed Rescue, when the villainess Trakeena comes to Earth to destroy it and the Lightspeed Rangers team up with the Galaxy Rangers. Like I said -- crossovers were not unheard of, although in a fairly kid-centric and rather campy series like Power Rangers, I doubt any great lengths were expended to explain them, either. Any attempt to do so rationally and logically would probably be enough to give you a headache.
Moderately annoying to me, anyway, is the fact that one of the villains in the series was a character named Vypra, described as a "female demon who attacks with her dune buggy vehicle, the Vyprari." Never mind what a demon needs with a dune buggy, the G.I. Joe concept had that character name first, and I should know, because I CAME UP WITH IT FOR THEM IN LATE 1997! Same spelling and everything.
Anyway -- just had to get that out -- the Red Ranger in this series was Carter Grayson, a suitably heroic-sounding name, I must admit. He was a firefighter when he was recruited to become the Red Lightspeed Rescue Power Ranger. Grayson is very serious about his work and often does not engage in fun. He holds himself up to high standards. He was portrayed by actor Sean Cw Johnson.
The figure is excellent. What Bandai has done for this special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers is they have created a basic body type, and an excellent one, that can reasonably accommodate any of the intricate uniform decoration patterns of any of the Power Rangers concept. Of course, a unique head -- or perhaps the correct term should be helmet -- sculpt is created for each Red Ranger.
The articulation is excellent. The Power Ranger is poseable at the head, arms, glove tops, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Additionally, there is a mid-torso articulation point that is so well designed you almost don't see it until you have the figure out of its package. This can be a particularly tricky articulation point to add to an action figure. Sometimes it can be worked very well into the basic design of the figure. The best example I can think of here is Star Wars Clone Troopers, where it can blend with the armor. It works fairly well on figures like Marvel Legends, where there is no great effort to conceal the articulation points. But I've seen it on some figures where it doesn't look very good at all.
On the Red Ranger here, it works and looks a lot better than it has any business, really, and kudos to Bandai for the design work.
There is one articulation aspect that should have been included, but wasn't. That would have been an upper-arm swivel. This does have the unfortunate effect of rather considerably curtailing the poseability of the arms on an otherwise supremely well-articulated action figure.
The uniform design for the Lightspeed Rescue Rangers was quite a striking one, and it has been carried out very nicely on this Red Ranger. The helmet is fairly plain, with a black shield-shaped visor up front, bordered by white, with a horizontal and vertical white line running from the shield over the helmet and around the sides.
The gloves and boots are white with gold borders, and the uniform has a gold belt with a fairly ornate belt buckle.
The most striking part of the uniform, however, is the front. Four triangular shapes, in white, come in from the shoulders and sides of the uniform to meet in the center of the chest, creating an almost 3-D perspective effect. Interestingly, Bandai was able to work this design out very well on this particular Red Ranger even allowing for the mid- torso articulation point.
Now, here's the curious thing -- the design does not repeat on the back of the figure. I have, on occasion, protested the fact that Bandai doesn't always paint all of the needed detail on the backs of their Power Rangers figures. One can readily see sculpted lines where paint should have been applied, but no doubt as a cost-saving move, it hasn't been. But I couldn't imagine them doing that to the 15th Anniversary Red Rangers, especially since by the time I had purchased the Lightspeed Rescue Red Ranger, I had several others in the collection, and they had been painted properly!
I honestly began to wonder if (a) it was supposed to be this way or (b) if I'd somehow picked up a defective one where they hadn't painted the back. As it was, I had a Mystic Force Red Ranger missing some paint on one elbow.
Well, I have to say I was greatly relieved when I checked Lightspeed Rescue online for some research purposes, and here was a photograph of the actual Lightspeed Rescue Rangers in various poses, and it was clearly evident from several of them that this pattern on the front of the uniform DIDN'T actually continue on the back! So -- this Lightspeed Rescue Red Ranger figure IS properly painted!
Whew! A definite relief.
And overall, this is really a spectacular figure, and part of a truly fascinating series. Despite a relatively common scale over the years, not all Power Rangers figures are really compatible across different concepts. This 15th Anniversary Red Ranger series is truly the first time that the main characters from all of the different Power Rangers concepts have been produced in a compatible format.
Honestly, I hope that Bandai finds some way to continue this particular series, as the Power Rangers concepts continue in the years ahead. Doubtless there will be more Red Rangers. And I'd like to think we wouldn't have to wait until the 20th Anniversary to get them in this format.
Meanwhile, the 15th Anniversary LIGHTSPEED RESCUE RED RANGER, as well
as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!