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By Thomas Wheeler

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 MYSTIC FORCE!

Power Rangers Mystic Force was the 2006 Power Rangers series, airing after the sci-fi oriented Power Rangers S.P.D., and preceding the 2007 series, Operation Overdrive.

As with all Power Rangers series, the show is adapted from a series in the long-running Japanese franchise, "Super Sentai". Mystic Force is adapted from the series "Mahou Sentai Magiranger". It is notable for being the first series to have Rangers that wore capes. Obviously they missed the advisory against having this sort of thing as warned against in the Disney movie "The Incredibles".

A synopsis of the series reads as follows: Twenty years ago, in a magic-filled dimension parallel to our own, the forces of darkness came into power and a war called the Great Battle began.

An army of the undead, led by a powerful warrior, swarmed into the land with their sights set on taking over the magical realm, the human realm and beyond, but they would have to combat a legion of brave and powerful wizards.

The Mystics battled valiantly against overwhelming odds until they drove the evil back from the edge of the human world. The strongest wizard of all, Leanbow, cast a spell and sent the evil warriors into the Underworld, having the Gatekeeper seal the gates for all eternity.

The forces of truth successfully thwarted the dark forces' attempt to take the surface world, but they lost Leanbow, as he made sure the evil forces did not escape by sealing himself on their side of the Gate. The human world would never know of the Great Battle, nor of the sacrifices made to spare their lives from destruction. Even to this day they live in peace and tranquility, totally unaware of what is about to awaken.

In the present day, the city of Briarwood was struck by an earthquake, which was just enough to crack the seal, allowing evil to renew its attempt to invade the human world. The sorceress Udonna, realizing that the forces of evil had returned, sought out the warriors of legend, five teens living in Briarwood, to become the Power Rangers alongside her. While one of the teens was reluctant at first, he realized his destiny and joined the others in the fight against the Master of the Underworld and his numerous minions.

When Udonna loses her Ranger powers to the mysterious Koragg, it is up to Nick, Chip, Madison, Vida, and Xander to save the Earth on their own. They are assisted by Udonna's bumbling apprentice Clare, and eventually Jenji the Genie and his master Daggeron, the Solaris Knight. Using their powerful magic and incredible martial arts skills, the Mystic Force Power Rangers must rely on teamwork to save the day.

The toy line at the time seemed to have its fits and spurts, as well. There was no standard 5" scale Solaris Ranger, despite the character's prominent presence on the program. I actually had to call in a couple of international favors to have one sent to me from Japan. It came complete with a "flying carpet" on wheels, but why this toy was not released in the United States remains a mystery, and caused a fair amount of consternation among Power Rangers fans, who in 2007 were so concerned as to whether the "sixth Ranger" from Operation Overdrive, the Mercury Ranger, would receive his action figure due.

The Rangers themselves were unusual, in that this concept featured a male Yellow Ranger -- usually yellow is one of the female Ranger colors, and a female Blue Ranger.

The series ran for 32 episodes, which, although I would have to check, strikes me as mildly shorter than some previous Power Rangers series.

As to the Red Ranger from this concept, his name was Nick Russell. As the Red Mystic Ranger; he was the last member on the team to gain his magical powers, yet he has the greatest potential for power, as it is discovered that he is Bowen, son of Leanbow and Udonna. As the Red Mystic Ranger, he has power over fire and can transform into the Mystic Phoenix and the Mystic Firebird. He was portrayed by actor Firass Dirani.

The figure is, for the most part, 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.

There are, however, some costume issues. A number of Power Rangers concepts, especially the more recent ones, have seen the Rangers within their respective concepts undergo various stages of development or upgrades along the way. The S.P.D. Power Rangers picked up armored enhancements to their uniforms, for example, and this was reflected in a second series of action figures during their run.

In the case of the Mystic Force Power Rangers, they developed into "Legend" status, with far more ornate costumes. For whatever reason -- and it may have been simply to drop the cape that the "basic" Mystic Force Rangers had -- the Mystic Force Red Ranger in the 15th Anniversary series, is in his "Legend" mode.

In and of itself, it's not a bad design. Unfortunately, it's SO ornate that compared to the rest of the Red Rangers in this series, he sticks out like a multi-colored parrot in a cageful of albino cockatoos.

I compare this "Legend" Red Ranger to my standard 5" Mystic Force Ranger from that line, strictly on the basis of uniform design and reasonable visual compatibility to the other Red Rangers, and cape or no cape, the more basic Red Mystic Ranger would have been the preferable option here.

And honestly, I think it WOULD have been possible to do the cape! Yes, it would've required an additional mold, but the way these figures are assembled, there are two screwholes on the back near the shoulder blades that would have been perfect to snap a cape into. I'd honestly like to see a price comparison between making a cape mold, and the creation of all of the extra paint stencils (and the paint itself) that it took to make this figure look like his "Legend" version versus what would have been necessary to paint the figure like his more standard version.

I also recommend a careful inspection of this figure should you decide to add him to your collection. So many parts are painted on this figure that -- well, guess what? They missed one of the elbows on the one I picked up. Make sure yours is COMPLETELY painted. I suppose I'm griping a bit about this figure because of that, in part, but he really does stick out like a sore thumb compared to the others.

However, I do have to say that, in all fairness, on his own, he's a very well-made and well-detailed figure. The helmet has these ornate wings that go out to the side, and a black visor bordered in gold that's FAR more complicated than most of the helmet designs (and I wonder how in the world the actor in the costume was able to see what he was doing wearing this thing).

The upper torso is white, with a "bib" of gold bordered in black with a flame-like bird emblazoned within it. There are thick stripes of gold and black running from the torso all the way down the legs. The Ranger also has a gold belt, mostly white boots and gloves, and ornate patterning around the boots and gloves in black and gold that frankly defies easy description. Suffice to say I'm glad I wasn't the person responsible for designing the stencils and spraying the paint (although I'd like to think I wouldn't've missed the elbow on this one...)

Here's a little irony -- there's a second series of 15th Anniversary Red Ranger toys out there. They're boxed sets of five figures each. They're basically non-poseable statues, posed in action stances. Personally, I don't recommend them, unless you're a statue collector that is also a Power Rangers fan. Then, you might enjoy them. Personally, I've never been one for statues. However, the Mystic Force Red Ranger in THAT set
-- is the more standard version. And he also blends with the group a lot better.

I am personally hopeful that this 15th Anniversary Series of Red Rangers continues, even if under a different name. The next Power Rangers concept, subtitled "Jungle Fury", is already getting a fair amount of attention from fans. And of course there is a Red Ranger in that. I'd love to see him added to this line. And whatever Red Rangers follow in the years ahead. And I'd like to think that I won't have to wait until the 20th Anniversary to get them.

But if Bandai wants to do some of us a favor, it'd be nice if they made the STANDARD Mystic Force Red Ranger -- cape or not. There's a few other faces from the past they could throw in, as well. Don't get me started on the Alien Rangers or I'll really cause a digression.

Meanwhile, for those of us that want to be completists with this line, we'll have to accept the "Legend" version of the Mystic Force Red Ranger. And honestly, it's not a bad figure, really. The whole line is impressive. He's just a little too garish for his own good from a comparative standpoint.

And it should be noted that 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.

As such, the 15th Anniversary MYSTIC FORCE RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!