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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 NINJA STORM!

Ninja Storm was the 2003 Power Rangers concept, falling between 2002's "Wild Force" and 2004's "Dino Thunder". It was the first Power Rangers concept to film its (non-Japanese, anyway) footage in New Zealand. It was otherwise based on the Japanese Super Sentai series "Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger".

Ninja Storm had some distinctly unusual attributes to it. It was the first Power Rangers series to feature Rangers with colors that went outside the normal range of Red, Blue, Green, Black, Pink, Yellow, and White. One of the Rangers in this series was "Crimson", another "Navy".

The show was also notable for managing to poke fun at the inherent campiness and some of the more obvious recurring themes prevalent in all Power Rangers concepts. The villain of the piece, named Lothor, managed to get some of the funnier bits. Examples would be on one occasion, after making a monster grow, he seems to turn to the camera and say "What'd you expect? It wasn't going to get smaller." In the final episode, when piloting a robot against the Zords, he yells "This is the most fun I've had all season!" This offbeat humor continued into the subsequent series, Dino Thunder.

The basic concept behind Ninja Storm was as follows: A skateboarder named Shane, a surfer named Tori, and a motorcyclist named Dustin are students of the Wind Ninja Academy, 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, who were the Crimson and Navy Rangers. Initially, they were brainwashed by Lothor into believing that the Wind Rangers were there enemies, but they ultimately overcame this. The team was also joined by Cam, who gained Green Samurai powers in a trip to the past, becoming the inevitable sixth Ranger.

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 head teacher at the Thunder Ninja Academy while his brother Blake continued his racing career.

As to the Red Ranger himself, his full name was Shane Clarke, a skateboarder. He was the only Wind Ninja student of his class to survive Lothor's attack. as the Red Wind Ranger, he wielded the power of air. He was portrayed by actor Pua Magasiva.

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 costume design is among the more distinctive from the Power Rangers concepts, although it is a case where the common body type does make a mild compromise necessary. The figure has a predominantly red uniform, of course, with white gloves with red cuffs, red boots with black ciffs, a black belt, and a circular symbol on the chest with an ornate design in it that frankly looks rather bird-like to me.

The figure's arms are a metallic silver, and here is where the mild compromise comes into play. If one takes a look at the 5" scale figures, this silver area looks a bit like thin chain-mail armor. Obviously this level of detailing wasn't possible on a figure who shares a common body-type with twelve other Rangers. Personally, to me, it's not that big of a deal. I'm still impressed with this entire series of figures, and am willing to endure a few minor matters such as this.

The helmet is one of the more unusual designs in my opinion. It's mostly red, with a black visor that has very ornate gold sculpting around it. The mouth area, silver on a considerable percentage of Power Rangers, remains red here, although there is an outline of white at the bottom. It's really one of the more impressive helmet designs, and an overall distinctive look for the Ranger. He's sort of one of my personal favorites as such, although I hate to play favorites in such an overall impressive line.

There is a detail on the left wrist. This is a representation of the Wind Morpher. These wrist-mounted devices each contain a Power Disc which, upon calling out "Ninja Storm, Ranger Form!", requires a simple spin to allow the Wind Rangers to morph. The Wind Morphers can also fire laser beams. Handy device to have.

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.

Meanwhile, the 15th Anniversary NINJA STORM RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!