As the newest Power Rangers concept, JUNGLE FURY, commences in the United States, there are some concerns over the degree to which certain aspects of the concept have been changed from their Japanese origins for the American audience.
Perhaps a bit of both general and specific background is called for here. Whatever given Power Rangers concept appears in Japan in a certain year, the United States has historically gotten that concept one year later. Of course, there is a certain amount of Americanization. English-speaking actors are hired to portray the roles of the Rangers when they're not out bashing the monster of the week, and of course the concept name and character names are given English designations.
What we call Power Rangers Jungle Fury is known, more or less, as Super Sentai GekiRanger in Japan. Technically speaking, the Rangers have been around twice as long in Japan as they have in the United States. There's 15 years worth of material that we never got. But that's a rather convoluted and complicated story, and not really necessary for this review.
While there have been previous instances where some alterations between the Japanese and American concepts have been more drastic than the usual more-or-less straight bring-over-and-film-the-English-footage -- Lightspeed Rescue being the prime example with the development of the sixth Titanium Ranger who did not exist in the Japanese counterpart -- JUNGLE FURY has caused quite the stir in the Power Rangers fan community -- and yes, there IS one.
In the Japanese GekiRanger concept, there are three core Rangers -- Red, Yellow, and Blue, that are based on three animals -- Tiger, Cheetah, and Jaguar. The American Jungle Fury concept has added three additional Rangers, Green, Turquoise (even though he's not called that), and a Black-and-Silver combo, that are based on three additional animals -- Elephant, Shark, and Bat. These three Rangers never existed in the Japanese GekiRanger story.
Which leads around to the situation surrounding the two additional Japanese Rangers, who were designated by the colors Purple and White. As of this writing, I honestly have no idea whether these characters will be added to the American line. I would like to think so, even though it would result in the largest Rangers team ever -- eight members.
But here's where we get into this specific review. There has never been a Purple Power Ranger before this. Okay, technically in Japan the color is referred to as "Violet". Given the difficulties in translating anything from Japanese to English (or English to Japanese, for that matter), I'm sticking with Purple. Besides, Purple Power Ranger has a certain rhythm to it -- even if every time I say it I get the chorus to the comedy song "Purple People Eater" playing in my head.
The closest we've ever had to a Purple Power Ranger before this was the Knight Wolf character in the Mystic Force series, and technically, he wasn't really a Ranger. He did have a lot of purple on him, though.
For all the colors that have turned up over the years -- Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Yellow, Pink, Black, White, and even, once, briefly, Orange -- there has never been a Purple Power Ranger.
So, with a certain amount of uncertainty over the character's presence in Jungle Fury, I became rather determined to some how bring a Purple Power Ranger into my collection.
The Purple Ranger is not quite up to the height of his American counterparts. And he's not quite up to the quality level, but he's close. But he's still EXTREMELY impressive, especially for a little guy that was most likely made for the vending machine market.
The Purple Ranger stands about 5-1/4" in height. His helmet is nicely detailed. He is poseable at the head, arms (outward and back and forth), an upper arm swivel, elbows, legs, an upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles that are on a ball-and-socket articulation point.
As to the paint detailing, here's where things get rather interesting. The figure is molded in black and purple, more or less whichever color is the most prominent on any given body piece. There is some silver and black paint trim on the helmet, mostly around the visor, some purple paint on the torso (and I wonder how hard it was to match colors), and some silver around the wrists and ankles. However, this is not the extent of the detailing the figure should have. One look at the photographic illustration on the package is proof enough of that.
To cover this, the figure came with -- stickers! Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, and no doubt it was a great time-saver and probably expense-saver. However, there are some things that I will trust stickers for, and some things I won't. Most of this is due largely to the nature of the materials used, and the size of the item they're used on.
I will trust a set of stickers to properly label, for example, a seven- and-a-half-foot-long Aircraft Carrier. Most of those stickers are going to be applied to smooth, flat surfaces, and are being applied to surfaces large enough to accommodate them properly. But to take another example from the G.I. Joe line, the early releases of Duke in 1984 came with a small American flag sticker that was to be applied to his upper right arm. This sticker was made out of the same transparent vinyl that many of the stickers for the Aircraft Carrier -- and most of the other vehicles in the G.I. Joe line -- were made out of.
What works for an Aircraft Carrier, or even a jeep or a motorcycle, isn't necessarily going to work that well for the upper arm of a 3-3/4" action figure when that arm is somewhere around an inch to an inch-and-a-half in circumference and has a plastic seam line and some sculpted "wrinkles" in it. Even using some additional glue I couldn't get that tiny flag to stay put. Sadly, my Duke has been flagless for most of his life. I still HAVE the flag sticker, but it just didn't work that well.
There wasn't anything wrong with Duke. There wasn't really anything wrong with the sticker. It was simple physics. A small adhesive coated piece of vinyl is simply not going to adhere to such a small and uneven surface as well as it's going to work on a larger item.
So here I had a Purple Power Ranger, with stickers, and quite an extended period of time of experience with such matters rolling around on my head. And as considerate as it was for Bandai to provide the stickers to properly accentuate the figure, and I'm sure those stickers are well made enough, and would probably be more than adequate for most buyers of the toy -- I don't think so.
Now, here's where having two of these figures might come in handy. I can keep one untouched. As for the other one. Well, for someone with adequate skill, and I've certainly customized more than a fair share of action figures over the years, there's another solution. I painted him!
You see, all of the necessary lines where the detail is supposed to go, are sculpted onto the figure, even the claw-like GekiRanger/Jungle Fury insignia on the chest! This is not unusual. You can see such lines on most American Power Rangers figures, and in some cases, they're not painted either. Bandai has had the unfortunate habit of not fully painting the backs of their Power Rangers figures for a couple of years. Ironically, these sculpted lines do not appear as extensively on the American Jungle Fury Rangers, but there are reasons for that which I discuss in my review of those figures.
On this Purple Power Ranger, the detail lines are very clearly in evidence. And I have the photo on the package for reference. And I have the black, silver, and white paint. Thank God I don't have to match the purple. The rest is just a matter of time, patience, and a steady hand.
So what's my final take on this guy? Well, really, I think it's pretty cool that there's a new Power Ranger in town that is based on a color never previously used in the Power Rangers concepts over the years. And given the probable origins of this particular figure, I am extremely impressed with its overall quality. There's American toys on the shelves that aren't this well made, never mind vending machines.
I am sincerely hopeful that as the American Jungle Fury line progresses, and certainly no one can question the fact that Power Rangers continues to be one of the few genuine success stories in an action figure world where one of the despairing cries of the longtime participants seems to be, "It's not the 1980's anymore", that there will be an American version of the Purple Power Ranger -- and for that matter the White Ranger as well -- size and design compatible with those that have already been released. But at the time of this writing, I am not certain, and certainly there are some unusually drastic differences between the American and Japanese concepts this time around.
However, it is gratifying to have this figure. The first-ever official Purple Power Ranger. And for those of you who don't want to wait to see if there will be an American version, or who just enjoy having the Japanese aspect of the Power Rangers, then this fine action figure definitely has my highest recommendation!