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By Thomas Wheeler

Certainly one of the most popular pop-culture concepts of modern times has been the POWER RANGERS. Brought over from Japan by Saban Productions, and later owned by Disney for a number of years, the Power Rangers concept has managed to stay vital by essentially re-inventing itself every year, into a new storyline, while maintaining the basic premise of a group of young people with similar, if differently-colored, costumes, teaming together to fight whatever forces of evil happen to be thrown at them in any given concept.

Bandai has been the producer of Power Rangers toys since its inception, including the latest concept to reach American shores, known as POWER RANGERS SAMURAI. Recently, the show, and the toy line, gained an extra word in its title, now officially known as POWER RANGERS SUPER SAMURAI.

While I am not enough of a Power Rangers fan to collect every gadget and Zord that comes out, I do tend to collect the basic Power Rangers in any given concept, and with the expansion of the name, another group of Power Rangers figures have made their way to the toy stores. This review will take a look at the all five Power Rangers currently available under the Super Samurai banner.

But first, let's have a basic look at the Power Rangers Samurai concept, and then the characters behind these individual Rangers in particular.

Power Rangers Samurai is the eighteenth season of the American children's television series Power Rangers. With Saban Brands buying back the franchise, the show is produced by SCG Power Rangers and began airing on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons on February 7, 2011.

As with all Power Rangers programs, Power Rangers Samurai is based on one of the entries of the Super Sentai Series; in the case of Samurai, the source series is Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. Saban Brands have said the show will have a "brighter tone and gets an infusion of fun and comedy that wasn't present in seasons 16 and 17."

Samurai is split into two 20-episode seasons; the second set of 20 episodes began on February 18, 2012 and is called Power Rangers Super Samurai, which is being called a new season. Super Samurai is considered the nineteenth season.

The Samurai Power Rangers – Red Ranger Jayden, the stoic leader; Blue Ranger Kevin, the devoted second-in-command; Pink Ranger Mia, the big sister; Green Ranger Mike, the creative rebel; Yellow Ranger Emily, the youngest and most innocent; and Gold Ranger Antonio, the expressive fisherman/tech wiz – fight the evil Master Xandred and his army of Nighloks, who want to flood the planet with the waters of the Sanzu River to bring about the end of civilization.

The Rangers reside at the Shiba House, their base of operations and use the kanji-based power called Symbol Power, which is passed down from one generation to the next. Symbol Power allows them to turn thoughts into power.

Once becoming a Ranger, they must stay clear of their friends and family to keep them safe from becoming a target of the Nighloks. The Shiba House is protected by special Defensive Symbols to keep the Rangers safe. They use a Gap Sensor to detect the presence of a Nighlok and its whereabouts.

The Rangers all carry "Spin Swords" that can utilize Samurai Disks. When a disk is attached to it, the Spin Sword acts as a praxinoscope and it powers up depending on the disk itself. The Spins Swords can be transformed into each of the Rangers signature weapon. When the Rangers summon their Zords, each Spin Sword transforms into a "Mega Blade". In the Zords' cockpit, the Mega Rangers fold their Mega Blade and insert it and attach the standard Samurai Disk to the piloting system.

Upon entering battle, the team morphs by calling "Go, Go Samurai!" and writing their respective Ranger symbol with their morphers: The Samuraizers. The Gold Ranger has a unique Morphing call and instead states "Samurai Morpher, Gold Power!" After morphing the whole group then states their motto "Rangers Together, Samurai Forever!"

As to the Rangers themselves, let's consider them individually:

RED RANGER - Jayden is a young man descended from the Red Ranger Shiba family. He was raised since childhood by Mentor Ji after his father gave him the Lion Folding Zord before his final battle. He is the 18th leader of the Samurai Power Rangers. Jayden is generally calm and serious, though he considers others' feelings and is willing to do anything to help his friends.

Jayden is always concerned for the other Rangers, even once attempted to leave and fight alone to put them out of risk and initially refused to allow Antonio to join them for the same reason. His excellent fighting skills make him the target of a mysterious half-Nighlok, half-human warrior named Deker, who wants to find a formidable opponent for his katana Uramasa. It is hinted several times that he is keeping a secret from the other Rangers, which often troubles him but he reminds himself it's for their safety.

Being the only ranger that can master a special sealing character that can seal away the leader of the Nighloks: Master Xandred, the other rangers are very protective of him and are often willing to put themselves in harms way for his safety, which constantly troubles him. As the series progress he becomes more open with them and accepts the fact that they are a team.

In a fight against Deker, Deker states that he has become weaker because he relies on his team mates now as opposed to fighting alone as he did previously. Mentor Ji assures him this is not true and that he brings honor to all the Red rangers before him.

Jayden's secret is finally revealed in the episode "Fight Fire with Fire." Jayden was not the true Red ranger but was rather standing in for his older sister Lauren, who was sent into hiding as a child to avoid being targeted by the Nighloks as she was the only one who could master the sealing symbol and not Jayden. After Lauren takes her place at the Shiba House as the true Red Ranger, Jayden decides to leave the Shiba House no longer having any purpose there much to the other Rangers dismay.

As the Red ranger he is the Samurai of Fire and his personal weapon is the Fire Smasher, with the Bullzooka serving as his secondary weapon. The Fire Smasher can enter "Cannon Blast mode" when used any auxiliary Zord disk. He pilots the Lion Folding Zord, Tiger Zord and the Bull Zord.

The Lion Disk and the Lightning Disk allow him to use the moves "Blazing Strike" and "Lightning Fury" respectively. When both Disks are used in combination with two Spin Swords, Jayden can use the "Blazing Storm" attack.

He can use the Black Box to access his Super Mode or the Shark Disk to access Shark Attack Mode. When piloting a zord he morphs into his Megamode form. He will morph into Super Mega Mode or Mega Shark Mode if he was in Super Mode or Shark Attack mode prior to morphing. Using the Shogun Buckle he can access Shogun Mode.

BLUE RANGER - Kevin is a young man who gave up his dream of swimming in the Olympics to become the Blue Samurai Ranger. Due to his strict upbringing, he is extremely enthusiastic and takes his ranger duties seriously. His fierce loyalty and enthusiasm brings much comic relief. He lives a very disciplined lifestyle and is never late due to his self-planned daily training schedule. Kevin is also the engineer behind many of the Samurai Combinations, having figured out how to combine the Samurai Battlewing with the Megazord. He was initially unreceptive towards Antonio, as he felt Antonio was not a true Samurai and was "just goofing around" but after seeing Antonio's dedication, he finally accepted him as a true Samurai.

Kevin is the closest in terms of skill to Jayden. As such Kevin is typically the one to lead the other Rangers in Jayden's absence. He also appreciates Mike's creativity, however the Green Ranger's lazy nature tends to annoy him. Nevertheless, the two of them work well as a team.

As the Blue Ranger, he is the Samurai of Water and his personal weapon is the Hydro Bow. He pilots the Dragon Folding Zord and the Swordfish Zord.

The Dragon Disk allows him to use his signature move "Dragon Splash". He can also use the Swordfish Disk with his Hydro Bow to fire a special healing mist.

He can use the Black Box to access his Super Mode or the Shark Disk to access Shark Attack Mode. When piloting a zord he morphs into his Megamode form. He will morph into Super Mega Mode or Mega Shark Mode if he was in Super Mode or Shark Attack mode prior to morphing. Using the Shogun Buckle he can access Shogun Mode.

GREEN RANGER - Mike is an avid video gamer and the lazy rebel of the group. He is very close friends to Kevin and Emily. Mike also wants to be as strong as Jayden therefore sometimes trains rigorously to improve his skills.

Being the slacker of the group, he is very irresponsible and once skipped out on training when he felt that he was not doing well to hang out with his old friends. He can also be somewhat cocky and tends to joke around, but he is kind and usually means well. While Mike is not as skilled as Jayden and Kevin, Mike is very crafty and tricky sometimes outwitting what would otherwise be a difficult enemy. His creativity is what allows him to defeat tough opponents.

He often clashes with Kevin however they are still the best of friends. He respects Kevin's stronger technique but will often deny it. Mentor Ji had trouble trainning him at first due to his lifestyle but later they become more cooperative and Mike improves his Symbol Power allowing him to access the powers of the Beetle Disk.

As the Green Ranger, he is the Samurai of the Forest and his personal weapon is the Forest Spear. He pilots the Bear Folding Zord and the Beetle Zord.

The Bear Disk allows him to use his signature move "Forest Vortex". He can also use the Beetle Disk with his Forest Spear to extend its range and power.

He can use the Black Box to access his Super Mode or the Shark Disk to access Shark Attack Mode. When piloting a zord he morphs into his Megamode form. He will morph into Super Mega Mode or Mega Shark Mode if he was in Super Mode or Shark Attack mode prior to morphing. Using the Shogun Buckle he can access Shogun Mode.

PINK RANGER: Mia Watanabe is a strong-willed girl who acts as the big sister to the team. She loves children and worked at a orphanage prior to becoming the Pink Samurai Ranger. Though she is a terrible cook. She tries her best in order to achieve her dreams. Mia's maturity and optimism brings the team together and comforts any one of them that's feeling down. She also acts as an idol to Emily, who wants to be more like her.

It is later revealed that she has a brother named Terrence who she calls Terry for short, and also that she is a singer. She was somewhat sympathetic towards Dayu after she witnessed the tragic events that befell Dayu but then later develops a strong hatred of her after Dayu attacked Emily while Mia was trying to reason with her.

As the Pink Ranger, she is the Samurai of Sky, and her personal weapon is the Sky Fan. She pilots the Turtle Folding Zord.

The Turtle Disk allows her to use her signature move "Air Wave."

She can use the Black Box to access her Super Mode or the Shark Disk to access Shark Attack Mode. When piloting a zord she morphs into her Megamode form. She will morph into Super Mega Mode or Mega Shark Mode if she was in Super Mode or Shark Attack Mode, prior to morphing. Using the Shogun Buckle, she can access Shogun Mode.

YELLOW RANGER - Emily is a country girl who becomes a Ranger by chance. She is close to her older sister, Serena, who had been training to be the Yellow Samurai Ranger. When Serena became ill, Emily stepped up to take her place. Emily is deeply respectful of Jayden and wants to help the team in any way she can.

She has rather low self-esteem; she genuinely believes that she is clumsy and not fit to be a Ranger. Emily used an old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" to help her get through her childhood. She can also be seen playing a flute, due to her sister playing a flute to make her feel better every time someone picked on her. She idolizes Mia and strives to become more like her. As the series progresses, she becomes more confident and braver and no longer doubts herself or her abilities.

As the Yellow Ranger, she is the Samurai of Earth and her personal weapon is the Earth Slicer. She pilots the Ape Folding Zord.

The Ape Disk allows her to use her signature move "Seismic Swing."

She can use the Black Box to access her Super Mode or the Shark Disk to access Shark Attack Mode. When piloting a zord she morphs into her Megamode form. She will morph into Super Mega Mode or Mega Shark Mode if she was in Super Mode or Shark Attack Mode prior to morphing. Using the Shogun Buckle she can access Shogun Mode.

So, how are the figures? Really very cool. This particular group of Rangers has undergone more wardrobe changes than most. I've been used to seeing maybe one major costume change in any given Power Rangers concept, that will be reflected in a complete team of action figures from Bandai. But for the Samurai Rangers, these "Super Megas" are actually the fourth major costume change!

The first Rangers released in the line were known as "Mega Rangers", and they featured highly detailed and intricate costumes that looked somewhat armored. The second group were known as "Samurai Rangers", which were arguably a more basic form of the Rangers. Rather surprising to me that they were actually released later in the line. However, from a costume standpoint, they tended to fit the bill a little better in my opinion. The third group, which perhaps rather blessedly only consisted of the male Rangers in the action figure line, were wearing these white, high-collared, sleeveless long coats. A friend of mine who saw them dubbed them -- not inappropriately -- "Elvis Rangers". I decided my collection didn't really need this particular group, largely because it didn't include the complete team.

So, where do the "Super Megas" fit along this? Probably closer to the Megas than anything, which makes sense given their names. However, the intricately carved details don't seem to be quite as glaring this time around, which I happen to think is a plus.

The male figures stand about 4-1/2" in height, while the female Rangers stand about 4-1/4" tall, and with the exception of the designs on their helmets, and the main color of their costumes, they are identical respective to gender. The visors on their helmets are an interesting study in both calligraphy and practical engineering. You see, their helmet visors reflect the symbols represented by their particular -- specialty, for lack of a better term.

For instance, as the Red Ranger is the Ranger of Fire, his helmet visor is based on the letter-symbol for fire. The same is true for the Blue Ranger, who represents Water, and the Green Ranger, who represents the Forest. The Yellow Ranger represents Earth, so the visor on her helmet is a stylized version of the letter-symbol for that particular element, and the the Pink Ranger represents Sky, and it's quite remarkable that each of these respective, rather elemental symbols, could be effectively turned into a helmet visor that (a) still looks enough like the appropriate symbol and (b) still lets the actors wearing the helmets see where they're going.

There are some letters in some other alphabets in the world, including English, that I don't think this would be as effective with. Try designing a helmet visor using some of these characters and you'd end up with actors walking into walls.

The helmets are otherwise fairly straightforward, curved to fit the head, with a silver area below the helmet visor with a little mouth sculpted into it. This is not at all an uncommon practice for Power Ranger costume designs. The mouth doesn't move. Good thing, too. It's likely tricky enough blending the American footage with the Japanese footage in these shows without having to lip-sync a bunch of costumed stuntmen jumping all over the place.

The costumes, basically, consist of a colored shirt, black trousers, colored boots, silver gloves and knee pads, and a gold belt. This is, essentially, the "Mega" costume. What makes it distinctive from most Power Ranger costume designs is the level of sculpted detail that is present. There is a gridwork of lines, especially on the shirt, but also present on the trousers, that would indicate that these costumes are designed to be more protective, or armored in some way. The basic "Samurai" costumes do not have this feature. Additionally, there is raised protective padding on the front of the upper legs, and silver spikes on the elbows.

Honestly, I've been of the opinion that it made the costumes a little too ornate, but doubtless part of this is the relatively small size of the figures. Sculpted line detailing is just naturally going to be more prominent at this size. I'm not saying it's a bad look. It's not. It's just a little more ornate than I'm used to.

So, what makes them "Super"? There's an additional element to the costumes, which in its own way, looks like it's been carried over from the high-collared "Elvis" coats, but looks a whole lot better. The Rangers are now wearing these white, armored-looking vests, that have high collars and flared shoulders. There are also these angled lines on the front that have the color of the Ranger wearing the vest embedded in them.

Here we see one small lack of painted detail. There's a couple of angled indentations on the backs of the figures, that I'm quite sure should have been painted. They're not. This is the one area where Bandai sometimes gets a little cheap with the Rangers. They don't always fully paint the backs of the figures. This has been going on for years. Its a shame, too, because Bandai has some of the most precise, meticulous painting in the business. I don't know much of anyone better at "staying in the lines" when they paint their figures. To deny these Rangers their proper level of neatly-painted detailing is most unfortunate.

These vests carry over some additional detail found on the previous Samurai uniforms. These include the gold emblem insignia on the upper left chest -- right where Star Trek always put it, for what matter -- and the V-neck collar with the line that wraps around to the lower right side. This is a nice little nod to a lot of "typical" martial arts costumes, and on the Rangers, it's black with gold outline. The raised collars of the costumes also have gold trim on them.

Of course, the figures are superbly articulated. Each Ranger is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, and knees. One thing I was very pleased with was the fact that the articulation points on all three of these figures were nicely tight. With the original Mega Rangers, the legs of the three male figures were notably loose. With the Samurai Rangers, the legs of the two female figures were a bit loose. Looks like Bandai finally got some consistency going with this set. I don't have any problems with any of them.

Each Ranger comes with appropriate weapon accessories, of course, and the packages are interesting, because each one shows what the actual symbol of each Ranger's specific elemental specialty looks like, before being slightly stylized for use on the helmet. Who says action figures aren't educational?

All five of the main team of Rangers are currently available, although as always, the two female Rangers are a little tougher to find, since they tend to be short-packed. At the moment, the Gold Ranger is not part of this group. However, I have seen a Gold Ranger figure, with this costume design, as a different part (and different size) in the overall Power Rangers Super Samurai line.

As it stands right now, I'm not terribly optimistic about seeing a Gold Ranger in the standard assortment. The next iteration of the Power Rangers, known as MegaForce, is on the scene, also commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Power Rangers in the United States. Now, some late Rangers have been known to turn up months later at clearance stores such as Ross, so I suppose it's still possible.

As for the new MegaForce Rangers, don't worry, I expect to get around to reviewing them in the near future. However, if you want to obtain these Super Samurai Rangers, I suggest some haste, even as of this writing. The overhaul is definitely underway.

So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. Power Rangers Super Samurai has proven to be a good semi-restart for the Power Rangers concept, now back in the hands of Saban, after some moderate neglect on the part of Disney. Bandai has turned out some impressive action figures here, and this latest group of "Super Mega" Rangers is an abundantly worthwhile addition to the Power Rangers collection. If you like the Power Rangers, you'll definitely want to bring these in to your collection.

The "SUPER MEGA" RANGERS from POWER RANGERS SUPER SAMURAI definitely have my highest recommendation!