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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 TURBO!

Power Rangers Turbo was the third Power Rangers series, after "Mighty Morphin" and "Zeo". It was a continuation of the storyline, and at least some of the characters, which had been carried through the Power Rangers concept from the start.

The storyline is as follows: Power Rangers Turbo is the follow up to Power Rangers: Zeo and the continuation of the storyline begun in the film, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, in which the former Zeo Rangers Tommy (played by Jason David Frank and a character carried over all the way back to the start), Adam, Tanya, and Kat, are joined by Justin, the twelve-year-old new Blue Ranger (who replaces an injured Rocky), in the quest to stop Divatox, a beautiful but barbaric space pirate, from unleashing the evil of her demonic fiancé, Maligore, upon the universe. The power of the Zeo Crystal and the Zeo Zords are not strong enough to withstand this new evil, so Zordon and Alpha 5 assist the Rangers in creating the new Turbo Powers, which also give the Rangers new Turbo Zords.

In real life, the actor who played the character of Rocky, Steve Cardenas, had injured himself while performing a stunt during Zeo, and the decision was made to replace the character with a young boy. Thus Blake Foster was cast as Justin Stewart, the new Blue Turbo Power Ranger, as a ploy to bring new young viewers to the show, since the core of the show's young viewership were now in their teens. To accommodate the Japanese footage, which obviously didn't include a young boy, and no doubt to not put a child actor at any substantial risk in action situations, it was explained that Justin could somehow "morph" into an adult form as the Blue Ranger, although he often appeared in a child-sized Blue Ranger uniform in group settings at the Rangers' headquarters.

The Turbo series continued to be rather chaotic, as several of the actors who had been with the Rangers franchise from nearly the start were either perceived as getting too old for their parts or just wanted to move on. During the course of Turbo, the entire main cast (except Foster) was replaced with new actors. By the end of the series, which is perceived by some as one of the least popular Rangers' incarnation, Foster was let go, and and the series ended with the four rookie Power Rangers, now powerless, Zord-less, and with only a damaged Alpha 6 to guide them, borrowing a space shuttle and heading off into space to continue their fight against the villain of the series, Divatox. This would ultimately lead into the next Power Rangers series.

Production problems notwithstanding, the plot synopsis overview for Power Rangers Turbo is as follows: After the defeat of Maligore, the older Turbo Rangers graduate from high school and resume their normal lives, but are attacked once again by a vengeful Divatox and her forces and an endless supply of detonators and monsters that threaten the citizens of Angel Grove.

A new twist into the story involves Zordon and Alpha 5 returning to Zordon's home planet of Eltar, thereby relinquishing the mentorship of the Rangers to the spectral Dimitria of Inquiris (who is suggested to be Divatox's long-lost twin sister) and the street-talking Alpha 6.

The Rangers are then joined by Blue Senturion, an intergalactic police robot who brings with him the "Millennium Message," a pivotal story arc which foretells the later events of Power Rangers in Space. The four older Turbo Rangers are then retired from duty, "Passing the Torch" to four new Rangers - T.J., Carlos, Ashley, and Cassie, while Justin remains as the Blue Turbo Ranger.

The mysterious Phantom Ranger, whose identity is never revealed and powers originate from Eltar, arrives on Earth in the nick of time. Divatox's brother General Havoc arrives, bringing with him a new Space Base for his sister and a Metallosaurus Zord (a tyrannosaurus-like robot with a long tail). The Phantom, who becomes Cassie's love interest, gives the Turbo Rangers new Rescue Zords, and the Rangers later manage to retrieve the Turbo Zords as well.

However, the end of the series brings tragedy and devastation as the Rescue Megazord is self-destructed on T.J.'s command in a failed attempt to destroy the powerful Goldgoyle. The Turbo Megazord is wrecked in the same battle and the Power Chamber is blown up by Divatox's minions, destroying the Turbo Powers. However, just as Divatox is poised to take over the planet, she receives a message from Dark Specter to come to a gathering of the United Alliance of Evil. She is also told that Dark Specter has captured Zordon.

Once the Rangers have learned that Zordon has been captured, they are determined to save him. Justin manages to sneak into the NASADA headquarters and convince a mission specialist that the Rangers need a Space Shuttle to chase after Divatox and save Zordon. The four rookie Rangers board the shuttle, but Justin decides that his father is more important to him than being a Ranger and stays behind. The season ends with the Rangers blasting into space, leading into the next series.

The initial Red Ranger in Turbo was in fact Tommy Oliver, who had been both the Green and White Ranger in the Mighty Morphin series, and had also been involved in the subsequent Zeo series. He finally graduated to Red Ranger in Turbo, but when the actor opted to leave the series, the new Red Ranger was T.J. Hudson, played by actor Selwyn Ward. Hudson was the first African-American Red Ranger in the entire Power Rangers universe.

Turbo also featured the first Zords that were not animal-based. Instead, the Zords were based on law enforcement and rescue vehicles. This is actually reflected rather strongly in the design of the Rangers' uniforms, which looked, in a strange way, a little more mechanical in some respects, and more "uniform" like than "super-hero costume" like.

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 helmet especially reflects the aforementioned "mechanical" look. Frankly, the visor looks a lot like it was modified from the front grill of a specially-equipped Hummer or something. There are thick bars of silver over the black visor, what almost look like two headlights on the top of the silver, and two silver circular areas, also rather heavily detailed, over the ears. A small area of silver below the visor has what looks like a human mouth.

There is a distinctive triangular insignia on the right shoulder, and another triangle on the left shoulder with the number "1" in it. The bulk of the uniform is, of course, red, with white belt, boots, and gloves. There are black borders at the top of the gloves and boots, and a yellow rectangular shape on the chest, also bordered in black.

There is also some very intricate thin black line detailing all across the uniform. This also adds to its marginally "mechanical" look, but is also some very impressive detailing on an action figure.

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 TURBO RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!