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REVIEW:
POWER RANGERS 15th ANNIVERSARY ZEO RED RANGER
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 ZEO!

Power Rangers: Zeo was the fourth season of the Power Rangers franchise, and was a continuation of the television series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It aired in 1996. It is based on the Super Sentai series Chouriki Sentai Ohranger. Power Rangers: Zeo is the first series in Power Rangers that is part of the annual Ranger suit change to match the annual change of the Super Sentai series, although interestingly, unlike many of the later incarnations, it carried over most of the characters and concepts.

In the series, after recovering from the destruction of the Command Center, the Rangers discovered the Zeo Crystal intact in the rubble. The Zeo Crystal guided them to a portal, which took them deep underground, where Zordon and Alpha 5 had survived by hiding in the heretofore unmentioned Power Chamber.

At this time, a new set of villains called the Machine Empire decided to take control of the Earth. They chased Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd away from the moon, and Rita and Goldar were left on Earth, with no memories of their past.

The Rangers become the Zeo Rangers, empowered by the Zeo Crystal. Tanya Sloan joined the team as Zeo Ranger II - Yellow, while Billy Cranston became their technical advisor.

Through their battles with the Machine Empire, they were sometimes aided by the mysterious Gold Ranger. It turned out the Gold Zeo Ranger was an alien, Trey of Triforia. He was injured in battle, and was forced to pass on his powers to a worthy warrior while he healed. He first tried Billy, but it turned out that Billy had unintentionally gained negative proton energy from the explosion of the Command Center.

The powers then went to Jason Lee Scott, the Red Power Ranger from the first generation. Jason was strong and had sufficient energy to hold the powers.

Later, Jason, whose life force was declining because of the Gold Zeo Ranger powers, had to return the Gold Zeo Ranger powers to Trey of Triforia in order to save the powers (and his life). Rita and Zedd destroyed the Machine Empire royalty, only to decide to take a vacation, leaving the way clear for the next villain, Divatox.

Heh -- only in Power Rangers would the villains decide to simply take a vacation...

An interesting note is that Image Comics began publication of a Power Rangers Zeo comic in August 1996. It featured scripts by Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and art by Todd Nauck and Norm Rapmund. Four issues were drawn but only one was released before Image Comics lost the license.

That's a shame. I've often thought that a Power Rangers comic book -- based on almost any of the concepts -- would be rather cool. It's a shame that more haven't happened.

Since the original Red Ranger from Mighty Morphin, Jason, was occupied during much of this series as the Gold Ranger, that left the role of the Red Ranger to fall to Tommy Oliver, who had played the Green and later the White Ranger in Mighty Morphin. This made a fair bit of sense, since the character had certainly been prominent enough in the Mighty Morphin series, albeit not in a true position of leadership, to assume the role of the Red Ranger in Zeo. Tommy was portrayed by Jason David Frank.

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.

As to the costume elements -- the helmet is a little strange. Each of the helmets for the Zeo Ranger featured some sort of geometric shape for the visor. In the Red Ranger's case, that happens to be a large black star, outlined in silver. It's just a little strange-looking, since it doesn't really look like any sort of visor that would allow for decent visibility. It appears more decorative than practical. The silver trim is also curious, since the rest of the trim on the costume is gold. There is a sort of mouth sculpted into the helmet, which is otherwise entirely red, directly beneath the star.

The costume is a little more straightforward in design than some later Ranger costumes have been. The costume is red, with a white collar, gloves, and boots, all with gold tops. The belt is also gold. The most ornate part of the costume, other than the star on the helmet, is a sort of "bib" beneath the collar, that is gold, but with an ornate pattern in it. On the original figures, this was actually sculpted in. Since all of the 15th Anniversary Rangers use the same body mold, this was impossible here, so it's printed on, but I have to say that Bandai did a superb job with it. It is intricate and nicely imprinted in place.

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. As I write this, I'm starting to see some of the toys from the next Power Rangers incarnation, JUNGLE FURY, hit the stores. And I'd like to think we wouldn't have to wait until the 20th Anniversary to get the Red Ranger from that, and future concepts, in this format.

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