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REVIEW:
POWER RANGERS OPERATION OVERDRIVE
By Thomas Wheeler



Incredible as it sounds, the Power Rangers are celebrating their 15th anniversary in the United States. That's right, it's been 15 years since Bandai brought the original "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" to the stores. Initial reaction was mixed. What were these things, anyway? The basic figures were 8 inches in height -- unusual for a toy line at the time, and still somewhat today. Except for their basic colors and helmet details, they all looked identical. They were even packaged in triangular boxes. Weird.

Then the TV show hit, full of a level of combined action and camp that made the live-action "Batman" series from the 1960's seem deadly serious in comparison, and kids across the country were all over it. The Power Rangers have scarcely slowed down since then.

Well aware of a need to keep a concept "fresh", the producers of the Power Rangers -- both the toys and the TV show, which is based in Japan
-- hit upon a novel idea. Come up with a whole different team of youths, and a while different background concept, every year. The name "Power Rangers" would carry over, as would the basic premise of five teenagers outfitted in similar costumes, each with a predominant color and similar detailing, but that would be about it.

Did it work? I just said the Power Rangers celebrated their 15th anniversary, right? How many toy lines or TV shows can you name that have lasted that long?

The most recent Power Rangers concept, taking over for what I thought was one of the best designed Power Rangers concept in a long time, Space Patrol Delta, was Mystic Force. I honestly didn't care too much for this one. I hear the word "mystic" being thrown around, and I'm not too fond of that. Granted, this wasn't Harry Potter, or a Wicca convention. But I've tended to appreciate the more tech-based Power Rangers concepts than the weirder ones, which have fortunately been fewer in number.

And if I like the tech-based stuff, then I've certainly got it in the newest Power Rangers concept, called OPERATION OVERDRIVE!

Although I haven't seen the new show yet -- my tolerance for "camp" being fairly minimal even though I must admit that on the rare occasions I've checked out more recent Power Rangers series, they're better about this than they used to be -- the description on the toy package reads as
follows:

"In Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive, the Power Rangers are chosen to seek out and protect hidden treasures that have been scattered around the world. But they quickly learn that they're not alone in their quest. Five groups of villains want to use the treasures for their evil plans. Only the ultimate Power Rangers teamwork can stop them!"

FIVE groups of villains? Jeez, that'll keep the Rangers busy. And probably Bandai, too, trying to make figures of a fair number of them. That should be interesting in a toy line that has always tended to strongly emphasize variations on the heroes over figures of the villains.

In any given year, there are considerable variations on the Rangers. You can get battleized versions, light-up versions, versions that transform into weapons or something resembling their Zords (the typical name for Power Rangers vehicles from just about any concept), figures with perhaps more limited articulation that come packaged with vehicles, and for all I know, ones that you can wind up and they'll cook you dinner (and around here, they'd probably be better at it than I am...)

I tend to have a basic criteria for rounding up the Power Rangers team in any given year -- I want the most basic, 5-6" scale figures, with the best articulation, the best price, and hopefully this doesn't require buying a vehicle to get them. Fortunately, this last one hasn't been necessary for several years, not since "Wild Force", I think. I don't need morphers, transformers, battleized armor, vehicles, or fancy features unless they happen to be an intrinsic part of the most basic figures available.

OPERATION OVERDRIVE started turning up just before Thanksgiving 2006. I first saw them at a store, and what I saw were some limited- articulation figures with vehicles. I decided to wait. I was certain that there would be some good, basic figures out soon enough. I was not disappointed. They turned up at a different store on the ever-dreaded day-after-Thanksgiving.

There are several things you can count on with any given Power Rangers concept. One of the things you can count on is that five of the following seven colors will be used for the basic figures: Red, Black, Green, Blue, White, Pink, and Yellow. The next thing you can count on is that there is ALWAYS a Red Ranger, and he's always the team leader. The fact that to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of Power Rangers, Bandai created a special series of Red Ranger figures from about six different past concepts is proof of that. So have been a couple of special TV episodes where they've brought together all of the Red Rangers from previous Power Rangers shows. I don't even want to think about how they explain THAT in continuity.

You can also generally count on the fact that there will be one and more likely two females in the line, and these will be the Yellow and Pink Rangers. Mystic Force threw this off last year by making the female Rangers the Blue and Pink ones, and the Yellow Ranger was male. But it doesn't often happen that way. And there's never been a male Pink Ranger. There's also, to my knowledge, never been an Orange or Purple Ranger. And I think I'd remember that.

Figurewise, you can also generally count on the fact that the Red Ranger will be the easiest to find, and the two female Rangers are going to get short-packed. So needless to say, when I saw this large display of Power
Rangers: Operation Overdrive on "Black Friday", the first thing I did was make sure that there were decent specimens of Yellow and Pink Rangers in there. Fortunately, there were.

This year's basic Power Rangers line-up features the following colors: Red, Black, Blue, Yellow, and Pink. This is exactly the same color line-up as the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. And it's interesting since this is the first Power Rangers line-up in several years with a Black Power Ranger. Green was the color used for both S.P.D. and Mystic Force.

The three male Rangers -- Red, Blue, and Black -- stand about 5.7 inches in height. Not quite 5-3/4". Their helmets resemble what I would call futuristic motorcycle helmets. They are all covering, with a sort of metallic grid near the mouth, and black visors that differ slightly in appearance from each other. They have typically super-heroic muscular builds. Bandai's gotten a lot better at this in recent years. Early Power Rangers figures didn't tend to have this level of detail.

The two female Rangers -- Yellow and Pink -- stand almost precisely 5-1/2" in height, very slightly shorter than their male counterparts. They have the same sort of helmet design as the other Rangers. Their physiques are obviously not as muscular, but neither are they scrawny.

The uniform design for all five Rangers is pretty much the same. The primary designated color is found on the helmet, gloves, boots, and the bulk of the uniform, except for a broad white stripe that runs down the center of the front of the uniform on each Ranger, from collar to boots. This same white stripe is found on the inside of each arm. It's really an impressive design. It looks cool without being overly complicated.

All five Rangers have ridged, silver metallic cuffs around their gloves and boots, and at their shoulders. They have silver belts with ridged buckles. There is a symbol on the chest of each Ranger, a silver oval with four small "breaks" in it, and two narrow diagonal triangles. I'm sure this insignia has some significance in the show, but I couldn't tell you what it is offhand.

The two female Rangers have a slight alteration to their costumes, in that there is a bit of a "skirt" look molded into their upper legs.

Articulation on all five Rangers is excellent. This is something that Bandai doesn't tend to skimp on, and they certainly haven't here. All five Rangers can move at the head, shoulders (back and forth as well as outward, this latter feature being something that sometimes the female Rangers get skimped on, but not this time), elbows, wrists (at the glove tops), legs, an upper leg swivel, and knees. The swivel mechanism on the upper legs of the three male Rangers looks like a ball-and-socket construction that one might more likely expect to see on Marvel Legends.

I'm also happy to report that paintwork is excellent. There's only one area, the paint on the gloves, that looks like it was hand-painted, and even in this case it was done -- well, more neatly than I've come to expect from that generally inexcusable shortcut. And it's really only evident on one side, since the glove tops are actually the wrist articulation point.

I'm also pleased to report that the paintwork appears to be complete. In the past few years, at least since SPD, Bandai has skimped on the paintwork for Power Rangers being marketed to the United States. At the very least, they've tended to leave a lot of paintwork off of the backs of the figures, and if there's some really fine detailing, as was the case on a certain assortment of SPD Rangers, this will also be left off. How do I know this happens? In the case of not painting the backs, it's pretty evident from sculpted detail lines. In the case of fine detailing, Bandai tends to use the Japanese figures as photo references on the American packaging. It doesn't take much to make a comparison as such.

Granted the uniform design for the Operation Overdrive Rangers is not as complex as some recent years. That's not to put down the design -- it's excellent. But I am pleased to see that as far as I can determine, the figures have been properly and fully painted. There's some pretty fine detailing on some of the helmets that I am pleased to see was not at all overlooked. One should still give the figures a good visual inspection before buying. Painting white over any color means needing to use a rather thick coat. You don't want a figure with paint clumps.

Special features? That's not a factor for me, but these days, when the most popular toys out there are the ones that scarcely require any human interaction in order to play (I'm starting to wonder if the movie "Small Soldiers" might one day be viewed as a cautionary tale ahead of its time...), you'd better throw a little something into even the most basic figures to spark them up a little bit.

With Mystic Force, it was light-up shields that frankly could've been used for roadside emergency signals. With Operation Overdrive, while the special feature might have slightly less real-life practical applications, it's certainly more interesting.

Built into the three male Rangers is a sort of game. You press the belt buckle. The two triangles on the chest start to blink red, and the figure makes a revving sound. Then at some random point along the way, a little green light lights up in the helmet of the figure. Quick, press the belt buckle again! If you're able to "stop the light" in the helmet, you win, and the figure says something like "Good timing!" or "Mission complete!" If you miss, the red triangles on the chest remain lit, and the figure says something like "Nice try" or "Not quite". It's a fairly simple game, obviously, but you do have to be pretty quick about it. The green light does not stay lit in the helmet for more than a fraction of a second. Sometimes it lights up right off the bat. Don't try for this one. It's impossible. It will light up again several times before the cycle is complete.

For a real challenge, hold one Ranger in each hand and set them off simultaneously. The green light is surprisingly random. Try to get both Rangers successfully.

The Pink and Yellow Rangers do not have this feature. Apparently Bandai couldn't quite get the computer chip or the LED's or the batteries (or more than likely, all of the above), into the far more slender torsos of the two female figures. Instead, the Pink and Yellow Rangers come with light-up weapons.

By the way, the batteries in the three male Rangers are replaceable. This hasn't always been the case with Rangers with battery-operated features in the past.

Let me address one other matter. There's always a sixth Ranger. Sometimes there's even a seventh. This sixth Ranger generally comes along later in the series, and seems in some respect to be a little superior, or at least mildly different somehow, from the other five. I honestly have no idea who the sixth Ranger will be in Operation Overdrive, or what he'll look like. Personally, I'm hoping he won't look that different, and that maybe he'll be a Green Ranger. This would also be in keeping with how things went, colorwise, at least, in the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. But this is purely speculation on my part.

On the whole, I'm impressed with what I see here. I realize that Power Rangers isn't a line that really inspires collectors all that much. And that's too bad in my opinion, because even though the concept may have its silly side, the figures are very well made, and look cool. And I think this year's concept, based on technology and a series of Zord vehicles that a friend of mine in England actually likened in some respects to the legendary Gerry Anderson series "Thunderbirds", certainly has some impressive elements to it.

As such, POWER RANGERS - OPERATION OVERDRIVE definitely gets my highest recommendation, as do these superb basic figures!