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FLASHBACK REVIEW: MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF TIR NA NOG
By Thomas Wheeler

One of the most successful kids' shows over the past decade and then some
has been Power Rangers. By reinventing itself with each new season, the
show manages to keep its best consistent points, while at the same time
staying fresh. Still, it should be no great surprise that the basic idea
of a team of young heroes in some sort of fantasy setting has on occasion
gone beyond the realm of the Rangers, and that there have been toys for
said concepts.

One of the most impressive, from a toy standpoint, was produced by
Bandai, the same people who turn out the Power Rangers toys. It came
along in the late 1990's, and was called MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF TIR NA NOG.

Basically, if you think of putting the Power Rangers in a medieval
fantasy setting, with knights, wizards, and no shortage of other fantasy
elements, you've pretty well got it. Consider it Power Rangers by way of
Camelot with a bit of Tolkein thrown in for good measure.

The TV show, on the few occasions when I viewed it, had production
quality on about the same level as Power Rangers, but compensated a bit
with some superb scenery, which if it wasn't actually European
countryside certainly did a capable impression of it. The show was
produced by Saban.

The concept revolved around a team of four young armored warriors, each
of whom represented one of the major elements - Air, Water, Earth, Fire.
A fifth Knight came along later, much in the tradition of the "sixth Ranger".

The team was led by ROHAN, the Mystic Knight of Fire. According to a
description I found for the character on a fan-based Web Site dedicated
to the Mystic Knights, Rohan was at first reluctant to take on the
leadership role, but gradually grew into it as he better understood his
powers and abilities. His weapon is the Sword of Kells. As the Knight of
Fire, he can also call upon additional power to make his armor glow
crimson, which also adds to its protectiveness and firepower. Rohan's
armor is normally red and gold.

Next up we have IVAR, the Mystic Knight of Water. Ivar is the only black
character in the group, even if the minimal amount of skin shown on the
toy doesn't reflect this very well. He is described as having a peaceful
and logical demeanor, and is a skilled hunter and tracker. His main
weapon is a barbed trident. Ivar's armor is dark blue and gold.

Then there is ANGUS, the Mystic Knight of Earth. Apparently Angus had
something of a reputation as a liar and a thief, but he eventually showed
a more honest and caring side to his personality. He has retained his
streetwise skills, however, and no one is better at sneaking up on an
enemy. His primary weapon is the Terra Mace, and his armor is mostly silver.

Of the four original Knights, the last one is PRINCESS DIERDRE. The
character is described as stubborn and more than a little haughty, but
she is also capable of great caring and tenderness. As the Mystic Knight
of Air, Deirdre's main weapon is called the Whirlwind Crossbow. Her armor
is mostly pearlescent white with gold trim.

The inevitable "extra", in this case the fifth Knight and not the sixth
Ranger, comes in the form of PRINCE GARRETT, the Mystic Knight of the
Forest. Again, according to the Web Site, Garrett is prince and heir of
Kells' allied nation Reged. Initially, Garrett opposed the other Knights.
His haughty attitude didn't sit well with them, and so he temporarily
joined the opposing forces. His strength, speed, and skill bested them
all for a time, but eventually, this young warrior joined with the
Knights. His primary weapons are the Twin Timber Axes. His armor is
mostly brown with gold trim.

Further information on all of these characters can be found at the
following Web Site: http://lavender.fortunecity.com/jerningham/437/. Just
watch out for pop-ups.

The "basic" Knights figures averaged close to six inches in height, and
were true masterworks of sculpting, given the intricate detail that had
to be put on the armor. Bandai did an amazing job with these, both in
sculpting and articulation, even giving a nice metallic finish to the
armor. The figures were articulated at the head, arms, upper swivel arm,
elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, and knees. When possible, the
articulation joint was worked into the design of the armor. The four male
knights are all of comparable size, although Garrett looks a little
bigger because of the large "shoulder pads" on his armor. Dierdre is
noticably shorter, coming in at around 5-1/2",and her armor is not as
all-covering.

There were other sizes of figures, including a series of 7" Knights, but
these were the basic figures in the line, and the best designed and most
articulated.

Now let's turn our attention to the bad guys.

The main villain on the show was a woman named Maeve. Need it be said
that what with such names as "Kells","Tir Na Nog", and "Maeve", this show
has a pretty strong Irish history to it. Maeve is the ruthless, maniacal
monarch of Temra, the nation which shares the expanse of an island with
Kells. While there was no figure of this character, "Temra" is the name
associated with a foursome of really strange armored warriors that were
the bad guys turned into toys.

According to a bit of information I tracked down, Some of these bad guys
were referred to as "Sentinels" -- no, not the giant robots that give the
X-Men such grief. They were designed to be challenges along the way, to
be faced by the Mystic Knights on their quest for their armor.

Of these, that were also part of the basic figure assortment, I've always
felt that the most impressive was the Ice Lord of Temra. He LOOKED the
most threatening. Honestly, he looked like what Skeletor from Masters of
the Universe might look like if ol' Boneface ever decided to outfit
himself in full armor. The figure is outfitted in armor that is purple
and bone grey. There's a very slight overspray on the "bone" sections
that makes them look even more -- bonelike. The eyes underneath the
helmet are so recessed that I believe they were painted onto a base over
which the helmet was placed. The shoulder pads are really the only
indication of the "Ice Lord" aspect of this figure, as they have
transparent blue crystals implanted in them.

I have no idea what the character might have been like on the show, and
the Web Site I mentioned before doesn't cover these villains. But if I
saw somebody that looked like this coming towards me, I'd be inclined to
take him seriously. Nobody's going to dress like this because they want
to be your friend.

According to this source of information, the Ice Lord is Maeve's main
general. I can believe that, since he looks quite different from the
other three villain figures. Basically, the others are humanoid animals
in armor. The parts of their bodies that aren't covered with armor, are
furry, or in one case, scaly. That one case belongs to the Sea Serpent of
Temra, designed to specifically challenge Ivar. Probably the strangest
looking of the lot, he's got bright orange skin, which really stands out
compared to the relatively muted colors of the others. His armor is
mostly black and silver, with dark blue trim. A strange one to be sure.

Then there is the Lightning Bat of Temra. He was assigned as an opponent
for Dierdre. You can't see his face, but if it's even close to what his
helmet-face looks like, we're talking seriously ugly. The figure has
molded grey fur,with armor that is mostly dark blue, withsilver trim, and
a certain amount of black and red.

Finally is the Rock Wolf of Temra, described as the final opponent the
Knights face on their quest. The head is an excellent sculpt of a wolf-
like face. The figure has dark reddish fur, and is wearing mostly black
armor with silver trim and a few red highlights. That these three stand
apart from the Ice Lord in overall appearance is obvious.

And yet, Bandai didn't skimp on either the design or articulation on the
bad guys, as has sometimes been the case. They're just as well sculpted,
painted, and poseable as the heroes.

A few other toys in the overall line are worth reviewing. First up is one
additional bad guy that came along in later assortments. Called LUGAD, he
appears to be some sort of troll or ogre. More or less humanoid, but he's
hiding a total of three eyes under that weird visor, and he stands well
above the other figures at a full 7" in height. He's not as poseable as
the others, which isn't surprising considering his bulk, but he still
manages to be articulated at the head, arms, wrists, legs, knees, and
ankles.Additionally, the mechanical-like right hand moves at the
knuckles. An impressive if weird addition to the line.

One of the scarcer toys in the Mystic Knights like actually turned up
while it was (unfortunately) being clearanced, and was a carded small
dragon called the DRAGEEN. His main claim to fame seemed to be a nasty
spring-action biting feature. Still, the overall detail and articulation
was excellent.

And if you want dragons, there were two huge ones in the line. The less
impressive of the two was TYRUNE, a three-headed dragon used by the Ice
Lord of Temra. It just looked too designed to be used as a "vehicle" of sorts.

Far more impressive is PYRE, who, given his name, not surprisingly gets
along best with Rohan, the Mystic Knight of Fire. Pyre has the more
classic dragon look to him, with a dragon-like head (with a really nasty
grin) on a long neck, fairly short arms, bulky lower legs, a long tail,
and huge wings.

The toy is amazingly well articulated given its design. Pyre can move at
the head, mouth, neck, arms, elbows, hands, legs, knees, feet, tail, and
wings. He's also huge. Approximately 16" from nose to tail, and a 16"
wingspan to go with it. And the detail of his armor is just as impressive
as any of the Knights, and the detail on his skin, especially the wings,
is amazing.

Clearly, the toys were one of Bandai's most impressive efforts in the
late 90's. They really went all out in the detail department. Sadly, the
TV show only lasted one season. There was a massive second series of toys
planned, which was showcased in an issue of Tomart's Action Figure Digest
at the time. Several new Knights, and a number of new villains (at least
I assume they were villains), including a centaur-like figure! Alas, none
of these ever reached production. I know -- I pestered Bandai rather
heavily about it at the time.

MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF TIR NA NOG is not extensively remembered by a lot of
people these days, and that's too bad. As a toy line, it had all the
elements to be a success. The toys were well-designed, had plenty of
articulation, a level of detail that is seldom seen, and overall were
just plain cool. It's a pity the concept backing them didn't do well
enough to carry on.

But maybe this Flashback Review will give them a little overdue attention
and respect.