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REVIEW: POWER RANGERS SAMURAI MASTER XANDRED
By Thomas Wheeler

I am not often in the habit of picking up villains from the Power Rangers action figure lines. Usually, I am content to round up the basic team of Power Rangers from whichever Rangers concept is being presented in any given year, and leave it at that.

I think part of that goes back to the earliest days of the Power Rangers in the United States. When the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first came on the scene, the Ranger figures themselves were a consistent group of action figures -- even if there was the rather debatable matter of the fact that the female Rangers showed no particular female features -- that were some of the most highly-articulated action figures available on the market at the time.

The villain figures, although very nicely detailed, were little more than unposeable statues. This was of no great interest to me.

Times gradually changed, although with rare exception, the villains still weren't as poseable as the heroes. As I said, there have been exception. The "cannon fodder" bad guys from one of the concepts, known as "Triptoids", were not only very nicely articulated, but came in several different color schemes.

In even more recent times, especially with the mysterious size reduction of the basic Rangers, which started with the return of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and has carried over into Power Rangers Samurai, the villains have been very agreeable articulated, and certainly as such fully compatible with their Ranger adversaries. I made it a point to acquire Lord Zedd from the Mighty Morphin collection, and I already picked up one of the bad guys, Deker, from the Samurai concept (see separate review).

However, up until recently, the main villain from Power Rangers Samurai, a fellow by the name of MASTER XANDRED, had remained rather elusive. I had seen him once, on the day after Thanksgiving, but at that particular juncture I was more interesting in getting the most recent versions of the Pink and Yellow Rangers, and figured that obtaining Xandred sometime later would not be especially difficult.

Wow. I don't know if this guy is being under-produced, or just snapped up the second he hits the stores, but over two months passed before I saw another one. Finally, though, I have Master Xandred.

Let's consider, briefly, the backstory to Power Ranges Samurai, and how Master Xandred fits into it.

Power Rangers Samurai is the nineteenth season of the American children's television series Power Rangers. With Saban Brands buying back the franchise from Disney, 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 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 "Super Samurai".

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.

Centuries ago in Japan, a dark force threatened our universe, bringing a civilization to its knees, until a clan of brave warriors were called upon to destroy this ancient evil – Samurai warriors defeated them with power symbols passed down from parent to child. But now this darkness has returned and plans to flood the Earth, and the future of mankind rest in the hands of five ordinary teens with one extraordinary destiny — They are the Samurai Rangers. Led by the fearless Red Ranger, this team was summoned to train as Samurais under the teachings of Mentor Ji, armed with high-powered weapons and mighty Megazords. They have one mission – to defeat the sinister Master Xandred and his army of Nighloks and make our universe safe from evil once and for all.

Master Xandred is the leader of the Nighlok and is armed with a broadsword. The most powerful of the Nighlok, Xandred is prone to frequent violent outbursts, usually directed at the failure of his subordinates to destroy the Rangers. He seeks to cause the Sanzu River to flood with the despair of humans, allowing him to enter the world of the living and conquer it.

Master Xandred was sealed within the Netherworld years ago in a battle with the last team of Samurai Rangers led by Jayden's father, who perished after using his symbol power to imprison Xandred. He is always drinking a sake-like medicine made by Octoroo in order to quell a constant headache he suffers from due to the incomplete seal placed on him by the previous Red Ranger.

So, how's the figure? Well, before I get into that too much, I want to comment briefly about the packaging, or more precisely, how the figure is restrained in the package, because it's something I've never encountered before.

Many toy companies feel the need to restrain their toys within their packages. I've never been entirely sure if this is intended to cause the figure to hold a given position on some sort of internal plastic "bubble", or deter theft, or maybe both.

The restraints tend to vary. The two most frustrating in my opinion are the transparent rubber bands, and plastic-coated wire twist-ties. The rubber bands, if wrapped too tightly on a figure that is made from slightly flexible plastic, can actually leave a permanent impression in the plastic. The twist-ties are frustration personified. They're generally wrapped so tight that it's nearly impossible to undo them by hand (at least not without repeatedly poking one's fingers), and it's no easy feat to find some point at which to cut them off without potentially damaging the toy, and even then, most scissors won't do the trick easily. You need wire cutters.

But then there's what was keeping Xandred restrained. I've seen it before, but never used to restrain a toy. You know those thin little bands of plastic, that have a "T" bar at both ends, that are mostly used to attach tags to clothing? You snip it in the middle and can remove it from both ends. That's what was holding Xandred in place. I know, it's not really that big of a deal, but I've never encountered it on a toy before, and thought it worth mentioning.

So, how's the Master Xandred figure? Well -- wow. How about "seriously scary-ugly" for starters?

Granted, there's no shortage of ugly and hideous action figures in the world. Most of these will not find their way into my action figure collection, and most of them aren't from concepts that you're going to find in the toy aisles anyway. They tend to be "specialty" or "collector" figures, intended for older collectors and not kids. More often than not, they're based on horror movies. This just isn't something that I'm into. You won't find Freddy Krueger in my collection, or other various monsters, and I flat-out despise zombies, so anybody from something like "The Walking Dead" can just keep walking -- away.

But I believe there's a different sort of ugly. The sort of ugly that's intended to be frightening, but in a less gruesome and more entertaining way within its particular concept, which is probably more than a little over the top to begin with. From this description, you will find some entries in my action figure collection. Characters like Skeletor, Hordak, Trigon, Etrigan, Red Lantern Nite-Lik, and others.

And a lot of Power Rangers villains would certainly fit into this category. No one is likely to award Deker with the honor of "Handsomest Man on the Planet." Lord Zedd isn't going to walk away with a prize for "Best Dressed". But they're pretty much wannabees compared to Master Xandred.

This guy drinks a sake-like medicine to relieve his headaches? I wonder what his creators were drinking when they came up with his design. And I wonder what the toy designers at Bandai might have wanted to drink when they realized they had to make a 4-1/2" tall action figure out of this thing. At least he's humanoid, but that's about all you can give him.

Master Xandred's color scheme is a deep red, black, and a dark purple, mostly a metallic dark purple. His head is mostly red, with a series of intersecting ridges over the top of his head that only a Klingon could love. Two huge segmented spikes emerge from the sides of his head, but whether these are supposed to be ears, antennae, or horns, I can't begin to guess.

His face is seriously alarming. He has two yellow eyes placed about where one would expect, but above each eye are what looks to be two additional yellow eyes, slightly smaller. Six eyes!? No wonder this guy gets headaches. And I hope he has the good sense to stay away from 3D movies.

He has ridges below his eyes, a small and relatively normal nose, and a frightening fanged mouth. The mouth and jawline look like a nightmarish version of some sort of mask from -- well, I can think of several cultures that have come up with this sort of thing, but not usually quite this alarming in appearance.

Emerging from the back of his head is what looks something like thick, skeletal bat wings. They are red on the back, and metallic purple on the front. What purpose they may serve I have no idea.

On Xandred's chest, right below the throat, is a small skull of some sort. It is black, and appears to be some sort of weird cross between a goat and a simian. The skull has two exceptionally long, curved, segmented horns that curve out to the sides, reaching to the shoulders. Actually, lose the horns and it looks a little like Larfleeze, DC Comics' Orange Lantern.

The rest of Xandred's torso is mostly red, and appears to be a sort of segmented armor, with bizarre curved segments that are highlighted with metallic purple ridges. There is a small area of white just below where a belt buckle might appear.

Xandred's shoulders are circular armor plates, of a pattern similar to the torso armor, except they are purple with red ridges, and spikes around their perimeters.

Xandred's arms are mostly black, with more ridged armor plating, and spikes below the biceps, and pointing outwards from the lower arms.

Attached to Xandred's back are larger versions of the "bat-wing" like panels that appear on the back of his head. These are thicker, and more heavily ridged on the backs.

Xandred also has similar panels on the backs of his upper legs. The fronts of his upper legs are have ridged armored panels, much like the shoulder armor, that is mostly metallic purple with red highlighted ridge lines.

The rest of Xandred's legs and feet are black, with a creepy miasma of sculpted detail and ridges. His knee caps are red.

One thing that amazes me, apart from the action figure, is that Power Rangers Samurai is a live-action series. That means that the show's producers had to actually construct a Xandred costume for some actor to wear, and then find an actor that could wear this thing, and then move around plausibly, and one would hope, see where he was going. Granted not the sort of thing that's going to get you showcased on "Masterpiece Theater", but an impressive enough feat in and of itself.

That Bandai has been able to craft such an impressive figure of this bizarre villain is impressive, as well. This isn't a design where you can cheat on the detail, or the painting thereof. I've seen several toymakers over the years, for example, try to get around the intricate webbing on Spider-Man's costume by sculpting it into the design and then trying to do a black paint wash over the figure. I have yet to see this work especially well.

This wouldn't have worked with Master Xandred. The red and purple ridge lines are simply too pronounced and too distinct to take any sort of shortcut with. And in my experience, Bandai prides itself on its precision of painting. Never mind the sculpt and the molds for this toy, the paint stencils must have been just as big of a nightmare. The tiny little yellow eyes, the narrow but precise ridge lines on the body armor -- there isn't an easy paint application anywhere on this figure, and it's to Bandai's great credit that Master Xandred is as precisely painted as he is, and he most certainly is. I haven't seen this precise detail since Bandai stopped making Mobile Suit in Action Gundam figures.

Almost as amazing is how well articulated Master Xandred is. Okay, yes, he's humanoid. The basic articulation strategy is fairly straightforward. This isn't Ben 10, where you might or might not be getting something that works within a basic humanoid framework. Xandred is at least that. But he's a fairly bulky fellow, and with all of that sculpted detail, and those bat-wing like panels, this still can't have been an easy design or assembly.

Nevertheless, Master Xandred is very nicely articulated at the head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees. The arms and legs have outward movement as well as back and forth, and there's a rotational swivel in the knees. Admittedly, some of the parts are hindered a bit. The head doesn't turn very far, and the outward movement of the arms is somewhat limited, but there's still a very decent range of motion for such a complex figure.

Master Xandred comes with a large and rather creepy-looking gold-colored sword for an accessory. It's a nicely detailed item, and seems to fit well with the character.

So, what's my final word? Hey, even if you're not into Power Rangers, go out and buy a Master Xandred, stand him with whatever you're collecting, and see how your friends react to him. Yeah, he's that creepy bizarre. Kidding aside, though, this is a remarkable action figure. Master Xandred represents one of the most bizarre and complex character designs I've seen in a long time, and for Bandai to turn out such an impressive rendition of this strange individual is an impressive feat. This really is an outstanding action figure!

The POWER RANGERS SAMURAI figure of MASTER XANDRED definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!