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The Toys That Made Us: Power Rangers Episode Review

The following is a joint review by The Jez Show and Toku Toy Store.
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The Toys That Made Us made its long awaited return to Netflix this past week with four new episodes for toy collectors and enthusiasts everywhere to get their anti-static gloved paws on. For those unfamiliar, The Toys That Made Us documents the history of important and popular toy lines. Its first two seasons profiled such giants as LEGO, Star Wars, Transformers and Barbie, to name a few. This third batch of episodes, which had been in development since July of 2018, featured My Little Pony, Professional Wrestling, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. While labelled with the full title of the Power Ranger franchise’s debut offering, the episode itself covered far more of the precursors and successors to Mighty Morphin than many expected.

The Ranger Story

Following a colourful introduction to the franchise for anybody not acquainted with Power Rangers, we are taken back to mid 20th century Japan for a look at the origins of the tokusatsu, or toku, genre. Tokusatsu, best translate as special filming, is the name of the genre in which shows like Power Rangers got their start and sit within today. The popularity of Godzilla in Japan brought rise to decades of rubber monster based, kick you in the face style content, popularised by production studio, Toei, and God-tier manga artist, Shotaro Ishinomori. It was through Ishinomori’s involvement that Kamen Rider, a superhero show about a transforming hero, was born and with any good children’s programme of course comes a line of toys. Toei partnered with a company called Bandai to produce their toys, beginning a legacy of toku toy production that lives to this day. The problem with Ishinomori’s Kamen Rider, as popular as it was, was that only having one solitary hero limits the ability to sell massive chunks of toys! To that end, the people at Toei Company put their heads together and came up with the Super Sentai series: a squad of colour-clad heroes that work in a team to thwart evil.

While referencing Ishinomori as the Japanese Stan Lee, The Toys That Made Us shifts focus to the actual Stan Lee who, little do the majority of Marvel fans know, was nearly the man responsible for bringing Super Sentai to the West. Lee worked with Toei in the late 1970s to produce スパイダーマン, romanised as Supaidaman, or just… Spider-Man. It was during his time in Japan that Stan fell in love with Super Sentai and so attempted to bring the fifth Sentai, Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan to America. Stan Lee’s attempt ultimately failed but not before passing his Sentai passions on to Marvel CEO Margaret Loesch, who didn’t understand why the television networks weren’t on board with the idea.

The years go by, enter Haim Saban. Saban, as enamoured with Super Sentai as Stan Lee, had the idea to splice the original Japanese fight footage and intermix original recordings of American actors to create a new show. Sounds like a winning idea, right? And it was, or is, or would be… but it would take over 8 years for Haim Saban to convince anyone of that fact. Enter Margaret Loesch who, since attempt #1, had moved from Marvel to FOX and was able to use her superpowers as Head of Children’s Programming to greenlight the project. Bada-bing, bada-boom, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger becomes Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and a legend is born.

The Toys They Made For Us

With the Power Rangers coming to television, there was just one other little thing to have produced… toys! It is at this stage of the documentary where we really get to know some of the major players that were responsible for bringing us monsters, Megazords and (Auto) Morphin’ figures The most notable of these were Tsuyoshi Nonaka – world renowned tokusatsu toy designer – and Trish Stewart – Director of Marketing for Bandai America – who alongside Peter Dang – VP of Marketing for Bandai America – not only took responsibility for branding, marketing and distributing the Power Rangers toyline, but also came up with the names Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Zords in the first place. Cheers, Trish & Pete!

Those toys that Bandai America designed and produced repackaged from Japan really took off; took off the the point that there were periods in which the shelves of giant toy conglomerates like Toys R Us (R.I.P.) were completely empty! I myself remember these days well. While my parents somehow managed to find me a Megazords and Dragonzords for birthdays and Chrismasses, there were mass sectors of the toyline, like the Power Morpher and Dragon Dagger, that I simply never saw in stores. I really wanted that frickin’ Dragon Dagger.

Refresh, reinvent, resell toys

Of course, the Zyuranger footage wasn’t going to last forever and the next stage of the documentary details the way that Power Rangers reinvents itself every year – new actors, new suits, new mecha (that’s giant robots, or zords) and, most importantly, a whole new toyline. The magic of Power Rangers from a corporate point of view is that you can sell a whole mess of toys to a kid one year and the following year you can sell that same kid a whole other mess. It’s genius and torture all at the same time, depending on who you are.

It wasn’t just the show itself that underwent a refresh, the franchise itself underwent an upheaval of its own with moves from Saban to Disney, back to Saban, and now to Hasbro. The Toys That Made Us make the Disney Era of Power Rangers sound like a vacuous, entertainment void black spot on the history of the product and heap a little too much praise on Bandai America for their Zord Builder system but all in all the close of the documentary gives us a nice little seat-of-your-pants speed review of the rest of Power Rangers history.

Editing Triumph

As with any episode of The Toys That Made Us, the stellar editing work conducted by its production team carried the humour of the episode. Each episode of TTTMU utilises a repetition of a handful of words or phrases spoken by interviewees to drive forward the historical narrative or ground things when the subject matter gets a little too deep – we should be reminded that we’re talking about toys, at the end of the day. Such repeated moments in this episode include the reminder that Bandai USA’s top selling, highest quality product prior to Power Rangers was their line of sidewalk chalk, using the word henshin wherever someone might say transform, and the continual referencing of American audiences as “kids!” These are the unique and quirky things that make The Toys That Made Us the charming travel through toy history that it is. Never change.

Unless you wanted to make more episodes faster… we’d be cool with that.

The Verdict

When this programme first launched on Netflix in December 2017, I hoped and dreamed for the day that they would produce a Power Rangers episode. There was a fear that they would make a mess of it – as most outsiders to tokusatsu tend to when they step into that world and try to produce content sight unseen – but nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the He-Man, Barbie and Hello Kitty episodes had done for me, I fully expect the Power Rangers episode to have given the casual viewer an accurate, care-filled depiction of the franchise that millions of us love. Likewise, while I personally didn’t learn anything new from the episode, the way that the TTTMU team laid out all of the history of Power Rangers, even referencing Kamen Rider and the Godaikin toyline, is a welcome to any hardcore fan.

Stellar work, The Toys That Made Us! You looked after our fandom and we love you.

What did you think of the Power Rangers episode of The Toys That Made Us? How did you think it compared to other episodes in the series? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook pages, The Jez Show and Toku Toy Store, on Twitter @thejezshow and @tokutoystore, or in the comment section below!

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Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Episode 32 Review

The Space Sentai are in a new timeslot this week and this episode did all it could to kick off this new era with a bang! The episode opens with Don Armage ordering a new focus in eliminating the Kyurangers; any of his henchmen able to do so will achieve Vice Shogun status as a reward. Kukuruga blames Akyanba for this and takes responsibility for removing the Kyuranger problem himself. He summons Dogyun and deploys him to Earth.

Meanwhile, on the downed Orion-gou, our heroes continue to question Naga about the whereabouts of Don Armage. He is able to share his rough location but cannot say for sure. The enquiry turns to Raptor and when the Orion-gou will be repaired. She becomes flustered and is unable to answer until the alarms alert them to a series of Moraimazu explosions on Earth. The team are about to deploy when they notice Tsurugi sitting in the Captain’s seat. He states that he is taking over as commander because he used to be president of the Space Federation and activates Kyulette the Chance in a hilarious 80s hair band routine, assisted by Stinger.

With the fun over, Lucky, Stinger, Hammie, Naga and Garu head to Earth, flanked by Tsurugi. As they arrive, the population are being attacked by household appliances under the control of Dogyun. This begins an expanded introduction to the opening music, fully explaining who the team are and how they have developed into twelve saviours; a nice little catch up for anyone tuning in for the first time because of the new timeslot. The team are able to get around the appliances and launch a finishing attack on Dogyun. Just as the attack is about to hit, the blast is interrupted by a shot from Washi Pink, ostensibly saving the monster.

When questioned, she states that she hopes Dogyun could use his ability to control machines to help repair Orion-gou. Tsurugi explains that this isn’t possible, explaining the science of the gloop Dogyun uses to control appliances. He dismisses Raptor’s concern for the ship as delusional and Raptor runs away, devastated that he would speak badly of the potential demise of their ship.

The team return to assess the damage to the ship and Spada regales the story of when, at the time it was just the two of them on the ship, the Orion-gou appeared to perform a miracle to get them out of trouble. Tsurugi starts to come around and Lucky goes to speak to Raptor. The others return to confront Dogyun, who has anticipated their return and set the five Moraimazu in the area to explode on a ten minute timer. The team transform and attack Dogyun but are held back when Kukuruga interferes.

Lucky finds Raptor in a playground and talks her through the problem. He reassures her that the team feel the same way about the Orion-gou as she does and that she should honour him by continuing to save the galaxy with them. The pair take flight and remove the controlling gloop from the Moraimazu, thwarting Dogyun’s plan. With the threat of explosion removed, Tsurugi apologises to Raptor and the team make light work of Dogyun.

Dogyun grows to giant size and is met with Kyutamajin. While the Kyurangers are able to easily take care of Dogyun, he once again takes control of the Moraimazu, uniting them and putting the gigantic structure on a collision course with Earth. Lucky tries to use Kyutamajin to destroy the massive structure but even Ultimate Meteor Break is futile against it. Raptor vows to destroy the structure for the Orion-gou and show him that they will save the universe in his name. These words cause the Orion-gou to regain power. It teleports the remaining team members into their Voyagers and sets itself on a collision course with the Moraimazu monstrosity. The Orion-gou sacrifices itself to destroy the structure, leaving the parting message ‘Good Luck’ on their heads-up displays. With peace restored, the team mourn the loss of the ship and vow to defeat Don Armage for its sake.

As the episode closes, we’re treated to a glimpse of the past where Shou Lonpou is looking over a massive new ship. What is this ship and how will Ryu Commander get it to our heroes?

Did you enjoy this episode of Kyuranger? How do you feel about the demise of the Orion-gou. Let us know in the comment section below or discuss it with us on Toku Toy Store’s Facebook and Twitter!

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Power Rangers Ninja Steel: Episode 14 & 15 Review

This past fortnight’s Power Rangers Ninja Steel has been a royal double-bill. In these episodes, we’re introduced to a new character as well as a new Zord! Here is Toku Toy Store’s review of episode 14, The Royal Rival, and episode 15, The Royal Rumble.

The Royal Rival

The programme opens at school with Sarah showing off her latest business class project: Sarah’s Cookie Creator. Despite the uninspiring name, the device itself is pretty cool as it will create delicious cookies out of any and all ingredients. In case we weren’t convinced, resident morons, Victor and Monty, test out the machines capabilities with sardines, liver and broccoli. The irritating pair themselves, of course, have no project prepared and are given an ultimatum by the teacher to prepare it by tomorrow.

Up on Galvanax’s ship, we’re introduced to Princess Viera and her companion monster Lord Drillion. Galvanax and Madame Odius are not convinced by the Princess’ ability to take care of the Power Rangers but they are reassured that Drillion accompanies her, as he can take care of business in the event of her failure.

In the park, Sarah’s invention is creating massive lines of people hoping to sample her products. Victor and Monty are arrested for stealing a cow… mehville. As Preston attempts to use his magic to speed along the cookie making process, the team are contacted by Redbot, who has detected Buzzcam activity nearby. The Rangers leave Mick in charge of the stall and run off to investigate. In a more urban area, Princess Viera commands Drillion to cause chaos and destruction in an effort to draw out the Power Rangers. Her plan succeeds and Drillion makes light work of our heroes. During the battle, an errant energy blast collapses the balcony Princess Viera is watching from. Oblivious to the fact the falling woman is their enemy, Sarah cushions Viera’s fall with vines and Viera calls off her monster.

The pair returns to Galvanax’s ship where they are confronted by Galvanax. He accuses Viera of being weak but Viera, outraged, denies this, claiming she is smart and studies her enemies before destroying them. Galvanax and Drillion formulate a plan that would see Drillion take out Viera and the Rangers in exchange for rule of the Lion Galaxy.

Back at the park, Viera watches the Rangers from afar. They finish up making cookies until Viera approaches Sarah. Sarah offers Viera a cookie from her last batch but they are promptly stolen by a teenager. Viera pursues and captures the youth but Sarah insists she let him go. In conversation with the boy, he reveals that he was stealing the cookies to feed himself and his hungry sister. Sarah is understanding and compassionate but Viera can only look on, confused with what has just transpired. To compound that confusion, Sarah gifts her cookie maker to the teen so that he can sell cookies and buy food for himself and his sister. In a less than unexpected move, Princess Viera has an epiphany and waxes lyrical about how she always believed her galaxy’s ‘might makes right’ attitude was the wrong one. In the process, Viera inadvertently reveals her identity before the two are confronted by Drillion. Drillion attacks the Sarah but Viera jumps in front of the energy blast, saving her.

The whole team arrive and morph. Drillion easily handles the Rangers, breaking their Element Power Stars and bending or snapping their swords. Viera emplores the team to hold out as long as possible and teleports away. The Princess returns to Galvanax’s ship and steals back her lion ship. Frustrated with her escape, Galvanax orders the immediate gigantification of Drillion. The team take him on in the Ninja Fusion Zord but struggle as much as they did on the ground. The Fusion Zord is broken apart and the Rangers appear doomed. From out of nowhere, Princess Viera arrives in her lion ship. Drawing power from the atmosphere, she quickly scares Drillion away before flying off herself. As she flees the scene, she is shot down by Galvanax and crashes in the mountains.

Back in the business class, Sarah is about to fail for failing to complete her project but she is rescued by the teenage boy, who explains the situation to the teacher. Sarah receives an A as the episode closes.

The Royal Rumble

The next episode starts with a quick recap of Princess Viera being shot down before Drillion returns to Galvanax’s ship. Galvanax believes the Rangers will be defeated easily without the assistance of Princess Viera and commands Drillion to go back to Earth and check that her ship is fully destroyed. Before he leaves, Madame Odius takes him aside to give him a little upgrade.

On Earth, Viera is walking away from her downed ship when she discovers its anti-gravity crystal which, unfortunately, is damaged. We cut to the hidden base where Mick and Redbot are pleased to declare that all of their weapons have been repaired. As the team begin to strategise about how they’re going to defeat Drillion, Hayley finds a lion pin on her satchel. As she picks it off, it begins to glow and soon turns into Princess Viera. The team are startled but quickly come around to the idea of fixing her lion ship so that they can use it to stop Drillion. The Rangers ask Mick to help repair the anti-gravity crystal but he refuses, stating that they shouldn’t be helping someone that helped to enslave the Lion Galaxy. As she persuades them by professing her new found goodness, the Nexus Prism shows us a vision of the lion ship in battle. This convinces the team to use the last of the Ninja Steel to turn the lion ship into a zord. Mick and Redbot quickly get to work.

Back in the land of Galvanax, Drillion’s new arm monstrosity upgrade is complete. Galvanax sends Drillion to the forest to look for the lion ship and the Rangers. The team are alerted to Drillion’s proximity to the ship and enter battle. As before, our heroes struggle against the beast but Mick has completed the Ninja Star and throws it into the Nexus Prism. The Prism fires out a new Power Star but it is absorbed by Princess Viera’s armour. To everyone’s surprise, a new Power Star appears on Brody, the Red Ranger’s, wrist. He spins it and is transformed into the Red Lion Fire Ranger. Using his new abilities, Brody and the others make light work of Drillion.

Freshly gigantified, Drillion is confronted by the Lion Fire Zord  (I guess Mick had a little more Ninja Steel lying around after all). Brody forms the Lion Fire Megazord and uses all of its power to send Drillion into oblivion once and for all. Back in the Ranger’s base, Viera thanks the team for showing her the light. She vows to make the Lion Galaxy a better place and heads home to make changes to her kingdom. On her way out, she gives Mick a parting gift, establishing communication with his parents for the first time in twenty years. Mick tells them that he will come home after completing his business helping the Rangers to defeat Galvanax.

This was a pretty good two-parter. The disappointment of the pre-hiatus Ninja Steel seems to be behind us and the episodes seem to be consistently watchable at this point. As usual, the Victor and Monty segments are unnecessary but I’m sure the kids love them, or at least love to hate them. The addition of the Lion Armour was introduced properly, over two episodes, rather than just being gifted to them for no reason. This is a rarity in modern PR, so kudos to Chip Lynn and the team for that. Next, we head into the end of the first half of the series. Thanks to France, that’s already been spoiled but I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Did you enjoy The Royal Rival and The Royal Rumble? Let us know your thoughts on all things Ninja Steel in the comment section below or on Toku Toy Store’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Power Rangers Ninja Steel: Episode 13 Review

To most of the fandom’s disappointment, Power Rangers Ninja Steel had an inauspicious start to the season. It arrived with very little hype or fanfare and, regrettably, the content of the show did little to enthuse even the most forgiving viewer. The story was thrown together haphazardly with little attention paid to integrating some of the eccentricities of Shuriken Sentai Ninninger (Ninja Steel’s parent series) and many balked at the repetition of the ‘Daddy issues’ used so regularly in recent memory. In short, the series just wasn’t much good. That’s all changed within the last few episodes, though, and the quality of the show has drastically improved. Episode 13, Ace and the Race, is no exception to that and builds upon the good work we’ve seen as of late.

The episode opens with the Mayor of Summer Cove welcoming us to the Lake Sunshine Fun-athalon, and the Rangers are preparing to compete in a relay race. As the race calls for three person teams, the team split in half with Preston, Hayley and Sarah comprising one team and Brody, Levi and Calvin making up the other. Moments before the start of the race, Calvin is distracted by a guy named Ace and his beautifully detailed car. Calvin goes to speak with Ace and his crew but promises to return in time for the race.

Meanwhile, on Galvanax’s ship, Cosmo Royale is introducing his newest contestant, Shoespike. The monster of the week bursts on to the stage with two Basherbots trailing behind him and rejoices at the fact he won the race. The peril our Rangers will face this week becomes clear as Shoespike exclaims, “You know what happens when you lose a race to me!” and the Basherbots are turned into trophies. Shoespike – whose Arnie-impersonator voice is reminiscent of Mighty Morphin’s Lizzinator – takes human form, declaring that once the Rangers touch his baton (careful) they will not be able to resist racing him.

Back on Earth, Calvin is taking a look under the hood of Ace’s car. He notices an oil leak and is talked into repairing it, but not before he pushes the car and its three occupants back to the school workshop. With Calvin missing, Brody and Levi are down a teammate. Enter Bob Shoespike, who volunteers to join the team. The pair touch Shoespike’s baton and are instantly transformed into douchebags, calling Sarah a loser before heading to the start line. During the course of the race, Brody shoulder barges Preston into the bushes and Levi launches a random competitor into the lake. Preston, obviously, takes exception to their behaviour and confronts them. Brody and Levi give Preston, Sarah and Hayley a hard time, again calling them losers. Bob Shoespike looks directly into the camera and adds “and you know what happens to losers…” before the three are turned into trophies before Levi and Brody’s eyes. The other competitors are also turned into trophies including Victor, who gets taken away by a stray dog. Shoespike reveals himself to be a monster and challenges the Ranger brothers to a three-legged race. The Rangers gladly accept.

Subsequently, at the school workshop, Calvin is finishing off the work to Ace’s car. Ace misnames Calvin as Malvin and Marvin during the course of the ensuing argument, caused by Calvin’s realisation that Ace is a fraud and that he hasn’t completed a single piece of work on his own car as he claimed. Calvin feels let down by his supposed friend, Ace, but Mick reminds Calvin of his own failures in friendship, having bailed on Brody and Levi in the relay race. He concedes and dashes off to rejoin his teammates. Trophy Victor is shotput into a fish tank, meh. Victor and Monty continue to be one of the main problems with this series but I don’t think they’re going anywhere.

Calvin happens upon Brody, Levi and Shoespike warming up for their race. He discovers the three Ranger trophies and they catch him up with the story so far. Calvin confronts Shoespike and joins the team. The Rangers struggle to run cohesively at first before noticing that Shoespike is cheating; his Basherbot teammates are in face dummies and Shoespike is running alone. Despite the booby-traps set by Shoespike, the Rangers win the race in a photo finish. A Basherbot delivers the Ranger trophies, for no reason other than they needed the Rangers present to match the Sentai footage, and the team morph to fight Shoespike. The battle itself, in fact, is a carbon copy of its Ninninger counterpart and culminates in Levi and Brody working together to destroy the monster.

Brody and Levi summon Robo Red and Bull Rider but Shoespike runs rings around them. Calvin arrives in his Tonka Truck and slows the monster down with makibishi. The team form the Ninja Fusion Zord and make quick work of destroying Shoespike once and for all.

Back at the race, Calvin apologises to his friends and, of course, they forgive him in the usual sickly sweet, saccharin fashion. Victor’s trophy is finally turned back into human form, whilst still in the fish tank, and the episode closes with Victor standing in the tank with seaweed in his mouth.

All in all, this was a solid episode. The Saban team made good use of what was a difficult Ninninger episode to adapt to construct a cohesive story. The highlight of the episode, for me, was Shoespike, who got far more screen time here than in the Sentai. His design was neat and the actor who played his human form did a great job, especially during the fourth wall breaking moments. Here’s hoping that Ninja Steel continues to trend upwards as it has in the last few episodes.

Did you enjoy Ace and the Race? Let us know your thoughts on all things Ninja Steel in the comment section below or on Toku Toy Store’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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