Posted on Leave a comment

The Toys That Made Us: Power Rangers Episode Review

The following is a joint review by The Jez Show and Toku Toy Store.
Visit The Jez Show for reviews, podcasts, videos and more!

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

First look and new toys revealed inside Hasbro’s Power Rangers Toy Fair display

Before it’s even officially open, we have a really good look at Hasbro’s display space at New York Toy Fair 2019!

It’s been a busy few days for fans of Power Rangers. With New York Toy Fair approaching, followers of the brand were excited to find out just what exactly Hasbro had planned for us in their first foray into the Power Rangers universe. We already saw early previews of the Zords and 6″ Figures this week, and the Lightning Collection yesterday, but now there are even more news items to digest, as well as a good look at the toys on display.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Lightning Collection

Overnight, the first of the new Lightning Collection figures was made available for preorder in the United States at Hasbro’s new collector hub, Hasbro Pulse. Our first featured Ranger is the Red Ranger from Power Rangers Dino Charge. As you can see from the gallery below, the figure comes bundled with weapons, hands and a swappable head in the likeness of Tyler, played by actor Brennan Mejia. The US retail price is $19.99 and is expected to be £19.99 in the United Kingdom, too.

 

Inside the display space, we get our first look at… well… everything!

6″ Action Figures

First up, are the 6″ line of action figures from the upcoming Beast Morphers series, which debuts March 2nd in the United States. We had already seen and fallen in love with these figures. In a 6″ scale, they will match up nicely alongside the Lightning Collection and even it’s predecessor, Bandai America’s Legacy line, which only came in at roughly half an inch more in size. At the back of the display, we also get a preview of the packaging. Each figure is bundles with at least one weapon, as well as a key for the Beast Morphers’ Morpher.

Some of Beast Morphers Wave 1 action figures – From left: Blue Ranger, Yellow Ranger, Blaze, Red Ranger, Tronic

More from Wave 1 – From left: Tronic, Roxy, Jack Beast Bot, Powered Red Ranger, Silver Ranger (in background)

Figures from Wave 2, due Autumn 2019 – From left: Red Ranger Powered Up, Silver Ranger, Gold Ranger, Evox, Drilltron

12″ Action Figures

Affectionately known as ‘nutcracker’ figures, Hasbro will also produce a small 12″ line of figures for Beast Morphers. The Red and Blue Rangers, as well as Blaze, are available from April, while Silver and Yellow will wait til Autumn for release.

The first 12″ figures for Beast Morphers – From left, Red, Blaze, Blue, Silver, and Yellow

Playskool

We already knew about the Wild Force Megazord and Red Dragon Thunderzord coming in this line (not pictured here) but that was not all for the Playskool line of toys for smaller children. Playskool Heroes feature Zords are to be produced, starting with reproductions of further mecha from Power Rangers Wild Force and also the dinosaurs of Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Alongside those Zords, Mega Mighties of complimenting Power Rangers will also be released in packs of two.

A first look at Wild Force and Dino Thunder based toys in the Playskool line

Playskool Heroes figures – From right: WF Silver, DT Yellow, Ninjor, DC Green, DC Gold

And finally…

First revealed late last night, the outside of Hasbro’s Power Rangers space gave us a rare treat in a look at the beautiful Dino Megazord from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. A plaque alongside the Megazord reveals that this is the original prop from the 1993 series but, according to fans and experts on various forums, that isn’t strictly accurate. While the base of this Megazord may indeed stem from the original filming of Zyuranger, the suit had to undergo significant repair to be useable again and, as such, you could argue that so much has been changed that this is not the original suit.

This suit was used by Toei Company in the filming of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters vs. Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: The Movie and later found its way into the, now closed, Toei Hero World Museum. Over on our Facebook page, good friend of Toku Toy Store, Stu Hix, noted the blemishes in the suit that proved it was one and the same from Hero World.

View from the entrance to Hasbro’s display space

Plaque detailing the history of the Megazord

On the other side of the entrance, far left, is a small display of items produced by third-party manufacturers.

New and existing Power Ranger products produced by third-party (non-Hasbro) manufacturers

That’s it for now! Keep eyes here at Toku Toy Store for further news and updates, as well as the new toys from Hasbro when they become available from April 2019!

What is your favourite new toy reveal? Which items will be coming home to your collection? Join the conversation on our social media pages!

Source: The Toy Book/The Rockfather, Hasbro Pulse.