If you grew up in the ’90s, the inexorable influence of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was everywhere. After its premiere during the fevered hours of late August 1993, a generation of American kids would never really be the same. For many of us, it was our first exposure to the wonders of kaiju, the art of the ‘giant, strange monster’. These kaiju usually presented themselves in enormous, foam rubber costumes worn by an unfortunate stunt actor, stumbling over landscapes and destroying everything in sight, Godzilla-style. These monsters were weird, awkward, and (often unintentionally) terrifying, shambling from the weirdo id of their creators.
Power Rangers is finally getting a “complete” series release from Shout! Factory and Time-Life, including everything from the original Mighty Morphin series, to the post-Morphin series, from Zeo to Lost Galaxy, encompassing everything that aired on TV during the 1990s. This amounts to a collection of 40 DVDs and 338 episodes across two colossal sets. Eleven more series have aired post-1999, with a twelfth planned for 2013, which will surely call for an additional box set or two. You’ll have to take care of the two feature films yourself (around 5 bucks each on DVD). As a ’90s teenager, this is just about everything I could ever want right here.
As a ’90s teen, you might have been attracted to the monsters, but maybe you were into the Rangers’ giant robots instead. With brains steeped in Transformers, Voltron and Robotech, fighting robots were a more natural fit for us. Maybe you enjoyed the camaraderie of a bunch of teenagers with secret identities, saving the world, starting charity drives and eating healthy. Maybe you just enjoyed the slapstick humor of Bulk and Skull, the goofy bullies who thought they had one up on the dorky Rangers civilian selves while they continued to seek the true identities of the Rangers. With a comedic obliviousness that goes beyond the classically absurd, the Rangers’ clothing usually matched the colors of their hero outfits, so the cognitive leap to their identities wasn’t exactly far. They were not exactly masters of disguise or subtlety, nor was anyone on the show that smart outside of their own heroic team.
I was 13 when Power Rangers premiered in the US, and Pokémon wouldn’t show up until 1997 (and thereby ruin Saturday morning cartoons forever), so there was a certain amount of unpreparedness us Power Rangers that us teens had to face. At 13, we hadn’t yet grasped the concept of “ironic cool”, and instead maintained a laser-focus on “actual cool”, whether it was misdirected or not. With over a decade between the year of 1993 and nerdy things actually becoming acceptably cool on a larger scale, was Power Rangers cool?
Probably not. But in the warm glow of nostalgia, and getting off the school bus for a snack in front of the TV, and the last feelings of genuine freedom that our adult lives would inevitably obliterate into a heavy, depressing, choking nothingness… that’s where Power Rangers retains its power. It’s a lot of power for one DVD set to hold, and it wields it wisely.
During season one, the evil Green Ranger appeared, and I was surprised. When the evil Green Ranger became good, I was relieved. When his powers were taken away, it had already seemed like a lot to put kids through… but when he was replaced by the mysterious White Ranger, who was actually the Green Ranger returning to the show, we kinda picked up on what the series was putting down. This whole thing had a plot, and wasn’t just a bunch of flailing, grey monsters slapping at each other. Even though that was a lot of it.
If you were a fan of Power Rangers, whether you admitted it or not, the weird circumstances surrounding the show’s cast were hard to ignore. The original Yellow Ranger, Thuy Trang, was killed in a car accident in 2001 (and was it racist that the show’s Yellow Ranger was Asian?). The Blue Ranger, David Yost, left the show after he was repeatedly harassed and insulted about his sexual orientation. For a while, it was thought that the Pink Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson, had appeared in porn, and while these rumors weren’t true, they’ve buried themselves into the brains of anyone who cared at the time. It’s not all bad news though: the Green Ranger became successful MMA fighter, and the Red Ranger now works as an EMT. Most cast members still seem to embrace their role in the show, making guest appearances in newer series and at conventions.
As a toy collector from the era of Power Rangers, the show’s collectible toys were probably the most explosive part of the Rangers’ presence. A Megazord or a Dragonzord could sell for hundreds of dollars if you were lucky enough to scalp one from the toy shelves. Today, a set of six Power Rangers Heroes toys, still sealed, sells for almost $900. Original Japanese toys, pulled from the Super Sentai series (which provided many of the fight scenes which the US actors acted around), also fetch huge amounts of cash. Power Rangers was undoubtedly one of the most collectible properties of the 1990s, and the value of many of these toys remains today. Browse any toy aisle and you’ll come across Power Rangers from any given series of the show, whether they’re aimed directly at aging collectors who enjoyed the show, or kids who enjoy the newer series.
As a complete picture of the 1990s era of Power Rangers, this set of 40 DVDs is pretty incredible, packing multiple DVDs into each DVD case, each with flip pages. These cases slip into their respective boxes, which are completely high quality. It’s completely obvious that this set (which sells for about $200) was designed for collectors to enjoy. It’s a whole lot of respect given to a show which is unashamedly ridiculous.
If you need a better picture of what’s on these DVDs, the Time-Life website includes full episode synopses for every episode in this set. Some gems:
As a school project, Tommy and Kat must pretend to be married. And to make the exercise even more realistic, Kat brings along Joey, whom she’s offered to baby-sit for the duration of the experiment. Joey’s crying is driving the teens nuts, but when King Mondo sends Boohoo the Clown to amplify the baby’s wail, the effects are devastating. If the Power Rangers can’t get the child to stop crying, he’ll lay waste to Angel Grove!
Not to mention…
Rita sends down Finster’s latest creation, the endlessly hungry Pudgy Pig, to consume the Earth’s food supply, starting with the Youth Center’s International Food Festival! The Power Rangers attempt to stop him, but Pudgy Pig even eats their weapons. Can the team find the monster’s spicy weakness in time?
If you’re not convinced that this is pretty awesome just yet…
Finster creates the Fang monster for Rita’s birthday. But the newborn beast becomes enraged when Baboo & Squatt eat his delicious rare “Gooney Bird” eggs. Goldar lies to Fang, pinning the blame on the Rangers, turning his anger toward our heroes. Do they stand a chance without Tommy, who was captured by Putties while on the way to Angel Grove High’s big talent show?
Every episode synopsis is a totally insane gem. I only wish I was in the room when these ideas were pitched. If only.
[DVDs graciously provided by the publisher.]