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Power Rangers Samurai/Super Samurai: The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid

December 16, 2012

Now that there are no more new episodes (It is over right? Right?!?!?), I think it’s time to finally pass final judgement on this Season. What were the good parts? What were the bad parts? What lessons can we (and by we, I mean the writers/staff) learn from Samurai? Is Power Rangers screwed forever, causing Ameri-Toku to forever suck, and no one will ever be happy again? Well, if you’re willing to go through one of the 7 circles of hell, reading a long post about Samurai written by a weirdo, then let’s try to figure out exactly what the heck happened over the last two years.

The Good:
From a marketing perspective, and a production standpoint, this did feel like a revival of the Power Rangers series. Saban Brands seems to be fully dedicating to getting this show out there. We have new cameras and have bumped up episodes to HD quality to make the show look very nice. The special effects for the show were impressive. We had a great looking set, and a cool looking Megazord cockpit to boot. Without a doubt, those involved with filming, set design, and special effects deserve a round of applause. If there’s one thing that continually impressed me about Samurai/Super Samurai, it was their work. I am looking forward to seeing their work in Megaforce.

From a conceptual perspective, Samurai/Super Samurai brought some interesting ideas to the Power Rangers Universe. Bulk coming back to the show was a great idea, and so was exploring Skull having a son and allowing Bulk to take on a mentor role. The idea of Serrator being a Nighlock King/Devil Character (just in a conceptual level) who cursed two people into turning into monsters was a neat idea. Dayu could have been our first female villain forced to fight for the bad guys after being forcibly transformed and threatened by the main villain. The other villain was a cursed man without a memory, not truly wanting to cause harm to people, but longing to be free from an awful curse. From a conceptual level, there were a lot of neat ideas Samurai set up. It’s just a shame it wasn’t executed better.

The Bad:
I might as well make this a quick list or this post will never get finished:
– Inconsistent Writing/Character Development
– Questionable Morales
– Poor Treatment of Female Characters/Female Character Development
– Terrible Direction for Actors (Many have noted that at least Alex, Hector and Steven probably could have done a really great job if they were not forced to dumb down their performance.)
– Poor Development of Villains
– Terrible Usage of Villains/Making the Villains not look (from a writing perspective) threatening.
– Terrible Usage of Original Suit Designs, Especially for Shogun Mode
– The lack of interaction between Bulk/Spike and the Rangers
– The lack of connection between Bulk/Spike scenes and the main episode plot
– The lack of world expanding by not having the characters be developed more, have them interact with the city and pursue interests
– Having the rangers state the obvious, speak for the sake of speaking, or make very stupid comments
– Repeated use of “Mia can’t cook” as one of the main jokes of the season
– Making the guys many times during the show seem like jerks
– Over usage of OOOH-AAHH-OOOH, Dayu moaning about Deker without doing anything, and Deker talking about Uramasa without any other character development
– Re-using footage in blatantly obvious ways.

And the list goes on. The point is that while at a conceptual level, and a production level, Power Rangers Samurai showed a lot of promise, it had a lot of problems. But what hurts the most about Samurai isn’t the mistakes it made, but what it failed to do. Why not go further into the Nighlock King plot? Why not have Lauren and Jayden fight together? Why not use Shogun Mode in battle outside the cockpit? Why not develop the girl’s personalities further and explore them as characters? Why not have Bulk and Spike interact more with the main cast? Why not have Mentor Ji show how useful he is to the team as a mentor? Why not have more of the villains interact with the main team? There are so many questions of why things weren’t done, and the more of these questions you ask, the more you realize that the show had a lot of potential.

In the early days of the show, I constantly made the argument that it wasn’t the fact that Samurai didn’t have an original plot that made it a poor adaptation of Shinkenger, and a poor season of Power Rangers. After all, many agree that Time Force was a very good season of Power Rangers. The fact is though, that Shinkenger was always going to be a nightmare to direct translate to an American audience, considering it’s heavy reliance on Japanese culture. It requires some creativity just to make the direct adaption work for the audience. (Heck, even with Time Force, the original scenes and characters made the show that much better for the audience). The fact is, the biggest problem is that Samurai removed many, many plot points, character personalities, and even the ending of the Serrator plot in order to bring it over to an overseas audience. But they never filled in these empty gaps of character personalities and plot points to make it work successfully. I’m pretty sure most, if not ALL of these problems could have been solved had they just taken the time to do so. They could have very easily direct adapted this show with that in mind, and still made a decent show. Would it have stood out as one of the great seasons of PR? Who knows. But I doubt it would have angered/came off as apathetic to many people if it had.

But maybe the real reason came in the prolonging of the season. What if Samurai had only been stretched out over a year? What if there weren’t long breaks in between new episodes that left many people wondering whether or not this series would end? Perhaps if Nick had been a more flexible about scheduling and the amount of episodes aired a year, it wouldn’t have been as loathed by fans. Samurai clearly stayed around longer than most wanted it to, and it seems to have had an effect on fans. In the next year or two, when new fans come around for the 20th anniversary (who didn’t watch Samurai when it was airing new episodes) stumble on this season, will they react so harshly on Samurai/Super Samurai? It will be interesting to see how much of an effect Nick’s scheduling had on our opinions of Samurai.

So, what lessons can we learn from Samurai that Megaforce can use? Here’s a few:
– Give the special effects team a raise and keep them on board.
– Same with the Set Designers
– If you make original suit designs, give them a use in battle
– Remember that even if you want to direct adapt a season, you’ll need some form of originality to make it work
– RESPECT YOUR FEMALE CHARACTERS
– Don’t make your male characters jerks
– Your characters don’t always have to speak, sometimes action speaks louder than words
– Having your characters interact with their environment can help them grow
– Side Characters/Comic Relief should interact with the main cast regularly. They don’t have to all the time, but regularly
– TREAT YOUR AUDIENCE WITH RESPECT, DON’T DUMB THINGS DOWN FOR THEM
– Sometimes a little original footage can go a long way
– If you give a team a set of battlizers, let them ALL use them in show… ESPECIALLY THE GIRLS.
– Your Mentor character can be a great help to giving emotional development to characters
– Don’t bring up plot points that sound important, but then suddenly forget about them
– Don’t put in useless plot points
– Good Villains make themselves look like a major threat. Great Villains show how they are a major threat by regularly interacting with Rangers.
– NO MORE CLIP SHOWS
– Make sure your characters have a life
– There’s a difference between respect for, and worshiping/un-healthy attraction to the red ranger. Heck, any ranger.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others lessons, but it’s quite clear that Samurai had quite a few mistakes. Of course, that’s not to say it didn’t have any enjoyable episodes. “Strange Case of The Munchies” was by far one of the best episodes the show had. “He Ain’t Heavy Metal, He’s My Brother” was a fairly decent original episode adaptation. “Runaway Spike” showed character development and interaction between Bulk/Spike and the Rangers. “Clash of the Red Rangers” while having some faults, was a decent team-up. “Party Monsters”, while a clip show, was a clever idea for an episode. So it wasn’t like the entire series was bad. But what comes down to it was that this series had a lot of potential which wasn’t reached for, which resulted in numerous issues. That, along with talking down to the audience instead of speaking to them caused the show to be heavily disliked.

I think in the end, we can only hope that the mistakes of this season were understood by the creative team at Saban Brands. If they have, then maybe this season can be used as an example of how to properly adapt a season. We will see though. I do wish the cast good luck with whatever role they move on to. I do believe that if the season had been handled more properly, from both the writers and from season direction, this team of actors could have done a much better job.

Here’s hoping that Megaforce redeems the franchise, or at least does a better job than Samurai did.

Happy Holidays Everyone, and have a happy new year. Next year, the blog will be back with more new episode reviews when Power Rangers Megaforce finally airs.

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