Power Rangers Lost Property

It's been a crazy week, huh?

This post was initially going to be dedicated to Go-onger. I hate the series, but I really *really* tried to enjoy it. While it never clicked with me, I enjoyed a lot of the design elements like vanilla Engine-oh, the Henshin Items, and even the Engine Souls were a neat idea back in the gimmick-lite days. The most interesting thing from the series, however, is how Toei pulled off some expert level trolling by making Disney adapt ripoffs of their own property. Bravo, really. I was truly impressed. Disney-Pixar (or "Dixar" for short) released the film Cars in 2006...and two years later we have...Go-onger.

Talking animated cars you say??

Nope. Totally different. Nothing to see here.

While I could go on all day about how Toei has become a reactionary studio rather than a visionary one, I think mentioning my abandoned topic is actually pertinent to, ummm, current events. Go-onger, and it's adaptation Power Rangers RPM, was the first major step to bring us where we are today. It was the last time I felt a true sense of normalcy in the Power Rangers franchise.

For those who may have missed the news, Bandai America will no longer be the license-holder for Power Rangers toys starting in 2019. Hasbro will be picking up the toy license and possibly even control of the entire franchise further down the line. How the hell did this happen? Does it even matter?

Bandai America has been in the adaptation business longer than most people give them credit for. Remember the Godaikin line? Bandai America was releasing toys under the Bandai name even before Bandai Japan was (they were still using the Popy name until 1983). Weird, right? That line brought all kinds of earlier goodies to the United States before any kind of franchises were established. Go Lion before Voltron, Super Sentai before Power Rangers...hell, even Spider-man's Leopardon. 

Bandai America really wasn't much more than an importer in the 1980s, however. Did you know that Bandai sold repackaged toys stateside from the 1988 Toei Metal Hero series Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya? Yep, I have a ziploc baggie full of those figures in my desk drawer (They were called Tacky Stretchoid Warriors...heh). The launch of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was a perfect storm for a lot of reasons. After several tries, Saban Entertainment was launching it's American adaptation of arguably the best possible series they could adapt. Not to mention, they had a packed toyline specifically tailored for the US market from Bandai America. You can tell that Bandai America had put a TON of thought into the Power Rangers toyline--adapting only the essentials from Japan and creating a wide range of action figures to stock up on at a reasonable price point.

From the beginning there were some trifling decisions, however. The Power Morpher in particular was the biggest fumble and yet the best mistake they could hope for. It was upside-down, had lousy decals, lacked a holster and most importantly.....never had the Green Ranger's coin. It certainly did a wonderful job of driving up the price of the Zyuranger version until the Legacy Power Morpher cleaned up a 20-year old mess.

While the differences between Super Sentai/Power Rangers toylines tended to fluctuate annually, things didn't really seem to make a major turn until Boukenger's adaptation--Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive. Granted, I am only an outside observer of Power Rangers toys...but I seem to recall someone posting a scathing review of the Drivemax Megazord in the form of several unflattering photos and the simple caption ".......what a piece of shit.......".

When the Power Rangers franchise ended up back at the newly formed Saban Brands, things didn't really seem right. The first order of business was to adapt the next chronological Super Sentai series, Shinkenger. That's great...but from there every new series was spread over two years.

While the series proper was entering a phase of disconnection with Japan, the toyline had been there for years. Bandai America was producing shit. I'm sorry if you happen to be one of the very few fans of Power Rangers toys from the mid 2000s to today, but...everything produced for the current shows was just disposable crap in collector-unfriendly packaging. I covered the Legacy toyline at good length last year (Part 1, Part 2), but while it was enough to appease some collectors it suffered something of an identity crisis of it's own. 

While plenty of people were more than happy with Legacy toys, there were also quite a number of fans who were quick to point out the flaws. "Will they EVER get out of MMPR??" was the battle cry. The Legacy line has been around for five years and is now *just* getting out of MMPR. Five years to kiiiinda cover toys that come from a toyline that lasted three years. Then there was the group of fans who noticed something even stranger...the Imaginext toys by Fisher-Price were absolutely crushing it.


Yeah, so those kids who enjoyed Power Rangers in 1993? They have kids of their own now. It's diabolical. The toys are absolutely friggin' adorable, have the built-in brand recognition, and have some really cool features and favorite characters that aren't even Tommy-related. The audience may be skewed younger, but a lot of fans seem to agree that they're some of the most interesting Power Rangers toys in a VERY long time. 

Bandai America really dropped the ball there. It wasn't that long ago that I went to Bandai America's site out of curiosity to see what licenses they have these days. The site is a graveyard of years-old movies, Power Rangers, a PAC-MAN plug and play (Namco-Bandai, so duh) and Dragonball Super. I've actually been thinking a lot about Dragonball toys in light of the current Power Ranger toy situation. It sounds familiar...

The brief history of Dragonball toys in America goes something like this. Dragonball had a small line of toys in 1995 based on a Funimation/Ocean license and a brief thirteen-episode dub. In 1996 Funimation and Ocean entered a partnership with Saban and skipped ahead to Dragonball Z. Bandai America followed suit and copied the MMPR formula. Several toys from Japan and Asia were adapted for the US along with a set of new action figures. Bandai quickly and inexplicably dropped the line with Canada's Irwin Toy swooping in and seemlessly resuming the toyline through reissues of the previous Bandai America line as well as more imports from Bandai Asia and France's AB Toys.

Things kinda took on a life of their own once Irwin began producing toys in-house. While I'm not much of a fan of the Irwin developed DBZ toys, these continue to be fan favorites for the wide-range of characters (Leisure Suit Yamcha anyone?), decent quality and details, and low price point. Everything was going swimmingly until, well, Irwin shit the bed. Having the hottest anime intellectual property in North America somehow resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy in 2001. The license went to Jakks Pacific whose toys I have zero recollection of. The 2002 deal for the license was pretty short-lived and Bandai America ended up with Dragonball toys once again by 2007.

The most current Bandai America Dragonball toys aren't too dissimilar from the current Power Rangers toys with an extra layer of "Who the hell are these toys made for?". They're too cheap and kiddy for the fan who actually watches Dragonball Super. I mean...that's what we have Figuarts for, right? The series airs on Adult Swim for god's sake...


I guess the best way to end this post is to say this...

I wish Bandai America all the best. Jobs will be lost over this, but the reality is that years of poor decisions have brought us to where we are now. Hasbro is definitely a force to be reckoned with and while the degree of dignity in which they handle the franchise toys remains to be seen, it certainly isn't the worst thing possible. I say this as someone who only casually observes Power Rangers toys, though. Cautious optimism is probably the best approach.

Go-Busters being adapted next on the other hand...wasn't Kyuranger developed with input from America? I think Toei may have finally been out-trolled after all these years...


P.S. I highly recommend visiting grnrngr.com for incredible database on not only Power Rangers and other Saban-related Bandai toys, but several guides based on the series itself. My personal favorites are the Zyu1.5 and Zyu2 guides as well the episode guide, which lists goofs and the Sentai episodes used for every episode.

UPDATE: Ehhh whoops. I erroneously stated that the US release of Jiraiya toys were released by Mattel for some bizarre reason. Nope. Bandai America in 1990. A trial-run perhaps? Get this...Jiraiya was actually a bad guy called "Fringe" according to the story and bios on the card. Not only a bad guy...but a sidekick who is also a parking lot enthusiast. O...K...?


  1. Kyuranger has 7 less rangers and no gimmick to sell they can go back in time and make a morpher that comes out with it's full potential from the package

  2. I don't know if you're into Transformers, but what do you think of those toys compared to Bandai's Sentai robots?

    1. Huh? Why in the world was this in the spam folder??

      I've only ever owned three Transformers...and two of those were variants of the same thing. Hmmm...I don't really have much of an opinion.

  3. Yeah, I suspect the drop in quality around Overdrive was because of Disney cutting the budget for the show, so presumably that influenced Bandai America into making cheap American copies of the mecha instead of just importing and/or modifying them. That thinking promptly spread to the rest of the line by RPM, which-- of course-- continued to use the Japanese toys as props, thus making the American toys VERY inaccurate. I could easily see some savvy kids thinking "Man, this toy sucks compared to the one in the show."

    And the whole "Two seasons per sentai" thing is Nickeldeon's policy. Don't ask me why they have it, but it's very much a roadblock for everyone.

    Apparently, with the 2019 series, they're going back to adapt Go-Busters as "Beast Morphers" ("Forever Red" writer Amit Bhaumik wrote a proposal called "Cyber Corps" before Saban decided to skip it). I'm kinda hoping they at least import the Toei GB toys with changes to the sounds, but considering that Hasbro's normal partner Takara would most likely overrule Bandai Japan in this situation, I dunno. (If they do manage to broker some sort of deal between themselves, Bandai Japan, and Takara to keep the peace, it might mean the Machine Robos could be reissued as GoBots collector toys, and the Takatoku molds {Jetfire, mainly, given he was a Macross Valkyrie, plus a couple Autobots taken from Dorvack and the Insecticons taken from Beetras} could potentially be reissued too.)

    We'll just have to wait and see...

    1. Honestly I think a lot of the issue stems from the toy market in the US gradually slipping for the past decade or so. Toys R Us is in trouble...KB is long gone... It's just a bummer all around. Bandai is now NamcoBandai and doesn't have to rely entirely on being a toy maker at this point. Bandai America was a force to be reckoned with at one point, but seems to have been left behind in the Namco merger and the weird happenings with the PR franchise. Reclaiming Dragonball also did absolutely nothing for the brand.

      From the sounds of it, Hasbro will be doing it's own thing entirely. The whole thing kinda makes sense since Mattel and Hasbro seem to be the last two toymakers that understand how to sell toys in this country...and Hasbro sounds like the better fit of those two.

  4. This was a fun, informative read...I don't really know much about all of the toy side of toku's business, the history of it. (Also: I never realized about Toei making Disney pay for its rip-off with Go-onger. Maybe that's why Disney gave PR the boot after RPM, which always surprised me. I thought they'd cling to PR forever.)

    I basically wonder how Saban's going with Hasbro will influence Sentai. I tend to think people who claim Sentai's always facing cancellation or that Sentai's only endured because of Saban are over-reacting, but my immediate reaction to the Hasbro news was kind of an "Uh-oh." Like Hasbro just picked up the final nail. Bandai is Super Sentai's blood. A lot of what they consider Super Sentai profit came from Power Rangers. So, with that taken away...what's this going to do to Sentai?

    And I remember those awful Jiraiya stretchy things! It was cool to see a toku thing like that in an American store, but those things were useless. They weren't sticky enough to stick to the walls, ninja-style as advertised, but just sticky enough to attract all of the filth it would encounter.

    1. The situation with RPM wasn't exactly like that. See, Disney wanted to end with Jungle Fury, but both Bandi and the European Jetix networks requested one final season. As a result of this late change, Go-Onger was made as silly as possible because they didn't think Disney would adapt it.

      Eddie Guzelian (RPM's original producer) was shocked when he saw the Sentai footage-- he had just pitched a dark, after-apocalypse show, and now he had to adapt the goofiest Sentai possible. And he did it with aplomb, even if Disney canned midseason for some reason.

      They ended up selling the franchise to Saban again because they acquired Marvel, which made PR useless for them. And now considering that Hasbro and Disney are working closely, and the fact that they're acquiring most of 20th Century Fox, could mean that we might see a Fox Kids revival-- hopefully.

    2. Thanks man!

      I'm kinda miffed that the Go-onger/Cars connection wasn't a bigger deal at the time. Heh. Imagine if Zyuranger came out just a year later than it did. "Looks like someone must've just seen Jurassic Park...".

      Bandai referring to Super Sentai as "Power Rangers" in their sales data is a little nebulous. The Hasbro deal covers North America and Europe, but doesn't cover Korea and Asia despite those markets using the Power Rangers name. That isn't to say that losing the Saban Power Ranger property isn't going to leave a noticeable dent to Bandai's bottom line. Maybe Toei will just have to be smarter and do shows with less than 28 heroes from now on.