2019/11/17

The Toys That Made Us: Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers


I've lost my edge. In recent years I've really felt the need to stop blasting things mercilessly. Maybe I've become more passive about things because nothing really matters. Maybe the fact that my line of work is largely in the shadows has left me with a "I'll give it a pass, somebody worked really hard on this" kind of attitude towards creative endeavors. Maybe things aren't so bad after all...that I was the problem.

So......I watched the Power Rangers episode of the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us...

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Here's a little back story to this whole debacle. I knew what I was getting into before I watched this show. When the Power Rangers episode was first announced for Season 3 back in the Summer of 2018, I decided to check out the Transformers episode since I figured it would be on par with what we could expect for our Power Rangers episode. The format and editing was cringe-as, but it was full of information for someone like me who really didn't know anything about the franchise outside of Diaclone history. I knew a bit more about the history coming out and really learned quite a bit about the toys and their creation. Given the crappy format, however, I had incredibly low expectations going into my viewing of the MMPR episode. It could only go up from there, right?

The MMPR episode was so awful that it made me question every positive thought that I had about the Transformers episode. I question the validity of everything I heard. I don't trust their overdubbing of what anything that anyone at Takara had to say. The credibility is gone.

I think this type of show is meant for the casual dork who blindly hitches their wagon onto everything nerdy. The type of schlub who Funko Pop executives masturbate furiously, frequently and violently to just before securing another licensed property that totally needs more toys. The type of shithead who thinks they're edgy for thinking that Star [Trek/Wars] is more refined and sophisticated than Star [Trek/Wars]. Despite Tokusatsu, and Power Rangers by association, being the only thing in my pop culture wheelhouse (I would legit be a 100% car bore otherwise) this episode was not meant for me. It wasn't meant for my laser focus on the subject to point out the incredible errors shat out everywhere in this corny documentary.

So for you, dear reader, I am going to watch this piece of shit one more time and record some of the errors and grievances that stick out as I go...

-Intro: The first of many chalk jokes. Get ready for some knee-slappers.
-"Kamen Rider is the first Henshin Hero." 'Fraid not...
-Not mentioning the Popy name when speaking of Bandai is forgivable since brevity is key, but maybe a little more history than "Yeah, they've been around since the 50s lol" would've been enlightening versus stock footage of their morning exercise routine.
-Repeatedly referring to Shotaro Ishinomori as "Japan's Stan Lee" fits your narrative I guess, but it's horribly reductive considering Ishinomori had an enormous career outside of heroes as well. That may sound like a dig at Stan Lee...and I guess it is, but whatever.
-Fansub Denjiman and Sunvulcan clips?? I guess Youtube was the source for a lot of their clips. How did any of this get cleared?
-Margaret Loesch is talking about Stan Lee and their combined efforts to attempt to adapt Sun Vulcan for the US. The quality of the clips used tends to oscillate between crystal clear and 240p.
-Trouble at Bandai lead to Bandai America and the Godaikin line flop in America. That's great...except it was almost framed in a way juuust to bring up Transformers and another effin' chalk joke. Also, Bandai America was really founded back in the 60s as Bandai Overseas. The way the info is dropped here makes it sound like it was formed overnight in 1982 with the sole purpose to sell off unsold Chogokin toys.
-Oh, and the Godaikin line wasn't even the first attempt at Sentai toys in America. Mattel imported some toys over from Japan in the 70s. Godaikin was Bandai's first attempt, but not the first attempt.
-Our boy Saban tells the story about Bioman being his first Super Sentai experience over a montage of Super Sentai footage........that inexplicably begins with a clip from Kyodai Ken Bycrosser. You know, the very much NOT SUPER SENTAI SERIES Kyodai Ken Bycrosser...
-OK, so there is a weird run where the Toei group is talking about how they thought Saban was "crazy" and a "loud guy" (lol) and these little hit and run reaction shots from Saban are thrown in. It's horribly distracting. All of this is played over *sigh* this. Please...for the love of everything that is holy...RETIRE THIS FUCKING MUSIC. Did Saban's meeting with Toei in 1984 take place in 1955? No? Why is this piece of shit music playing? It's 2019, Happy-Go-Lively is unacceptable. Ren & Stimpy made wonderful use of it in the 90s, but it's gone on to be the "corny music" of choice for shitlords ever since to the point where it's lost all meaning and is just obnoxious.
-Probably worth noting that the aforementioned Bioman and subsequent series would become a big success in Europe, South America, and Asia to build up Saban's strong, yet failed case for adaptation.
-No mention of the 1987 comedy Dynaman dub here in the US.
-Margaret Loesch talking about Sentai and the deal that she inked with Saban, there are Power Rangers clips of varying quality playing. First off, we're kinda jumping the gun with the season 2 MMPR clips since, in the narrative of the episode, the pilot hasn't even been shot yet. Second...what's with the inconsistent quality of the clips again?
-Talking about Zyuranger with some Zyuranger clips playing. Fantastic. Great. Finally, something lines up. Except why were the clips a mix of fansubs (white text) and Shout!Factory's subtitles (yellow text)?
-Tsuyoshi Nonaka is speaking about the Zyuranger and Super Sentai toys. This is the guy. This is what the episode is all about. Twenty minutes in we finally get to hear from the guy who designed "The Toys That Made Us". "Yeah, I'm the guy." That's literally all he had to say.
-Chalk joke.
-"Please remember, in 1991 Zyuranger aired in Japan." 100% False.
-"They can use the toys from Japan...and what toys they were..." *Proceeds to show line of 8" Power Ranger figures that were never released in Japan and created specifically for the MMPR toyline*. The other fuck-ups are really bad, but now that we're talking about the toys this one is particularly heinous.
-Trish Stewart from Bandai America seems to think these figures are from Japan as well. Patently false. Unless they were prototyped and never-released Zyuranger figures, this is very incorrect information. Since we were given no information on the toys from Nonaka, you'd think Bandai America would be able to guide us through the toy line better than bizarrely pointing the finger back over to Japan. Also, maybe give an explanation as to why the figures have the logos on their chest despite being absent in the series.
-Narrator's brain blue-screens trying to pronounce "Shinka Gattai Daizyujin"
-The name "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" being crafted to capitalize on the popularity of Transformers (in 1993???) is briefly stated as seemingly another reason to bring up Transformers for a third effing time. We get it...you have a boner for Transformers. This theory is quickly discarded for the real answer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
-Chalk joke #4.
-A mistake that I credit Burgundy Ranger and John Green for spotting: the original broadcast time of Day of The Dumpster. It's stated here as being 7:30am on August 28, 1993. In reality it was 11:30am. So kids didn't wake up to Power Rangers...but were maybe having an early lunch to it.
-Michael Buoni shows off the underside of his DX Titanus that has the King Brachion logo and "Bandai 1991" date. This is where I think the previous error came from where it is mentioned that Zyuranger aired in 1991. The error was in the form of a dubbed response. I can't make out the Japanese end enough to hear what year he stated, but it sounds like they misrepresented the translation because of this segment. For what it's worth, the year on the bottom of Bandai Japan toys typically is from when the toys are designed, not manufactured (as Michael correctly states). This may have to do with patents--I'm not entirely certain. I'm also not on trial here, so nyeh.
-Nonaka, speaking of America toy safety standards, shows a gold Zyusouken that he represents as "the American version" with a incredibly dull blade tip. I have the American Dragon Dagger...it's nowhere near as dull and, despite other big differences between the Dragon Dagger and Zyusouken, is the exact same blade. A better example of toy safety differences really lies with the swords that come with things like DX Won Tiger/White Tigerzord.

Blade of the US DX Dragon Dagger that I have on my desk.
Blade of the DX Zyusouken from my 2010 video.  Don't let the camera angle fool you, it's the same exact blade.

-25:33 some toys concepts are finally shown incredibly briefly. Nonaka explains "It's a robot of an animal form". Riveting...
-Stock footage of British parents swarming upon a Toys R Us while Trish is talking about complaints Bandai America was getting. I get it, they're white and the footage was available...so who cares that it's England and not America?? The footage shown is more of a Bandai Europe problem with misplaced narrative.
-27:52 FINALLY...mention of the Auto-Morphin' Figures. The talk about the toy line in America has so far been somewhat incorrectly giving Japan all the credit. Auto-Morphin' figures are entirely a Bandai America creation. But are they? Nope. Kakuranger had a line of figures with a very similar transformation action that released earlier in 1994. At the very least, the figures could have been developed concurrently...but maybe Nonaka could have been more useful in clarifying as the sole representing voice from Bandai Japan...
-Already talking about Zeo with no mention of the 1995 movie. Weird. This toy doc seems to be more concerned about Zyuranger footage running dry over framing the growth of the franchise into a major motion picture and related properties.
-Nonaka on King Pyramider/Pyramidas: "I just said I wanted to make a giant toy--it's really big". I'm beginning to think that they're intentionally editing around anything useful that Nonaka has to say and leaving us with something resembling the ramblings of a man with an ether-destroyed brain.
-Loesch on the difficult decision to leave the franchise behind being interrupted by a screaming baby from an episode of Ohranger. It's a fairly dramatic moment since Loesch still seems to be upset about the situation that is shattered with this ADHD random bullshit reaction shot from a random episode of Ohranger. Fuck. Off...
-Power Rangers Turbo failed because car...I think? I'll buy Transformer instead. Paraphrased. Wasn't Transformers doing that early CG Jungle Transformer horror at the time of Power Rangers Turbo? This statement stinks of personal opinion. The Power Rangers Turbo toys, from observation, seem to be fairly popular...it's the series that wasn't. The logic doesn't connect. Also, another Transformers shout out. Shocking, I know.
-Disney-era now. Talking about how Bandai is still handling the toys they show a clip from a Ninja Steel toy commercial. Yeah, no.
-In a moment of clarity they brought the focus back to the toy line to talk shit about Operation Overdrive toys. Not an error, but the sudden focus reminds me of someone who insists on singing along to a song they only know two lines of. We've reached that moment, friends.
-Talking about Legacy toys and they keep cutting in clips from 1994 toy commercials and Nonaka's gold-plated Kyuukyoku Daizyujin instead of highlighting the Legacy toys themselves.
-Fansubbed Kyoryuger clip. K...
-Saban signs the toy rights over to Hasbro...NOW it's appropriate to mention Transformers. I mean, you didn't have to, but you did. It was irresistible, wasn't it?
-"My Little Transforming Megazord, perhaps?" Fuck off.
-"Parting ways with Bandai and Toei studios..." What? Wrong! Toei is still very much involved. Hasbro's first Power Rangers series is an adaptation of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters.
-Once again attributing the 8" Power Rangers figures as "the Japanese toy line" despite never being released in Japan.
-"Be it the first Sentai toy..." *shows Kamen Rider Henshin Belt* Fuck off...

So that's almost all of the falsehoods presented in this forty-five minute bowel movement. How about a list of things that probably should have been addressed?

-Any of the three movies. With regards to toys, I feel like the '95 and '17 films are incredibly important--especially since the 2017 movie and it's toy line likely being the dud that forced Bandai out and Saban to flee.
-Instead of focusing on friggin' chalk, maybe talk about Bandai's other efforts. Did you know that Bandai America adapted a line of figures from the 1988 Toei Metal Hero series Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya in 1990 called Tacky Stretchoid Warriors?
-For that matter, why not even talk about Saban's subsequent properties? There is approximately 0% chance VR Troopers, Masked Rider, or Big Bad Beetleborgs will have their own episode. Saban went from "failure" to media mogul within the span of three seconds in the episode with no hint on the success that he built upon. Hell, I'm curious why VR Troopers ended up in Kenner's hands. Was Bandai too overburdened? Since the show was in syndication was it a more lucrative deal to go elsewhere with a full cut of toy sales? So much information is missing on the business side.
-How the toys progressed from series to series. Or just any focus on the toy line changes by the year. It literally jumped from Season 1 > 2 > Zeo for the meatier bits and then Turbo > In Space > Lost Galaxy > Lightspeed Rescue > Disney in breakneck speed.
-More PLEX design concepts. There have been books published on the matter. Saying the toys are "from Japan" and really not having more than Nonaka give about three useable soundbites make it feel like the toys just materialize at the foot of Mount Fuji.

The things I can give this documentary credit for are slim, but I'll do my best.

-For the casual fan, the explanation behind the long and painful history into getting Super Sentai onto American shores is likely new information.
-Despite the errors, the talk of Godaikin being the previous attempt to bring Sentai toys to the 'States may not be something everyone knew.
-Acknowledging the awfulness of 2000s Bandai America toys.
-Not calling Toei's Spider-man "Supaidaman", though I think one sneaks in.
-Some incredibly rare toys and prototypes are very briefly peppered in. Nonaka's gold Kyuukyoku Daizyujin, the prototype Scorpina figure, and the effin' prototype Zeo Morphin' Zeo Ranger I. As I've written before, that was my favorite line from Bandai America...and I and II were never released or even shown publicly, just III, IV, and V.


This episode clearly had zero passion behind it. It has the feel of some potentially good information being buried in favor of the shit format and editing. The more alarming errors make it clear that the first draft was handed in despite being in production for over a year. Really, this is just fucking awful. Avoid it. Considering how fast and loose they treated facts, I really have to step back and wonder how many errors are in the Transformers episode. Probably significantly less, but any credibility built up previously is 100% destroyed after watching this.

If you want to know about Power Ranger toys, this site is all you need. I promise. Don't listen to this gaggle of stooges from Netflix since they couldn't be bothered to focus on the property OR the toys to put together a cohesive documentary. It didn't have to be boring, it just had to be correct...and there is a community of people who could have helped get this there.

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That's it for now. I thought I would feel bad about ripping this to shreds, but I honestly don't. Yeah, there are people behind work like this...but it was obviously not a topic that anybody making this was interested in. Oh well. If I can direct you to my farewell letter to Bandai America from last year, you might get a slightly more accurate taste of the rise and fall. Also, I touch on what some intrepid retailers did to cope with Power Ranger toy shortages in this post.

Oh, and to the Funko Pop fans out there that I may have lambasted: Don't worry! Your Pops will always be worth a fortune and the company totally won't collapse under the crippling debt accrued by going whole hog on prohibitively expensive licensed properties.

Bye!

-CC

P.S. Walter Jones' closing statement...I like to think he was talking about JDF.

Previously...

Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger Song Collection
Seiun Kamen Machineman Song Collection
Dai Sentai Goggle V Song Collection

4 comments:

  1. Yeah, seems like the people here were lazy as hell. Also, yeah, Turbo was basically the Fiveman of the PR franchise at the time (nearly killed the show due to inconsistent writing, not to mention the cast changes, and having to work around the Carranger footage), only the toys didn't completely suck. And just like how Jetman ended up saving Sentai, In Space saved Power Rangers.

    As for TF, they were in the midst of Beast Wars at the time-- you call it "CG Jungle Transformer Horror" because of the early CG they used. IT was a curse, but it was also a blessing-- the limits of CG meant they couldn't have every character in the show from the toyline (unlike the 80s TF series), and this meant they could actually focus on characterization and plots as opposed to just shilling toys. Ironically, Fox Kids wound up rerunning Beast Wars when they picked up the sequel series, Beast Machines.

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    1. Yeah, that's the one. It really does punch a hole in the "kids will just get a Transformer if they want a car" when that was the current toyline. Haha.

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  2. This is an awesome post and should be picked up by an official outlet. I sat there watching this thing and just had the frustration and anger build up. But I'd think "Oh, maybe I'm just too close to the subject matter and being nitpicky." But the longer the episode went on...no, it was lazy and just flat out wrong. You've gone into great, concise detail about just how wrong it was, and all of the misinformation it put out there. Seeing it all compiled here is pretty surprising -- the episode is even worse than I thought! -- so you've done a great job.

    And so many people were looking forward to this episode, which the makers have teased for well over a year. What's it matter? They got their all expenses paid trip to Japan and slapped together an episode for the lulz. In a way, this episode is perfect -- Power Rangers screws over the fans again, isn't that the way it always goes?

    Those Toei guys thought they were in a more impressive show. I like how hotshot Shirakura is just sitting silently in the middle, looking like Garth when he's left to host Wayne's World on his own. "I'm having a good time...not."

    I'm still shocked that a supposedly professional and legit show used so many fansubs, though. Funny to think of Netflix hires joining KRDL to randomly download some eps, and then randomly choose a clip from that episode. (Crying kid from Ohranger, why not?)

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    1. Thanks man! I really appreciate it! :D

      Privately I did get a lot of "atta-boy"s, but I understand the reason why a lot of those people want to keep their mitts off. I'm pretty content with watching this post blow up the way it did shortly after posting it to twitter and the views behind it. The PR fans who were waiting are mad with the doc. The mouth-breathers who this slop was made for are placated with the doc. *shrug*

      You nailed it, though. Speaking of SNL-related stuff, there is this awful throwaway song by The Lonely Island where the entire song they talk about writing said song just so their label would send them to Japan to shoot the video for it. Haha. TTMU realized they didn't bring enough money and empty luggage to bring all the Transformers they wanted to buy during their previous trip so they packed a camera, oversized Red Megaforce figure for set dressing, and four empty suitcases to shoot this BM on Netflix's dime.

      Oh yeah, these shitheads were apparently so taken by the delightful Margaret Loesch that they're doing a standalone doc on her. Huh...even after they basically called her a crybaby... I can just see it now...

      "I was behind the Scrappy Doo Scooby Doo series" *Foghorn, random obscure black and white footage of a woman reacting to a stinky baby diaper* "But then I worked with Stan Lee" *Angelic chanting, Stan Lee's head on Jesus' body*. "I also worked on..." *TRANSFORMERS!*

      Fuck...

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