Power Rangers Samurai Volume #4 – The Ultimate Duel Review

vlcsnap-2013-07-27-01h02m39s182The fourth volume of Saban’s first Power Rangers revival show (following the end of the franchise’s Disney produced shows) is a fairly unobtrusive event; a gathering of stories divided between three episodes relevant to the overall show and two lighter and brighter filler episodes.

The first block of episodes – Boxed In, Broken Dreams and The Ultimate Duel – are loose adaptations of later episodes of Toei’s Samurai Sentai Shinkenger detailing a fateful battle between a rogue 200 year old samurai with a lust for battle – Deker (Rick Medina) – and the show’s Red Ranger, Jayden (Alex Heartman).

The following two episodes – Party Monsters and Christmas Together, Friends Forever (the latter being a pun upon the theme tune’s sparse lyrics) are less dense in terms of storyline, being filler episodes centred around Halloween and Christmas respectively.

These final two episodes mark the end of the initial Power Rangers Samurai season and pave the way for Power Rangers Super Samurai, the show’s second season, a jovial pause in proceedings to indulge in that for which the franchise has become well known for: wrought dialogue and ham-fisted acting from amateurs.

Whenever the subject of Power Rangers arises, there is the tendency to write off all episodes as exemplary of the more frivolous sort of episode for which the show is well known. Yet what volume four of Power Rangers Samurai – titled The Ultimate Duel – proves is that this series manages to achieve a tone in which stories play off the playful reputation of earlier entries whilst also forcing the overall dynamic to adhere more strictly to the source material of its older sibling show.

This is a good thing and a bad thing.

Toei’s Shinkenger, helmed by popular staff writer Yasuko Kobayashi (Kamen Rider Ryuki, Mirai Sentai Timeranger) is a weighty show by the standards of the original franchise, especially as of recent years, in terms of its character development. It is a noble thing, a good thing, that Power Rangers Samurai has sought to emulate so much of that material in their adaptation, and yet the significance of events never feels as serious as it does in the parent show.

There is a lack of gravity in proceedings, even when innocent lives are at stake during the titular ‘ultimate‘ duel.vlcsnap-2013-07-27-01h02m52s167

This is primarily due to the skill and talent of the actors and writers assigned to the project, yet also relates to what we can assume is a creative decision on Saban’s part following the re-release of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in 2010.

Featuring the standard five Rangers and their later comrade, a powerful extra team member that at this point is still but a recent addition to the team, Saban have seemingly gone out of their way to follow in the footsteps of the tradition they established in 1993.

Jayden is serious and loyal, Kevin, the Blue Ranger (Najee De-Tiege) is enthusiastic and thoughtful, Mia, the Pink Ranger (Erika Fong) is caring and optimistic, Mike, the Green Ranger (Hector David Jr.) is faintly rebellious and headstrong, Emily, the Yellow Ranger (Brittany Anne Pirtle) is sensitive yet resolute, whilst Antonio Garcia, the Gold Ranger (Steven Skyler) is powerful yet impatient.

The recipe used in the older series is certainly present here, tried and tested, even down to the inclusion of one-half of the franchise’s original comedy duo, Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull.

The combination of these two these two themes is fairly expressive of the format in which material from Toei is adapted for both the Power Rangers franchise and an international audience. It is this balance that has consistently proved to be the show’s greatest strength and most crippling weakness.

For the few of you who might possibly have encountered the multi-million merchandising machine that the franchise constitutes it is worth noting that despite its tumultuous history, despite the overall absurdity of the concept of splicing Japanese suit acting with English speaking inserts, Power Rangers never truly seems to have waned in terms of its ability to make a profit for the brand’s owner.vlcsnap-2013-07-27-01h03m12s96

Make of that what you will.

For long term fans or those nostalgic for the Power Rangers of their youth, the cast of Power Rangers Samurai are sadly not the teenagers with attitude you are looking for.

The stories presented here are a step in the right direction, but certainly not the end of the journey. Volume four of Power Rangers Samurai has its moments yet fails to achieve its full potential.

Power Rangers Samurai Volume #4: The Ultimate Duel is available on DVD from 12th August 2013.

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