Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tokusatsu Review: Power Rangers Jungle Fury Part 2: Goodbye 2014! (Spoilers)

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Now for me to talk about my favorite Jungle Fury ranger. The mentor, the calm cool voice of reason who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.
RAI, oops sorry wrong cool jokey mentor.
There we go, RJ, my favorite Jungle Fury ranger.
Now as I was saying last time some of the main characters from Jungle Fury do remind me quite a bit of the characters in Mortal Kombat Konquest and RJ definitely reminds me of Jeffrey Meeks Raiden. He looks like a laid back dude but knows far more then what he lets on; he is the seasoned voice of guidance and when needed he can lend in some humor with clever snarky banter. Writing wise one of the great things I like about RJ is that we got some time with him before he became a ranger and he didn't just become the wolf ranger right away, and we also got a reason why. He and his wolf spirit were not exactly on good terms. This conflict was exacerbated in "Ghost of a Chance" part 2 when Dai-Shi tried to take the spirit from RJ. Afterwords RJ started turning into a Werewolf as his spirit was starting to gain control. It was only after Fran broke through to RJ and reminded him of his better nature in "Friends Don't Fade Away" were he finally rebalanced his spirit, pulled out his morpher and became the Wolf Ranger. Now for the one complaint I do have about RJ, and it's the wolf ranger uniform. Now it's not the color or the knee and shoulder pads. Since RJ uses a Muay-Tai fighting style the pads make sense since Muay-Tai involves using your knees and shoulders for strikes. No it's the tassels on the arms.
I mean are they really necessary?
Now I don't know what the designer of the outfit was going for but I just have to wonder about the tassels. I mean granted they're nowhere near as ridiculous and distracting as Kamen Rider Super-1's tassels but I still have to ask, why? Also he gets his own Megazord, sort of. To form the Wolf Pride Megazord he summons his wolf spirit, Casey's Tiger spirit and Theo's Jaguar spirit. How exactly does that work? I mean on its own the Wolf Zord is just another leg attachment on the Jungle Pride Megazord, just replacing Lily's Cheetah Zord in the configuration. What; is the wolf Zord just strong enough on it's own that it can create duplicates of the other two animal spirits? Whatever it's Power Rangers. Aside from those; good mentor, good ranger and my favorite for this season. Now for the opposite side of the coin.
"What the hell am I looking at?"
Now let me just get one thing clear. I don't hate Dominic; he's just the character that I have the most problems with, and most of them come form his lack of development. He comes in at the half way point of the show, goes on about how getting the Rhino powers is his destiny, (HOW?? how does getting the Rhino powers equal his destiny? Usually the powers are supposed to help a character with achieving their destiny. Like gaining the power of a god to slay a great evil or protect a certain person or something like that. Power in and of itself is a pretty lame destiny.) He gets his ranger powers and his Rhino Zord and development wise that's about it until the end of the show which I don't want to give away. Though in "Path of the Righteous" his words to Casey about what he knew about Jarrod from his time at the Pai-Zhua academy was what helped convince Casey to attack Dai-Shi's temple to try to get through to Jarrod. To solve the lack of development thing I personally would have Dominic enter the show sooner then he did, like around episode 6 or so. Just introduce him as an old friend of RJ and have him work at the Pizza shop for a little while before he becomes the White Rhino Ranger at episode 19. As is it honestly felt like all the extra time and development that RJ got was because they shaved that time off from introducing Dominic. Though Dominic does have my favorite moment of the show. In "Maryl and the Monkeys" Dominic has to convince a scientist that he saved earlier as the White Ranger to tell him how a formula that Camille stole from her works. Of course she doesn't listen at first. While I was watching this my exact words were "oh god why don't you just morph and tell her the truth you mook?" and sure enough he morphed to convince her that he wasn't kidding around. My reaction after seeing that went something like this "OH MY GOD, ACTUAL COMMON SENSE THANK YOU!" I honestly could not tell you people who are reading this how flabbergasted I was when that happened. So for the problems that I see with Dominic I do like the guy, I just wish they did more with him then what the show did. Now before I get to the villains I'll just cover the Spirit Rangers quickly.
I don't hate these guys.
Now don't get me wrong I can see how people can't stand these guys in concept, on character and just on why they were created in the first place. But personally I kind of like them. I mean esthetically they look really damn good and just like the Titanium Ranger all the way back in Lightspeed Rescue if I never saw the Sentai I would never be able to tell that they didn't come from the same source. "But they were just made to sell toys and they suck for that" well then I guess that means you hate Battleizers too then. "The masters these guys were based on were boring" I...... can't really argue with that I will admit there wasn't a lot to the masters that generated these guys. But again it's the same problem with Dominic, if we saw them interact with the Rangers more onscreen we could have solved this problem. But long story short I don't hate the Spirit Rangers despite their flaws. Now that the heroes are done with time for dessert. Time to talk about the villains. Our big bad is a monstrous, ancient, imposing entity who's HQ is a dark evil temple who with his faithful servant and army of demonic creatures seek nothing short of total domination.
Damn it why do I keep doing that?
NO I mean this guy. Jarrod/Dai-Shi.
I want that coat.
That's better, confession time here; when I first saw Jarrod I thought to myself "oh god please tell me that this whiny little toad isn't going to be our main bad guy." But then we saw him getting possessed by Dai-Shi and I was so relieved. Dai-Shi is definitely one of the better Power Rangers villains I've seen in a while. We know that 10,000 years earlier he was a badass, but now he's not only out of practice but when he doesn't look like Paralax in the Green Lantern movie; he's possessing a human (granted a strong human) so now he has to handle a body whose host is not only alive and has his own emotions and memories holding him back but on top of that he now has a completely different physiology to adapt to. Thus he decided to seek the help of the three overlords to bring himself back up to snuff. It's very rare in these shows that we get a villain that acknowledges their weaknesses and seek to improve themselves. Hell in Power Rangers for example we haven't had a villain like this since Trakeena waaaaay back in Lost Galaxy. Though I never really was able to figure out who was in the drivers seat most of the time. It seems like we either had one of three forms with this guy, first we had Dai-Shi in the beginning where he was fully in control, then Jarrod being influenced by Dai-Shi; bringing his worst character traits out like in "The Spirit of Kindness" where Dai-Shi steals the Rinzen power of Whiger for not killing Casey as revenge for getting kicked out of the Pai-Zhua and finally we had Dai-Shi being held back by Jarrod which is shown in "Good Karma Bad Karma" where when he resurrects Carnisoar the Sky overlord his training was to modify Jarrod's memories to make him more ruthless thus letting Dai-Shi's evil flow within Jarrod's body unfiltered. But in the end Dai-Shi/ Jarrod was a pretty good villain that gave us some moments to think about with him.
Sorry there Gecko Girl.
Unfortunately I can't say much about Dai-Shi's second in command Camille. Mostly because the stuff that I do want to talk about comes at the end of the series and anything else would be just repeating whatever Linkara said, both cases I want to avoid as much as possible. So short and sweet I like Camille and don't really have much to complain with her except that she should have gotten a mouthpiece so that Flit couldn't get out as easily. But I do want to talk about the three Overlords before I wrap this up. And no I'm not going to talk about the Phantom Beast Generals, mostly because aside from not really having much too talk about, I just want people to deal with them their own way.
Paging Dr Howard, Dr Fine, and Dr Howard.
I personally see these three as inversions of the core three rangers, each being the core part of the trio but emphasizing the negative trait of their respective roles and the virtues they emphasize in training Dai-Shi (or not but we'll cover that later). First is the Sky Overlord Carnisoar; the brains of the trio. His training seems to revolve around making Dai-Shi into a more cold and ruthless warrior by developing a mindset that would make making terrible, evil choices much easier, and he starts this by messing with Jarrod's memories so that he took the more selfish, easy choices in his childhood. However the one I call bull on is where Jarrod refused to fight a bunch of bullies because he wanted to uphold his code about using his fighting skills against inferior opponents. I would argue that being overwhelmed by superior numbers who were attacking him first without provocation would be an exception to that little rule. There's a reason why people learn Martial arts as a form of SELF defense. But there goes me and my logic again. Anyway after that was done Carnisoar seemed to just keep attacking Dai-Shi for the rest of his training until Jellica arrived and agreed to train Dai-Shi. Jellica, the Sea Overlord was the black heart of the three. When she was introduced in "Pushed to the Edge" she was dead set on making Camille her student instead of Dai-Shi. However this was part of her training, she didn't want Dai-Shi to ask to be her student, she wanted him to demand it by using Camille to manipulate Dai-Shi into a point where he was demanding her to be his master. Her training was about showing Dai-Shi how to manipulate people by exploiting their heart's weaknesses. She seems to be the most manipulative and cunning of the three and tried to emphasize that to Dai-Shi, that it takes more then just strength and wisdom to become a proper evil ruler. And last there's Grizzaka the Earth Overlord, who refused to help Dai-Shi in anyway, shape or form. Now he was willing to do this at first when Camille revived him, but when he discovered that Dai-Shi was possessing a human, he went nuts, kicked Dai-Shi around like a football with his Zocado powers and took control of the evil forces for a while. Grizzaka was the dark soul/strength of the three and this is shown in his behavior and demeanor. He was always the most easily riled of the three and was always the first to just beat up anything that got in his way which showed not only that he had a rather weak soul but also was a firm believer that might is always right, and when he found out that his old master was using the body of what he used to consider to be a weaker being he lost all loyalty to what he considered to be just another human. In fact he may have convinced Carnisoar and Jellica of this because when the two accused Dai-Shi of betraying them in "Race to the Nexus" the betrayal in question could have been accepting Grizzaka's view of the being that once wanted to dominate humans is using one as his host, this could have been seen as that betrayal, of his principals and views. In other words, they refused to follow a hypocrite. However I could argue that they could have tried to separate Dai-Shi from Jarrod and have him possess something else, but whatever. All and all, good evil mentors and not creatures that you wanted to screw with.

As for my final thoughts on Jungle Fury, all of the negative aspects of the Kalish era seems to have been really toned down during this season and thank Zordon for it. I mean they were still there and it really was annoying when they did show up but it was still a MASSIVE improvement over Overdrive. The acting was pretty good, the story structure was also good but rushed towards the end. Overall I honestly do give a solid recommendation to Jungle Fury. It's not In Space or RPM but it's still better then Lightspeed Rescue and light-years above Turbo, Samurai, Megaforce and ESPECIALLY Overdrive. Now I will cover Gekiranger in the future but not immediately, I want to wait a few months, maybe around July to get my thoughts on Jungle Fury out of my head so I can go in with a somewhat fresh perspective. As for next time, well, let me see what's on T.V maybe that'll give me some inspiration.
Ok, might as well see what the hype is all about.

Please be sure to read, comment, spread the links, re-tweet and follow me on Twitter @OnDavidsBrain! and support me on Patreon.

Power Rangers Jungle Fury is owned by Disney-ABC Domestic Television, Renaissance Atlantic Entertainment, Toei Company, Ltd, and Ranger Productions, Ltd.
Mortal Combat Conquest is owned by Threshold Entertainment, New Line Television and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
UHF is owned by Weird Al Yankovic, Orion Pictures, MGM, Shout Factory and Cinecorp.
Jetix is owned by The Walt Disney Corporation.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tokusatsu Review: Power Rangers Jungle Fury Part 1: It isn't Overdrive, it's better by defalt (Spoilers)

Please be sure to read, comment, spread the links, re-tweet and follow me on Twitter @OnDavidsBrain! and support me on Patreon.
I mean that subtitle in the best possible way, after the pure unfiltered pain that was Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury is a tremendous breath of fresh air. Now don't get me wrong; like every season in the Kalish era there were some problems I had with this season. Namely the Kalishplosions and the rushed pace towards the finale. But other then that this season was far better handled then what I've seen so far from the Disney era. Granted the only season I saw in full was Dino Thunder and that was years ago, and the others I saw were either random episodes (usually the first) or from reviews, and from what I've seen so far my favorite Disney era season is still RPM but Jungle Fury is still in the top five in my book in terms of Disney season favorites.

 Granted when your competition includes Mystic Force and Overdrive that's not much to say. Now for this review I think I'll just go over the characters, my feelings about them and what I generally like and dislike about the season over all instead of an episode by episode format. Mostly for two reasons, 1 I always want people to try to go into a topic and see for themselves whether it's good or not and form their own opinions so I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, 2 because I know that my review will just get lost in the shuffle when a certain other, more well-known reviewer releases his review of this. Now for the premise; 10,000 years ago a monster named Dai-Shi lead an army of beast warriors to exterminate humanity. However a secret kung-fu clan known as the Pai-Zhua (pronounced pie shu-wa) used the powers of their own inner animal spirits to destroy the army and seal Dai-Shi in a mystic box which they kept sealed underneath their grand temple.

 Cut to 2008 where Master Mao selects three students of his to carry on guarding Dai-Shi, Lilly who has the Cheetah spirit, Theo who has the Jaguar spirit and Jarrod who has the Lion Spirit. However Jarrod also has the spirit of the jackass, so Mao chooses a rookie named Casey that stood up to Jarrod when he was abusing his authority. Jarrod, not exactly being the most rational of losers confronts Mao and the three students, accidentally releasing Dai-Shi from his prison. After Mao is critically injured trying to stop Dai-Shi from escaping Jarrod runs off. Mao's last words to his students are to go to a city called Ocean Bluff where they can find their new master.

 While the three wait for their new Master at the Jungle Karma pizza shop Jarrod becomes possessed by Dai-Shi and becomes his vessel. Dai-Shi, with his new human body returns to his temple lair where he's greeted by his loyal second-in command Camile and he sends his army of the dead, the Rinshi to terrorize humans to absorb their fear and grow stronger. The three students try to fight off the Rinshi but fail, they are however saved by the pizza shop owner RJ who reveals that he is the master that Mao sent the three to find. Once the day is saved, RJ brings the three back to the Pizza parlor and not only agrees to train them but also gives them the Solar Morphers that he created so that they can become Power Rangers. Now that the premise stuff is out of the way time for us to get started on the Characters, let's start off with our Red Ranger, Casey.
Dull Surprise!
Casey is one of the better Disney era Red Rangers. He seemed like a competent fighter, always was looking for ways to improve and never made the same mistake twice. Though he is the newest and most inexperienced member of the team that only pushed himself harder to catch up with his teammates. One of his better moments for me was near the end of the series in "Path of the Righteous" where he still thinks that he can save Jarrod after he saw Jarrod save Camile from some monsters sent to kill her. Everyone else thinks that Casey is being naive and is just acting out over not getting his masters stripes. Even the Spirit of Master Mao is telling him that Dai-Shi has completely taken over and Jarrod is a lost cause.

 But of course Casey refuses to listen and he proceeds on to Dai-Shi's temple anyway. I'm not going to give away what happens but it definitely proves why he's the leader and soul of the team. Another point in Casey's favor? He's the first Red Ranger since TJ to not get a battlizer. That definitely gets a lot of points in my book because it seems like since In Space every Red is required to have one. Granted most of the time the enemies they fight require the extra fire power and is perfectly valid there. However in the Disney Era it seems like they are mostly just using them on enemies that didn't really require the Power that a Battlizer dishes out, mostly just on lots of goons and the big bad. So it was nice to remind us that not every Red Ranger needs giant armor and what not to fight evil. Yet whatever points Casey might have gained were immediately lost when he got this stupid thing, the Strike Rider.
Moychendizing, Moychendizing, Moychendizing
Look I get that these shows are driven by toy sales and I'm perfectly cool with that, money makes the world go round after all. But if you are going to make a toy at least make it look better then this or have the character do something one of a kind impressive with it, not just use it on foot solders most of the time. That's why I can let Cole's flying motorcycle from Wild Force slide, because we see him use it to destroy Serpentera. Sure the execution was sloppy and the moychendizing was as blatant here but when you still look at it on paper, the Wild Force rider did something truly extraordinary and destroyed a powerful, iconic weapon left behind by one of the most memorable villains in the franchise and not just use it on random goons and occasionally the big bad or his generals. Another point in Cole's bike's favor? It doesn't remind me of those stupid unicycles from Venus Wars when it transforms.
The only difference is that the Strike Rider has a tiny wheel at the front when it transforms, that's it.
Sure design wise it makes sense but aesthetically, yeah no. But we're done talking about Red Rangers on Motorcycles.
........Yeah, now for us to talk about a funny comparison I was making while watching this show. Some of the characters reminded me of some of the characters on Mortal Kombat Conquest. Not everyone thankfully but the comparisons can still be made. So let's start with our blue ranger.
Though thankfully Theo learned his lesson early on and avoided being too similar to Mr Pride Shine (he also learned it without having to blow up Noob Sabot, point Theo) At the beginning like Siro, Theo was arrogant and more then a bit of an asshole. He also had some of his own quirks like being a perfectionist, a stick in the mud and was more then a little condescending to Casey since he's the new guy and felt that he was stepping in between him and Lily. But he started to change his tune in "Can't win them all" where he gets owned by a monster and starts being a whiny moron and giving up when there's still the problem of a ancient evil trying to wipe out mankind. Thankfully RJ gets Theo back in gear by teaching the schmuck that everybody fails at some point.
So he does get back on. But every so often he needs to take another bite of humble pie and remember that his way isn't always the best way like in "Dash for the Dagger" where he lost a powerful artifact because he thought that the guy originally holding it wasn't being careful enough, even though he managed to hold on to the damn thing up until now just fine. And guess what when Theo took the artifact from the guy who was holding it, it got lost and nearly fell into Dai-Shi's hands. I mean Dai-Shi still got the thing but the point is that if Theo had just left the guy to his own methods instead of micromanaging there would have been less of a chance of the thing getting stolen. I'm more inclined to give Theo a pass because trust me, there are worse Rangers out there. He kind of strikes a balance where he isn't a Gary-Stu.
You heard me!
Nor is he an arrogant and impulsive idiot that never learns his lesson and never tries to improve himself.
Though to be honest, I would love to see a ranger do something like this. It just sounds too funny.
All I'll say for the brains of the team is that I think they originally belonged to Abby Normal. Moving on to the heart of the Jungle Fury trio, Lily.
She brings the gift of balance.
Yeah, Lily is the third part of this trifecta of power, Lily is the heart of the team and acts like a big sister to the rest of the cast. She mostly tries to keep Casey and Theo in line and she succeeds in this area. Though her kindness does tend to lean towards Naivete like in "Pushed to the Edge" where she accidentally inspires Camile (who was in disguise at the time) to release a new evil master for Dai-Shi since she was kicked out by Dai-Shi's master Carnisoar. But other then that for the most part Lily tends to be the voice of compassion, though she can kick several kinds of ass when the need arises so don't go thinking that she's all sunshine and rainbows. She also has a deep comradery with Theo, before the whole Dai-Shi situation came up the two purportedly went out for monthly lunches and often hung out with each other.

 This was also a key reason behind Theo's apprehension regarding Casey. He thought that since Lily was hanging out with Casey more he thought Casey was trying to move in. Lily assures him that nothing has changed and that the three are still friends. Now I'm not going to say anything about what happens in the end, but rest assured that it doesn't go into bad Lifetime Channel original movie territory. Now for me to take a break now that I have the main three out of the way. Next time I'll give my thoughts on the other rangers, the villains and my overall recommendation of this series.

Please be sure to read, comment, spread the links, re-tweet and follow me on Twitter @OnDavidsBrain! and support me on Patreon.

Power Rangers Jungle Fury is owned by Disney-ABC Domestic Television, Renaissance Atlantic Entertainment, Toei Company, Ltd, and Ranger Productions, Ltd.
Star Wars is Created by George Lucas, owned by Lucas film, the Walt Disney Company and 20th Century Fox.
Kamen Rider Kabuto is owned by Ishinomori Productions, Toei Productions, and Bandai. 
Venus Wars is owned by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Triangle Staff and is licensed by Discotek Media.
Yu-gi-oh! 5D's is owned by Katsumi Ono, Konami and Studio Gallop
Zoolander is owned by Village Roadshow Pictures, VH1 Films and Paramount Pictures.
Mortal Combat Conquest is owned by Threshold Entertainment, New Line Television and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
Phelous and the Movies is owned by Phelan Portland and Channel Awesome
Batman (TV Series) is owned by Greenway Productions, 20th Century Fox Television and Warner Bros. Television Distribution.