Sunday, December 14, 2014

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

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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.
RED RANGERS ON MOTORCYCLLLLLLLLLES!
........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.
THEO THE GREATEST POWER RANGERS JUNGLE FURY CHARACTER!
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.

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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.