“I've Got A Headache!” - Zyuranger and the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
"Letters from the New York Otaku"
By David Cabrera
#49 - “I've Got A Headache!” - Zyuranger and the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
When we started this column, I got the go-ahead to do articles on SFX stuff. I do watch Kamen Rider and sentai, but as far as American fans go, there isn't a lot of ground to cover there.
You see, officially speaking, Super Sentai doesn't exist in America. Rather, as of 1993, we have Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, in which a completely new story and cast are attached to existing footage from the original Japanese series. Since the heroes are in full-body suits and helmets, who's to say who's inside them, right?
The adapted version of Zyuranger-- with its “teens with attitude” and a theme song so catchy even Japanese otaku love it-- was unbelievably popular with kids of my generation, for the same reason as Voltron had been: we'd simply never seen anything like it before. In America, the Zyuranger suits are immediately recognized as “the Power Rangers”.
Even as a child, it was a weird thing to watch: in one scene a group of teens are practicing karate and sipping juice, and in the very next they'd transformed into what I could even tell at nine years old was another TV show completely. The film quality gave it away. Meanwhile, there was this lady in space whose lip movements didn't match the words she was saying! (The evil witch Bandora became Rita Repulsa.) Kids knew something was up, but they didn't really care, because of all the fighting and explosions.
Of course, kids grow up, and as we know from anime, you can't hide the originals from otaku. Every week, fans all over the world watch Super Sentai and Kamen Rider (a more faithful American adaptation of Kamen Rider Ryuki called Kamen Rider Dragon Knight ran on TV here and wasn't very popular) along with Japan. Every year the importers sell out of henshin belts and ranger weapons from Japan at ridiculous prices. It can't be denied that there's an audience.
But even if Toei wanted to, it's not like they can just officially run Super Sentai shows on TV or the Internet in America. That would probably disrupt or upstage Power Rangers, which is a year or two behind. Right now, Power Rangers is adapting Shinkenger as “Power Rangers Samurai” and they're likely to skip ahead to Gokaiger (minus about 20 of the hero teams the Gokaigers transform into) as their 20th anniversary series.
But Super Sentai and Power Rangers are long-lived partners: in the current sentai season Gobusters, the catchphrase “It's morphin' time!” and the monster name “Megazord” (used in Power Rangers for robots) are taken directly from Power Rangers. Furthermore, I've heard that Power Rangers seasons are starting to be dubbed in Japanese and aired back in Japan... which makes my head spin, it's so damn interesting.
And right now, 20 years later I am watching Zyuranger. It's sort of nonsense, and quite charming. I think I like it better than I liked Power Rangers.