It’s Morphin Time!
Alright, before going forward you should all know: I love the Power Rangers franchise. I remember being five years old and making the trip to the local flea market and picking up an old cassette and watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the first time. Let me just say I was blown away at the time by these multicolored teens with attitude.
Flash forward many years later and we are greeted by an older me and a new Power Rangers series: Super Megaforce. Now, the show was passable and did provide some nostalgic feeling while also being somewhat unsettling. The Power Rangers franchise was actually passed around between different companies at the time. This made it so that by the time it got to Nickelodeon there was a lot wrong with the series. The Power Rangers lost their inherent charm and realistic tone to cater to a younger demographic.
Then comes Super Sentai: the more realistic counterpart to its sister series (though I use that term loosely) where the dialogue and the characters become more relatable and more often than not the stories follow suit. But with that, let’s dive right into the debate.
First, let’s talk about the series. Super Sentai is actually a superhero series. The series follows 3-6 people who don colorful costumes and masks to fight crime against the forces of evil. Here is the kicker: the series started in 1975. Himitsu Sentai Gorenger was the first series in Japan.
The Power Rangers franchise is the American adaptation. It started in 1993 by adapting Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the 16th Super Sentai series. Before we move forward, we’ll let the fans know that there are 15 versions of the rangers that you won’t get or, more accurately, won’t see in their own series. However, it is worth noting that the Power Rangers franchise actually cuts in scenes from the original Japanese series. Obviously, any and all scenes involving the actors were filmed in Hollywood while the action sequences were ripped straight from their Sentai counterparts.
With the background out of the way, we’re going to dive into the debate! The criteria we’ll be judging these on will be on their lore and characters.
Let’s talk about lore, tackling Power Rangers first. Today the team changes often, but that wasn’t always the case. Original fans of the shows will remember what was dubbed as the Zordon Era, which had 6 seasons of Power Rangers under the command of Zordon, the advisor of the Power Rangers. This era allowed us to follow the Rangers through their journey not only as Rangers but as teenagers. It followed the gang until they had to go off to college and showed them growing up and passing on their mantle to the Rangers that took over.
This was a departure from the traditional Super Sentai model. In the Japanese show, each new season featured a new team to follow. There were no explicit connections between teams unless there was a crossover. This may have allowed for characters to be focused in their own environment, and to be fair, the show had its own moments. The Sentai had to deal with their own lives changing and losing that new part every year. It was actually a formula that kept going and it worked. It just, sadly, lacked the holistic feel of its western counterpart. Gokaiger actually made the links more apparent but, sadly, with no point. This was because the series acknowledged the existence of all the Sentai teams in the same reality.
Much like the previous entry we see a lot of development in terms of experience and growth in Power Rangers. While Super Sentai did its fair share to make its characters memorable, there are characters that will always be timeless in the Power Rangers franchise. Namely, Tommy Oliver. We see this character go from being the bad guy to joining the Rangers, to becoming their leader and then leaving for college. But it doesn’t end there. He gets his Ph.D. and comes back as a mentor to a new generation of Rangers who needs him. That is development and growth done on an excellent level. (And it certainly wasn’t a ploy to bank on his popularity at all!)
While the Dragon Rangers being evil and joining the good guys is certainly an arc on the Super Sentai equivalent, it has no long-term impact. The series comes to an end a mere 20-30 episodes later with nothing pouring over into the next season. This doesn’t really leave an impression. Once again, that tips the favor to the western adaptation.
While definitely being a product of its times, Power Rangers is a franchise that made a number of excellent decisions when it came to its characters. I mean, we can forgive the two series we didn’t get, right? While the Super Sentai series is definitely easier to watch and has aged better, there is no denying the power of the Power Rangers franchise to deliver, especially when it made as wide an impact as it did.