I return to tokusatsu to fulfill a year and a half old promise. Namely to look at the second season of Power Rangers Megaforce: Power Rangers Super Megaforce… just call it season two. Jesus.
Last week I received a comment on a HOPA review urging me to rethink my stance on Power Rangers Megaforce. Or at least rethink it. Now, I’m not normally one to respond to all the hundreds of comments I get on a daily basis but I decided to engage in discussion to explain my approach to Power Rangers. And in doing so I remembered that I hadn’t finished watching Super Megaforce and that I had perhaps been a bit vague in my explanation of these posts.
So, let’s clear something up. I don’t particularly care about Power Rangers. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I care enough to watch and write about it but I’m not a “fan”. Once, yes, I was but after getting into tokusatsu there just wasn’t enough room in my fan life for Power Rangers. I still watch it and maybe even look forward to it but I don’t care. As in I don’t particularly care about continuity or how it relates to different series or when and how it takes place. For me it’s just a series adapted from something that I really care about and that’s where I get my enjoyment from it.
In fact, in my original review I cared so little about it that I mistakenly called it “Megaranger” at one point and didn’t spot it until more than a year had passed.
I also need to point out that when I wrote the previous review, I hadn’t seen the second season of Megaforce, titled Super Megaforce. Besides being an absolutely ridiculous name for a show, unlike many Power Rangers fans I don’t consider them a single series but rather separate ones. Partly because the name changes but more because they adapt two different Super Sentai series and that’s where I make my distinction. I’m interested in how they related to the original series, not to other Power Ranger shows.
If you ARE interested in Power Rangers, I highly recommend Linkara’s History of Power Rangers series which goes through Power Rangers in more detail and as independent creations. It’s a super thoughtful and deep analysis so it’s the one to go for if you’re interested in that.
And yes, I have seen his opinion on Super Megaforce so before you say I should watch that instead, I totally already have.
With that said, let’s take a look at Power Rangers Super Megaforce.
At the end of the last season, the Power Rangers defeat the big bad only to find out that they were simply the vanguard to a much bigger force. Faced with great adversity, Gosei gives them a new power… or rather an upgraded form of their Megaforce form: Super Megaforce. This gives them access to new powers and new zords that they will need to battle the might of the… uh, armada. Space armada? Is that the name? I can remember what they were called in Gokaiger but even having just watched this series a day ago, cannot remember the name of the villains. Huh…
Anyway, I will not spend a bunch of space talking about the characters again since they remain mostly unchanged. The series itself treated the seasons as a single series so not much changes except for the suits they wear. Well, some things change but I’ll cover that in a bit.
The only major addition to the series is a sixth ranger in the form of the Silver Ranger. This is Orion, an alien who comes to Earth to stop the armada from destroying this planet as they did his own. That’s about the extent of his characterization and I would’ve been content leaving it at that except for a simple reason: they ruined Gai Ikari.
Gai was the sixth ranger in Gokaiger and played the part of a guide to all the old rangers that was WAY before kids of today’s time. When an old team had their tribute episode, Gai was there with a handy explanation and rundown of their most basic attributes. Basically, he was a Super Sentai fan and it was what the show needed in more ways than one.
If they had replaced him with a character that actually had depth and an appealing character arc, sure, this is Power Rangers and not Super Sentai so they don’t need to do everything the same way. But he wasn’t deep and he never had much of an arc, no matter how much the series likes to pretend that he did. In fact, none of the characters at all had much depth despite plenty of opportunities for them to have so.
The only one who has any sort of character examination is Jake, luckily my favorite of the lot, but he still doesn’t change much. Every so often the show flirts with something great but ends up squandering it in favor of more fight scenes. Remember how Jake had a thing for Gia? Well, in one episode he and Noah change bodies and Gia suddenly finds herself attracted to Jake, or rather Noah in Jake’s body, because he’s more intelligent. That right there is an interesting opportunity for Jake to grow or perhaps for a new romance between Gia and Noah, sparking a rivalry between Jake and Noah.
That’s called drama, Power Rangers writers, and you can have it for free. “But that’s too complex for a children’s show.” No, it isn’t. It’s important for kids to know early on that just because you have feelings for someone doesn’t mean you can demand they reciprocate. Jake learning to live with the fact that Gia and Noah is a couple is a great lesson and how he decides to face this tells us a lot about him. Does he respect their feelings and keep a distance? Maybe he can’t accept it and decides to leave the team because he risks causing a rift between friends. Or maybe he changes, matures and wins Gia’s respect and admiration that way. Or maybe he can’t accept it, starts to sulk and develops a mean streak. Maybe Jake leaving the team to make sure that the Power Rangers remain effective and out of respect for Gia and Noah makes Gia see him differently.
But the important part isn’t how he deals with it but rather that he has to deal with them. In doing so he reveals more about his character and teaches kids that sometimes we have feelings that make life hard but that we have to deal with them or we might not feel very good about things.
It’s just one of many examples on how Super Megaforce misses the opportunity to actually have some drama and character development. In Megaforce I was kind of alright with that but Gokaiger was a series that had such well written character arcs for all its characters that it’s kind of annoying to see Power Rangers not take advantage of that.
Another example is with Noah who REALLY got the shaft this season. Talk about inconsistent character portrayal from one season to the other. Not only does his fighting style and expressed personality through the combat change dramatically, the episodes devoted to him make almost no sense. Attention is forced on him because of Gokaiger but nothing interesting is done with it. Episodes that were devoted to Joe in Gokaiger are focused on Noah in Super Megaforce but in ways that don’t really connects with the Noah we saw in Megaforce and it’s REALLY annoying.
Jake also suddenly changes fighting style and while I can accept it to some degree, this being an adaptation and all, it’s a bit disconcerting that they didn’t even attempt to explain it through handwaving. Instead they try to make a joke, fail at making a joke then never adress it again. Maybe the green energy is different from the black energy which means Jake will have to fight in a different way? I don’t know, it’d take at most a minute to explain through some BS but they didn’t even do that.
If it seems I talk a lot about Jake it’s simply because he’s the only one who I felt had any meaningful stories devoted to him. Plus, he’s Gokai Green and if you remember my review of that series, I friggin’ loved Don Dogoier so I suppose there is some transference. But honestly, he’s simply the only one who stood out in this series. Gia practically disappeared in Super Megaforce, she was still a lovely young lady but she in no way managed to do anything interesting, mostly because all the episodes focused on Gokai Yellow were not adapted. The same can be said for Emma but the less I have to put up with her, the better.
Strangely Troy had very little time devoted to him either. He remained as utterly bland as he did in the first season. So for whatever reason the writers chose to focus on Jake, Noah and Orion almost exclusively. And don’t try to excuse yourself with that “only twenty episodes” bullcrap cause it’s… well, bullcrap. Not an excuse.
One way the series mirrored Gokaiger is that I started out rather disappointed with the anniversary aspects of the show. But Gokaiger got better at it and so did Super Megaforce… for a brief, shining moment. And it only shone in comparison to the rest of the series.
They only got a SINGLE tribute episode right. ONE! How hard could it possibly be to get a few Power Rangers alumni to return for an episode? “Oh, but the budget!” No, viewers do NOT make budget excuses for shows. That’s for the production team to sort out. If you have a small budget, work around it or save money somehow, make more clipshows or use less location shoots. Something! Or! Don’t write checks your mouth can’t cash! If you’re gonna call it an anniversary, don’t go back on your word!
Sure, you’re limited to what the Sentai did so it’d be difficult to do a tribute to Mighty Morphin’ since ZyuRanger never got one. But so what, write your damn way out of it, it’s what you’re paid for. A token, brief appearance by a few familiar faces at the very end is not enough if you’ve billed the whole damn series as an anniversary. Then you make an anniversary episode or… something. And don’t friggin’ adapt Gokaiger, dammit! Hell, if past seasons have been able to squeeze out team-ups relatively reliably, then this shouldn’t be that hard!
You had Jason David Frank back, one of the most beloved Power Rangers of all times and all you could manage was… a minute or so? Jesus.
And I think how they handled the Super Sentai exclusive teams featured on Gokaiger was idiotic. Not that it was wrong to use any but that they didn’t build on it at all. Sure, it’s too late to make a show about them now but build upon the lore. We know there’s been alien Power Rangers and ranger teams before Mighty Morphin so expand the world. “But only 20 epsiodes!” Yes, I know, it’d be tough but not impossible. AND if you don’t want to do in the show, introduce them briefly then create an expanded universe around them. Write books and comics, hell, get in touch with Big Finish and have them make audio plays about them and their strife. Make toys and trading card games steeped in lore. Hell, make a friggin cheap game for the 3DS or mobile phones or something! Anything! You’d make money! Why waste the opportunity!?
It infuriates me that they couldn’t do better than this! I mean, how? How do you make such a mess of things? Power Rangers has adapted far more difficult things than Gokaiger in the past. They’ve rewritten entire settings and made it work so their excuses are extremely lame. I mean, if you don’t want to do an anniversary series but still adapt Gokaiger, just call them different modes or something, random configurations of botched designs or whatever.
And speaking of the last episode… it was awful. Even the supposed team up is completely pointless. I really didn’t like it, mostly because there was so little build up to it and no real pay off. Personally, I would’ve preferred it if all the rangers suddenly showed up, talked a bit and then they all morphed or whatever, rushing towards the last remnants of the armada, showed a bit of fighting then just ended. As a “We’ll always fight good fight” kind of ending.
This season was frustrating to watch. Partly because they botched the adaptation of Gokaiger, one of my favorite Super Sentai, and partly because it could’ve been so much more. I don’t even demand particularly faithful adaptations, hell, it’s almost more fun when they go nuts with the whole thing. But an adaptation of Gokaiger had the possibility of offering Power Rangers something amazing and wholly unique not to mention expand the universe something fierce.
I still think Megaforce, aka the first season, is okay from a Power Rangers perspective. It was a nostalgic trip for me and the writing was mostly harmless. Part of that is because Goseiger wasn’t particularly deep to begin with so adaptation was remarkably simple. But Super Megaforce is just… such a mess. Great opportunity completely botched. When I’m even disappointed in their lack of greed, it’s really bad.
The lack of fanservice, the lack of a proper homage (Megaforce was more of an homage to Mighty Morphin than this), missing huge opportunities to expand the Power Rangers brand, lack of interesting character development and/or moments and, most important to me, not utilizing Gokaiger in a good way. I mean… hell, it was pirate themed, the possibilities with that alone are staggering!
So… I can see why a lot of people don’t like Megaforce. If taken as a single series, Super Megaforce completely ruins the Megaforce part. I don’t so I think Megaforce gets a lot of crap it doesn’t deserve. Super Megaforce, on the other hand, probably deserves most of it.
So, yeah, thanks a ton, Oliver Hurt, for reminding me to finish this. Thanks oh so much… Still, can’t wait for Dino Charge but that will have to wait since I still have Kamen Rider Wizard to finish writing about before I get knee-deep in Kyoryuger.