Weekly Ranger Review is back to action! Dino Charge may still be on hiatus, but there is an entire history of Power Rangers to explore. First on the agenda is a weekly look at Power Rangers Mystic Force.
Just a note before we begin the review, due to the fact that the hiatus would not give me an opportunity to cover the entire show episode by episode, the series will be looking at multiple episodes per review. While most articles will contain a look at two episodes, some articles will look at one singular episode so that two and three part episode stories can be taken a look at together. Additionally, since multiple episodes will be looked at per article, for the sake of length, the synopsis of each episode will not be included.
Mystic Force went a route similar to Dino Charge in having the opening scene set up background of the world we are about to jump into. The intro introduces us to five extraordinary wizards and witches that sacrificed themselves to save the magical realm by sealing away the dark forces that were taking over the land behind giant gates. It is unfortunate that unlike Dino Charge, we were only greeted to this via a narrated scene, as opposed to actually meeting the ancient warriors, which is something I would have very much liked to see.
We are quickly introduced to our cast of characters, none of which we can really get the feel for with only one episode. Of course, simple archetypes are filled. Nick is the new guy, Xander is the cocky slacker, Chip is the overexcited nerd, Madison is the shy one, and Vida is the rough and tough girl. And for the supporting characters, Udonna is the classic mentor, Clare is the bumbling assistant, Toby is the oblivious boss, and everyone else are your bad guys. While an approach like this is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is an approach that basically opens the floodgate and gives you a small taste of everyone you will experience over the course of the show.
We are also introduced to the villains, albeit rather briefly. We learn of Morticon, Necrolai, and Koragg, a team serving a character called The Master, the leader of the Underworld that led the attack many years ago. The Master has not fully returned, so for now we get to follow the antics of the main three villains. Morticon does not yet have the strength to leave the Underworld, leaving a bulk of the work to Necrolai and Koragg. We will be seeing a lot of them.
Jumping back to the actual episodes, I love the way this two-parter establishes the world. The opening cinematic gives us a wonderful backstory to the history of the magical realm beyond Briarwood. And the first episode introduces us wonderfully to the cast of characters, ending on a pretty stellar cliffhanger with Koragg’s grand entrance. The way Udonna ultimately ended up recruiting the Rangers was slightly backhanded. However, it was a wonderful way to not only know those five are the five meant to fulfill the prophecy, but a great way for the writers to show that Briarwood is well aware of the mysteries surrounding their forest, and how the average citizen is more or less terrified to go anywhere near it.
The initial fight scene in the village does a wonderful job of setting up the motif of the show, and gives the viewer a taste of what to expect out of a magical-based season, something Power Rangers had not quite done at the time. With the Rangers being able to use magic unmorphed, it continued the trend of Rangers having extra powers, something that had been commonplace since Ninja Storm. This scene also brought us our first glance at how “magic” is treated in this universe, with the user having to believe and trust in their power in order to use it, something that Nick just could not do. Just believe!
Of course, Nick believes when the time is right and the team is united for their first morphed battle, which introduces us to the Magi Staffs, the main weapon of the team with a variety of different forms. There is something I really enjoy about a set up like that. It brings the unifying object for the team, while still allowing for originality and uniqueness between the Rangers. Additionally, with each Ranger specializing in a different element, it gives a unique fighting style to each of the Rangers, something that is very much necessary to prevent the fights from becoming a repetitive bore. This first fight was just the right amount of flashiness to catch the eyes of kids and adult fans alike. Even with today’s standards, it was really well done.
The confrontation between Koragg and Udonna was brief, but it sets up the season long story that connects the two warriors. Just a simple “You seem familiar to me…” line is all it took to set the story in motion. The end results of this battle also forces Udonna from being a mentor Ranger, to just being a mentor, since without her Snow Staff, she can not morph into the White Mystic Ranger.
One of my favorite things about Power Rangers S.P.D. was the set design. Despite Greg Aronowitz not continuing on to do Mystic Force, the show continued that level of beauty, albeit in a different way. Root Core is a very interest home base for the Rangers. It is a wonderful mix between the organic and mystical plant-based structure while being decked out in some modern day gear.
Mystic Force is very much a weird balance between the modern and the fantastical, and Root Core itself is a breathtaking example of that. It serves as a nice foil to the Rockporium, a record store in which the Rangers work. While Root Core is nothing short of magical, the Rockporium is nothing short of ordinary. It is your small, everyday record store. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a great place for the Rangers to be human, and that is something I feel every Power Rangers show needs.
Together, both episodes served as a wonderful introduction to the world and characters of Mystic Force. As someone that was always into the fantasy genre as a kid, Power Rangers finally touching upon a world of wizards, faeries, and dragons was a big deal to me, and these first two episodes did not disappoint.
Much like my comparisons between Kyoryuger and Dino Charge, Mahou Sentai Magiranger, the Super Sentai counterpart to Mystic Force has a string of similarities with a vast number of differences as well.
Just from a general standpoint, the world of Magiranger involves a magical realm (Magitopia) and an underworld (Infershia) that have battled in the past. Infershia has been revived and is attacking the human realm. The five Magirangers must stop Infershia from invading the human world by embracing their magical heritage. The Magirangers come from a magical bloodline, while the Mystic Force are a team of friends (plus Nick) that are given magical abilities to combat the underworld. It is also important to note that while the Mystic Force team are just friends, aside from Vida and Madison who are sisters. The entire Magiranger team consist of brothers and sisters (The Ozu Family). While certain things were generally kept, a majority of Mystic Force is most certainly an adaptation.
Stage 01 of Magiranger involves the first monster of Infershia rising from the underworld. The Ozu children are saved by their mother, who transforms into Magi Mother, and teaches the children that they are from a magical family. All except Kai (Magi Red) earn their magic, as Kai has not shown true courage. Kai ultimately proves himself and gains his powers to help defend the family against Wolzard (Koragg) and the Infershian warriors.
Stage 02 of Magiranger picks up right where Stage 01 left off. Magi Mother grows to fight Wolzard, but is defeated and presumed dead by her children. The Magirangers acquire her Magi Staff, and with it, find a hidden room in their home to aid them in their magical quest. The rest of the episode deviates into what will be used for Episode 03 of Mystic Force.
This is another example of one of the elements I absolutely love about Power Rangers. The ability to take the source story and footage, and turn it into something unique for the international audience. There are definitely similarities running through the two shows. Both feature an underworld attacking the human world, both featured a Red Ranger that was late to the party, both have the older White Ranger losing their powers. Heck, both shows feature the Red arriving just in time to distract their purple villain character and stop his sword with their bare hands to earn their magic.
Despite that, Mystic Force does a lot new that I am a huge fan of. Magiranger, despite being magical-themed, never really felt like the fantasy show I wanted. Mystic Force, being filmed in the beautiful country of New Zealand, takes advantage of its scenery to bring Briarwood Forest to life and add that extra bit of mystical edge that really caught my interest. The removal of the family twist, or rather, the condensing of the family twist, allows for some more play with character relationships and dynamics. Mystic Force also kept their mentor character around for the entire series, as well as introducing Clare, a character that could grow alongside the Rangers.
The biggest departure from the source material is the way the characters themselves act. While Kai and Nick share a lot of similarities (due to the straightforwardness of the Sentai footage) the remaining four characters act quite a bit different than their Sentai counterparts. While certain characters are always going to get stuck acting like the counterparts for the sake of story or footage, it is always nice to see when the Power Rangers writers can take a character and make it their own.
In the next Weekly Ranger Review, we will be taking a look at Episodes 03 and 04 of Power Rangers Mystic Force titled “Code Breakers” and “Rock Solid.”