First introduced in 1993 with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, this iconic live-action TV series starring a group of teens able to transform into a team of color-coded costumed superheroes is still going strong. Power Rangers: Samurai, the show’s l8th iteration, premiered in 2011 on Nickelodeon, followed by 2012’s Power Rangers: Super Samurai (TVY7), a second set of episodes featuring the same characters.
Adhering to the long-established format, Samurai blends scenes of the current English-speaking cast with action footage from the Japanese TV series Super Sentai, presents a slew of creatively attired oddball villains, and incorporates combat action (both hand-to-hand and mega-size) with delightfully cornball élan. Classic good versus evil tropes are underscored by themes stressing the importance of discovering and utilizing one’s unique abilities, helping others, and working together as a team. The show has an average audience of 2 million weekly viewers, and the franchise is gearing up for its next incarnation to coincide with the series’ 20th anniversary.
Trained and guided by the wise Mentor Ji, the Samurai squad consists of quiet yet fearless leader Jayden, accomplished swimmer and swordsman Kevin, big-sisterly Mia, free-spirited Mike, sweet-natured Emily, and computer-whiz Antonio. Though they seem like ordinary teens, they have learned to master the ancient symbols of power that give them control over the basic elements—fire, water, sky, forest, earth, and light—allowing them to morph into amazing warriors, wield mighty Spin Swords, and pilot giant robot vehicles. The evil Master Xandred, leader of the Nighlok monsters that inhabit the Netherworld, is on the rampage, and the danger only worsens when the sinister Serrator enters the fray. In order to continue to protect humankind from evil, the teens must unlock the mysteries of the past and attain a new level of power as Super Samurais.
Nickelodeon’s dedicated website includes brief character bios, a lengthy selection of video clips, and several online games. Kids (or perhaps their nostalgic parents) can also visit the “Power Rangers” official website to browse through a season-by-season history of the show, print out activity and coloring sheets, and access special 20th anniversary downloads and information.
Power Rangers fans will be delighted to discover books about the familiar characters on library shelves. The Official Guide (Scholastic, 2012; K-Gr 4) introduces the teen warriors with double-pages spreads that include full-color photos (in and out of costume), a brief bio, and list of characteristics (weapon, element, etc.). A lengthy bad-guys section highlights numerous Nighlok creatures (including the half-human guitar-playing Dayu, the glue-gob-emitting Epoxar, and the gluttonous Skarf) with large-size images and short descriptions. Other segments offer explanations of the Samurai morphing sequence and various battle modes as well as the rangers’ particular weapons, power discs, and Zords (magical animal-spirit robots that fold down to tiny size or transform into gigantic MegaMode vehicles). The volume ends with brief recaps of “Epic Battles.” Written in straightforward language, the book is packed with colorful images, and kids will enjoy taking a closer look at the characters and the details of their world.
Two staple-bound paperbacks illustrated with large-size photos recount specific adventures. When a dangerous Nighlok hits the Blue Ranger (Kevin) with a mind-control ray and orders him to attack his compatriots, it becomes difficult to tell if he’s a Friend or Enemy?, but the other teens come to his aid. The New Ranger (both Scholastic, 2012; PreS-Gr 2) describes the arrival of Antonio, a seemingly ordinary guy who is destined to become the sixth member of their squad (“Go, Gold!”). Filled with battle action, both stories also emphasize teamwork and looking out for one another, and the brief sentences, simple language, and action-packed images make them suitable for sharing aloud or for beginning readers.
Three easy chapter books pair longer narratives with photos from the show that support the text with visual clues. Rangers Unite describes how Jayden, son of another Red Ranger lost long ago in battle, first assembles his team and inspires them to work together to defeat the Nighlok. The crew is ready and Armed for Battle, as they take on the frightening Scorpionic and his powerful Whirlwind Scythe. As Master Xandred and his minions grow stronger, the squad learns how to utilize the Black Box, enabling them to take their combined powers to the next level and defeat their foes with a super Samurai Strike (all Scholastic, 2012; K-Gr 4). The tales’ quick-paced narratives are sprinkled with dialogue and Power Rangers terminology that will strike a chord with viewers. The photos depict the characters in both their civilian personas and in their costumed warrior mode, showcasing an abundance of sword-slashing, spear-swinging, fireball-flinging action.
Graphic Novel Series
Papercutz recently launched the franchise’s first-ever graphic novel series with Power Rangers Super Samurai #1: “Memory Short” (2012; Gr 1-5). This original adventure begins with a section of full-color photos and brief descriptive text introducing the show’s characters and premise. The six teens are enjoying an outdoor rock concert when Master Xandred launches his latest evil plan, sending Oblivitor to make the crowd forget about the Power Rangers in order to destroy their hope and allow misery to flourish. However, the monster mistakenly zaps Jayden, wiping out his memory. While fighting off attack after attack, the team attempts to break the spell by recounting past events and getting the Red Ranger back up to speed before it’s too late.
The crisp dialogue is supported by bright-hued illustrations that clearly delineate the events, with black lines and swirling colors adding excitement and motion. The perspective zooms in to highlight important moments or underscore a character’s emotions, and pulls back to provide a broader view of the battle scenes. Touches of kid-pleasing humor and themes of trust, working together, and taking one’s responsibilities to heart are nestled within the action. The vibrant artwork draws youngsters into the story, aiding their comprehension and encouraging them to translate the text, making this a good choice for emergent or newly confident readers, while older fans will appreciate the book’s sophisticated look. The next installment in the series will be published in October.
LANDERS, Ace. Power Rangers: Super Samurai: Official Guide. Scholastic. 2012. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-545-44747-8.
_____. Power Rangers: Samurai: Friend or Enemy? ISBN 978-0-545-39005-7.
_____. Power Rangers: Samurai: Armed for Battle. ISBN 978-0-545-39010-1.
_____. Power Rangers: Super Samurai: Samurai Strike. ISBN 978-0-545-40322-1.
EASTON, Marilyn. Power Rangers: Samurai: The New Ranger. ISBN 978-0-545-39008-8.
SANTOS, Ray. Power Rangers: Samurai: Rangers Unite. ISBN 978-0-545-39011-8.
ea vol: Scholastic. 2012. pap. $3.99.
PETRUCHA, Stefan. Power Rangers Super Samurai #1: “Memory Short.” illus. by Paulo Henrique. Papercutz. 2012. Tr $10.99. ISBN 978-1-59707-332-5; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-1-59707-331-8.
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