I haven't actually watched an episode of Power Rangers
in around two decades. If there's one thing I love at this time of year, however, it's a Christmas Special, so when I saw that Power Rangers Super Samurai: Stuck On Christmas
had been added to Netflix Instant, I was delighted. I settled in with a nice tall glass of eggnog to see how those teens with attitude were getting along these days, and much to my disappointment, it turned out to mostly be a clip show.
But then I kept watching, and figured out that a Super Samurai
clip show is an entire year's worth of bonkers craziness crammed into 22 minutes
For those of you who (like me) haven't been keeping up with the Power Rangers, it's pretty much exactly the way you remember. A bunch of teens turn into helmeted superheroes to fight monsters, and then the monsters get big and the teens summon giant robots to do more fighting before eventually things explode and we all learn a lesson about doing homework or not picking on kids who wear glasses or whatever. The difference is that the Samurai Rangers are, as you might expect from the name, based a little more strongly around the trappings of traditional Japanese culture and samurai philosophy. Sort of.
The transformations, for instance, are initiated by magic laser calligraphy:
Also, their uniforms and weapons are more closely modeled after samurai aesthetics, and the giant robots fold out of little pieces of paper like origami. Seriously. Also, they have special magic cell phones. It is weird as hell, but it's the kind of weird that I could totally get behind. As soon as they started drawing glowing kanji "symbol powers" in the air with their phones, I was ready to get really, really into Power Rangers
Anyway, this wintry episode opens up at the Rangers' amazingly swanky dojo/house/headquarters, where their mentor, Mentor-Ji, getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree while wearing traditional samurai hakama and a festive Dickensian scarf. It's a good look. He's a little down, though, because the Rangers aren't back yet from... rangering, I guess.
The reason? They're fighting a Christmas monster!
Who, it turns out, is not actually very Christmasy at all. Believe me, I've studied up on yuletide iconography, and I don't think shoulder dentata and swirly sand-dollar faces are all that evocative of the season. But he is red and green, so at least that's something.
There are so many amazing things about this fight that it's difficult to pick one. First is the fact that it's largely composed of people running away from explosions in slow motion, the traditional mark of quality cinema. Second, the bit where the monster disarms Mike, the Green Ranger, only to have Mike catch the blade of its sword between his palms and wrench it away, and then make a completely unnecessary roll onto his back so that he can catch its other sword in his feet
, while the other Rangers watch, sprawled out in Kate-Winslet-In-Titanic
poses in the dirt:
My personal favorite bit is when the monster threateningly yells "Santa won't be coming to your house this year," and Mike flips the f**k out
and yells "DON'T YOU DARE EVEN MENTION SANTA'S NAME!
" Dude has strong feelings, and I respect that.
That said, it's hard to beat the moment where the Red Ranger pulls out the largest sword I have ever seen...
...and then turns it into a cannon that shoots multicolored buzzsaw blades that then turn into a bird made out of fire at the monster. The weird thing is, this seems to have absolutely no detrimental effect whatsoever on the monster, and in fact causes it to grow to forty stories tall. I'm not sure if this is a normal situation or just an effect of the ultra-compressed storytelling so that they could get to the clip show portion, but they really might want to rethink that one.
Which brings us back to the clip show premise. See, while most episodes would be content to have its protagonists snowed in at their house or stuck in an elevator or something similar, Super Samurai opts to play it a slightly different way. The battle ends up shorting out the MegaZord's circuits, meaning that until they can fix the wiring, the Power Rangers must spend Christmas eve trapped in a gigantic monster-slaying samurai robot with a bizarre veritcal cone bra.
Every other sitcom just got put on blast.
Meanwhile, back at the dojo, Mentor's decorating is interrupted by the arrival of the real stars of the show, Bulk and Spike, who have shown up in full costume in order to present Mia (the Pink Ranger) with her Christmas present:
As the clips will inform us, Spike (who is being mentored in the ways of good-natured hooliganry by his father Skull's best friend) totally has a crush on Mia. It's unclear whether or not Bulk is meant to also be crushing, but considering that he's, you know, forty, it's probably safe to assume that's not the case.
Mentor informs them that Mia isn't at home right now, deftly leaving out the part where she is a behelemeted superheroine who just exploded a giant monster, but upon seeing them shivering in the cold, takes pity and invites them in to help with the Christmas tree. Awwwww. Of course, that kind of raises the question of just how cold it is in whatever city this is supposed to be. I mean, the Rangers were walking around in an actual desert in t-shirts and jeans earlier, and now Bulk is freezing in a furry Santa suit. It just don't add up!
As the night goes on, the Rangers and their assorted hangers-on comfort themselves with memories of teamwork, shopping sprees, meet-cutes and one bizarre instance where the Yellow Ranger, Emily, put on a wig and pretended to be a samurai drill sergeant for reasons that I don't understand. I mean, yes, the wig was pretty cute, but was it necessary? Do samurai drill sergeants have bobs? Who knows.
There are also a few appearances by the Gold Ranger, this Zatoichi-esque bro who Power Rangers fan Caleb Goellner described thusly:
"He's... uh... a fisherman? He doesn't know calligraphy and all his stuff is rooted in fishing culture so his zords and stuff are squids and his weapon is a sushi type of knife. I like him because he's super aloof and travels around with a food cart and just cooks for whoever he stumbles across. The show does a really s**tty job explaining WTF is going on with him, and I love it."
Eventually, we run out of clips and in what he describes as a "mini-Christmas miracle," Blue Ranger Kevin fixes everything by connecting the red wire and the green wire, and as a special present to Bulk and Spike, they show up as the Power Rangers to say hi.
Then, in a scene that is never explained or addressed
, Bulk and Spike chase Santa Claus through the air on a flying dirtbike.
That, my friends, is most definitely
the true meaning of Christmas, and this is the best show ever
. Zordon bless us, every one!