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In 1992, Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger (Dinosaur Squad Beast Ranger) aired on TV Asahi in Japan. One year later, an Israeli TV producer named Haim Saban took the footage from ZyuRanger, cut out the Japanese cast and stories, and replaced them with “cool” American actors and stories. The result was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

This ”Power Rangers” jazz was a huge success with American kids straight away. And why not? It was capitalizing off of a show that had been perfecting the art of firing lasers at aliens since 1975. However, few people at that time, myself included, had any idea that there was anything foreign about the Power Rangers. As I grew up and left this childhood show behind, I eventually discovered the show from whence it came, Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger, and watching it was a total mind bender.

The monsters and costumes in ZyuRanger were cemented in my brain as mine, but the stories surrounding them were unfamiliar territory. Gone were the twenty-year-old teenagers of the American iteration, replaced with characters and plots that were actually…interesting! Or at the very least, weird.

But how do these two series compare? What was changed when the show was brought stateside? Remember, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wasn’t your average localization. It was a re-filmed, re-edited Frankenstein project. So a lot was changed, not necessarily for the better.

The only way to properly explain is with a side by side compari-battle! Two shows. Five categories. One survivor. Which campy children’s TV show deserves your fanatical devotion?

Prepare yourself!

CATEGORY 1: SHOW SYNOPSIS

In the J-corner, a 170 million-year-old struggle between robotic dinosaur gods and the demonic hordes of a space witch.  In the A-corner, a 10,000-year-old struggle between a blue lava lamp and the demonic hordes of a space witch

Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger

zyurangers

170 million years ago, five god-like robot dinosaurs sealed an evil witch, Bandora, in a comet and froze five warriors in magic tombs in case she ever escaped. She did and the robo-dino-gods revived the five warriors, bestowing them with five dino bucklers, legendary weapons, and control over the robo-dino-gods. Their gods allowed the ZyuRangers to pilot them and give them orders, but the ZyuRangers remained subservient to their divine wills.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

power-rangers

A man named Zordon and a woman named Rita Repulsa fought 10,000 years ago. At the end of their battle, he sealed her in a dumpster and she trapped him in a tube, resulting in a bizzare stalemate. Despite having no hands, Zordon built a robot and an entire command center in the middle of California. When Rita escapes her prison, Zordon, in his ancient wisdom, chooses five teenagers to wield unlimited power, since teenagers are well known for their reliability and stable emotional states. The teens begin an epic struggle against Rita and her space monsters! Also, two bullies trip and fall into plates of food. A lot.

Show Synopsis Verdict:

The plot of Power Rangers is a shoddy adaptation of its source material. It takes most of its substance from the ZyuRanger plot and slaps the most basic cliches from American superhero stories onto it. Average teens, chosen to have powers, ancient struggle, and so on.

ZyuRanger is no King Lear, but at least it’s original. And the fact that the heroes are from an ancient time and the giant robots they pilot are their gods, which they worship, is at least strange enough to be interesting.

Winner: ZyuRanger

CATEGORY 2: THEME SONG

In the J-corner, a symphonic rock ballad heralding the entrance of ancient warriors.  In the A-corner, the best workout music after *Rock You Like a Hurricane* (totally awesome for bench press).

Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger

I really, really like this song. It’s orchestral with some smatterings of electric guitar. It’s catchy, fun and heroic. I memorized the lyrics just to sing along and learned some useful Japanese words too! (You never know when “eternal warrior” is going to pop up in a conversation.)

I really, really, really, really like this song, but…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

This song is AWESOME!!

The crazy metal riffs get my blood pumping! I am convinced that this, in conjunction with the fight footage, is what made Power Rangers so instantly popular. To this day, if I hear this song, I have the sudden urge to jump up and start somersault chopping at random, which has been unfortunate for many of my former desk lamps.

Theme Song Verdict:

I gotta give this one to Power Rangers. SPOLIER ALERT! Power Rangers isn’t winning any more categories.

Winner: Power Rangers

CATEGORY 3: HEROES

In the J-corner, tribal monarchs trained the art of combat!  In the A-corner, charisma-free high schoolers trained in the art of study hall.

Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger

zyuranger-heroes

Our five heroes include the average one, the tall strong one, the limber one, the serious limber one, and the girl one. These warriors of legend never back down from a fight and are friends to all children. And I do mean all children. Each episode features a different kid with a disease/fear that the ZyuRangers cure/solve at the end of each episode/show.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

power-ranger-heroes

The American heroes include the leader one, the dancing one, the science one, the gymnastics one, and the kung fu one. In the intro, it is stated that these teenagers were chosen because they had “attitude.” However, their aforementioned attitude is one of civil service and and respect for authority.

Heroes Verdict:

At first glance, the Power Rangers are a bit more dynamic than their Japanese counterparts in that they have racial diversity and two female characters instead of just one. They have clearly defined character traits based on their interests (gymnastics, science, etc.) But actually, that’s as deep as these characters go.

The ZyuRangers, however, are very similar on the surface and have few obvious character traits or hobbies. But as the series progresses, each character gets several episodes focused on them in which they are put in tense, character-revealing situations. Again, not King Lear, but enough to show that the writers put some thought into who these characters are deep down in their squishy souls.

Winner: ZyuRanger

CATEGORY 4: VILLAINS

In the J-corner, a space witch and her team of gryphons, golems, goblins, vampires and leprechauns.  In the A-corner, a space witch and her team of gryphons, golems, goblins, vampires and leprechauns with annoying voices.

Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger

zyu-ranger-villain

The evil side of ZyuRanger is all western mythological monsters commanded by one fantastic witch. If everything else about ZyuRanger were awful, one element would make it worth watching.

Space Witch Bandora.

She lives in a moon castle, rides a penny-farthing through the sky, wants to kill all children, and gets her power from SATAN! (I’m not joking.)

Oh, and she sings her own theme song in her delightfully raspy witchy voice. This puts her high up on my list of dream karaoke duet partners, right under John DiMaggio.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

bandora

Each villain is the same as they are in ZyuRanger only renamed and redubbed. Poorly. Every name feels like it was the first thing the producers could think of. “That guy is gold. Let’s call him Goldar! This girl’s a scorpion. How about Scorpina? Genius!” Just another testament to the laziness of this localization.

Villains Verdict:

Checkmate.

Winner: ZyuRanger

CATEGORY 5: THE GREEN RANGER

WARNING! THIS FINAL SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A 20-YEAR-OLD CHILDREN’S TV SHOW!!

In the J-corner, a ultra powerful older brother with a checkered past and a grim future.  In the A-corner, an ultra-powerful teenager whose dedication to practicing martial arts keeps him from using it until the last minute.

Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger

zyu-rg-burai-green

Name: Burai
Title: Prince of the Yamato Kingdom
Giant Robot Pal: Dragon Caesar
Bio: Hated his brother, woke from stasis to kill brother, changed his ways, fought alongside brother, discovered he had only weeks to live, quarantined in a room outside of time, only leaves timeless room when necessary.
Likes: Hating his brother, changing his ways, loving his brother, solitaire.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

tommy

Name: Tommy Oliver
Title: Prince of the Juice Bar
Giant Robot Pal: Dragonzord
Bio: Moved to Angel Grove, got turned evil, got turned un-evil, fought alongside Power Rangers but only sometimes.
Likes: Martial arts, Kimberly, long hair, juice, helping the Power Rangers part-time (It’s a stop-gap job. Looks good on a resume.)

Green Ranger Verdict:

The whole saga surrounding Burai doesn’t end when he finally becomes good.  He finds out that he died while in suspended animation, so a weird god-boy named Clotho puts him in a Timeless Room with a green candle showing his remaining life span.  Every time he leaves the Timeless Room, a little bit of the candle gets used up.

This adds a lot of suspense to the the series not only in terms of battle, but also in the relationship between his brother Geki (The Red Ranger) and himself, making every moment between them brief and bittersweet.

Tommy’s character, on the other hand, was at the mercy of the localization team.  The drama of the bad-ranger-wrecks-up-the-place remains intact.  But after that saga, Tommy becomes kind of nonsensical.  If he’s so powerful, why isn’t he with the Power Rangers all the time?  Because *ZyuRanger* wrote Burai as a man living on borrowed time, Tommy is forced to constantly be “out practicing martial arts” or “giving his dog a back massage” until he’s called at the last minute.  None of this makes sense when a giant monster is crushing your city.

If you’re still not convinced about the superiority of the Burai story, it lies in the emotional culmination of his death.  After watching his life candle deplete over the course of twenty episodes, Burai decides to purposely use up the last of his life candle saving children (which he does by saving an unfortunate airborne baby!)  He dies in the arms of his younger brother Geki, to whom he relinquishes his signature golden armor and flute dagger.  This makes for more bittersweetness as the remainder of the series sees Geki using items from a brother he barely knew.

The death is so emphasized that there is even an entire episode featuring Burai’s sentient robo-dino-god, Dragon Caesar, grieving the loss of his master as he walks alone through a poppy field.

In the end, despite a letter-writing campaign from fans, Burai remained dead.  But his ghost appeared at the end of the series to encourage the ZyuRangers and use his ghost magic to open a dimensional gateway for plot device purposes.

Because of the absurdity of Tommy’s motivations and the purposeful thought put into Burai’s character arc, Burai is the better Green Ranger.  Sorry, Tommy fans.

Winner: ZyuRanger

FINAL CHAMPION: KYOURYUU SENTAI ZYURANGER

zyu-rangers

If you have a soft spot for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, believe me, I understand. While screening episodes in preparation for this article, I felt pangs of nostalgia intermingled with my groans and cringing.

But nostalgia notwithstanding, ZyuRanger is the clear winner in terms of overall quality.

Let it be said that Power Rangers was a fantastic business venture. Saban had all the action footage and merchandising done before he started. All he had to do was fill in the blanks. But in light of this, one has to wonder, with so much of the hard work done in advance, couldn’t Saban have filled in the blanks a little bit better? The writing, especially the dialogue, is tired and contrived. It seems the show is just killing time until the ZyuRanger action footage could be inserted, leaving each episode feeling rather lazy and hollow.

If Saban was as smart an artist as he is a businessman, he could have put together something truly unique and interesting using someone else’s footage. But he’s not and he didn’t.

ZyuRanger is certainly campy and childish in its own way, but is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Even when it fails at what it’s trying to do, it still manages to entertain, leaving you watching long enough to eventually be surprised by its purposeful emotional pacing and technical attention to detail.

Comparisons aside, ZyuRanger stands on its own in terms of quality. At the very least, it’s an interesting peek at another culture’s nostalgia. At the very best, it’s an intriguingly genuine piece children’s TV with a mysterious charm factor. If giant robot gods and superhero melodrama are your thing, I encourage you to give the show a try. You may just find a bit more than you expected.

Bonus Wallpapers!

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  • slurivariv

    I only have one complaint about this: the localization of the names. I’m a big toku fan, but have you noticed the names in them (especially bad guys)? Most of them are just like their American counterparts; they only sound better because I’m not Japanese. A good example would be Go-Onger’s villains.

  • Christopher Stilson

    I’m TRYING to like Super Sentai, but it’s difficult (especially when I still have a twenty-season backlog of Kamen Rider to get through). I only actually LIKE one of them (Go-Busters, which is a bit more plotty than most), and I can tolerate about four of them. But Zyuranger is not one of those four. If it hadn’t been loosely connected to a beloved childhood icon that I never watched (though my wife did), it wouldn’t even register on my radar.

    The current series does the dinosaur schtick much more believably, even though they’re so transparent about being a blatant toy commercial that they use the actual toys in the show… plus, cute dancing toddler montage at the end.

  • zachary T

    wow…the awesomeness of this article,,,,such a trip down memory lane, had never seen the Japanese original, thanks for the clips. now I have “bandora song” stuck in my head…

  • Silver Sabrewulf

    I was probably the biggest Power Rangers nut in my hometown between the ages of 8 and 11. My love for the show went beyond fanaticism. That said, I tried watching MMPR again last year (after stumbling upon the awesome theme song on YouTube). I watched everything up to and including The Green Candle episode. And, while some scenes were actually well done, on the whole I have to say that nostalgia can be cruel sometimes, hehe.

    I can still enjoy all of the Disney Afternoon shows (TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck etc.) of the 90s today for what they are. Not so much with the Power Rangers.

    What struck me most was that the yellow ranger in the original version was a guy. Everything makes sense now! Why the yellow ranger in MMPR didn’t have a skirt in ranger form boggled my mind. Now I know! I’m actually curious to see some of the original material now. All I’ve seen is a comparison video (Red Ranger VS Green Ranger fight) between both versions. I’ll admit the Japanese one was better.

  • Mami

    Great article!

  • Michael Richey

    I love it! Especially the fugu frowny face!

  • Mami

    Haha thank you. My mouse work is pretty bad:P haha

  • Michael Richey

    I know! That;s what happened to me. My nostalgia drew me to Power Rangers, but I found it mostly unwatchable. But ZyuRanger filled that void for me. The only things I was nostalgic about from Power Rangers was the footage from ZyuRanger. So it’s like I got a brand new show childhood show to love that I never saw as a child.

    P.S. The Disney Afternoon shows are pretty high quality as well. Especially Duck Tales.

  • Michael Richey

    That’s funny, because I like only one Kamen Rider (the original) and I haven’t given the others a chance because I keep watching Sentai series. Which Kamen Rider series would you recommend?

  • Michael Richey

    If I can share the greatness of Bandora with just one person, I’ve done my job.

  • Reverie

    Just had a discussion with someone about this very thing a little while ago eerie and super cool to know! Actually, it was exactly what I wanted to know dun dun DUNNNN. Thanks for doing the research; even comparing rangers. ((o^_^)bグッジョブ♪

  • noone

    I agree

  • Christopher Stilson

    Depends. There’s a huge stylistic shift between the Shouwa and Heisei era series, and between the earlier and the later Heisei shows as well. The Shouwa shows are more like the 1960s Batman serial, only with about half the budget and three times the violence (I’ve only seen two of them, but they were pretty much the same). The early Heisei shows are really dark, mellowing out a bit in more recent years.

    Of all the Heisei shows, Kiva and Fourze are probably the ones most approachable for a Sentai fan. Kiva is creepy and gothic, but also ridiculously funny (and is probably the best written of all the series, but it can be hard to follow because it traces two simultaneous timelines twenty years apart). Fourze is basically a cross between Buffy and the Jetsons.

    Wizard is fairly well-balanced between plot, monster-of-the-weekness, comedy and melodrama, and is my favorite (which, of course, guarantees that REAL Kamen Rider fans hate it). It’s also the one I started with, so I may be biased.

    Kuuga is regarded as one of the best series of either era, but it’s also rather vicious and horrible (with a civilian death toll approaching a thousand). It’s also a bit slow developing, and there’s a point in the series where you go ‘wait, did I miss an episode’ because the events that happen immediately prior to it occur offscreen without warning. But it’s also got the best overall story of all the ones I’ve seen.

    I haven’t seen it, but apparently the best of the Shouwa series is Black.

  • Brittany

    Wow, I used to watch Power Rangers all the time. I never knew it came from a Japanese show. Thank you.

  • JohnnySmith0

    I can’t believe they actually made “Black” power ranger black and “Yellow” Asian.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    It’s so interesting that I can respond to someone nearly 4 days before they even left their original comment…

  • Lurksmore

    That was news to me. Never really got into Power Rangers. I did rush home to watch Go Rangers, have always thought it was based on that. Miss those shows, Kikaida, Kamen Rider V3 and Raideen.

  • James O’Neill

    Zyuranger is pretty much THE reason I got interested in Japan. Like quite a few folks I went through a phase of being into Power Rangers in a big way. I never had any great nostalgia for it but finding out about Super Sentai peaked my curiosity and reading about Burai’s story made me think that Zyuranger was more my kind of thing than Power Rangers (for some reason I also came to the conclusion that Sentai was for adults). I’ve actually not seen more than a handful of Zyuranger episodes but it did cause me to check out the other Sentai and Kamen Rider shows. From there I started checking out the odd anime and then, a couple of years after starting out, decided to take a Japanese class. I really ought to get around to watching all of Zyuranger some time.

  • Richard

    Thanks for the article. I was a high school student when the original Power Rangers aired. While I was too old to enjoy the American characters and fight scenes, the use of Japanese ZyuRangers footage fascinated me and I was a regular after-school viewer for a few years.

    A show of this type that I enjoyed more was “VR Troopers”. The American characters and plot weren’t half bad. The Japanese battle scenes (particularly the two male heroes) and villains were awesome. Reading the WikiSpace article on that show a few minutes ago it was interesting to me that they had to cancel the show because they actually ran out of Japanese footage. This also explains why the Power Rangers has to reinvent itself from the ground up every few years.

  • Richard

    I think the Saban production company just didn’t think things through for the first version of the Power Rangers. I know for sure that in the later seasons they mixed up the American actors’ races and costume colors.

  • DAVIDPD

    But what do Japanese Sentai fans think of the American version?

  • nagoyablue

    For me, the best sentai series is samurai sentai, shinkanger, and my favorite kamen ridiculously is kamen rider double. Both are fantastic. The American version of shinkanger is truly abysmal, though.

  • Mescale

    Does liking Akiba Rangers Count?

  • Koichi’s Soul

    Predictable. That you would choose the Japanese version, that is.

  • Andrew Vrba

    I think MMPR wins in the category of pure cheese though.
    Also had some epic SNES games.

  • http://wingednazgul.blogspot.com/ Winged Nazgul

    “In the A-corner, a space witch and her team of gryphons, golems, goblins, vampires and leprechauns with annoying voices.”

    I would have to give bonus points because the guy doing the annoying voices turned out to be Bryan Cranston.

  • K80

    Great article–I love super sentai!! Wacky and campy and Japanese…still entertaining for even adults. I didn’t know how cool super sentai shows from Japan were for a long while because I always assumed they were lame like I thought the Power Rangers were. I like your parody of that Zordon guy–for me, he was a big turn off to the show. I think Zyuranger is one of the best series!! And I also recommend Ninja Sentai: Kakuranger.

  • ftlum

    Everyone who grew up in the ’70s in Hawaii knew how bad a rip off the Power Rangers really were. We had a lot of Japanese TV shows airing on channel 13 back then. Gorangers and Battle Fever J were a couple of the ranger-type shows. You can get some of the more popular shows with subtitles at GenerationKikaida.

  • tyranni533

    I actually found a torrent of the original sentai series and loved it. I was surprised at how much mmpr suffered from localization especially in regards to plot. As much as I loved mmpr as a kid Im collecting the recent legacy toys more in homage to zyuranger than mmpr now. Plus campy Japanese kids shows are always a delight. Reminded me of a cross between Godzilla from the late 60s and sesame street and a daytime soap, in the best possible way. BANDORA!?

  • Sheldon Adcock

    how does that last video only have like 270 views?

  • John P.

    Good article, but there’s one major thing that Tommy had going for him that Burai didn’t…..

    The most badass, one-man wrecking-crew theme song of all time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCdIW4iLpGM

  • Geo

    Hell yeah! The Power Rangers had one of the best soundtracks ever!

  • ThatOneChap

    I’ve been watching Sentai since Akibaranger came out and got me interested in the stuff. So far Sun Vulcan’s my favourite series.

  • green ranger

    Because the author of this article made it, and you haven’t shared it with a million people

  • Sheldon Adcock

    well that makes sense. but I did share it with a couple people.

  • Cory

    Enjoyable article.

  • Julien
  • Barracius

    Now do the rest of the Super Sentai vs Power Ranger counterpart

  • Lava Yuki

    My brother liked this version of power rangers, but i preferred Power Rangers Lost galaxy… man thats over 12 years ago that i watched these!