What does an American live-action children’s show from the 90s have to do with Japan? Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a mashup from a Japanese superhero show called Super Sentai. Being a kid of the late 80s and early 90s, I rode the Mighty Morphin fever for awhile too. It was everywhere in pop culture.
The series spliced footage of the 5 teenage heroes with the Japanese footage of costumed monsters, mecha, spandex heroes, and villains from various Super Sentai seasons. The 5 teens ( Jason Lee Scott, Kimberly Hart, Zack Taylor, Trini Kwan, and Brilly Cranstan) were chosen by the sage Zordon to defend Earth from the attacks of Rita Repulsa. Later seasons had different teens battling Lord Zedd and a made over Rita Repulsa.
The American storyline had little to do with the Super Sentai storyline. The footage for each episode was drawn and mixed in many different ways. Each episode was full of martial arts combat and mecha similar to Voltron’s. Each color-coded ranger had their own mecha that could join with all the others to form a powerful composite mecha that fought gigantic critters. Basically it was Voltron meets Godzilla – only with really bad costumes. It was a monster-of-the-week show.
In the phrase Super Sentai, the word “super” refers to the mecha. “Sentai” translates to fighting squadron. Power Rangers kept the general inspiration of the Japanese series and Americanized it. It was mostly based on the Kyoryu Sentai ZyuRanger series.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was actually quite controversial. It aired before all the TV ratings we are now familiar with; the violence caught a lot of parents by surprise. Although we would consider it pretty tame now. There isn’t any blood or anything. When a mecha or person was injured they would “spark” with fireworks and fly through the air.
Here is a video compilation of the many Super Sentai series:
Both the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the Super Sentai series continue to entertain their niche audiences. Time to time Power Rangers are revamped for a new season, but it doesn’t achieve anywhere near its original status in American 90s pop culture.
Super Sentai. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 2, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Sentai
All Power Ranger Openings. Youtube. Retrieved February 2, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKUeYCpDiJg
Toei Company (n.d.). Kyoryu Sentai ZyuRanger. Super Sentai Time Capsule. Retrieved February 2, 2013 from http://www.supersentai.com/database/1992_zyuranger/index.htm