This debt of gratitude I owe to my beloved Power Rangers

By Alvin R. Cabral

The year was 1987, the first time my young, innocent eyes saw something different from what we were used to on TV: five regular men and women using an out-of-this-world thingamajig on their wrists (smartwatch prototype?) to transform into super-human beings, complete with masks and shiny suits that they used to defeat bad guys every week. Ahhh… good times.

Now, I’m talking about Choundenshi Bioman, which was part of Japan’s long-running Super Sentai Series, which started in 1975, still runs to this day. Bioman was the eighth entry, and producers Toei are currently entertaining Japan’s Super Sentai loyalists with its 42nd entry.

Normally, Super Sentai teams consisted of five members (three dudes and two dudettes), but sometimes they can go as high as nine. In all iterations, however, they are the epitome of righteousness, ready to give up their lives for the good of the world.

The Super Sentai were precursors to something more familiar to some of us today: the 16th series 1992’s Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger was, in 1993, adapted into the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; consider it the Westernised version of it.

I’m not a movie buff. I’d count franchises like James Bond, Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as among the few I look forward to. But if anything I’ve watched as a kid comes up, it hypes me up.

So, I was hyped when I first heard that the Rangers were headed to the big screen in 2017. Aside from the Marvel masterpieces, I can’t recall any other film (apart from 2016’s Ghostbusters) that whetted my movie appetite as much.

I was lucky to be invited to the premiere night of Power Rangers last year, and I was like a kid. I think most of us at the cinema were, eagerly waiting for the movie to start. And I’ll never forget one scene: the moment Jason, Billy, Zack, Trini (RIP, Thuy Thang, the original Yellow Ranger) and Kimberly were piloting the Zords, an alternate version of the original Power Rangers theme blasted from the speakers. My friend and I were like, now that’s what we’ve been waiting for. Here we go. We sang along… Go, go Power Rangers! God, I still have goosebumps when I watch that scene on YouTube. Merely writing that sends chills up my spine.

Back in school, I could relate to the Rangers’ personalities. And I’m not talking about a specific character. It’s as if for some reason, I found a piece of me in each of them. Take Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, for example. While a kind-hearted student, he was seduced by Rita Repulsa and Co to join them over at the baddies’ club. It took one heck of a (multi-episode) fight to drag him back to his senses.

The stuff we watch on screens isn’t just to entertain us. Through stories and characters one gets to reflect on lessons we’ve learned. Nobody is perfect. How many of us can say we haven’t done anything wrong in life? How many times have we needed loved ones to bail us out of tight situations? I, for one, have lost count.

Here’s the thing though: I only followed the franchise through its fourth season and its second team, Power Rangers Zeo as this period marked my transition from high school to college. The change in student life must have had an effect on my TV habits.

I’ve said this time and again: if my growing-up years coincided with the popularity of the Power Rangers in the 1990s, I’d probably have most of the Megazords — the Rangers’ battle vehicles in its combined mode — in my stash. Funny though; I don’t have any of them, but time and again I check out stuff in hobby shops to see if they have it.

I harbour this fantasy of being in the shoes (and costumes) of certain characters that I admired and who I wanted to be like when I grew up; try to combine the elements of Dragon Ball Z and Castlevania — plus a dash of being an NBA superstar — to find out what type of weird character I envision myself to be.

Honestly, I haven’t kept up with the Power Rangers series, though I know that the 26th installment, Power Rangers Beast Morphers, will be coming out next year. However, like that indelible ink on your finger after participating in elections, they still have my vote of confidence — they will still be able to leave a mark on a new batch of viewers, young and old alike.

It feels good to reminisce about the past. It feels great to see yourself in specific characters. The Rangers came at a point in my life where I was maturing, so I was able to relate to the issues they tackled in their episodes. Never mind if only watched two out of their 26 teams in action religiously; short but sweet, as they say.

Each of the Rangers had their own personality, conflict and means to get through a tight spot. And while they’re strong individually, they’re even deadlier as a team. Alone and together, they are a life lesson; as they say, united we stand, divided we fall.

When I was in Hollywood recently, I spotted someone in front of the Dolby Theatre wearing an original Red Ranger costume. Naturally, the person asked for a few bucks to have a picture with him (or her). But who needs a picture when there’s a Power Ranger in each one of us?

Alvin loves basketball, shoes, cooking and all things tech

alvin@khaleejtimes.com

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