Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings the first eight episodes of Power Rangers Super Samurai to DVD on August 14, 2012 in The Super Powered Black Box (Vol. 1) and Super Showdown (Vol. 2). As you might surmise, Super Samurai continues the story of Red Ranger Jayden and the crew’s battle against Master Xandred and his Nighlok hordes from Power Rangers Samurai, the series previous season. Given that Super Samurai marks a continuation of Samurai‘s narrative, the release of these two volumes barely three months after the first eight episodes of Samurai came to DVD strikes me as odd, especially since Lionsgate has yet to release Samurai‘s remaining 14 episodes on DVD. As such, if you are viewing Samurai for the very first time as it comes to DVD as I am, these particular entries make for a somewhat confusing follow-up to Lionsgate’s last two Power Rangers releases.
A lot has happened in the intervening 14 episodes it seems. Since the conclusion of Power Rangers Samurai: A New Enemy, Gold Ranger Antonio has joined the fold, the Rangers have collected another half dozen Zords, the half-Nighlok warrior Deker had been defeated, and the Sanzu River has begun to flood the Earth. And yet, the more things change, the more things stay the same, it seems. The Rangers have developed little as characters beyond those single notes that defined them 14 episodes earlier. The writers have yet to find a way to integrate Bulk and Spike, the series’ comic relief, into the narrative. And the mandatory Nighlok “Mega Monsters” mode still irks me in its persistent undermining of the Rangers’ efforts on the ground.
That the defeat of each Nighlok at normal size inevitably results in the monster growing hundreds of feet taller, thereby “going Mega,” makes me wonder why the Rangers don’t just summon the Megazord every time a regular-sized Nighlok appears. Stomp on the sucker, wait for it to grow large, and destroy it before it can get its bearings. No other course of action makes sense given that the Rangers cannot possibly avoid the large-scale altercations as they could have in previous series. In Mighty Morphin, for instance, Rita Repulsa did not always get the chance to make her monsters grow. With a powerful enough weapon or attack, the Rangers might actually destroy the monsters before she could hurl her magical staff into space, causing her monsters to grow.
Although the inevitability of the “Mega Monster” mode indeed bothers the hell out of me, Super Samurai still has a lot to offer fans of the Power Rangers, even hyper-critical fans such as myself. The Nighloks showcase some of the best monster designs in the entirety of the series thanks to the focus on Japanese folklore found in the Super Sentai series from which Samurai was adapted. The rock-inspired soundtrack is a welcome return to form for the series, especially the reworking of Ron Wasserman’s “Go Go Power Rangers” for Samurai‘s title sequence. And exciting plot twists provided by the individual Nighlok’s powers help break the monotony of this otherwise highly formulaic series. For example, my favorite episode here, “Trading Places,” finds four of the Rangers’ spirits trapped inside inanimate objects, including a garden gnome and a dead fish. This significantly raises the stakes for the two remaining Rangers, who not only then must battle the offending Nighlok while severely short on manpower, but must also insure that, in defeating him, they can return their teammates’ spirits.
The eight episodes collected here contribute more to the overall Power Rangers Samurai narrative than those in the previous volumes had. By Super Showdown‘s end, the Rangers grow more significantly as characters, they acquire a variety of new battle modes, their enemies make new alliances even as others they thought fallen return, and their Megazord becomes exponentially more customizable and preposterous-looking as they add two more Megazords to the ever-expanding fold. But all of this makes the release of these episodes on DVD prior to the remainder of Samurai no less troubling or irritating from a consumer’s standpoint. They already expect a lot from fans by releasing the series in these paltry, four-episode sets without additionally skipping over two-thirds of a season at a time in their home video release schedule. But they know we’ll buy it anyway, and that, I suppose, is logic enough.
Special features on these two volumes don’t quite stack up to those of Samurai‘s first two volumes. For some reason, both volumes feature the music video for the song “Everyday Fun,” as performed by the deceivingly-dubbed Rebel Rockers in the episode, “He Ain’t Heavy Metal, He’s My Brother.” In that episode, Pink Ranger Mia’s brother comes to town for a charity concert and she and Antonio join him onstage to provide vocals for the insufferable number, “Everyday Fun.” This song, although catchy enough in a very Disney pop sort of way, happens to feature some of the most inane lyrics ever to grace my ears, and ultimately begs the question, if they could write a legit tune for this number, why couldn’t they write some real friggin’ lyrics?! It pretty openly insults the intelligence of Power Rangers‘ entire viewership to such an extent that I would not be surprised if a few people refused to tune in after the episode aired. The special features additionally include a character gallery on The Super Powered Black Box and an extensive weapons gallery on Super Showdown.