Season: Power Rangers Ninja Storm
Episode: “I Love Lothor” (Episode 20)
Up until now, all the Power Rangers seasons we’ve examined in the rewatch have been serious. That sounds absolutely ridiculous when you consider that these are color-coordinated superheroes in spandex fighting villains like Lord Zedd and Divatox, but on the whole, they have taken themselves very seriously. Even fun episodes, like the Zeo musical, have had definite stakes.
Ninja Storm may have stakes, but they’re pretty limited. And that’s all that keeps it from becoming a pure dose of camp parody.
In other words, it’s completely different from what’s come before. Not worse – not in the slightest, actually – but “better” is a touchy subject. Some love the funnier take, but some thought it was a season with wasted potential. I fall firmly into the pro-Ninja Storm camp, though I didn’t like some things about it. It was the first season shot in New Zealand, which led to the irritating “cast New Zealanders and make them fight their accents constantly” trend that ultimately led me to give up the series. Additionally, the acting isn’t as sharp as in seasons like Time Force (but holy hell is it better than Wild Force). But when it was fun, it was fun. And this episode is pretty damn fun.
Marah and Kapri are the henchwomen of the season. They’re watching TV, of course, when big bad Lothor (Grant McFarland) catches them and lectures them about how stupid television is. They tell him that, bummer, he’s actually not testing well in their focus groups. The idea of testing a villain in focus groups is one of those things that tells you early if you’ll like this season or not. I think it’s hilarious, anyway.
Because Lothor wants to be well-liked (or something; this is handwaved later as trying to get humans to do his bidding), he hired his monster, Mr. Ratwell, to direct him in a TV show called I Love Lothor, which they will broadcast over the airwaves and use subliminal messaging to brainwash the masses.
One thing I like about Ninja Storm a lot is that it very rarely sticks to just one plotline. In this case, Marah and Kapri go to the cooking class Blue Ranger Tori (Sally Martin) and Green Ranger Cam (Jason Chan) are taking. The other Rangers also join, because they’re all dudes, and who doesn’t like a class full of women, am I right fellas? *high five to no one*
Yeah, I should break down the team for a second. Tori was part of an original trio with Red Ranger Shane (Pua Magasiva) and Yellow Ranger Dustin (Glenn McMillan), using the ninja power of wind. Originally, the Crimson and Navy Rangers (Hunter and Blake, Adam Tuominen and Jorgito Vargas Jr.), harnessing the power of thunder, fought against the first three, but then they joined up, followed by Cam, who had previously been a technical advisor but earned his own powers of the samurai. So it’s five boys, one girl this year. Got it? Cool.
Lothor is unsure of Mr. Ratwell’s plan, and how makeup will lead to world domination. Kapri’s response? “Well, it worked for Britney and Christina.” Ha! That line slayed me as a kid, and I still get a chuckle out of it now.
Back on earth, Marah and Kapri use a love potion on Cam and Blake, who both fall for Tori. Blake had been falling for Tori already, but this was just a funny exaggeration. It led to some good lines:
Chose that photo mostly for Hunter’s face in the background.
Cam and Blake challenge each other to a duel on the beach. It’s as silly as it sounds. Meanwhile, Tori spots this season’s foot soldiers, Kelzacks, going into the TV studio. Because she is the only competent Ranger this season. Seriously, it’s true; proven time and time again in multiple episodes.
Unfortunately, competent doesn’t mean invincible, and Lothor’s general, Zurgane, spots her. (He greets her with the line “This is a closed set!” Which, maybe I’m four years old, but I love.) Meanwhile, the women of… whatever city we’re in at this point, all fall for Lothor and storm the studio. Shane, Dustin and Hunter manage to piss the women off and they come after them. Shane, Dustin and Hunter are numbskulls.
Tori unties herself (being competent, naturally), and tells the mentor for the season, Sensei, that Lothor is trying to brainwash the world through TV. She makes the face above when she says it, and I fall a little bit more in love with her.
Blake absorbs an insane amount of attacks, making Cam “give up” on Tori and allowing Blake to defeat the monster. Cam and Blake’s spells break when he’s destroyed, just as the other Rangers show up in time to be of absolutely no help.
Cam, Blake and Hunter summon the Samurai Thunder Megazord and defeat the monster once and for all. Blake almost has to admit his love for Tori back at the base, but hey, there are a bunch of episodes left in this season! Might as well drag things out for a while longer.
Analysis: I like Ninja Storm! I think it has a lot going for it, both humor-wise and action-wise. Sure, it’s got its failings, but no more than any other season of Power Rangers.
Still, this is definitely the beginning of bad things for the franchise. The New Zealand setting has hurt it immeasurably, and were it not for a couple of really charming Rangers holding the team up (specifically, Tori and Cam), this crew wouldn’t quite work. I also don’t love the double-color conceit (two Red Rangers and two Blue Rangers, even if they technically have different names for their colors), nor do I love the Zords this season.
Really, what I like about this season is Lothor and the villains. Part of what made Lord Zedd so great was his sense of humor. Yes, he was menacing and proposed a real threat, but what I personally remember about him wasn’t his success on the battlefield, but his one-liners. They stuck with me beyond my love for the show’s expiration date. Same thing with this episode. I was shocked by how many of Lothor’s jokes I remembered. He sticks out as a really vivid villain in my mind – he may not have been as evil as Lightspeed Rescue‘s crew, or as varied as Zeo‘s, but he made me laugh.
It’s true that you can look at this whole season as a sitcom aberration from the rest of the series, but I think what Ninja Storm did was just as important as what In Space and Time Force did – it proved funny can work in this franchise. Not every dramatic season is as good as the aforementioned two were, and looking at a season like Turbo, it would have arguably been better had the creators embraced the funny and stop trying to make an apple taste like an orange.
One last note about this episode: it had some of the most flawless integration of the Super Sentai footage I’ve seen throughout this rewatch. Seriously, if I didn’t know to look for the tinted coloring that usually indicates stock footage, I would never have known what was original and what came from Ninja Sentai Hurricaneger. So bravo to the production team – I can tell it’s not always easy, but they made it look effortless.
Speaking of “not always easy,” what do you do when your stock footage only has four Rangers, with a fifth who’s evil until the very end? We’ll take a look at that, as well as the return of a fan favorite Ranger, next time with Power Rangers Dino Thunder.
UP NEXT: Power Rangers Dino Thunder: “Drawn Into Danger” (Episode 34)