Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
Jungle Fury is the 15th incarnation of the long-running Power Rangers franchise. In this version of the series, the story focuses on The Order of the Claw, a centuries-old group of martial artists able to summon animal spirits. Their mission, passed from generation to generation, is to protect the world from the evil Dai Shi, an evil spirit who believes that animals are the rightful rulers of the Earth and wishes to rid the planet of all humans.
The first volume of the series, “Into the Jungle”, features the first six episodes of the series. It is set in present day, with three teen warriors accepting their roles as the protectors of Earth. The intended team consisted of headstrong and angry Jarrod; well-meaning know-it-all Theo; and loyal, caring, and stubborn Lilly. Jarrod’s temper gets the better of him and he is replaced on the team by Casey, who is quite brave but still has a long way to go in terms of both training and self-confidence.
When Jarrod ends up striking out against the masters who trained him, the ensuing fight unleashes the spirit of Dai Shi, who promptly assumes control of Jarrod’s body and begins to wage anew his war against humanity. The three new rangers are sent to the city of Ocean Bluff to find a new master in the unlikeliest of places, a pizza parlor. Their new master, R.J., is a stereotypical stoner character who comes equipped with a Megazord and kung-fu skills rather than bags of weed. He informs the team that not only will he be instructing them and giving them employment at his pizza parlor, he will also outfit them with a new arsenal and the power to morph into Power Rangers.
The six episodes on “Into the Jungle” basically just set up the story. We are given background information on the new Power Rangers and see them learn to work as a team. They must overcome personal conflicts and learn to look past their preconceived notions about each other and their new master as they form a cohesive unit dedicated to the forces of order. We also see Dai Shi assemble a new team of monsters and villains to do his bidding.
“Way of the Master” is the second volume in the series and features episodes 7 – 12. These stories get a bit more personal, delving into the histories of the Power Rangers and their enemies. Dai Shi resurrects Carnisoar, the evil Sky Overlord, who introduces him to a new level of hatred and evil. Together, they travel through time to various events in the life of Dai Shi (Jarrod) when he was faced with the opportunity to do evil but instead chose the path of good. Carnisoar erases these events in Jarrod’s life, thereby erasing his humanity and allowing the spirit of Dai Shi to more fully take over.
There are also episodes featuring each individual Ranger overcoming a personal obstacle. Casey must overcome his self-doubt, Theo must deal with losing a battle and his confidence, and Lilly’s good nature is taken advantage of by the evil Camille, who poses as her friend. Each Ranger learns a personal lesson and as a result is granted a new animal-spirit weapon with which to battle evil. Retired members of the Order of the Claw are introduced, giving us a bit more history on the never-ending struggle between good and evil. And of course, there’s lots of big cheesy-looking monsters fighting big cheesy-looking robots.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 16 years, you know who the Power Rangers are and how bad the show is. Nevertheless, it’s not too hard to see the appeal of a show like this for a young kid. There’s lots of sweet kung-fu and the Power Rangers do have pretty cool costumes. I’d be lying if I said that the bad guys didn’t look totally awesome. I also enjoyed the positive messages laced throughout the show, even if they were presented in an incredibly heavy-handed fashion. There were a lot of elements of the story that reminded me of Star Wars. Of course, those themes are far older than anything George Lucas came up with, but the beauty of them is that they still hold true today, no matter what form they are presented in. The show is obviously pretty cheaply made, using the traditional Power Rangers method of incorporating footage from the Japanese Super Sentai series, but for as low budget as it obviously is, the special effects actually don’t look too bad.
The acting, however, is another story. It’s horrible and quite cringe inducing. “God-awful” is another phrase that comes to mind. The same goes for the music, which is repeated ad nauseum, and is still running through my head as I write this, like some evil mantra. I wonder if there are subliminal messages strewn throughout the music? “Buy more toys! Buy more toys!”
At any rate, there are probably several hundred shows on television that are far worse for a kid to watch. The nice thing about Power Rangers: Jungle Fury is that as bad as it may be, there are some decent messages about loyalty, integrity, compassion, and the value of hard work in there. It might be nearly unbearable for you to watch this show with your kids, but if you’re a halfway decent parent, you’ll sit down afterward and discuss the ideas presented and maybe your kid will learn something. So I guess it’s not all bad.