I watched all 22 episodes of "Power Rangers Ninja Steel" and while I enjoyed them as they were broadcast on Nickelodeon and re-watched most of them, I can't say it's a particularly good season, especially in the wake of the last two cycles (Megaforce, 2013-2014, and Dino Charge, 2015-2016), which turned out to encompass four exemplary seasons, arguably the best since "Time Force" (2001). "Ninja Steel" puts the five Rangers (with a sixth one joining later) back in high school, but dumbs down a lot of the stories with an eye to pleasing the kiddie audience. It also adds two comic relief characters, a conceited jock and his obsequious sidekick, whose antics will make the kids laugh, but try the patience of older fans who may have fond memories of the original comic PR foils, Bulk and Skull.
An interesting angle has the Rangers' exploits serve as material for an intergalactic reality show called "Galaxy Warriors," in which miscreants from other planets can watch on TV as the monsters employed by alien warlord Galvanax descend to Earth to try to defeat the Power Rangers. When their efforts invariably fail, the program host presses a "gigantify" button that causes the vanquished monster to come back to life and grow into giant size, at which point the Rangers call in their Zords to finish the job.
A lot of episodes revolve around problems the five Rangers, Brody, Sarah, Preston, Calvin and Hayley, cause themselves. Brody (Red Ranger) uses his "datacom" device to cheat on tests. Sarah (Pink Ranger) creates clones of herself to do some serious, if misguided multitasking. Preston (Blue Ranger) gets hold of some ancient spells, but thinks he can learn them quickly without paying attention to the fine print. Calvin (Yellow Ranger) is in awe of a local driver with a cool car and offers to fix the engine at a time he needs to be available to help the other Rangers. Hayley (White Ranger) and Calvin get into an argument which leads to them running against each other for student government president. Even their robot ally, Redbot, oversteps his bounds when he writes a book taking credit for the Power Rangers' achievements. They all have to learn from the messes that result from their hubris or irresponsibility.
One of the best episodes has the five banding together to take on a local crisis, caused when Preston's father, a real estate tycoon, buys the land that's home to the town's sacred Ribbon Tree, on which the citizens traditionally hang ribbons with their wishes on them. While two of the Rangers rally the townsfolk and another two occupy the tree to keep the bulldozers away, Preston tries to change his father's heart. It's actually quite a moving episode and features excellent performances by the actors playing Preston and his embittered father.
There's an emotional backstory involving Brody and his long-lost brother, Aiden, who were separated as boys when their father, a ninja warrior, disappeared while fighting Galvanax and preventing him from attaining the prized ninja steel. Brody is held as a slave by Galavanax until he's a teenager and manages to engineer an escape with the help of another human slave, Mick, a wild-eyed, wild-haired mechanical genius from another galaxy. They wind up in Summer Cove, where they set up shop at the local high school and find the ninja steel stored in a clever hiding place. Brody never gives up the hope of reuniting with Aiden, which, if you know your Power Rangers, is bound to eventually happen. There's a significant obstacle along the way, but when the reunion finally happens, it packs quite a punch.
In a most unusual development for Power Rangers, two of the Rangers, Calvin and Hayley, are in a committed relationship before the series starts and remain so throughout. They display a lot of affection--holding hands, hugging, putting their arms around each other, etc. It also happens to be a black-white interracial relationship, Calvin being white and Hayley being black, which makes it something of a first in the Power Rangers universe. The Blue Ranger, Preston, is Asian, Sarah is white, and Brody and his brother are of indeterminate ethnic origin. Even though the characters don't have much depth and their relationships lack the intensity of those in Power Rangers Dino Charge, I thought the actors were, for the most part, pleasant and engaging, with special marks going to Chrysti Ane (Sarah), Peter Sudarso (Preston), Nico Greetham (Calvin), and Zoe Robins (Hayley). They were warm and fun to spend a half-hour with.
The series was based on its Japanese sentai counterpart, "Shuriken Sentai Ninninger" (2015), although its connection to that series is slight. Some fight scenes from the original are used, although many more fight scenes are restaged in New Zealand for the Ninja Steel scenes. The Zord battles offer the only consistent use of Japanese footage in the whole series and are, as usual, quite imaginative and exciting.
ADDENDUM: The new season of Power Rangers premiered on January 27, 2018, under the title, "Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel," so it's a continuation of the previous season with the same cast and some of the same villains, but with the ninja steel upgraded to "super."
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