Dekaranger vs. S.P.D.: Everybody Wins!
Those of you who pay attention to the end credits of Power Rangers may already know that each season comes with a “Based on” tag crediting the series to a particular show from Toei Company, Ltd. For the thirteenth season of Power Rangers, arriving on Saturday, February 5, as Power Rangers: S.P.D., that credit reads Developed From “Deka Rangers” by Toei Company Ltd. The longer title of the show is Tokusou sentai Dekaranger, which is more simply known across the Internet as Dekaranger. That show has been airing in Japan on TV Asahi since February 2004, and it will soon complete its run of fifty episodes. Power Rangers: S.P.D. will have a significantly smaller episode count (38), due largely to the fact it will be airing on ABC Kids in the 12:30pm ET/11:30am CT&PT time slot, a period subject to many pre-emptions, especially during college football season.
Leaving aside differences in episode count and the inevitable casting changes, how does the American Power Rangers: S.P.D. compare to the original Japanese Dekaranger? Well, let’s start with the names.
Toei, knowing that its shows will eventually be transferred across the Pacific, has generally avoided putting a team name on its newer sentai shows. They, have, however, stuck the initials S.P.D everywhere in Dekaranger, forcing the American producers to adapt by calling their version Power Rangers: S.P.D. (It’s interesting to note—in “Hey Vern, check it out!” kind of way—that the official logo for the American version inserts a period after the “D,” while all of the Japanese props omit it.) The opening sequence of Dekaranger, which lasts ninety seconds, literally spells out “S.P.D” as Special Police Dekaranger. In the U.S. version, the sixty-second opening sequence explains that “S.P.D.” stands for Space Patrol Delta.
Dekaranger‘s Doggie Kruger makes the transition to the American show. His name is changed (slightly) to “Doggie Cruger”; more significantly, his costume has been improved. The Dekaranger design uses a blue dog head with an immovable mouth. That’s been changed for S.P.D., possibly to spare Disney (which now owns the Muppets) the embarrassment of airing a show with a relatively poor muppet-like design. Another character, Dekaranger‘s bird-like Swan-san, has become S.P.D.‘s cat-like Katherine Manx. Emperor Gruumm, Mora and Boom are new Power Ranger-exclusive characters.
One seeming change is not an actual change. Power Rangers has often been criticized for its “gender bender” Yellow Ranger—a male character in the original sentai who gets a sex change when transitioning to Power Rangers. Such changes have not been made since Disney took over the franchise, though. So why are Yellow and Pink female in Power Rangers: S.P.D.? Because that’s what they were in Dekaranger.
Sets have been redesigned for S.P.D. In Dekaranger the original Deka Base used a circular conference room for the Deka Room; in Power Rangers: S.P.D., the set has been modified so as to feel more like an actual headquarters. New alien costumes have also been created. Ron Wasserman sings the opening theme for Power Rangers: S.P.D., but Bruce Lynch returns to compose the music for other scenes in S.P.D.
The Deka Rangers morph by holding out their SP License, calling out, “Emergency, Dekaranger!” and transforming against a computer-field environment with all of their data written behind them. In S.P.D., the Rangers shout “S.P.D. Emergency!” and their morph takes place in a moving dark tunnel environment, where they use their S.P.D. morpher to create an aura of their Ranger suit before flying backwards through the air and into their costumes.
The second episode of the two-part premiere of Power Rangers: S.P.D. uses footage from Dekaranger (the first part was filmed entirely in New Zealand) when the Rangers fight a Bluehead monster and the Krybots. Dekaranger footage is also used when the Rangers call Doggie, who tells them “A Squad” will fight the monster. Altered footage drawn from Dekaranger episode 4 is used for the Megazord battle: the Rangers do not go into the battle with their robots but instead watch from the ground as the “A Squad” Power Rangers battle for them. New Zealand footage of the Rangers is superimposed onto the battle to differentiate it from the original footage. Other changes: at some points, laser blasts are added to the sentai footage, so as to remove the implication that Deka Red is shooting bullets.
The U.S. version also departs significantly from Dekaranger in some of its background plot. In Dekaranger Ban joins an already experienced foursome who don’t believe they need a fifth member. In S.P.D. the Rangers are an inexperienced team that bickers constantly and is admonished frequently by Doggie Cruger. Their first assignment turns into a complete failure as they fail to capture Jack and Z. After trying to catch them again, three S.P.D. members morph for the first time into the Green, Pink, and Blue Rangers and fight against a Bluehead at the start of the second episode. That entire scene was never in Dekaranger, and consists of new fight scenes made for the U.S. production.
One major change revolves around a “Judge” mode feature included on the morphers. In Dekaranger, the Rangers call in to request a ruling from a high court. Monsters that receive a red “X” judgement are “deleted” (a nice euphemism for “executed”). In S.P.D. the morphers contain a computer program that scans suspects and issues a verdict, and instead of being deleted the monsters are turned into digital cards.
All of these changes cumulatively result in a show that differs distinctly from Dekaranger, so that even those familiar with Japanese show can watch it and get a new experience.
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