Last time on Super Samurai, the rangers unlocked the powerful Black Box upgrade and gained a new enemy in the form of Serrator, a devious Nighlok lieutenant.
Much of this second volume and its seven episodes is focused on Serrator’s machinations as it starts to become obvious his goal has been carefully planned in advance. I spoke last time about how much I’ve always enjoyed the internal politics of villains in Power Rangers (when you’re a band of treacherous scum, it’s not like you’re going to have true allegiances anyway), and Serrator is one of the best, helped greatly by Derek Judge’s vocal performance elevating him beyond his cackling, pun juggling contemporaries.
The evil plan benefits the wider show in allowing it to marginally escape the ‘Rangers face a monster whose special power ironically addresses their current hang up’ formula. There’s still some of that (one episode sees most of the team turned into ravenous gluttons, forcing Emily to face her weakness; another sees Mike and Kevin glued together at a time when their coordination is lacking) but Serrator’s scheme pushes things further into the dramatic, recalling several stark doomsday plots from Rangers past.
A lynchpin of the plan is Deker, the half human/Nighlok swordsman who was introduced in the first season. The benefit of bringing back both him and his desire to face Jayden in a duel is it allows a look at Jayden’s own progression, having gone from the hard headed loner to a more compassionate leader. Mocked for having lost the edge that before would have made him grab brutal chances in combat, Jayden gets to do some soul searching and wonder if he’s improved or stagnated.
Later in the disc Antonio wrestles with a chance to simply kill an unconscious Deker, which would swiftly remove the Nighlok henchman from play. It’s a surprisingly dark but effective turn from the team goofball, but isn’t explored quite deeply enough (which is true of the show’s handling of the Rangers as a whole). I appreciate this is a kid’s show, but past shows have gone into territory as dark as suicide bombers. I’m not asking for Power Rangers to lose its much needed sense of fun escapism, but one can be a noble hero without being a milquetoast.
The titular Bullzooka is of course also in play: a new weapon received in response to Serrator upgrading the Nighlok army from blades to artillery (all of which is a nice play on the technological factors that historically ended the age of the samurai). It’s pretty much the standard late season Ranger BFG but it’s cool to see Jayden in Super Red form dual wielding it and his sword.
Another plus is that Bulk and Spike finally start interacting with the rangers, rather than feeling like a filler B-plot. The big thrust of this is Spike’s crush on Mia, spurred by her encouragement to him during a low moment. This allows them to start doing more beyond the tired ‘Bulk teaches Spike questionable Samurai lessons’ shtick, though sadly isn’t consistent. An episode with them trying to play good Samaritan to the Rangers sees them side-lined and treated as pests simply for arriving at the dojo HQ at a bad time. Their usage is on the rise but I can’t help but think of the abandoned early series plan where Bulk would have actually been part of the Ranger support team and Spike became the Gold Ranger.
As much as I like giant robots, the Zord battles are probably the weakest parts this time around. We know all the configurations and weapons and there doesn’t seem to be any real choreography. One finisher is literally the Megazord spinning around on the horizontal axis and making a sword slash at the last second. There doesn’t seem to be any planning here, just slapdash fights made for kids on a sugar rush. Even the obvious CG is nowhere near as impressive as the physical models of old.
The disc contains a mostly static menu which again loops the end credits theme. From here you can play all the episodes, pick a specific one, and toggle subtitles. No extras are present. Video and audio quality continue to match the high standard Fremantle has set.
Super Samurai Volume 2 sees the show on an upwards rise. It still may not be the best Ranger series out there but has improved from the early episodes and even the previous volume. A worthwhile treat for young Rangers in training and hopefully a sign of good things to come.
Power Rangers Super Samurai Volume 2: Rise Of The Bullzooka is available to order on DVD from Amazon UK.