LAST TIME: we went over my favorite monsters from what became America's "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers," and discussed how this version would go on to add new villains and new monsters of its own, albeit with the help of the same studio that designed and built the original kaiju!
TOKUSATSU MONSTER DESIGN:
FAVORITE "ZYU2" MONSTERS
Feeling perhaps that "Rita Repulsa" had lost all impact, this new extended universe later introduced Lord Zedd, intended as a more serious antagonist. His original designer is apparently uncredited and no longer known, but his skinless body, exposed brain and silver cybernetic exoskeleton was a stellar combination, and still felt threatening to us kids even with the hilarious letter "Z" on top of his single metal horn and even bigger "Z" on the end of his staff. Allegedly the being Rita originally answered to, he imprisons her for her incompetence for most of this new season, taking a few of her underlings as his own (particularly Goldarr) and unleashing what were supposed to be scarier, edgier monsters than ever before. We'll be the judge of that!
Sadly, any conceptual art for this new run of monsters has been lost to time, and not all of them even have high quality photographs circulating, but you can clearly tell that the same minds put the same passion and even the same Japanese sensibilities into these new Western Exclusives:
GOO FISHGoo Fish was created while Rita was still in charge, and discovered that Billy (the blue ranger) had a phobia of fish. This was actually the first time I ever heard of anyone being afraid of fish when I was a kid, and I apologize to pescophobes that I totally thought it was made up. Goo Fish is kind of a "toxic waste" or "polluted ocean" monster as near as I can tell, with his heavily mutated appearance and ability to spray adhesive, poisonous slime.
Design: I'm actually not certain this creature would set off a fear of fish, because his fishiness is almost hidden by his bizarre form. He certainly has a humanoid fish body, with webbed hands and blue scales wherever he lacks gold-plated armor, but his head is a strange cyclops, one glazed-over eye above a gaping, triangular mouth with two large upper fangs and a single lower one. He has a huge, crescent horn erupting from the right side of his head, but the left side has a disturbing mouth-like orifice with stings of white tissue or slime stretched between its "lips," and I've never been sure if this is supposed to evoke a second mouth or where another horn was torn out. You could almost interpret his whole head as some horribly mutated fish twisted around sideways, too.
Also of note is the very deep, misshapen groove that runs from right below his chin all the way down his chest, exposing red flesh underneath and lined with gooey-looking blue tissue. As a kid, I immediately interpreted this as a huge scar from his own acid saliva always dripping down his body, and I still don't think that's unreasonable. As such a grisly, messed-up toxic sea creature, he remains one of my favorites.
GRUMBLE BEEAnother made by Rita, and another created just to torment Billy. He can't get over the fact that he got his first "B" on a school project, see, so like, there's a "bee" monster. DEVILISH irony!!! He attacks with sonic wing vibrations, acidic strands from his mouth and sharp "stingers" he can launch as missiles. As a male bee, of course, he shouldn't have any stingers at all, and exist only to die brutally after losing his virginity. This doesn't happen in the show.
Design: Grumble Bee was clearly modeled more after a giant Japanese hornet than a fuzzy bee, with slick blac, orange and yellow chitin and a beautifully detailed hornet face, though there's more to the design than just a humanoid wasp; you'll notice that the chest is covered by six segmented, bony "ribs" representing insect legs, while the humanoid arms of the design are, bizarrely, modeled as each half of a huge, bisected wasp abdomen with hands on the end!
SLIPPERY SHARKYou think you know what kind of powers a shark should have, and Slippery does have the ability to swim through the ground, which is pretty classic shark-monster tomfoolery, but his true purpose was to break up the friendship between two of the rangers, and his main power is that the blade of his shark fin flail will intensify the feeling of rivalry in anyone who grabs hold of it. He's basically counting on the power rangers to stop the weapon with their bare hands, which sounds stupid and all but it is of course exactly what they do.
Design: He's a pretty straightforward humanoid shark, but specifically a hammerhead shark, and I just love that face! The downturned, gaping, toothy mouth between those big, forward-facing eyeballs is just plain adorable. I know he's not nearly as weird and unique as Goo Fish, but I really wanted to start right off with Goo Fish.
DRAMOLEYou think you know what a mole monster is all about, too, and Dramole can also burrow, obviously, but his secret gimmick is mind control gas. Why does a mole make mind control gas? Once he gasses people, he kidnaps them to Rita's "Dark Dimension," a spooky limbo where they're held in a trance.
Design: a lot weirder than just a humanoid mole, Dramole is a hairless creature with lumpy, grey-blue flesh and a head more like a cross between a shark and a snake, complete with a slight fringe down the sides like the hood of a cobra. Also weird as hell are the legs, which have white talons or fangs coming out of the knees, and the lower legs appear gruesomely "peeled open" to expose raw, red tissue. You would never even guess this was a mole if not for the accurate mole hands, and I honestly have no idea what went on in the development of this one. It's still pretty rad!
MANTISYou may find this hard to believe today, but when I originally watched Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers in the early 90's I could count the number of praying mantids I'd ever seen in media on one hand, and this was one of them. This would be because the only Japanese media I'd really seen at the time was Speed Racer and Godzilla films, which happened to be two of the other places I ever saw a mantis.
Mantis was created to be a rival to the Yellow Ranger, who was asian and practiced karate. It was the 90's.
Design: Had I grown up a little Japanese child watching the many incarnations of Kamen Rider, I'd have seen enough tokusatsu mantis people that I woudn't have been terribly impressed by this one, but it's still a beautiful humanoid mantid either way, with those beautiful translucent, violet eyes and highly accurate forelimb spines! There's not a lot else to it, but I had to include it here for being so novel to me at one time.
BLOOM OF DOOMYou can always count on the plant monsters to be amazing! Bloom of Doom is an all-too-rare example of a female monster, a sadistic and maniacal flowerlike creature armed with a hypnotic eye, teleportation, explosive pollen, electrical vine whips and the ability to transport others to what she calls her "garden;" a dark and foggy dimension occupied by nothing else other than ominous, red cacti!
Design: Bloom's entire body is just a cluster of huge white flowers resembling some species of Amorphophallus ("corpse lily") or other Araceae, the central spadix of each almost evoking a red "tongue" hanging out of a big white "mouth," though there's also a spooky little eyeball in the middle of the central flower!
Interestingly, there's a modified version of Bloom's original costume with the flowers removed, revealing an eyeball, a fanged mouth and a ring of those spadix-tongues on a simpler fleshy torso. This appeared as a nameless background monster in a later episode, but was the costume simply modified, or was this hidden face present from the beginning?
OYSTERIZERThis was actually the very last monster ever deployed by Rita, and despite only being a bivalve, possibly one of her most brutal. It's not even one of the creatures crafted from clay by her buddy Finster, but an ancient warrior that's hibernated for 10,000 years.
Oysterizer is capable of generating an immobilizing, corrosive and extremely painful pink jelly, and according to Rita and Goldarr, he's capable of polluting the ocean until all sea life is wiped out! For an oyster he's also extremely agile and able to leap around an awful lot.
Design: Remarkably eerie! A wrinkled, fleshy humanoid body with a column of siphons down its chest and where the head ought to be is just a huge, gaping bivalve shell with a single large pearl protruding eyeball-like from its inner tissues. I love that an oyster creature is so nasty looking, and that it can do something so horrific.
FIGHTING FLEAI was pretty thrilled back in the day when my then-favorite show featured a flea guy! A flea guy who can shrink down to actual flea size whenever he wans, fire an infinite supply of dart-like proboscises and spread a weird, glowing red energy that acts as a contagious, itchy rash! Hilarious!
Design: Being one of my favorite animals, I can be a little picky about flea creatures, and I have to say this one is a little off. Lacking the cool "toothed" look of an actual flea's face, he simply has a roundish insect head with globular, red eyes, a long straw-like proboscis and a pair of fat, three-pronged antennae, none of which comes from a flea, but instead reminds me a bit more of a bedbug. Still, you can tell just from the proboscis and thorny red armor that this is a bloodsucking ectoparasite of some sort, and that's good enough!
GUITARDOThis poor monster's name was regrettable even for the 90's, and the kids I knew really couldn't get past it, which is a shame, because he was given a ton of personality. Lord Zedd intended to make a monster from a guitar, but his magic apparently doesn't work on inanimate objects, so he went with a guitar-playing cicada with a rude, obnoxious rockstar persona and an electric guitar that can for whatever reason manipulate matter, energy and gravity.
Design: I like how Guitardo both does and doesn't look like a cicada. He has little in common with the real thing besides a sharp proboscis (rostrum) and membranous wings, but his thick, greyish exoskeleton, ribbed chest and big bulbous head don't really evoke anything else, either, except maybe some of the more obscure true bugs. Some kind of waterbug, maybe? His huge, black eyes are more hornet-like, which suits his personality a lot more; it's difficult to see an actual Cicada as anything but cute and nerdy.
INVENUSABLE FLYTRAPBefore the Lord Zedd episodes ever began airing, I actually saw this same photo in a magazine previewing the upcoming season, which was pretty exciting to me at the time! NEW Power Rangers monsters and one of them a FLY TRAP!? Another female plant creature, Invenusable only has one special power, but it's a pretty good one: the fly-trap jaws on her chest can open up and suck people inside, converting them into energy like some sort of horrible Pokeball.
Design: Simple but gorgeous, Invenusable is a clawed humanoid with a spiny, veiny exoskeleton of fly-trap foliage, including tightly shut traps for shoulder pads, more interlocking teeth down her legs, a larger set of jaws for a chest and oh god I somehow only noticed the teeth on her crotch just now, after all these years. Of course her most noticeable feature is that she has a fly-trap trap for a head, also tightly closed, oriented so the jaws form a sort of "mohawk hairdo". And instead of any other facial features, the trap continues into a toothless seam down the front of her face, and she has two very narrow (almost completely shut) red eyes on the sides. Eerie and just cool as hell!
JELLYFISH WARRIORAnother remarkably powerful monster based on a squishy saltwater invertebrate, Jellyfish is also another monster that can suck people into an alternate dimension, but one where time is "out of synch" and renders him intangible, I guess playing off a jellyfish's transparency! He also has an energy based "sting blast," tentacle whips, acid spray, and a veiny organic umbrella weapon.
Design: The unique look of this one is one of my favorite things in the series, and I was even more enamored with its weirdness when I first saw it on TV. It's just this fleshy, bulbous, bright white humanoid with nothing but a cluster of short, blue tentacles where a head ought to be, and matching blue nodules embedded randomly throughout its flesh that might be eyes. On its "shoulders," or the top of its giant torso-head, are two longer, soft red horns that give it a kind of jester-like feel. In a promotional photo, these horns also featured a pair of umbrella-shaped growths, but these were removed from the final costume for unknown reasons. It still looks cool as hell both ways, but I do think the umbrellas would have visually connected it to a jellyfish a little better. It actually looks so little like one, I'm inclined to believe the design was originally intended more as a nudibranch, which would have put it in my review of tokusatsu slugs if there were any confirmation.
OCTOPHANTOMOctophantom was designed by Zedd to be the "most hideous" monster he could think of: a combination of an octopus and an elephant. This feels more like a glimpse into Zedd's hilariously child-like mind than anything else, since neither animal is exactly famous for "hideousness" but I can see how the combination would be grotesque on paper. Either way, Octophantom is actually extremely vain, to the point of being easily distracted by his own reflection and upset if his beautiful face gets damaged.
His main weapons are explosive starfish-like things and a clay jar he can trap people in, which of course references the common association between octopuses and jars that we see in a lot of Japanese media. They do love being inside of stuff!
Design: This was another instant favorite to child-me, who adored cephalopod-headed entities long before they were run into the ground by (or I even heard of!) Cthulhu. He's just this lumpy, flabby octopus-skinned guy with various suckers down his arms and legs, and then his head is an entire misshapen octopus with short, fat tentacles and a huge gaping siphon for a mouth. There's basically no trace of "elephant" in the design at all, unless you count the siphon, which is too short to really evoke a "trunk." What also strikes me is that the head on its own looks exactly like some alternate design for an Octorok.
PUMPKIN RAPPERAnd here he is, folks, the only one who could have rightfully been placed at #1 for a Halloween article, even if I actually like some of these other guys more as monsters. Created by Rita for the Halloween season, Pumpkin Rapper can transform into a giant pumpkin whenever he wants, telekinetically control regular pumpkins, transform pumpkins into pumpkin-headed putties and even summon electrified pumpkin vines. His true power, however, is said to be his ability to distract his opponent with "clever raps and rhymes." Clever raps and rhymes such as rhyming "time to get sad" with "we're back and we're bad" or "we're gonna fight" with "say goodnight!" I feel like I'd be a lot more distracted by the fact that a pumpkin is rapping at all, but I guess the power rangers have seen everything by now.
Design: there's not much you can say about Pumpkin Rapper aesthetically; he's an orange guy with green foliage and his head is a gigantic Jack O' Lantern. The one unique twist is that the Jack O' Lantern is upside down, which always made sense to me because it's the top of a pumpkin that connects to the rest of the vine anyway, so the stem and vine are what became his body! I do love how thin, green vines are also "lacing together" a seam down the front of his body, it really drives home that he's kind of "built" from the pumpkin plant!
MORE HALLOWEEN FEATURES: