16-1: Welcome to the Jungle, Part 1

Here’s the first episode of Jungle Fury on its ninth anniversary!

Last time on Power Rangers: Mack defeated Flurious and became human.

 

Cat Power

Master Mao does a voiceover about the “Order of the Claw” as the camera nears an Eastern-inspired compound in a wooded valley.  I’ve seen two spellings for its other name: Pai Zhua versus Pai Zhuq.  Both the subtitles and the booklet use the latter variant.  I’ll try to stick to that one best as I can.

In a courtyard are six students: a scrawny white guy, a strong white guy with shoulder-length brown hair, a black guy, an Asian girl, a short Asian guy, and a blonde.  They’re all in the same black and blue-grey uniform.  Master Mao, who’s dressed in orange, and some other teachers come in as well as two other students, one of whom is carrying a basket of towels.

The blonde is curious about what’s going on while the Asian guy is more relaxed.  Their names are Lily and Theo.  Once a gong is struck, the six rise up.  She’s snarky to her friend’s reluctant amusement.  Three matches are held to see who the victors will be: the two Asians, Lily versus the black guy, and the two white guys.  During Lily’s fight, she accesses her Cheetah spirit to do an attack.  In Theo’s fight, he calls upon his bluish Jaguar spirit.

The stronger white guy has the easiest time against his foe.  Despite the other guy’s clear gesture of surrender, he uses his black-and-gold Lion spirit attack.  Master Mao’s request has him stop and the gong is struck again.  Theo and Lily are pleased to have won, having spoken to/checked on their opponents, while the third victor demands a towel from a young student, AKA cub.

A sandy-haired young man intervenes, getting the other guy a towel only to get shoved down.  Lily, Theo, and Mao notice there’s a problem happening.  When the darker-haired man taunts him, the young man’s partial Tiger spirit attack throws him back.  The young man then is unnerved and tries to apologize, but the other man is angry.  Master Mao’s handclap prevents him from doing anything.

Later, Lily and Theo are on a bench in a hallway while the young man is on another.  Theo is asking lots of questions about what’s going on, making Lily note she thinks he has “control issues”.  Master Mao has the trio follow him to “the forbidden room”, which is apparently underground and has walls covered in bas-reliefs.  It’s revealed that Jarrod (the dark-haired man) has been dismissed and that Casey as a potential Tiger master will be taking his place.

1trio

Master Mao recaps how the evil Dai Shi attempted to wipe out humanity about ten thousand years ago, but is now contained in a chest.  As he continues the info-dump, Casey is uneasy.

Jarrod suddenly arrives, protesting that he spent a decade training and can’t be kicked out for no reason.  Master Mao ‘agrees’ with the implication that he had a reason.  This causes a fight between them as the trio stands back.  When the master wins, Jarrod uses a Lion attack when his back is turned.  Mao falls over as does the box, opening.  Dai Shi, as a cloud-like energy form, rises out and sends the four youths flying back.  The multiple candles in the room blow out as well.

Dai Shi is angry at Mao, wanting to destroy those he cares about.  Jarrod flees while the trio stands their ground.  After attacking Mao (who was trying to the villain from destroying the trio), Dai Shi flies out of the room, claiming, “you are not worth my time”.  The trio goes to Master Mao, who’s lying on the stone table that had held the chest.  Master Mao says his farewells and has a final info-dump, giving them an envelope with an Ocean Bluff address where their master is.  Lily is saddened, while Casey protests, “Wait, I can’t be your guy!  I can’t destroy evil!  I haven’t even mastered handing out towels!”

Master Mao firmly tells them that they are “the world’s only chance” before doing the Jedi/Ascension thing, a cat face briefly forming in the orange-yellow energy before it leaves through a skylight.

In the woods, a backpack-wearing Jarrod now in civilian clothes hears Dai Shi say his name a few times before the camera abruptly cuts away.

Lesson Number One

Lily, Theo, and Casey arrive at the pizzeria Jungle Karma Pizza, heading in.  There’s an awkward scene with an elderly Asian man, them mistakenly taking him to be their master.  They doubt it’s a glasses-wearing brunette messily eating pizza as she reads one of the books strewn around her.

Suddenly a man covered in flour comes out of the kitchen to their surprise.  He comments, “Whoa, intense.  So much for my Mount Kilimanjaro pizza experiment.”

He then welcomes the trio and introduces himself as RJ.  When Lily whispers that they’re looking for their master, RJ notes “Aren’t we all?”

Theo wants to leave while the other two are hungry, sitting down to his annoyance.

Elsewhere, there’s a forbidding dark compound with a purplish sky.  Shown from the chest down, Dai Shi awakens his “army of fear”, the Rin Shi.  One hops forward to be upgraded into the Mantis (mostly red uniform with gold trim instead of brown & black and an unmasked head).  When he asks after Camille, a dark-haired woman materializes out of a wall.  I like her outfit, but I don’t know how to describe it.  Holly Shanahan returns to play her, after playing the blonde LeeLee in Mystic Force.

“Dai Shi!  What a magnificent new look you have.”

“Where have you been, my lovely?”

“Where have I been?  I’ve been in that wall for over ten thousand years waiting for you.”

“Stay and talk to me as the Mantis leads the Rin Shi on a little raid.”

She sits at his feet as the minions leave.  Dai Shi’s face isn’t seen in this scene, but it’s already apparent what had has occurred.

Meanwhile, the three have had some pizza.  The brunette is reading in the background.  Theo admits it was tasty, but gets prickly when RJ offers them jobs here.  Lily points out the importance of money in the ‘real world’ and she wants out of “these pajamas”.  The black-haired guy counters that he’ll be “a manager or something reasonable” and it’ll only be until they find their master.  The other two are pleased.

Off in the distance, a blast and screaming can be heard.  Lily and Theo get ready, wanting to check it out.  Casey wants to stay behind but Theo grabs him to drag the taller guy along.  Finding where the bad guys are, they attack the minions.  Well, Lily helps out a remaining civilian.  But the trio is outnumbered and outpowered.  Mantis shifts into its “true form” which looks more like a ‘proper’ monster.

Casey and Theo are back-to-back when it creates a crevasse, blasting them back.  Lily tries to take it on, but Mantis just throws her over to where the guys are.  The trio is huddled together when RJ arrives to stand before them.

“Whoa, dude.  Step back,” RJ tells the monster.  To the trio he goes, “I think it’s time for your first lesson- you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

He pulls up his sleeve to reveal his Master tattoo to the trio’s astonishment.  RJ does some moves, blowing flour everywhere, before the Mantis sics Rin Shi on him.  RJ is a badass and his blast on Mantis reverts it to its upgraded Rin Shi mode.  As a result, the monster flees.

RJ doesn’t want to be called ‘master’ nor be bowed to, but does want to take them somewhere.

Failure to Morph

Dai Shi is angry at Mantis’ failure while Camille is dismissive of the monster.  He opts to send in Camille with the monster to the city in hopes of better odds.  She shifts into her armored form in response, ready to obey.

The quartet returns to Jungle Karma Pizza to find the brunette, now stressed-out, who rambles about what happened in RJ’s absence.  RJ tells her, “Remember to breathe, Fran.”

1rjfran

RJ introduces her to the trio as well as her to them.  Fran claims she could do other things besides be here and starts to ramble about food, so he tells her, “Uh, breathe, Fran.”

After she leaves, the quartet goes through the kitchen and up the stairs to RJ’s spacious loft.  The trio is impressed: Lily goes to turn on the jukebox while Casey tries out the basketball hoop.  When Theo notes it needs cleaning, RJ ‘thanks’ him for volunteering.  RJ goes on to say “mi casa es su casa” regarding his place except for his green armchair over to the side near a collection of TVs.

In addition, RJ has color-coded training uniforms for them.  It’s explained that the TVs monitor the city as well as get cable.  One screen shows the bad guys attacking again.  RJ feels that his job is to run the pizza parlor while theirs is to fight evil.  Conceding that they weren’t doing well before his arrival, RJ has a “gift” for them “to even out the odds”.  In a box are color-coded sunglasses, AKA “solar morphers.”

“You ever hear of the Power Rangers?” asks RJ.

“Yeah, who hasn’t?” goes Casey.

“Well, guess what?  You… be… them.”

“No way!  Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a-” Theo cuts himself off as he looks at his amused teammates.  Growing serious again, he says, “If that’s what it takes.”

RJ explains, “The Power Rangers aren’t part of the Order of the Claw.  But I figured we needed everything we could get to fight the Dai Shi.  So I knew this guy who knew this other guy who had an uncle who had a connection- anyway, he tapped into the morphing grid, and voila!  Your morphers.  Once you activate them, all the knowledge that comes with them will be instantaneously entered into your cellular makeup.  Pretty gnarly, huh?  Now… go out there and beat down evil.  And now you’ll look good doing it.”

The trio runs out with their new stuff.

Camille is egging on the minions when the trio arrives, wearing their new uniforms.  Theo and Lily step forward, putting on their solar morphers before calling out, “Jungle Beast, Spirit Unleashed!”

The credits play as first Theo’s morphing sequence is seen, and then Lily’s.

“With the speed of a cheetah, Jungle Fury Yellow Ranger!”

“With the stealth of a jaguar, Jungle Fury Blue Ranger!”

When Camille has the Rin Shi attack, the duo runs forward.  Pumped, Casey puts on his solar morpher and goes “Spirit Unleashed!” which doesn’t work.  Lily and Theo have a much easier time fighting the minions now, even doing a spirit attack each.

Casey is checking his glasses to see if they’re defective when he spots Fran cornered by the green Mantis monster.  He gets restrained by some Rin Shi as the monster grabs Fran.  The monster is called ‘Mantor’ in the credits and the booklet, but the episode itself refers to it as Mantis.  Okay then.

Conclusion

This episode was purely introductory, complete with a ‘to be continued’ at the end.  Lily, Theo, and Casey were introduced as were the broad strokes of their characters- Lily’s bubbly but fierce, Theo does his best to be stern but has a softer side, while Casey is the moral newbie in over his head.  RJ’s the quirky but powerful mentor, while Fran is the kind but off-kilter and shy ‘best customer’.

The villainous Dai Shi wants to wipe out humanity with his Rin Shi and loyal hench-woman Camille; I’m not sure why his headquarters wasn’t ever destroyed over the past ten millennia.  Magic?

I have to wonder if Dai Shi and Rita Repulsa ever interacted before they got sealed away, given the timeline.  It’s definitely clear that Master Mao was prepared for the occasion of Dai Shi escaping and all but destroying him, given the presence of the envelope and the fact that RJ was expecting the trio long enough to obtain uniforms and morphers.  Though this whole mess could have been avoided if there’d been a lock on the chest… unless whatever magical seal was on it got broken when it fell.

It’s hard to tell, but I think it might be raining for the first scene and the scene where RJ saves the day.  Film crews must have to work hard to ensure rain shows up on camera.

I will admit that I greatly enjoyed this season when it originally aired- gosh, this episode and the next aired nine years ago exactly.  Lily, Theo, and Casey were all great; I liked the villains and their character arc; RJ is amazing and I feel a great kinship with Fran.  And I like the theme song as well as the overall plot and settings.  Jungle Fury is far superior than Operation Overdrive in my opinion, in fact it’s one of my favorite seasons.

 

Next time on Power Rangers: The trio figures out how to create their Megazord.

 

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