Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and its many, many sequel series largely derive from the Japanese Super Sentai franchise. Power Rangers would take footage from those shows and splice in additional scenes featuring American actors as the unmasked Rangers, and a ’90s kids’ television phenomenon was born. Although you could certainly argue that Power Rangers itself was a rip-off – either of Super Sentai or of older shows such as Voltron – its popularity in the West meant that a bevy of cheap knock offs were inevitable.
Whilst some of these series eventually became popular in their own right, others were poor imitations of their inspiration and a few didn’t even make it out of their native Japan. All of them, however, demonstrate the enduring popularity of the legacy Power Rangers has created and with a modern cinematic reboot in theaters this month, perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the many MMPR clones on offer. Here are the 15 Greatest Power Rangers Rip-Offs.
15. Squadron Sport Ranger
It’s amazing to think that it took until 2006 for someone to come up with the idea of melding Power Rangers with the wonderful world of sports. Given the Rangers’ natural athleticism, you’d think it would be an obvious move but it was Thai-based series Squadron Sport Ranger that eventually pulled the trigger on the concept. Running for two seasons, SSR sees five teenagers recruited by Dr. Earth and dressed in colorful armor in order to protect some magical medals from the evil Starhunter aliens.
In Power Rangers, each protagonist had their own unique dinosaur theme but, predictably, Squadron Sport Ranger sees each member specialize in their own sport with Boxing, Soccer, Swimming, Gymnastics and Tennis making up the five selections. The show also features the use of mech robots to round off the Power Rangers inspirations and is more or less identical to the show both in visual style and tone. SSR does include some surprisingly dark moments however, such as the three male Sport Rangers sacrificing themselves to save the world in season one. Chivalrous.
14. Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger
As previously mentioned, Power Rangers was the American adaptation of Japan’s Super Sentai series and although Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger isn’t a part of that franchise, many Japanese fans consider it to be an ‘unofficial’ installment. One of the most recent entries on this list, first airing in 2012, HSA differentiates itself by being aimed towards a more adolescent audience and features only three protagonists instead of the usual five. Perhaps the most recognizable element of the show, however, is the colorful styled hairdos on each Ranger’s armor.
Conjuring up memories of the Mighty Moshin’ Emo Rangers parody that circulated online some years ago, the three Akibarangers – of Red, Blue and Yellow varieties – each sport molded hair styles when they suit up, resulting in the likes of Akiba Yellow’s schoolgirl bunches and Akiba Red’s gravity-defying anime cut. Fans in the West may have been unimpressed by initial images of the armor in the 2017 Power Rangers reboot movie but one look at Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger shows just how bad things could have been.
13. Tomica Hero: Rescue Force
Power Rangers often took criticism for being a glorified toy commercial but such an accusation would’ve been far more appropriate in the case of Tomica Hero: Rescue Force. Tomica Hero was actually based on a pre-existing set of toy vehicles of the same name made by the Takara Tomy company and as such, the characters were often seen utilizing a variety of rescue vehicles in order to defeat evil and save the day. Given the concept, the show arguably rips off Transformers as much as it does Power Rangers.
Running for over fifty episodes and spawning a sequel series in Tomica Hero: Rescue Fire, the show clearly outgrew its status as a merchandise spin-off series and built a solid Japanese following in its own right. Although the show never made the transition to Western shores, the combination of martial arts, cars and construction taps into three themes kids of all generations and cultures love and certainly had the potential to translate effectively.
A group of teenagers are selected and given superpowers by an otherworldly being in order to stop an incoming alien threat. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Originally conceived as a parody of Super Sentai-style tokusatsu series before becoming one of them for real, Voicelugger sees four young Earthlings given the power of the Voistones, which they must protect from the evil Muon Empire who seek to use their power to control a demonic beast of Hell.
The show’s overriding gimmick is that the Voistones give their users’ voices supernatural powers and unlike Power Rangers, the heroes rely on their vocal prowess to save the day rather than martial art skills or giant B-Movie mechs. Another key difference is that the show’s Zordon figure – Voicelugger Gold – actually joins his recruits as their fifth member, rather than sitting on the sidelines and letting a group of teenagers do the dirty work as the great Zordon did for years on end.
Van-Pires, get it?! They’re like Vampires but…transform into vehicles and…never mind. Silly title aside, this show has some serious star-power behind it with an un-credited Gary Oldman on wise mentor duty and John Entwistle of The Who providing the soundtrack. You certainly can’t accuse Van-Pires of lacking in A-list presence. The show was also one of the first television productions to regularly utilize CGI segments which were mixed in with live-action material.
Another mash-up of Power Rangers and Transformers tropes, Van-Pires sees four ordinary teens (obviously) accidentally given the ability to transform into fighting vehicles called Motor-Vaters. They’re then thrust into battle with their mortal enemies, the titular Van-Pires, in a struggle to protect the world. Lasting only thirteen episodes, Van-Pires was far from prolific but has more than a few moments of merit and innovatively melds classic horror themes with vehicle-based mechanical concepts for a relatively original premise.
10. Ultraman Tiga
As part of Japan’s Ultra series that began way back in 1966, this entry’s status as a Power Rangers rip-off can certainly be debated. However, Ultraman Tiga in 1996 represented a partial reboot of the series after over a decade away from screens and introduced many new and contemporary elements that were more in-line with the Super Sentai style. The show featured just the one protagonist, an Earthling named Daigo who is gifted with the spirit of Ultraman Tiga and charged with defending Earth from an onslaught of freakish alien creatures.
Despite partially breaking away from the standard Sentai format, Ultraman Tiga feels very close to the series in both style and tone, particularly during Tiga’s various climactic battles. The show also delivers the same heart-warming themes of working together to achieve peace and a hero fulfilling his ultimate destiny. Unlike some Japanese entries on this list, Ultraman Tiga did actually receive an English dub and this was broadcast in the United States on the Fox channel, although it failed to gain the same level of recognition Power Rangers enjoyed.
9. Los Luchadores
Combining Power Rangers with the world of Mexican wrestling is Los Luchadores. Like its nineties progenitor, Los Luchadores was produced by Saban entertainment and aired on the Fox Kids network shortly after the turn of the millennium. The show took place in the fictional locale of Union City, an area burdened with a buffoon of a mayor and an unpleasant stream of monster attacks which the Luchadores were tasked with repelling.
The protagonists for this series were three color-coordinated Lucha Libre wrestlers who wore traditional Mexican wrestling garb that was given a Power Rangers makeover. In line with the wrestling gimmick, the more futuristic elements of MMPR were toned down but the paper thin plot lines, over the top action sequences and goofy villains were all present and correct.
8. Mummies Alive!
Although it may not be as much of a wholesale rip-off as many entries on this list, Mummies Alive! still borrowed a few key elements from the Power Rangers series on its way to popularity. Successful in both the United States and the United Kingdom, Mummies Alive! was an animated series that followed the adventures of four guardian mummies from ancient Egypt who must protect the modern day reincarnation of Prince Rapses from the evil villain Scarab.
Fans may remember that the group used the mystical power of Ra to gain enhanced powers, funky armor and improved combat skills in order to protect their young master. Mummies Alive! ran for one mammoth forty-two episode season but plans for a follow up were axed due to dwindling ratings. Time has been kind to the show however, and Mummies Alive!’s now grown-up audience remember the series fondly among other cartoon classics such as Gargoyles and Street Sharks.
7. Kamen Rider Kuuga
Much like Ultraman Tiga, the Kamen Rider franchise begun long before Power Rangers was conceived and was very much a source of inspiration for the Super Sentai franchise in its use of acrobatics and schlocky villains. The show finished shortly before the Power Rangers phenomenon kicked off but was revived in the new millennium with a format and style that was a lot closer to the Sentai style that had become popular in its absence. The two franchises even crossed over on occasion, with the Rider and the Rangers battling side by side.
The Kamen Rider series was based on a human hero modified with bug-like characteristics who is responsible for fighting against Shocker, an evil organization hell bent on world domination, naturally. Perhaps the biggest influence the series had on Power Rangers was the concept of new human characters taking over the hero roles, as the ‘Kamen Rider’ title was passed from one figure to the next. The enduring popularity of the series eventually led to an American version, and we’ll get to that later…
6. Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverley Hills
Apart from the bit about tattoos, this show’s title sounds a bit like a sentence one might use to describe Power Rangers to someone who’d never seen it before. As such, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverley Hills sets its stall out as a rip-off very clearly indeed. The ‘group of teens employed by a mysterious alien to fight off other, evil, aliens’ concept is included in its entirety but the smaller budget meant that TTAFFBH’s production values were embarrassing even by nineties’ standards, managing to make Power Rangers look even more impressive in the process.
For all its flaws, the show was at least self-aware and able to poke fun at itself in its dialogue. The final episode was even a spoof of Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. TTAFFBH may have fallen off the radar somewhat since leaving television but anyone that thinks Power Rangers couldn’t possibly get any cheesier should give it a look for a lesson in truly corny nostalgia.
5. Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad
Despite being an unashamed rip-off of the Super Sentai format, Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad’s popularity has surprisingly endured the sands of time rather well. The show’s premise actually sounds more like a Digimon prototype than a Power Rangers clone, as protagonist Sam is sucked into a digital world to fight off the various viruses that plague it, as well as his fellow student and love rival Malcolm’s Mega-Virus.
And that’s where the Digimon similarities end and the Power Rangers ones begin. Inside the digital world, Sam has the ability to use his Arsenal Programs to fight alongside him or use as armor – much like the Rangers’ Zords. These took the form of a Dragon or a Cyborg and could combine with Sam to create a powerful Megazord-style warrior. Interestingly, arch-villain Kilokahn was voiced by none other than the widely respected and much loved actor Tim Curry of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and It fame.
4. Masked Rider
As the popularity of Power Rangers exploded, kids’ TV executives quickly began searching for other material from Japan to adapt for an American audience and they soon found it in the form of previous entry, Kamen Rider. Produced by the duo responsible for Power Rangers – Haim Saban and Shuki Levy – Masked Rider stuck to the same tried and tested formula and applied it to the world of Kamen.
As a promotional stunt, the new Rider appeared alongside the American Power Rangers shortly before his own series aired – establishing that they both existed in the same universe – but the new show just couldn’t reach the same level of popularity. Bandai deemed viewing figures and toy sales too low and Masked Rider was ditched after forty episodes. The lower viewership may have been due to the series’ lighter, more comedic tone that saw its alien protagonist attempt to blend in as a normal American and the introduction of a small, annoying pet called Ferbus.
3. Mystic Knights of Tia Na Nog
Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog is not only one of the most fondly remembered Power Rangers clones but also made one of the biggest efforts to stand out and be different. Yet another brainchild of the Saban company, Mystic Knights saw an attempt to move the tokusatsu format into the medieval period with swords and sorcery values set in a fictionalized Ireland. Each of the four young protagonists chosen by King Conchobar to protect the land from the evil Queen Maeve and her monsters is given their own element from Fire, Water, Air and Earth, as well as the typical suit of armor to match.
The series placed a greater emphasis on long-term, ongoing storytelling than Power Rangers ever did and the show built itself a loyal following. Unfortunately, as was the case with Masked Rider, Mystic Knights wasn’t the smash hit Saban were hoping it would be and a potential second series was scrapped in favor of producing Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy.
2. Big Bad Beetleborgs
Perhaps the closest Saban and Levy came to replicating their Power Rangers success was with the Big Bad Beetleborgs series. The show’s trio of main characters were each presented in unique metallic armor and came equipped with their own individual arm-mounted weapons, all of which made for an awesome toy range. Just like MMPR, Beetleborgs used footage from a Japanese series – this time Metal Hero – and the giant mech weapons were present in full insect-themed force.
Although Beetleborgs and Power Rangers never crossed over on-screen, the two series did share some monster props and musical cues, although this was more likely a way to save money, rather than a genuine attempt at a shared universe. Unlike many other Saban series, Beetleborgs wasn’t canned due to a lack of interest or poor toy sales, instead the company simply ran out of Japanese footage to adapt and so were forced to bring the popular series to a close.
1. VR Troopers
Saban had another hit on their hands with VR Troopers, a series that arguably had as much in common with Beetleborgs as it did with Power Rangers. However, the show’s central theme of virtual reality allowed it to explore some new and intriguing ideas. An example of this new approach was the focus on main character Ryan Steele’s relationship with his estranged father which put a welcome personal spin on the narrative that wasn’t present in other Saban series.
VR Troopers was still very much a rip-off show however, and featured three youngsters who stumble into the responsibility of protecting the real world from Grimlord, using some nifty VR armor and weapons to do so. Just like Beetleborgs, VR Troopers fell foul of a footage deficiency – even though it scavenged material from several different Japanese productions – and was subsequently cancelled despite being commercially successful and popular with kids.
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