Tokusatsu is more than bright colors, robots and monsters. Koriander appreciates the darker edge hidden behind the rubber & spandex suits.
Legend of Two Moon Witches
Witch Bandora debuted in the 1992 Super Sentai series Zyuranger, while Rita Repulsa debuted in 1993's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, both being portrayed by the late Machiko Soga. They may seem similar, but their journeys get wild.
Originally the beautiful Queen of the Dahl Tribe, Bandora had a young son named Kai, who was caught destroying Tyrannosaurus Rex eggs. The mother T-Rex of the destroyed eggs then chased the boy off of a cliff, with Queen Bandora helplessly watching her child plummet.
Overcome with immense grief, Queen Bandora sold her soul to Dai-Satan from Hell (or Lokar in Power Rangers) and became Witch Bandora. She then turned on the people of Earth and their beloved dinosaurs, driving the dinosaurs into extinction.
After the Guardian Beasts (Zords in Power Rangers) put a stop to her, she and her new minions were banished to Planet Nemesis, which coincidentally, is also the name of the planet Wiseman is banished to at the start of Sailor Moon R, which like Super Sentai, was a Toei production.
Knowing the banishment would be temporary, the surviving villagers put the Zyurangers into suspended animation, until Witch Bandora would re-waken.
170 million years later, she awakens as the result of a botched NASA expedition, and the Zyurangers are revived by Barza to face her. She initially sets up her castle on earth, but later chooses the Moon, another nod to Sailor Moon, which had started the same year as Zyuranger.
Over on Power Rangers, Rita Repulsa had been imprisoned by Zordon, but was she out in just 10,000 years. Like her Zyuranger counterpart, she too set up shop on The Moon, while Zordon was recruiting random teenagers to pilot the Zords to face her.
This leads to an interesting similarity between Bandora and Rita. Both use magic moon wands (again, like Sailor Moon) to make kaiju appear from out of nowhere. They sometimes turn their comrades into kaiju. They could take over the Earth, but they focus on just one, very small city for the duration of their time.
There's also a small level of respect. Bandora and Rita both know the identities and whereabouts of their enemies, and yet they never try to kill them in their sleep or expose them on national television.
The Previous Lives Of Machiko Soga
Before playing Witch Bandora, it should be noted that Machiko Soga already had a long history with Super Sentai that hasn't found its way to Power Rangers.
Her first role was as Death Mask Monster in Battle Fever J, a "monster of the day" who was unsuccessful in stealing blueprints from Battle Japan.
Her next outing was as Queen Heridan in Denjiman and in Sun Vulcan. Initially as a thousands of years old queen of the Vader Clan, Heridan tried to take over the Earth, but also had a sentimental spot for every monster she would lose to the Denjimen. She even formed an uneasy alliance with the Denjimen to stop Demon King Banriki, but wound up frozen in ice, until in Sun Vulcan, when Führer Hell Saturn revived her. She became a cyborg and initially helped Führer Hell Saturn shape Black Magma's team, but ultimately turned on all of them, but after a botched sacrifice later on, Queen Hedrian succumbed when her cyborg heart rusted.
Then in Maskman, Soga played Earth Imperial Empress Laraba, who tried to trick the Maskmen into believing she was only there to support her son, Baraba, but she really just wanted to prove herself against Devil Doggler. She's felled by Doggler, who in turn is defeated by Baraba, who is later defeated by Red Mask.
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She also appeared in Metal Heroes's Jiraya as Witch Ninja Madam Spider. Since Metal Heroes exists in the same universe with Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, a photo of her appears with Jiraya in Ninninger and in Power Rangers Ninja Steel with Sherrif Skyfire.
Back to Rita and Bandora, Who Was More Evil?
Witch Bandora outright murdered the NASA astronauts who found her and wiped out the dinosaurs. Many humans were killed by her wrath, and Burai's life is shortened because of her evil.
Rita Repulsa however, did something less deadly, but still inexcusable.
In Power Rangers's second season, Lord Zedd banished her and took over her castle. Sometime later, she was able to escape, and then worked with Finster to create a love potion, which she used to drug Lord Zedd and make him marry her.
She may not have wiped out the dinosaurs, but date rape is certainly beyond evil.
Twisted Branches on the Family Tree
Queen Bandora lost Kai 170 Million years before Zyuranger, and then lost him again after he had been revived by Dai-Satan to fight the rangers. He was her only blood family.
Rita Repulsa on the other hand, had a much larger family tree.
Her father was Master Vile, a vicious alien from the planet Gamma Vile in the M51 Galaxy. He somewhat cares for Rita, but verbally abuses Lord Zedd.
Only in the comics does Rita have a mother, the benevolent Lady Fienna, but no such character appears in the TV show.
She has a wise-cracking younger brother named Rito Revolto, who serves as comic relief, but is actually very dangerous.
At some point, Rita and Zedd became parents to Thrax, however this has opened up a continuity issue.
While Rita is seen all the way through the final episode of Space with Zedd, she is at no point confirmed to be pregnant.
Thrax appears in Operation Overdrive as a fully grown adult, yet chronologically speaking, he should be no more than 12.
Even upon time traveling to the final episodes of Space to meet his parents before they turned good in the season finale of HyperForce, Rita is not known to be pregnant or to have already had Thrax.
Like Kai, Thrax is killed twice.
It's Good to be the Queen
After Kai dies a second time, Witch Bandora cries over her child. In doing so, her heart turns towards love, meaning she can no longer wield evil magic. She is once again banished in the same "dumpster" she was found in, but life isn't so bad.
Grifforzer (Goldar) and Lami (Scorpina) have an adorable baby boy named Grifforzer, Jr. shortly after exile. At first, Witch Bandora hates this, but once she sees how he looks identical to Kai, she takes it as a second chance, and she and her minions decide to raise the baby with love.
As for Rita, while she would eventually lose her palace to the Machine Empire, sleep in an RV and eventually bunk with her father, she and Lord Zedd turned good when Zordon died. Zordon's energy cleansed them, but wiped out all of Rita's minions and family.
Despite such a heavy loss, they take the chance to start over, and Rita is next seen in Power Rangers Mystic Force as Mystic Mother, Empress of Good Magic and as the secret force that allowed the Mystic Rangers to transform. She only appears near the end of the season, but uses her new powers to help the Rangers.
Mystic Mother's Super Sentai counterpart Heavenly Arch Saint Magiel, isn't related to Witch Bandora, but her costume is very similar to Kai's, and like Queen Bandora, Saint Magiel wears white. She can travel between the soul and human worlds.
Rita and Bandora may be remembered as being wicked witches, but both get to enjoy a happily ever after.
© 2022 Koriander Bullard