An Old Hero, A Spanning Legend
Kamen Rider is a Power Rangers rip off that- nah I’m kidding. Kamen Rider is a tokusatsu show, a Japanese type of live action cinema or television that heavily uses special effects and originated from Japanese theater shows. Kamen Rider is the best know example of the superhero “henshin” genre, alongside others such as Ultraman and its sister series Super Sentai, in which a young man, usually early 20s, is given powers to transform into a bug-eyed hero to fight evil on a motorcycle. The franchise is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, so I think it’s necessary for me to reveal my absolute love for this series.
History: Presented By Zaia
The franchise was created by Shotoro Ishinormori(original last name Onedara), an influential manga artist who defined tokusatsu with such series’ as Cyborg 009 and Super Sentai. The first ever Kamen Rider series, just called Kamen Rider, aired in 1971. It told the story of college student Takeshi Hongo, IQ genius and Sega lover, who had been kidnapped by Shocker, an evil terrorist organization who wanted to rule the world with modified humans, in order to create the ultimate warrior. However, irony kicked in when Hongo escaped the facility, taking with him the power to transform into the Kamen Rider.
With a bike, martial arts, and the eventual help from Hayato Ichimonji, the second and first Secondary Kamen Rider, Takeshi managed to beat each of Shocker’s warriors on a weekly basis until the Double Riders destroyed the organization. And thus started this sequence of events as future rider would beat their own monsters on a weekly basis and deal with the troubles of life, friendship, and the occasional talking belt.
The show became a hit and would later spawn 9 more seasons and 4 movies in the Showa Era, or I guess Heisei as well with the movies. Unfortunately, Ishinomori passed away on January 29, 1998, two years before he could see the revival of the series, Kuuga, make the franchise popular again in 2000.
After Kuuga became a hit with the moms, the franchise would continue to today under the…moderately okay hands of Toei studios. With a total of 32 seasons, and crap ton of movies and special, and a passion filled fanbase, it’s become a prominent figure in Japanese Pop culture.
Cast Off! What is a Kamen Rider?
A Kamen Rider is a spandex wearing superhero who rides a motorcycle. Their first designs were based on grasshoppers which gave them their unique insect look, most notably their compound eyes that became a staple design in future riders. They also had a red scarf, though this would only appear later in a few incarnations. To transform, you needed two things. First, a transformation device. The staple device is a belt, which would later be known as Drivers with Decade, though many Riders have a spin on this. Ichigo, the name of the first rider since it got too confusing, used the Typhoon, which used the wind with a spinning device in the center of the belt would be referenced in many future belts. The second is the term Henshin, yes this is where it comes from, which is a term every single rider uses to activate the transformation. Do a cool pose and watch as your armor comes on with magic or technology, not no Morphing Grid.
Build Change! The Rider Machines
Motorcycles is a Rider’s steed, otherwise they wouldn’t be considered a Rider. Unless your Drive, who drives a car. Known as Rider Machines, from the Cyclone to Diago Speedy, these machines would serve a Rider to help with running down bad guys. Or you could be Kuuga and use the damn bike as a replacement for your fists. However, in recent years, they haven’t seen much screen time due to Japanese laws against modified bikes. Watch from Kuuga to Zi-O and notice the lacking appearance of these machines. It’s sad, but it can’t be helped. At least the movies show them.
Final Form Ride: M-M-Motifs!
Motifs are a common trend with Kamen Rider. It started out simple with animals, usually bugs or even a dragon. Then things got weird and complicated with Heisei. 555, or Faiz, had a motif of phones and technology, Blade had a theme of playing card, and then you get to Gaim who is based on fruits. Their weapons and henshin device would tie well with their motif, especially with the collectible gimmick. Starting with Ryuki, belts required an external source to be placed into the belt to transform. For real, it’s to sell toys. It’s a Japanese kid show, it needed high quality screaming toys. Each gimmick corresponded with the motif, so you’d get stuff like game cartridges, soda bottles, cards, and even eyeballs once. The show would make them important, so it didn’t feel as cash grabby, much to the dismay of fans of the older seasons and people’s wallet.
Kick Strike, Saiko!
A Kamen Rider’s greatest weapon is their own body, or sometimes a weapon. The Rider Kick is the signature finisher every Kamen Rider has, where they jump into the sky and perform a flying side kick. Though, you could be a badass like Kabuto and perform a roundhouse kick. Other finishers come from punches or their weapons. This started with Riderman and became a trend in Heisei for that sweet toy money. Most weapons are swords but there have been guns, staffs, axes, and even a DJ table gun-sword thing.
Hissastu Dokuha: Cross of Fire
One of the bigger themes with Kamen Rider is the fact that, despite being made or directly tied to the evil antagonists, you can use your powers for justice and peace. This is known as the Cross of Fire, termed in Wizard. The very fact is many of the protagonists could have turned out evil, but it’s their own choice to use their given powers to do good.
This concept would be challenged in many seasons, from other Kamen Riders using their powers for selfish or evil reasons, with a common trend now having the final villain be a Kamen Rider, or even the protagonist willingly become evil. Many shows have other themes, but the Cross of Fire is the theme of Kamen Rider no matter what.
I am the child of the Americas, Kamen Rider Adaptations!
Kamen Rider Japan’s baby, but it has seen some adaptations here in there in America. The most infamous being Masked Rider, an adaptation of Black RX Saban made during their experimental time in the 90s after the success of Power Rangers. However, it didn’t do well and that ended any chance of Saban doing any more Kamen Rider adaptations. Whether that was a good thing or not is left unknown. Steve and Micheal Wang would go on to adapt Ryuki into Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight in 2008, which I did watch personally. It was good but didn’t do enough to get Kamen Rider western fame.
However, things would change in 2020, when Shout Factory Tv would create Tokushoutsu for their own streaming service and PlutoTv. Not only did Super Sentai and Ultraman come to the west, the original Kamen Rider would be aired for the first time ever. Later on, Kuuga would be added to the roster and then the Build/Zi-O crossover movie “Heisei Generations:Forever” with subtitles. As confirmed by Toei, in celebration of the 50t anniversary of the series, both era starters and Zero One, the first of the Reiwa era, will be coming to Toei’s official Tokusatsu World youtube page for the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
3, 2, 1! How to Watch.
For the time being, not everything Kamen Rider related is available. Most of the seasons can be watched on places like Kissasian and other “legit” streaming service. There aren’t very reliable, or safe honestly. I’m not advocating for it, do what you watch, but until these seasons become readily available in more legal ways this is the way.
Open Up! My Personal History
I’ve been a fan of the series for a long while. I believe I started watching in 2015, during Power Rangers: Dino Charge’s run, when I first watched Gaim and Fourze, which I didn’t really finish until 2020. A friend of mine got me into it, and ever since then I’ve been trying to watch as many as I can. I’ve seen Gaim, Drive, Ghost(which I didn’t finish), Ex-aid, Build, Blade, Zi-O, Fourze, Kuuga, Zero-One, and currently Saber.
I love this series to death, even when it does disappoint at times. Many are a hit or miss, but the storytelling can be incredibly engaging and unique. For a kids series, the series is not afraid to be more mature and dark, more than any of adult shows in America. No sex, sometimes cursing, and pretty violent. The themes are thought provoking, leaving me wondering throughout and remembering afterwards. From the ethics of war, the effect of friendship, whether or not a person’s ideal is right or wrong, and even if a child should be born in a world full of violence. When it hits, it really hits. But each show has its way of shining a bright light, having fun with each episode. Sure, its cheesy, really cheesy, but it’s some of the most entertaining content I’ve seen in a long time. It proves Japan has some of the greatest storytellers. If only Toei would get that through their heads sometimes.
The thought of whether or not Kamen Rider being popular in America is a good or bad thing is left for another day, but I can say I hope the franchise continues for a very long time. It has its faults, I can’t deny some seasons infuriate the hell out of me, but the good overcome the bad. This is a series that worth checking out on your own time, of course with a virus protector. Look past the cheesiness, and you get a show that’s worth it.
Apology for the late post. I got held up with the internship and coming back to my college. It hurt not being able to post this but I do hope you enjoy me rambling about a popular and niche topic. In terms of the future, the schedule has gotten out of whack and I’m not sure if posts will come to the planned date. Earthbound Beginnings may come early February.
Either way, I’ll make sure to update more about the blog, the website, and my book so stay tuned. Alright, have a good night and remember to pray for love and peace.