A Guide to Kamen Rider, the Masked Marvels of Japanese Superhero TV

Henshin! The Rider Heroes of the 21st Century.

Henshin! The collected Rider heroes of the 21st century.
Statue: Toei

If you like Power Rangers, you probably know at least Super Sentai, the Spandex lined Tokusatsu series lends it its costumes, mechs, and action photos of. But Toei, the makers of Super Sentai, are also behind one of Japan’s most iconic superhero franchises: the legendary Henshin Heroes from Kamen Rider.

Last weekToei announced a major licensing deal with Shout Factory to officially release the original Kamen Rider for the first time to America, laying the foundation for more entries in the esteemed franchise to make their way to Japan and the West. It’s an opportunity to see the origin story of one of Japan’s most iconic superheroes, but if you don’t know what it’s all about – or what the difference is between Kamen Rider and other Tokusatsu superheroes like the Super Sentai or Ultraman franchises – we are here to help.

The origin of Kamen Rider

While Super Sentai perhaps better known abroad thanks to her Power Rangers link, Kamen Rider is actually his older sibling. ‘Kamen Rider’ simply means ‘Masked Rider’, referring to the hero’s helmeted designs, which have often been inspired by bugs since the original grasshopper-themed design. Created by mangaka Shotaro Ishinomori and producer Toru Hirayama in 1971 – based on a plan to adapt one of Ishinomori’s manga, Skull Man, to life action – the original Kamen Rider Takeshi Hongo followed.

Hongo, played by Hiroshi Fujioka, was a cyborg who would transform (‘henshinIn Japanese, activating a button on his belt with a cry of the word that would become one of them Kamen RiderDefines Staples) in the hero Kamen Rider. He fought an international terrorist organization called Shocker, took his bike, the Cyclone, to chase them and wreak justice with another proprietary film: The Air Kick, one last move that has now become one of the enduring elements of the series .

A terrible movie accident gave way to one of them Kamen RiderOther staples. During the filming of the 10th episode of Kamen RiderIn debut season, Fujioka broke both legs after being thrown off a bicycle. To keep production going, production introduced a second Kamen Rider – simply called Kamen Rider 2 in Hongo’s Kamen Rider 1 – Hayato Ichimonji. This second character was played by Takeshi Sasaki, who, like Hongo, was a cyborg with similar transformative powers. Kamen Rider 2 would become the defacto hero of much of it Kamen RiderIs the first season until Hongo returned in the 53rd episode of the show. But not Hongo to replace Sasaki, and instead fought alongside him for the rest of the show, assuming multiple people could use the power of a Kamen Rider.

Kamen Rider Stronger bow to the camera.

Kamen Rider Stronger bend for the camera.
Statue: Toei

The success of Kamen Rider lead to more series even after the end of Hongo and Sasaki’s fight against Shocker. Four more series were to be broadcast during the 1970s:Kamen Rider V3, Kamen Rider X., Kamen Rider Amazon, and Kamen Rider Stronger– and during every show, Like it RiderNewly arrived pendant in Sentai (which started in 1975 with Himitsu Sentai Gorenger), brought a new group of Kamen Riders and new villains to fight, there were recurring elements, especially the character of Tōbei Tachibana, who acted as a mentor figure and confidant for every generation of Rider.

Towards the end of the 1970s Kamen Rider became less regular, unlike its counterpart in Super Sentai, which was on its way as an annual franchise, swapping each series of new teams. A four-year gap followed Kamen Rider Stronger before the arrival of The new Kamen Rider and then Kamen Rider Super-1 at the beginning of the decade, but in the eighties, Kamen Rider largely withdrawn from screens. A manga from Ishinomori, Kamen Rider ZX, was followed by a TV special in 1984 that brought together the character and the nine previous Riders, but a new series—Kamen Rider Black, and the follow up series, Kamen Rider Black RX– would not return until 1987. Unlike previous shows, there were no references to the past Kamen Rider series, to RX closed with another multi-rider team … because at least it would be the last for TV Kamen Rider for a while.

Kamen Rider Kuuga started with what is known as the Heisei period (named after the Japanese Imperial era when it was released) of the franchise.

Kamen Rider Kuuga started with what is known as the Heisei period (named after the Imperial Japanese era when it was released) of the franchise.
Statue: Toei

Although there would be occasional attempts to revive the series at the Japanese box office – with films like Shin Kamen Rider, Kamen Rider SO, and Kamen Rider J—As a franchise, Kamen Rider was on pause pretty much throughout the 90s. Meanwhile, Toei focused on the resurgent success of Super Sentai, which may have been canceled until the historic success of Chojin Sentai Jetman sparked interest in the Japanese public. Kamen Rider would not return until the turn of the century with Kamen Rider Kuuga, and since then, just like Super Sentai, it has become an annual series for TV Asahi’s programming block on Sunday morning ‘Super Hero Time’. Like its counterpart, every year brings a new Rider (and a new gimmick for kids to buy toys from, along with elements such as the hero’s transformation belt and weapons) and premise, all the way to the currently airing Kamen Rider Zero-One, the first Rider of Japan’s “Reiwa” era.

in contrast to Sentai, Is however Kamen RiderFailed to adapt for the west. After Power Rangers became a huge hitSaban tried to capture the magic a second time with 1996’s Masked riderbut it didn’t cause the same madness that changed Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in a sustainable franchise. Other people eventually tried – tThe CW hosted the 2002 adaptation of Adness Entertainment from all places Kamen Rider Ryukicalled Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, in 2008, but pulled the show before the full run could even air.

Sometimes they even work together, like the great 2012 crossover movie, Super Hero Taisen.

Sometimes they even work together, like the big crossover movie from 2012, Super Hero Taisen.
Statue: Toei

So what’s different between them Kamen Rider and Sentai?

We have talked a lot about the similarities between Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, to the fact that they have shared a program block in Japan for two decades. So what actually sets them apart? Apart from the obvious—Super Sentai is about a team of heroes while Kamen Rider focuses on a particular hero and a handful of allies – many of the differences are more tonal than anything.

At least in their modern iterations, Super Sentai is aimed at a younger audience compared to Kamen Rider– although not much, with Kamen Rider aimed at older pre-teens while Sentai is primarily intended for younger children. The shows and films from before the 2000s were aimed at a much wider family audience, covering dark, adult themes (and could be significantly more violent at times). Although modern Kamen Rider can be much more restrained in comparison – there are exceptions to this, such as the clearly adult-oriented person Kamen Rider Amazons made a spin-off for Amazon Japan, a spiritual restart of the original ’74 show – it still has a sometimes dark and more drama-based tone.

The series is also more in series compared to Super Sentai—Much more defined by its particularly stiff “Monster of the week” structure – with long character arcs and interwoven storylines that alternate between our hero (or heroes) fighting monsters. in contrast to SentaiFocusing on teamwork and unity, this often means that the multiple riders of a given show can come into conflict, literally or ideologically, making them either awkward companions or allies of opportunity. So can the villains of a series, who often draw their own superhuman powers from the same or a similar, twisted view of the source that powers the heroes. It creates a much darker premise than the white-black, good-against-evil kind of storyline you enter Sentai.

Of course, these are still shows for children, so don’t go in assuming The boys but with Japanese in Spandex or something. But if you want a multi-colored costumed action spectacle with a thin veneer with a more complex sense of maturity, Kamen Rider might be for you. It’s also great to run crazy superhero shows intended for kids. You will get over it!

You probably won't be able to legally view Zero-One anytime soon, but ... there are ways.

You probably can’t watch Zero one soon legal, but … there are ways.
Statue: Toei

How to watch

So most of the time, this is the part where I have to tell you that to view the franchise in question, you have to do something that is somewhat technically illegal. And it is still in many ways: To look Kamen RiderEspecially after the iteration after the 2000s, you will have to turn to fan groups that translate the series themselves and distribute it online, either through Japanese TV streams or through purchases of Japanese Blu-ray releases. These are not officially supported in any way, but since Toei does not crack down on them, they are pretty much the only way you can now get the vast majority of Kamen Rider. Even compared to Super Sentai, which now has a healthy number of shows officially translated and released in the United States both on DVD and available to stream from Scream Factory, official support for Kamen Rider is miniscule.

Fortunately, that is seemingly slowly changing. Kamen Rider Amazons, Amazon Japan’s bloody, adult-oriented restart from the original Kamen Rider Amazon, found its way to Prime Video in the United States as Kamen Rider, the Masked Marvels of Japanese Superhero TV “,” B07C655S73 “]]”href =” https://www.amazon.com/Amazonz/dp/B07C655S73/ref=sr_1_1?ascsubtag=8397983c5d1cf39c150206d0d88274e2eb9ecbcb&dchild=1&keywords=amazon = gn = 1584992753 & target amazonasin = “B07C655S73” data-amazontag = “gizmodoamzn-20” data-amazonsubtag = “[t|link[p|1842417195[a|B07C655S73[au|5724542002230561815[b|gizmodo[lt|text”>[t|link[p|1842417195[a|B07C655S73[au|5724542002230561815[b|gizmodo[lt|text”>Amazon Riders. And with Shout Factory’s announcement TokuShoutsu linear streaming channel on Pluto TV, the first ever for the first time Kamen Rider series subtitled and available on demand in the United States

What that leaves the rest of Kamen Riderhowever, it remains to be seen. Toei’s recent announcement of a international YouTube channel April 2020 launch, devoted to slowly but surely subtitling the classic back catalog of Tokusatsu shows in English, could yield some shows from the Showa era or even the 90s Kamen Rider movies, but without knowing the scope of Shout Factory’s deal with Toei, or even the catalog that will be on this new YouTube channel, it isis hard to say. But these are hopefully just the first steps in trying to bring the franchise to the West in an officially supported capacity.

That said, if you want to watch too Masked rider or Kamen Rider Dragon Knightthey are also legally difficult to detect. She did both get DVD releases in the mid-’00s, but are both out of print now. Womp womp!

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