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Greetings, geeks of all ages! Welcome back to Tokusatsu 101, your introduction to the wonderful world of Toku and Kamen Rider. I am Zach J., TD (not an actual title), your guide throughout this series of articles. Last time, I explained the genre of Tokusatsu and gave a basic overview of Kamen Rider. In this article, we’ll be going over the different Eras of Kamen Rider. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get cracking!
Before I explain the different eras, I must explain what the division of eras is based on. In Japan, they have their own calendar called the Imperial Calendar. This is based on the current reigning Emperor of Japan. In anime and other Japanese media, I’m sure you’ve heard references to different periods of time. Most notably, Demon Slayer takes place during the Taisho Period. There are many different Periods of time that are commonly referred back to, such as the Edo Period, the Sengoku Period, and the Meiji Period. It is these different periods of time are what make up the Imperial Calendar. Currently, there are three eras that concern us when talking about Kamen Rider: the Showa era, the Heisei era, and the Reiwa era.
The Showa era, the era of Emperor Hirohito which went from 1926 to 1989, is the first era of Kamen Rider. The first Kamen Rider debuted in 1971, and marked the start of a cultural phenomenon in Japan. The story begins when biochemistry student Takeshi Hongo is kidnapped by the evil organization Shocker and turned into a cyborg. He escapes their clutches before they can brainwash him into obeying them. This proves to be their undoing, as Hongo now devotes himself to fighting Shocker wherever they appear as the Kamen Rider.
After this first season, we would get 9 more seasons of television during the Showa era. Including Black RX, which was being filmed during the transition from the Showa to the Heisei era, and the 3 films that were made in the 90s, the Showa era has 15 main Riders (technically 14 since Black and Black RX are the same person). They are counted as Showa Riders even though they were not produced during the era itself.
The Heisei era, the era of Emperor Akihito which went from 1989 to 2019, marks the return of Kamen Rider. After the last film produced for the Showa era in ’94, there would be no new Riders until the new millennium. In 2000, Kamen Rider made its triumphant return with Kamen Rider Kuuga. After unearthing an ancient tomb, a group of archaeologists find themselves under attack by a strange creature. This unidentified lifeform follows them when they take. In order to fight this monster, Yuusuke Godai dons the belt and becomes Kamen Rider Kuuga.
Since 2000, there has been 1 season of Kamen Rider a year, every year. This means that the Heisei era has 20 seasons of Riders. Every production has a new crew that leads the charge and oversees each season. Alongside each season, they also produce 1 to 2 movies with that years’ Rider. If a season is popular enough, it will also receive extra side productions well after the season is over. For instance, Kamen Rider Gaim, which finished airing in 2014, is receiving a new Gaiden production in the near future.
During the Heisei era, 2 separate reboots that aren’t counted towards the Heisei Generation Riders were made. There are 2 films that reboot the original Kamen Rider, with Kamen Rider V3 appearing in the second film. These reboot films are much darker in tone than their original counterparts. Kamen Rider The First is a Sci-Fi Action flick, while Kamen Rider The Next is mainly a Horror film. While I am not a fan of the muted color palette of the films, I am a huge fan of the updated suit designs.
The second reboot project is Kamen Rider Amazons, which is available on Amazon Prime Video in the west as Amazon Riders. Compared to regular seasons of Rider, Amazons is bloodier and more violent. Imagine if Tokyo Ghoul was a live-action show involving men in suits fighting each other. The story of Amazons unfolds across two seasons and a final film. I absolutely love Amazons and would highly recommend it if you’re a fan of Tokyo Ghoul.
Now, we find ourselves in the Reiwa era of Kamen Rider. The Reiwa era, the era under Emperor Naruhito which began last year, is the current era of Japan. With the changing of Emperors comes the dawn of a new era. As such, the generation of Reiwa Riders starts with Zero One, which debuted on September 1st, 2019. In a new age of technology, artificial beings known as Humagear have become a large part of modern society. Humagear are capable of performing any tasks associated with their designated roles. After his grandfather passes away, Aruto Hiden has the responsibilities of a Tech CEO thrust upon him. In order to protect the Humagear his grandfather created, Aruto assumes the role of Kamen Rider Zero One.
As of the writing of this article, we are only 7 episodes into Kamen Rider Saber, the current season.
In regards to continuity, most seasons of Rider are standalone with little to no crossover. The first five seasons of the Showa era are the exception, as they are closely interconnected. There are only a few instances in the Heisei era of the stories being connected. Even then, those instances are little more than a brief mention of a previous Rider. It’d be more accurate to call it an Easter Egg for fans who have seen that season of Rider than it is an important plot point. The other instance of series crossover besides the movies is a cameo of the Rider from the next season. Starting around the second half of the Heisei era, the Rider of the upcoming season will cameo in the last episode of the current one.
However, there are specific crossover movies that brings together two or more seasons of Riders. These crossovers typically release during the winter time of each season, with later movies being loosely canon to the season it’s tied to.
Boy was that a slog, but I’m glad you got through the entire article and made it all the way here. Congratulations! You don’t really win anything here, but hey, thanks for reading all the way through this article. I know it’s a bit of a long one, but that’s only because there is so much history to cover when it comes to Kamen Rider. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability. Tune in next time when I give generic summaries of the Heisei era seasons and give my recommendations for which ones are good to start on.
See you next Rider Time~
Greetings, geeks of all ages! Tokusatsu is a genre that I, as a geek, am absolutely in love with. As Kat and Tat have started reacting to Kamen Rider, I think it is appropriate to teach everyone here about Tokusatsu. So allow me to be your guide and show you the greatness that is Kamen Rider. I am Zach J., TD. (not an actual title), self-proclaimed Professor of Tokusatsu.
I’m sure the first thing you want to know is this: “What in the world is Tokusatsu?” Simply put, Tokusatsu is a genre of live-action media that heavily uses special effects. The term “Tokusatsu” is a contraction of the phrase “特殊撮影 [Tokushu Satsuei]” which can be translated as “Special Effects Filming”. Typically speaking, most productions of Tokusatsu are either Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, or a mix of all three. A very famous example of Tokusatsu is the Godzilla film series. The original movies all involved making special sets for men in rubber suits to destroy as kaiju.
There are many different Toku shows out there, with some of them having American adaptations. The most successful example is Power Rangers, the adaptation of the Super Sentai series. However, there were many other attempts to bring Toku shows to the West. If you grew up in the 90’s, I’m sure you were at least aware of VR Troopers, Big Bad Beetleborgs, and Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. These shows were adaptations of Kikaider, the Metal Heroes series, and Gridman respectively. Naturally, Kamen Rider also had two American adaptations in Masked Rider and Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
There are a great number of Toku shows to talk about, but today we will focus on Kamen Rider. So, what exactly is it about? To put it simply, Kamen Rider is a series that explores the idea of justice and the choice to uphold it, regardless of origin. From the very first season to the current season, the main story theme remains the same. Whether you’re a brilliant physicist, a wannabe hard-boiled detective, or a humble novelist, it is your choice to use your power to fight for what you believe in.
Each season tackles the theme of justice with different motifs and story devices. One season revolves around the misadventures of a young man down on his luck. He is frail and timid, but through his journey finds strength and confidence as he defends the people around him. Another season centers around rival groups of dancers trying to become the best at what they do. However, as the story continues, they find themselves trapped in a battle that risks the very fabric of reality. They must learn to deal with the grim realities of the world or become victims of it. Whatever the themes are, I’m sure there is a season that will appeal to you.
Kamen Rider is the brain child of Shotaro Ishinomori, a man many revere as the King of Manga. Known for his high-speed drawing style, Ishinomori is responsible for creating Kikaider, Inazuman, and the Super Sentai series. He dedicated his life to the creation of many series, writing over 128,000 pages of manga in his lifetime. This feat was recognized posthumously by Guinness World Records for Most Comics Published by a Single Author. Without a doubt, he has made huge contributions to Japan’s pop culture, creating two of its biggest superhero franchises.
Today, Kamen Rider is undeniably a large part of Japanese culture. Without a doubt, Kamen Rider is the gold standard of superhero in Japan. It has been referenced in many anime, video games, live-action dramas, and even western animation. Kamen Rider has made a handful of actors very popular in Japan. Most notably Takeru Satoh who played the hapless Ryotaro Nogami in Kamen Rider Den-O, Masaki Suda who played the mysterious amnesiac Philip in Kamen Rider W (pronounced Double), and Sota Fukushi who played the high school delinquent Gentaro Kisaragi in Kamen Rider Fourze (pronounced Four-zay).
However, perhaps the biggest thing going for the series is its endless supply of merchandise. Ranging from action figures to clothing and even candies, merchandise for the show is everywhere. Something that I have gotten into collecting is the role-play toys and gimmick items. These lovely little items allow you to act out the transformation sequences and finishers from the show. And while it is expensive, it is a price I will gladly pay to support the series I love.
There is so much more to cover with Kamen Rider, and I intend to cover it. Over the next several weeks, I will write out more in this series of articles I am dubbing Tokusatsu 101. Stick around for the next part of this article series in which I will cover the Eras of Kamen Rider and the continuity of the seasons, or lack thereof.
See you next Rider Time~