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japanese culture

Monster Hunter Rise: Japanese Folklore and You

Greetings, geeks of all ages! With the release of Monster Hunter Rise drawing ever closer, let’s talk about the monsters new to this game. Specifically what these monsters are based off of.

Japan has a rich culture filled with many different myths and fables. As part of this, they have a myriad of legends about spirits and monsters known as yokai. Many of the new monsters introduced in Monster Hunter Rise take inspiration from these yokai. So let’s get right into it and go through what each one represents.

The Sickle Weasel

Monster Hunter Rise Great Izuchi
Trinity of Terror

The first monster we’ll be covering is the Great Izuchi. This monster is based on the kamaitachi, a yokai that rides in on dust devils and cuts people up as they fly past. It is traditionally depicted as a weasel with sickle-like hands or limbs. The name itself seems to be a corruption of kamae tachi, or stance sword.

The Parasol Ghost

Monster Hunter Rise Aknosom
Feathered Frenzy

Next, we’ll talk about the inspiration for the Aknosom. This Bird Wyvern is Monster Hunter Rise’s version of the kasa-obake, or the parasol ghost. Kasa-obake normally jump along on one leg, two arms, and a large single eye, though some depictions show it with two legs. The parasol-like appearance of the Aknosom is more apparent in its icon art. While the parasol ghost is a very well known yokai in Japanese folklore, it is speculated that the kasa-obake was made up by storytellers who were asked to talk about lesser known yokai.

The River Child

Monster Hunter Rise Tetranadon
Amphibious Wrestler

Our next contender is the sumo wrestling platypus, the Tetranadon. This chonky boy is based on a kappa. Kappa are amphibious creatures with turtle-like shells and a water dish on top of its head. They are a mischievous bunch that inhabit many rivers and ponds around Japan. Tetranadon, much like the kappa depicted in stories, fights using sumo wrestling techniques.

The Mermaid

Monster Hunter Rise Somnacanth
Soporific Siren

Next up, we have the Leviathan Monster, Somnacanth. The ningyo is the basis for this monster. This yokai is known for having a monkey-like mouth with small teeth and shiny golden fish scales. Catching a ningyo is said to bring storms and misfortune. If one washes up on shore, it is an omen of war and calamity.

The Heavenly Sentinel

Bishaten
Frenetic Ascetic

Up next is the wild and frantic Fanged Beast, Bishaten. This hyperactive monster is based on a tengu. Some people believe tengu to be yokai, while others believe they are Shinto deities. In either case, these creatures are humanoids with bird-like features that command the skies. In Buddhist belief, tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war, though this belief has waned over the years. While still seen as violent and troublesome, tengu are now seen as protectors of forests and mountains.

The Boogeyman

Goss Harag
The Limb Reaper

Here we have the monstrous Goss Harag. This chilling fiend is based on the namahage, demons wearing oni masks and straw capes. Wielding kitchen knives and hand pails, the namahage go from house to house punishing lazy people. The name comes from the phrase “なもみコ剝げたかよ” (namomi kohagetaka yo) or “Have your blisters peeled yet?”. This comes from the fact that people who did nothing but sit by the fire got heat rashes or blisters from the overexposure to the fire. Nowadays, the namahage is similar to the boogeyman, punishing children that are lazy or don’t behave properly.

The Muddy Rice Field Spirit

Almudron
Hermit of the Swamp

Next up is the muddy Leviathan, Almudron. This fierce beast draws inspiration from the dorotabo, a mud spirit that emerges from rice paddies. Traditionally represented as muddy old men with three fingers and one eye, these vengeful spirits rise up to punish the men neglecting their rice paddies. The appearance of the Almudron itself borrows many traits from traditional Chinese dragons. However, it’s possible that its physical appearance is based on the onamazu, or giant catfish. Another yokai pertaining to the earth, this yokai is responsible for causing the earthquakes around Japan.

The Entangling Bride

Rakna-Kadaki
Wandering Widow

Here we have the torrid Temnoceran, Rakna-Kadaki. This arachnid draws inspiration from the jorogumo, a yokai that shape shifts into a beautiful bride to lure in would-be prey. Some depictions show the jorogumo as a spider woman that controls smaller fire-breathing spiders. Monster Hunter Rise incorporates this by having the Rakna-Kadaki accompanied by smaller spider companions. In Japan, its name is Yatsukadaki, a corruption of the name yatsukahagi, an alternate name for the tsuchigumo. Another spider yokai, these giant earth spiders live in mountainous regions and claim them as their territory.

The Possessed Suit of Armor

Magnamalo
Wyvern of Malice

Last, but certainly not least, is the flagship monster for Monster Hunter Rise, Magnamalo. Unlike the other new monsters introduced in Rise, Magnamalo himself is not based on a yokai. Instead, he is based on the idea of a suit of samurai armor possessed by a lingering spirit. The idea of possessed armor appears in many different media. Bishamon from the Darkstalkers series is based on the same idea. His explosive flames resemble onibi or hitodama, otherwise known as will-o’-wisps. Interestingly enough, its antler-like horns and spear-like tail evoke the image of the legendary Samurai, Honda Heihachiro Tadakatsu. A warrior renowned for his fighting prowess, he was most well known as “the Warrior who Surpassed Death Itself”. His preferred weapon, the Tonbogiri (Dragonfly Cutter), is one of Japan’s national treasures.

The demo for Rise has been updated with a hunt for Magnamalo. Gather your friends and face down this fearsome fiend that fires fierce flames against frightened foes. Will you fell this ferocious fighter, or will this furious fanged beast flatten you instead? Look forward to the fight and rise up, fellow hunters! The game comes out on March 26th, hope to see you around when it releases. Ciao~!

Tokusatsu 101: Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 2

Greetings, geeks of all ages! I am your guide through the wonderful world of Tokusatsu, Zach J., TD. (not a real doctor). Last we left off, I gave simple summaries on the first ten seasons of the Heisei era as well as personal thoughts and ratings. This time, I’ll be continuing with the synopses and ratings with the remaining 11 (technically 12) seasons of the Heisei era. A fun little tidbit is that from this point on, we’ll be covering the Neo Heisei era. Also known as Heisei Phase 2, this marks a shift in the production and marketing of Kamen Rider. Before, all of the Kamen Rider titles used the translation of Masked Rider as part of the English text for the title. But beginning with W (Double), Toei officially started using Kamen Rider as the English text for each season’s title. Now then, enough rambling, let’s do this!

2009: “We are the two-in-one Kamen Rider”

Neo Heisei Poster for W (Double)
Philip and Shotaro Hidari posed behind their combined form, Kamen Rider W (Double)

Somewhere in the windy city of Futo, criminals are being sold mysterious devices known as Gaia Memories by the Sonozaki family. These devices allow them to transform into monstrous forms known as Dopants and terrorize the city at large. It is up to hard-boiled detective Shotaro Hidari and his mysterious partner Philip to protect the city from the Dopant menace. Together, they fight as one as Kamen Rider W (Double). Shotaro and Philip must work together to stop the Sonozaki family and keep the Gaia Memories off the market.

As the first season of the Neo Heisei era, W knocks it out of the park with excellent characters and a well written plot. Not to mention that, as a detective season, the crime solving parts of the episodes are fun to follow. Perhaps one of the shortcomings of the season is that one of the characters can come off as annoying. Considering that she appears in practically every episode, you either learn to love her or at the very least tolerate her appearances on screen. However, that aside, W is still a great season and a must watch in my books.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2010: “I’ll transform!”

Neo Heisei Poster for OOO
Kamen Rider OOO surrounded by Core Medals

Mysterious medal-based monsters known as Greeed have been reawakened. Feeding off of human desire, they create minions called Yummys to do their bidding. The homeless traveler Eiji Hino is met by a mysterious disembodied arm that calls itself Ankh. In a bid to defeat the other Greeed, Ankh gives Eiji the OOO Driver and a set of Core Medals to allow him to transform into Kamen Rider OOO (pronounced Ohs, as in multiple O’s in a row).

A great season followed up by yet another great season. OOO is another season that has excellent characters and great designs. The story of OOO is another example of the great storytelling potential of Kamen Rider as a series. Not to mention that the relationships created between the characters is engaging and makes you want to see where the next episode takes them. The Neo Heisei era starts off with two great seasons in a row. Can it go for three?

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2011: “Youth, switched on! It’s space time!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Fourze
Kamen Rider Fourze in space with the Rocket Module active

At Amanogawa High School, the usual flow of things is disrupted by the arrival of the new transfer student Gentaro Kisaragi. Upon introducing himself to his new classmates, he declares that he will befriend everyone. However, shortly after his arrival, the school finds itself under attack by a strange monster. Left with few options, his old childhood friend gives him the Fourze Driver and a set of Astro Switches to transform into Kamen Rider Fourze (pronounced FOUR-zay). Now he must battle against these monsters and uncover the mystery behind these Astro Switches.

For the third season in a row, the Neo Heisei era produces yet another great season. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for the high school delinquent types of characters, but Gentaro ends up being one of my favorite Riders of all time, with only a select few standing above him. The season itself is much more light-hearted in general, essentially being a high school drama about the power of friendship. However, this makes Fourze a refreshing season and an excellent entry into the Rider series.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2012: “It’s showtime!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Wizard
Kamen Rider Wizard and his Magic Rings

A strange ritual on the day of a solar eclipse brought forth monstrous creatures known as Phantoms into the world. In order to do so, a large number of Gates, humans with high magic potential, had to be driven to despair. Haruto Souma, a Gate that survived the ritual, was given the WizarDriver and a mysterious girl by a wizard dressed in white. Now, acting as the final hope of mankind, Haruto becomes Kamen Rider Wizard to defeat the Phantoms.

Unfortunately, Wizard falls short of the mark as far as Kamen Rider is concerned. Much of the issues I have with Wizard stems from the main character himself. Wizard is rather boring and doesn’t really grow much as a character throughout his journey. Not to mention some of the other characters end up being rather lackluster due to the less than stellar writing of the season. One of the best characters of the season ends up being the secondary Rider, which is unfortunate since Wizard had a lot of potential as a character.

Personal Rating: 5/10, an okay season, but feel free to skip it

2013: “The Warring Riders Era!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Gaim
Kamen Rider Gaim posed in front of Baron, Ryugen, Zangetsu, and Gridon

The Yggdrasill Corporation has turned the bustling city of Zawame into something resembling a castle town. In order to distract from that feeling, young dancers group together and start dancing on stages around the city. As the dance groups begin to compete with one another, they start playing the Inves Game, played by summoning Inves through devices called Lockseeds. One day, Kouta Kazuraba, a former dancer for one of the teams, stumbles upon a mysterious belt and a special Lockseed. Kouta uses these to transform into Armored Rider Gaim (pronounced Gime, rhymes with lime). Little does he know that there is more to these games than he is aware of.

Gaim is quite possibly one of the best seasons not only of the Neo Heisei era, but all of Kamen Rider. This season is a well written coming of age story that allows all of its main characters to grow in a significant manner throughout the story. The relationships between characters is covered brilliantly and the shift in these relationships is riveting to watch. A tale full of emotional depth and growth, Gaim is absolutely a must watch. If you still need further convincing after all of that, the head writer for this season is none other than Gen Urobuchi, who famously wrote the story for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and the first season of Psycho-Pass. So, if you enjoyed any of those shows, you will without a doubt enjoy Gaim.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch

2014: “Start your engine!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Drive
Kamen Rider Drive with some Shift Cars and his Ride Machine, the Tridoron

One night, during an intense chase between the cops and some criminals, a strange phenomenon occurs. Everything slowed down in its tracks, the people, the people, animals, and even the pouring rain. During this strange occurrence, elite cop Shinnosuke Tomari’s partner is injured and hospitalized. Now demoted to a Special Investigations Unit that investigates these Slowdowns, Shinnosuke finds himself stuck in a rut. However, he is soon recruited by the AI within the Drive Driver and transforms into Kamen Rider Drive. Now he fights against the cybernetic menace of the Roidmudes, the beings responsible for the Slowdowns.

Drive is a solid season overall, featuring a strong cast of characters and great villains that you love to see on screen. While not as bleak as the previous season, Drive does feature its dramatic moments as well as a slew of comedic moments. One of my bigger gripes with this season is that, despite featuring a clearly competent female character that is capable of fighting, they do not let her become a Rider. That is mostly a personal complaint, but still one that I have. Other than that, while still a great season as a whole, the ending does leave a little to be desired.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2015: “Life, burn bright!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Ghost
Kamen Rider Ghost with the Ghost Parkas of the Heroes Musashi, Newton, and Edison

Takeru Tenkuji, an aspiring Ghost Hunter, lives his daily life at the Daitenku Temple with the other monks and trainees. On his 18th birthday, he receives a mysterious eye-shaped trinket called an Eyecon from his late father. Upon receiving it, he begins to see ghosts and other ghost-like entities called Ganma. When these Ganma attack his friends, he boldly fights them. However, this proves to be his undoing as the attacking Ganma kill him. After his untimely death, he is met by a strange Hermit who gives him the Ghost Driver as well as a quest: Gather the Eyecons of fifteen heroic spirits in 99 days in order to come back to life or disappear forever. Now, Takeru returns to his friends to defend them as Kamen Rider Ghost and gather the fifteen heroic spirits.

Despite the excellent designs of the suits and Ghost Parkas of Ghost, this season is widely considered to be the worst season of Kamen Rider to date. The story is so poorly handled, later parts of the story actually negate the urgency presented in earlier episodes. And while his suit design is actually one of my all-time favorites, the main Rider is a boring character that basically gets new powers as the plot requires it. It doesn’t help that the head writer for the season wrote less than half of the total episodes, so the general direction of the season most likely was not well coordinated.

Personal Rating: 3/10, I suggest you skip this one.

2016 Reboot: “The hunt begins”

Neo Heisei Poster for Amazons
Kamen Rider Amazon Omega crouched in front of Amazon Alpha

Unbeknownst to the public, strange creatures are popping up within the city and devouring humans. These man-eating monsters are known as Amazons. Nozama Peston is an Amazon hunting team that disguises themselves as a pest removal service to the public. They travel around the city and exterminate whatever Amazons may pop up. Meanwhile, Haruka Mizusawa is a meek and frail young man, confined to his home due to a medical condition. One day, after not taking his medicine, an odd instinct awakens in him and he transforms into an Amazonz. He is met by the mysterious Jin Takayama, who puts on a strange belt and transforms into Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha. Just what are these strange creatures, where did they come from, and why were they created?

Amazonz is the first web series for Kamen Rider that is directed at an older audience. As such, Kamen Rider Amazonz is a much gorier and serious affair compared to other seasons. I find that this reboot of a Showa era season is very successful as a season targeted at older audiences. The attacks are appropriately vicious and the story doesn’t have to dance around the gore with explosions. Amazonz is split into two thirteen episode seasons, with the end of the story being told in a movie that has yet to be officially released outside of Japan. However, if you are interested in watching Amazonz, both seasons are officially available through Amazon Prime Video as Amazon Riders.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2016: “Game start!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Ex-Aid
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid with Brave, Snipe, Lazer, and a mysterious black Ex-Aid behind him

A new type of virus called the Bugster Virus has slowly started to spread throughout the public. A person infected by the virus releases a Bugster, video game virus, into the real world. In order to fight this, the Gamer Driver was created to combat the Bugsters released by infected patients to cure them. Hojo Emu, a pediatric med student, is also a genius gamer known as “M”. Using the Gamer Driver, he transforms into Kamen Rider Ex-Aid and uses his video game-based powers save his patient’s lives.

Ex-Aid is another fun season that features a colorful cast of characters. The story is presented as a doctor drama with a side of video game antics. In all honesty, I did not expect much going into this season. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the story got into its serious moments. All in all, Ex-Aid is a good story with some fun characters.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2017: “Let’s start the experiment!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Build
Kamen Rider Build back-to-back with Cross-Z surrounded by Full Bottles and Guardians

10 years ago, man made its first successful mission to Mars. When the astronaut returned, he brought back a mysterious box. Now called the Pandora Box, the box split Japan into three different sections. These sections were divided by the Skywall, a mysterious wall created by the box. Now, the government has hired the prodigious physicist Sento Kiryu to solve the mystery of the box. However, while Sento solves the mystery of the box, he must also uncover another mystery: The mystery of his own past. The only memory he has to go on is a mysterious figure dressed like a bat. After Ryuga Banjou, a convict, escapes from a strange laboratory, Sento comes one step closer to solving his own mystery. He transforms into Kamen Rider Build in order to uncover the truth behind the mysterious creatures called Smash and his own past.

Another excellent season of Kamen Rider in terms of story, characters, and design. As a story following a brilliant physicist uncovering mysteries left and right, the show does a good job of answering questions while raising new ones. Naturally, as the story progresses, these new mysteries lead to yet more mysteries until the final arc of the story. Of course, what really ties this season together is the relationships between the characters. On top of that, Build has my favorite villain in all of Rider. All in all, a great season overall, even though certain episodes drag on parts that I feel are unnecessary.

Personal Rating: 9/10, highly recommended

2018: “Rejoice, for the birth of a new king!”

Neo Heisei Poster for Zi-O
Kamen Rider Zi-O and Geiz surrounded by the past Heisei Riders

Sougo Tokiwa is a high school student who has one goal: to become king. His peaceful high school life is suddenly disrupted when a mysterious flying machine starts following him around. As it attacks him, another flying machine interrupts and saves Sougo. The pilot takes him into her machine and introduces herself as Tsukuyomi, who has come from 2068 to prevent a terrible future: A future ruled by the overlord Ohma Zi-O, Sougo’s future self. After the appearance of a strange being known as an Another Rider, another person calling himself Woz appears at Sougo’s side. He presents him with the Time-Space Driver to transform into Kamen Rider Zi-O (pronounced Zee-Oh, like saying the letters Z and O). In order to prevent the future that he has been told, he vows to become the kindest, most beloved overlord with his newfound power.

As another anniversary series, Zi-O is something of a mixed bag for me. While Zi-O does some great tributes to earlier seasons, it also has some not so great tributes as well. A lot of the plot is also somewhat disjointed as it tries to work around the schedules of available actors so that they can comeback for an appearance. While it is greatly appreciated to see these characters comeback, the story does suffer from it. Ultimately, while enjoyable, this season is on the lower end for me.

Personal Ratings: 6/10, a fun season, but suffers from too much clutter.

Final Thoughts

Whooo, we did it. That was all of the Heisei Seasons of Kamen Rider. I really do hope that reading through these has convinced some of you to give Kamen Rider a shot. As a fan of the series, it is my sincere wish that you give the show a try. These stories are wonderful tales of Justice that follow these colorfully dressed Karate Bugmen. If nothing else, just give at least one season three episodes. If it doesn’t hook you, that’s just fine. At the very least you gave it an honest try. Anyways, that’s it from me for this article. I hope you’ll join me again sometime for the next article in my series. For my next topic, I’m thinking of going into the Super Sentai series. That’s subject to change, but we’ll see. Anyways, this is Zach J., TD (not a real doctorate) signing off.

See you next Rider Time~

Tokusatsu 101: Seasons of the Heisei Era – Part 1

Greetings, geeks of all ages! It’s me, Professor of Toku (self-proclaimed), Zach J., TD. (not an actual title). If you’re reading this, that means you’re back for another exciting installment of the Tokusatsu 101 series. Or, this is the first article of mine that you’re reading. In which case, welcome and consider reading the other entries in this series. This article will be talking about the Seasons of Rider in the Heisei Era.

In the last article, I gave a rundown of the different Eras that Kamen Rider is split into. It was a long, but necessary explanation. This time, it will be giving you simple synopses of the Seasons of the Heisei Era as well as my personal ratings. This will be done in two parts as there are 21 (technically 22) seasons to cover. I will not be covering the Showa Era mostly because the shows are not as readily accessible in decent quality. The only one that is readily available for streaming is the original Kamen Rider from 1971. If you’re interested in watching it, you can officially watch it at Shout Factory TV through their TokuSHOUTsu channel. Also, I will not be covering the Reiwa Era seasons as the second one is still ongoing. Now then, let’s do this!

2000: “A new hero, a new legend”

Season Poster for Kuuga
Kamen Rider Kuuga in his Mighty, Dragon, Pegasus, and Titan Forms.

In the year 2000, an archaeological dig uncovers an ancient tomb hidden in the mountains. Inside, a mysterious belt is discovered alongside a warning. The team that discovered the tomb is attacked by a strange monster shortly after. When this unidentified lifeform follows after the belt and attacks the investigators, professional dream chaser Yusuke Godai puts on the belt and transforms into Kamen Rider Kuuga. Now he must face off against these unknown creatures and solve the mystery of their appearance.

For the first entry of the Era, it is a pitch perfect start. The story is well told and maintains a good pace throughout, with an excellent ending. The tone of Kuuga is more dramatic when compared to previous seasons. And while they are archaic, the visual effects for the time are great and well put together. My only real gripe is that it only features a single Rider throughout, though that’s a personal nitpick rather than an actual knock on the season. Still, if you’d like to watch Kuuga, you can officially watch it over at Shout Factory TV via their TokuSHOUTsu channel.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch.

2001: “Awaken the soul”

Season Poster for Agito
Kamen Rider Agito alongside G3 and Gills

Shoichi Tsugami does not remember anything of his past. He has no recollection of where he came from or how he got to where he is. However, when he finds himself around the mysterious creatures called Unknown, he transforms into the equally mysterious Kamen Rider Agito (pronounced AH-gi-toe). What are these creatures? How did he obtain these powers? What does it mean to have these powers? Shoichi must find the answers to these mysteries and many more as he goes on his journey of discovery.

Another excellent entry in the series, Agito is a well made season with good use of practical and special effects. The story itself maintains a good balance of drama and comedy, as well as a good sense of mystery. Not to mention, the Rider designs in this season are well done. I am partial to how they handled G3 as a man-made Rider that has to take the time to actually equip the armor rather than transforming with a belt.

Personal Rating: 9/10, highly recommended

2002: “Those who don’t fight, don’t survive”

Season Poster for Ryuki
Kamen Rider Ryuki with his Contract Monster, Dragredder, alongside Kamen Rider Knight

In a parallel world, an unseen war is being fought. A Rider War, fought between thirteen chosen Riders, rages on. As the battle goes on, journalist trainee Shinji Kido investigates a missing persons case. This investigation eventually leads him to being pulled into the Mirror World and right into the fray. Now, after making a contract with the mysterious dragon Dragredder, Shinji transforms into Kamen Rider Ryuki and must fight in the Rider War or become another casualty.

This season introduces the concept of Rider Wars into the series, as well as having Riders being the main villains of the show. While the concept is fresh and the idea is well fleshed out, the season loses steam towards the end. And though the season is filled with great moments, it ultimately falls short when it comes to the ending.

Personal Rating: 7/10, fun to watch.

2003: “Running instinct”

Season Poster for 555 (Faiz)
Kamen Rider 555 (Faiz) and his motorcycle/mech Auto Vajin

The world is beset by the appearance of the Orphnochs, monstrous creatures that begin targeting the human populace. Major tech conglomerate Smart Brain has developed a series of power suits called Rider Gear. Before they can be put to use, they are stolen by the company’s former chief. When one of the chief’s foster children is attacked, lone wolf Takumi Inui is dragged into the fight. Donning the Rider Gear, he transforms into Kamen Rider 555 (pronounced Faiz, alternatively rendered Kamen Rider Φ‘s). Now he must battle against the Orphnochs in order to keep humanity from being wiped out.

This season is a more serious drama/soap opera type of season, with much of the focus being on the characters and the relationships between them. However, while the character focus is appreciated, there are plot holes that drag down the quality of the season. That said, I still enjoy this season quite a bit. The bleak tone of the season and overarching plot are handled well.

Personal Rating: 7/10, fun to watch.

2004: “Take the trump card of fate”

Season Poster for Blade
Kamen Rider Blade holding the Blay Rouser with Chalice and Garren depicted as Cards

Long ago, a massive battle known as the Battle Royal was fought among fifty-two creatures known as the Undead. After a hard-fought battle, the Human Undead stood as the victor. With the battle over, the Undead were sealed away as Humans prospered. In present day, archaeologists discover the sealed Undead and release them, beginning another Battle Royal. To keep humanity safe, the organization BOARD has developed the Rider System. Now, the new recruit Kazuma Kenzaki transforms into Kamen Rider Blade to stop the Undead and seal them away.

Blade as a season is full of ups and downs. The first half of the season is not particularly well done, with many memes and jokes revolving around many of the earlier moments. However, starting with the second half, the season becomes much better. The production staff shifted the season to make it more serious in tone, with the ending of the season being one of the best in all of Rider. That said, it does take thirty or so episodes to get into the better part of the season. While I still enjoy the season, memes and all, it is difficult to ask someone to keep watching to get to episode thirty-one for the best parts of the show.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch.

2005: “To us, there are heroes”

Season DVD Cover for Hibiki
Kamen Rider Hibiki with his young apprentice in the background

Deep in the mountains, there exist different types of Kamen Rider: Oni. These Oni, masters of combat with sound, defend humanity from the threat of the man-eating Makamou. One of the Oni, Kamen Rider Hibiki (pronounced HEE-bee-key), meets a young boy who wishes to learn from him. While this young boy transitions into high school life, he seeks the advice of Hibiki. Forming a strange master-apprentice relationship with the boy, Hibiki must defend the world while teaching a young boy about the pains of growing up.

If the description sounds like a mess, that’s unfortunately because this season is one. Due to many production issues behind the scenes that led to a major staff change, the quality of the season suffers greatly. The season itself has an interesting concept in presenting Oni as Kamen Rider that fight using musical instruments. However, the overall quality of Hibiki suffers from trying to balance what ends up being three shows at once. Ultimately, while parts of it are enjoyable, this season is easily one of the worst in the series.

Personal Rating: 4/10, don’t force yourself to watch the whole season if you don’t want to.

2006: “Walk heaven’s path to rule over everything”

Season Poster for Kabuto
Kamen Rider Kabuto Casts-Off his armor, with ZECT Troopers standing behind him

Seven years ago, a meteorite landed in Japan, bringing along with it extraterrestrial passengers. The Worms, bug-like monsters capable of mimicking people near-perfectly, now threaten the daily lives of the people. In order to combat this menace, the military technology company ZECT creates new gear called Zecters. These Zecters harmonize with their users to transform them into Kamen Riders capable of fighting against the Worms. The man who walks the path of heaven, Soji Tendo, harmonizes with the Kabuto Zecter to transform into Kamen Rider Kabuto (pronounced KAH-boo-toe).

This is the season that introduced me to the Kamen Rider series. It was the discovery of this show that led me down the path of becoming a TD (not a real doctorate) and changed my life forever. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would rate this show a perfect ten out of ten. However, as I’ve grown up and become more versed in storytelling, I can say that this season is not without issue. What ultimately brings down the rating of this season is the main rider himself. While he has excellent moments as the hero of the story, he is very much a boring, invincible hero that doesn’t change much over the course of the season. That said, while he himself doesn’t change much, he influences many of the characters around him, leading them to great change over the course of the story.

Personal Rating: 8/10, a great season to watch

2007: “Traveling through time, here I come!”

Season Poster for Den-O
Kamen Rider Den-O in his Sword Form standing in front of the DenLiner, the train of time

Imagin, beings capable of traveling through time by granting people wishes, seek to change the past and destroy the future. Ryotaro Nogami, a terribly unlucky young man, one day finds a strange train pass lying in a nearby gutter. Soon after, he is possessed by one of the Imagin. This red devil-like being tries to coerce him into making a wish, but ultimately ends up fighting alongside Ryotaro, who transforms into Kamen Rider Den-O to fight against the Imagin. The train from earlier, the DenLiner, takes both him and the Imagin in as passengers. Together, they must stop the other Imagin from running rampant and destroying the future.

This is easily one of the most popular seasons of Kamen Rider. Den-O as a whole is much more light-hearted when compared to previous entries in the series. But while the comedy is much more prevalent, this does not mean that there are no dramatic moments. In fact, the excellent balance between drama and comedy is what makes this season so hugely popular. The overarching story is handled well, the character’s interactions are fun to watch, and the growth of the relationships between characters is incredible.

Personal Rating: 10/10, a must watch.

2008: “Wake up! Break the chains of destiny!”

Season Poster for Kiva
Kamen Rider Kiva with his leg poised, ready to deliver his finishing move

Lurking hidden within society, there are creatures known as Fangire. These monstrosities consume the life force of humans in order to survive. In 1986, a lone Fangire Hunter hunts the monsters down to protect humanity. One day, she comes across Otoya Kurenai, a master violinist and ladies man. This leads him to get entangled in the battle against the Fangires. Twenty-two years later, Otoya is missing, leaving his reclusive son Wataru to pick up the fight in his stead. Now, Wataru fights against the Fangire menace as Kamen Rider Kiva alongside Kivat-Bat the 3rd.

This season is interesting, though a bit difficult to follow if you don’t pay close attention to the story. The story follows both father and son during their respective time periods, 1986 and 2008. While the general plot line is difficult to follow, the characters and their relationships are fun to watch. However, this is not a season you can play in the background while doing something else and still follow along with the story. Not to mention that jumping between two different time periods constantly makes the pacing seem a little too fast since we as the audience have to follow two different heroes.

Personal Rating: 6/10, a fun season, but suffers from too much clutter.

2009: “Destroy everything, connect everything”

Season Poster for Decade
Kamen Rider Decade, who can take the forms of the 9 previous Riders

Tsukasa Kadoya is a young photographer who somehow cannot take photos correctly. Every time he does, the photo comes out distorted and blurry. He has no memories of why that is or how he ended up where he is. However, his peaceful life is forever changed when strange curtains of light start appearing out of nowhere. These curtains of light cause turn out to be signs of several worlds joining as one. In order to keep this from happening and destroying the world, Tsukasa transforms into Kamen Rider Decade. However, Decade is heralded as the Destroyer of Worlds. What truths are hidden away by his lost memories? Is Decade the savior of the world, or the destroyer?

This season celebrates the ten year anniversary of the Heisei Era of Kamen Rider. As such, Decade focuses on interacting with the past Riders and celebrating each season. Unfortunately, this is another season plagued with many production issues. All of these production issues led to Decade being one of the shortest seasons of Rider at the time, coming in at a mere thirty episodes during its original run. When the season was re-run, the final episode was recut and edited to become two episodes, bringing the final episode count to thirty-one. These production issues, along with the plot problems of the story itself, leads to Decade being on the lower end of the scale for me.

Personal Rating: 5/10, an okay season, but feel free to skip it.

Aside

Woo, okay, that was a lot to cover. I hope you’ve been sticking through with me for the entire article. There’s a lot of stuff to cover and even more things to cover for the next article. So please, join me next time when I cover the second half of the Heisei era seasons! It’ll be a fun one, I guarantee it.

See you next Rider Time~

Tokusatsu 101: Eras of Kamen Rider

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!

The Imperial Calendar

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.

Humble Beginnings

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.

Return of the Rider

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.

The Reboot Riders

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.

New Age of Heroes

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.

Issues in Continuity

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~

Tokusatsu 101: Intro to Tokusatsu and Kamen Rider

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.

The Tokusatsu Genre

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.

Genealogy of Justice

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.

The Man Behind The Mask

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.

Influence on Japanese Pop Culture

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~