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.
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~