Article by Orville E. Wright
Hello Again. I am here again with the third part of my Beginner’s Guide to Tokusatsuthis must be addressed now, Kamen Rider is the least well known of the four major groups of Tokusatsu I know. I am talking about it now because it and Sentai are closely related.
The first question is, what is Kamen Rider? Kamen Rider is generally about one bug themed super hero who fights the evil group of monsters from which he normally derives his power. Along the way, he will meet one to two other riders who got their power the same way he did.
The tone is often much more serious than Sentai, but since they are both about motor cycle helmeted heroes, the two are often compared.
The first series, simply named Kamen Rider, aired in 1971. It is about Takeshi Hongo, a brilliant college student with a major in biochemistry. One night, he is kidnaped by the evil organization, Shocker, a Nazi terrorist organization bent on world domination. They transform him into a cyborg grasshopper monster and try to brainwash him into being one of their many monstrous cyborg minions. However, Hongo is saved from being brainwashed by Shocker scientist, Professor Midorikawa, a friend of Hongo’s. With the professor’s help, Hongo gets out of the Shocker base, but in the process Professor Midorikawa is killed by a spider monster under the control of Shocker. The spider monster then kidnaps the Professor’s daughter, Ruriko Midorikawa. It is then that Hongo decides to use his newfound powers for good. He takes a motorcycle and rides after the spider monster and kills him. After that, he becomes the Kamen Rider, a masked hero of justice fighting the evil forces of Shocker.
He later meets Hayato Ichimonji, a free-lance photographer, who gets kidnapped by Shocker to become another grasshopper monster, because Hongo was so successful, despite his rebellion. Before he is brainwashed however, Hongo saves him and Ichimonji joins Hongo as the robin to his batman. This is Kamen Rider Two, the second rider for the first Kamen Rider series.
Ichimonji’s existence is due to an accident suffered by Hongo’s actor, Hiroshi Fujioka, while filming. A leg injury during filming required him to take a hiatus from acting. The executives came up with the idea of Kamen Rider Two, who would be the replacement rider while Fujioka recovered. Later on, Hongo would return and would take over as the main character again.
This accident started the tradition of the secondary Rider, another Rider who was not as important as the main character but was able to hold his own in a fight. Other traditions include a spider monster being one of the first monsters the heroes face and that all the riders use a motorcycle as their main mode of transportation.
While, as far as I know, there is no way to watch the originals legitimately, Saban did try to bring some of the later series over to the states, with less success than they had with Power Rangers. The two-series adapted from Kamen Rider are, Masked Rider, adapted from Kamen Rider Black RX, (a series that was a sequel to the series before it Kamen Rider Black), And Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, adapted from Kamen Rider Ryuki.
Masked Rider is about Prince Dax, former prince of Edenoi, and his fight agents his evil usurping uncle, Count Dregon. Count Dregon has decided to conquer Earth, since Zed, (The major Power Rangers’ villain after Reta) has not been able to do it. In response, Dax goes to earth to stop him, meeting up with a human family with whom he stays while on earth. Dregon sends down a monster every week to conquer earth and Dax beats it.
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is about Kit Taylor, a teenager on the verge of eighteen, and how he finds a thing called an Advent Deck in his dead father’s old apartment. He then meets Len, also known as Kamen Rider Wing Knight. Len is the last of a group of Kamen Riders who defended a world called Ventara. Ventara is an alternate dimension, which the riders can enter by walking through a mirror, or other reflective surface. His world was lost to a Warlord named Xaviax, an alien trying to rebuild his own home. Xaviax has the other Advent Decks and is handing them out to the Earth duplicates of the Ventaran Riders, tricking each into helping him. So, Kit and Len team up to fight of the other riders and eventually defeat Lord Xaviax.
I personally have never seen Masked Rider, so I will say nothing about it. Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, on the other hand, I have seen. It is a decent series, but nothing special. Watch it if you wish. As for an original Japanese Kamen Rider to watch, I have heard good reports about Kamen Rider Ex-aid, OOO, and Wizard.
(Note: I am not the best authority on this subject because I have not seen much of any Kamen Rider series. The only one I have seen to the end was Kamen Rider Decade, a Tribute series that was riddled with story issues. While I liked Decade, it would be a bad place to start.)
That will be all for now. Next time, we will discuss something people in the West might have head of, Ultra Man. Till then, my young friend, go forth and enjoy the worlds of Japanese Children’s Entertainment.
Orville E. Wright, the son of L. Jagi Lamplighter and John C. Wright, is a small Pokémon plush toy brought to life by mad science.