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32Play Blog: The henshin that was lost in translation - Kamen Rider

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And now for something a little different.

I've made passing mention of this in my blogs before - but I am a massive Kamen Rider fan.

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Kamen Rider is a super hero show (tokusatsu genre - live action special effects) that has run since 1971 with a ten year gap in the 90s - much like Dr Who. When I was a kid a friend of mine from Hong Kong had a bunch of tapes that he'd picked up in a market - those rather crappy tapes had some episodes of Gundam ZZ, Tekkaman Blade, Macross and Kamen Rider Black on them. This was just before the Power Rangers came to the UK and you can imagine that my mind was blown - especially given that I had grown up on Thundercats, Robotech (oh the irony) and Transformers in the late 80s. Naturally it was all in either Chinese or Japanese but at that age it was just cool to watch dudes in plastic suits and robots beat the crap out of each other.

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Skip forward a couple of years and previews of 'Masked Rider' showing up on UK tv tying into Power Rangers showed up..I even recognised Black RX as the Rider in question. The hype was real for my 12 year old brain..however what we got was..well..not what I was expecting. Time for a little compare and contrast:

with the first episode of Black (RX - the source of Masked Rider fight scenes is a continuation of Black so..I prefer Black anyway)

Both are 'kids shows' and Black is from 1987. I take the, probably controversial, view that Kamen Rider is the Japanese Dr Who - something that both kids and adults can enjoy. Now obviously the demographic (and time period) is different between these two programmes - Saban wanted to tap into the Power Rangers demographic while Black had it's own thing going - but going from one to another was deeply annoying for my 12 year old self. Rewatching Black now I'm not even sure that it qualifies as a kids show..there's some scary stuff in there. I never looked at Silkworms the same way again after episode 5.

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After the disappointment of Masked Rider in '96 I forgot about Kamen Rider until around 2011. Trawling the internet (as one does) I came across some mention of a new series - at that time it was W - and was surprised to find out that there had been new Kamen Rider series since 2001. I decided to start with the most recent which was Decade..both a good idea (short and a good premise) and a bad idea..but the bad idea didn't become apparent until after I'd watched some of the previous shows. Decade acts as a retread/revisiting of all the Heisei-era (2001-2009) Riders before him - the dimensions are being destroyed and in order to stop the collapse of reality Decade must travel to all the previous Heisei Kamen Rider worlds and destroy? those Riders..thus we get a whistlestop tour of all the series since 2001 starting with Kuuga. Unfortunately all the characters and plotlines have been changed to such a degree that it really annoyed fans of those characters...add to that the confusing nature of what is actually going on - Diend alone can start fights between fans - and that the ending of the show is only seen in the movie I can only suggest Decade to new viewers or people with a love of pink cameras. It should probably be noted that in 2009 Saban once again attempted to bring Kamen Rider to the west with Dragon Knight (Ryuuki) and fair play to was a lot closer to the source material. Some liked it..others didn't. I've only seen a handful of episodes and I don't like Ryuuki anyway so..I don't really know on that count.

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Following Decade I watched some of W - a fantastic concept of having a Kamen Rider made up of two people - two halves - with a sprinkling of 'Soft Boiled Noir'. It's a fun show, as is OOO's - the one that followed. However that's when we really began to hit the kids demographic. Den-O was the beginning of the trend and the recent Fourze and Gaim have just..overdone it to my mind. Kamen Rider has increasingly become about themes and..well..selling toys. Blade has the card theme, as did Ryuuki. Kabuto has a bug theme, while Decade has a Kamen Rider theme. Gaim has a fruit (yes) theme, Fourze has a space theme and Deno-O has a train theme..with added possession in the mix. Don't get me wrong - I accept that people enjoy Fourze and Gaim but I'm just not one of them. The Kamen Rider I want to see is Faiz (mass murders of teenagers, suicide attempts, introspection, laundry) and Kabuto (super speed, asteroids hitting earth and decimating Shibuya, bodysnatching, Tendou Souji, miso) not..fruit based powers. Not people screaming 'Space KITAAAA''s turning/turned into Masked Rider and that's not something I want to see.


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However I can appreciate, again much like Dr Who, that some people will swear by Den-O and think that Faiz is terrible. You'd be crazy but you're allowed to be crazy..

For those interested in watching Kamen Rider - my personal suggestion would be to start with Black if you can handle the old school charm or Faiz and Kabuto. Kuuga is fine too as it leads into Agito. I would avoid Den-o, Hibiki, Fourze and Gaim but ymmv. All of these can probably be found in subbed form on Youtube - much like Black above. KRDL is also a great website in that regard.

To close out this little retrospective of my Kamen Rider journey (and to be honest what prompted this blog post..and seeing @corruptedevil user icon all the time) I've been recording some videos of my Kamen Rider games - mostly on psp. Here I take a look at Eighting's Super Climax Heroes on the aforementioned console - it's a fun, yet dumb, fan game with a great selection of heroes and villains.

I make a bunch of dumb mistakes in the video regarding time frames and characters..Coming up I have a look at Rider Generation 2, Lost Heroes and hopefully Battride War. There are other games that riff on the Kamen Rider idea - most notably Viewtiful Joe and Wonderful 101 - though that's more Sentai than Kamen Rider.

Anyway thanks for joining me down this highly opinionated trip down memory lane. Seriously, if you enjoy Dr Who or just fun TV Shows - give Kamen Rider a try. It won't be for everyone but it's worth seeing if only for the henshins, fight scenes and dramatic poses.