On March 28th, a day before its premiere, MyNavi interviewed the producer of the much awaited Kamen Rider Wars movie, Shinichiro Shirakura. In it, he discusses the thought process behind the concept of the Showa vs Heisei battle as well as how they brought it all together.
Toei’s new tokusatsu movie, Heisei Riders vs Showa Riders: Kamen Rider Wars feat. Super Sentai has premiered on March 29th in theatres across Japan. In addition to gathering all of the main Riders from every series, starting from Kamen Rider 1 (Showa 46/1971) up to Kamen Rider Gaim (Heisei 25/2013), the movie has garnered attention due to the unprecedented premise of having the Showa Riders (Kamen Rider 1 to Kamen rider J) confront the Heisei Riders (Kamen Rider Kuuga to Kamen Rider Gaim) in battle.
The other subject of attention is the use of a fan poll to decide which side will emerge victorious. This would mean that the fans would divide into Showa supporters and Heisei supporters, making clear which has more “Kamen Rider love”.
The architect of this unprecedented event is Shinichiro Shirakura, who acted as producer in multiple Heisei Rider series such as Kamen Rider Agito, Kamen Rider Ryuki, Kamen Rider Decade, etc. This makes him one of the Heisei Rider “leaders”, however, he was one of many children that watched Kamen Rider 1 and Kamen Rider V3 and rooted for them.
This means that he has deep feelings for both Showa and Heisei Riders. The theatre ballots have been collected and are being counted. The online voting closed at midnight on the 25th. The victor of the poll will be known on the 29th. We (MyNavi) talked to Producer Shirakura about the highlights of the movie and his feelings regarding the Showa and Heisei Riders.
Q: The premiere is near. How did you come up with the “Showa and Heisei Riders clash” concept in this “Kamen Rider War” movie?
A: We had thought something completely different in the beginning. It was Kamen Rider x Super Sentai: Super Hero Warin 2012 and Kamen Rider x Super Sentai x Space Sheriff: Super Hero War Z, so it became a tendency to gather all the heroes in the Spring movie. We were in the process of narrowing down ideas. Then, Naomi Takebe, who is in charge of Kamen Rider Gaim, casually said: “Gaim is the 15th Heisei Rider production, correct? That makes 15 Showa Riders and 15 Heisei Riders. The numbers have aligned”.
Q: So it was Mrs. Takebe’s comment what started everything.
A: For a long running series like Kamen Rider, 10th anniversaries and knowing what number a particular series is attached to is an important element. And Kamen Rider, in particular, has a 40 year history. Fans of 1, 2 and V3 and fans of the recent Gaim and Wizard have a completely different image of what a Kamen Rider is. Having the Showa riders and Heisei riders align in numbers was, in our eyes, a very important turning point. If there is a Kamen Rider series after Gaim, the number of Heisei Riders would surpass the Showa.
Q: So the equilibrium between Showa and Heisei would be lost when a Heisei Rider following Gaim appears?
A: That would mean, in essence, that the “Kamen Rider” concept would be a “Heisei Rider”. And, I think that eventually the Heisei Rider and Showa Rider categories will disappear. So, the Showa Riders would be spoken of as an old category for the early Kamen Riders, almost like a prehistoric fact. In this situation, we took the once in a lifetime chance of Heisei and Showa aligning in numbers to make them confront each other.
Q: The key to the division between Showa Riders and Heisei Riders resides in 2000’s Kamen Rider Kuuga. Firstly, there was a change in the production structure since Toei and Mainichi Housou were the ones that produced Kamen Rider through Kamen Rider Black RX, it was now Toei, ADK and TV Asahi who produced from Kuuga onwards. However, Rider Shin from the video movie Shin Kamen Rider / Prologue and the movie only Riders ZO and J were created, undoubtedly, in the Heisei era. Did you consider putting them in the Heisei category instead of Showa?
A: The (Japanese year) era changed while RX was airing and then it was Heisei. As to why Shin, ZO and J are not Heisei, it is because when they appeared, the “Heisei Rider” concept itself didn’t exist. The concepts of Heisei Rider and Showa Rider were not something us, the creators, conceived but happened naturally among the fandom. There were previous examples in the “Heisei Gamera” and “Heisei Godzilla” concepts for “remade heroes from the past” which fit Kuuga, and the Heisei Riders are born.
Q: When Kuuga started, we all thought it would be a continuation with a new Kamen Rider Series.
A: Actually, we weren’t planning on continuing the series. When Kuuga started, it was thought that Kamen Rider would end with this single project. In drastic terms, there were thoughts of making Kuuga the “last Kamen Rider”, the one that would bring permanent peace to the world with no series following his. However, Kuuga proved to be popular, and we thought of doing just another one and Agito was made, but there were no plans of making a yearly Kamen Rider series.
We then thought this flow shouldn’t be stopped and we made Agito and Ryuki franticly. By the 4th installment, 555, we finally could grasp the “Kamen Rider” concept and the Heisei Riders became a series with an installment per year. However, it was all twists and turns until Decade.
Q: A big highlight for this movie is that along with the Showa and Heisei Riders, actors who played heroes from the past are also making a reappearance. Hiroshi Fujioka playing Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1 after such a long time and having him do his transformation pose has made news. Also, Hayami Ryo as Kamen Rider X/Keisuke Jin, Shun Sugata as Kamen Rider ZX/Ryo Murasame and on the Heisei side. Kento Handa as Takumi Inui/Kamen Rider 555 among others, forming quite a nostalgic lineup. Is there any particular reason why you cast them?
A: We approached the actors that participated in landmark series, the original Rider 1, X as the fifth and ZX as the tenth. What’s more, they don’t just appear, they all have their dramatic moments.
Q: Since heroes from different scenarios and universe perspectives are gathering, it must have been very hard to build a story incorporating each characters background, right?
A: It happened in 555 and Decade, which I was in charge of. When putting all the Riders together, problems like “this setting doesn’t match here or there” arise. Regarding other series, there was a setting that had to be followed and thinking from that point of view, having two heroes co-star is truly impossible.
At the same time, in this co-starring project, it is important to know which Rider knows who. For example, in this movie there is a Seven Samurai-style situation in which each Rider has to be approached to join. In this situation, the dialog changes depending on whether the Riders meet for the first time or know each other. In Movie War, we had to think if having met without transforming would make them acquaintances or if they just stood next to each other, already transformed, like in All Riders. If you start worrying about these small details, it goes on endlessly, so you have to know when to drop it.
Also, since the actors will perform the heroes in the flesh, we cannot just ignore what happened in their respective installments. As creators, the director and I need to be able to tell “this rider lived like this after his battle was over”.
Q: So, this movie could not be made without a lot of love for the Riders and commitment to the material.
A: The Takeshi Hongo that appears in this movie is a character that has been battling for 40 years since it was created. Mr. Fujioka played him once again after 38 years, and having him play the Hongo of 38 years ago would not make sense. He has to appear as a character who’s humanity has deepened after 38 years. You have to think what that means. Still, thinking about it too realistically leaves you unable to do anything.
Q: So we have the Showa 15, the Heisei 15, the other Gaim riders, ToQger and even the evil Badan Empire. We think it’s an amazing feat to have concentrated all of these characters.
A: It was a hellish ordeal (laughs). It would be easy to do it simply, but since the Rider group would be divided in two, the drama that takes place in their confrontation was the difficult part. The final product is after walking on a tightrope and managing to create something. It has an enormous number of elements.
Q: So, even coordinating traffic for all of these characters was a challenge, wasn’t it?
A: A project in which the story is easy to follow, namely a “well done story”, is quite easy to accomplish. However, even if the drama were to collapse, making something with so many elements, that can be seen from so many angles is, I think, the work of an artisan. But if the artisan is the only one who fully understands the work and it is just for self-satisfaction, then you have failed
Q: This time, fans will decide whether Showa or Heisei wins. The ballots at theatres were closed on the 19th and the online voting at the official site closed at 23:59 on the 25th. What is the aim of this “let’s decide with a poll” idea?
A: We talked about what category Shin, ZO and J belonged. The categories of Showa Rider and Heisei Rider may work with an engaged fan or with us creators. However, for a regular person “Kamen Rider” is “Kamen Rider” and that’s it.
We then thought about how to have them know who the Showa and Heisei riders were and after tossing ideas around, the poll came in. Even if people didn’t have the clear concept, we would divide the Riders and have them fight, so we wanted to make that clear.
Q: Certainly the “Showa vs Heisei” concept is intriguing. The viewers would wonder things like “What will the story be like?” or “Which one is stronger?”.
A: As someone who thinks that the right way to promote something is to let people know how to enjoy it, having simply said “Heisei Riders vs Showa Riders” certainly accomplished that.
All English translations are accredited to The Tokusatsu Network staff members. Please do not repost without crediting and directly linking back to the original Tokusatsu Network article.