Kamen Rider has evolved over the years, but is it something Shotaro Ishinomori would have been pleased with?
Kamen Rider Ryuki featured Kamen Riders with their own unique motivations. Some fought to protect loved ones, some fought for the thrill of killing, this show would abolish the idea that a Kamen Rider is automatically a representative of justice. Cards were selected as the major toy element in the show due to the popularity of Yu-Gi-Oh at the time. Kamen Rider Ryuki went on to win the “What is your favorite character?” poll from Bandai in 2002. Ryuki was, at the time, the most successful Kamen Rider series, selling 13.9 billion yen worth of product.
TV Asahi Director of Movie Business and General Bureau Organizer Motoi Sasaki says “We received confused calls from viewers at the sight of Kamen Riders fighting each other. It had become a serious topic. I think the series was able to keep the strength and kindness that had always been the root of Kamen Rider unchanged while still tackling this interesting topic.”
“Since it’s Kamen Rider, there’s still much that can be done,” says Toei producer Shinichiro Shirakura. “It’s not always going to be a remake of the Showa Rider series. You must give meaning to this series. However, I will always defend the Ishinomori-isms. The biggest difference between the Showa Rider series and the Heisei Rider series is whether Mr. Ishinomori lives on with it. I can’t ask for his approval but when you remove the modernity of Heisei Rider, Shotaro Ishinomori lives on, which is a reason to make Heisei Rider.”
Shirakura says that there are three recurring major elements from Kamen Rider that he calls “Ishinomori-isms”. The first is the idea of “fight against the self”. Kamen Rider, who was created to be a soldier of the enemy Shocker organization, fights against other remodeled humans like himself. The second Ishinomori-ism is “parricide”, the goal of ultimately destroying that which created you. In Kamen Rider’s case, he was created by Shocker and fights with the aim of destroying their organization. The final Ishinomori-ism is “denial of the self”. Even if Shocker is destroyed, the self, who is a remodeled Shocker agent, remains.
“You must be resolute that the blade pointed towards the enemy can be pointed towards yourself as well. These are the three pillars of Kamen Rider,” says Shirakura.
Since then, the Heisei Rider series has continued, tackling different themes with their own world views. Kamen Rider Faiz features a monster who becomes a Kamen Rider and is a show made in a contemporary style that focuses just as much on the monsters as it does the heroes. Kamen Rider Hibiki features heroes who use the powers of demons while Kamen Rider Den-O changed the vehicle the Rider uses.
Masato Hayase is the final assistant to have worked with Shotaro Ishinomori and has contributed a great many designs for shows from Kamen Rider Agito through Kamen Rider OOO. Hayase says, “To make something new means to discard something. When I design things, I think about what Mr. Ishinomori would have designed and I worry that there’s a gap between us. There are always fans of the older things and every time a new design is unveiled, you’re hit with talk of ‘Ishinomori would be rolling over in his grave right now,'” (laughs) “But I can sort of understand those feelings. That said, there was a person named Shotaro Ishinomori and he constantly tackled new ideas that expanded the world, so I think he would be pleased with the Heisei Rider series.”