Team TokuNet Writer Malunis shares various bits of trivia for Kamen Rider music in the Heisei era, talking about the songs that made the biggest impact, the bands created for the shows, and the odd firsts and lasts in the franchise.
Kamen Rider is no stranger to selling toys, but that isn’t the only thing it sales – a big part of Japanese shows in general is the music, whether it be the theme song, the end credits, or some vocals you hear within the show. If you don’t generally pay attention to the music, here’s some fun facts that may slip by.
Showa Era (1971-1994)
Even though we’re focused on the Heisei era, it’s worth sharing some info on the original Kamen Rider series from 1971. Gotta pay my respects to the root of it all.
The original show featured the opening theme “Let’s Go!! Rider Kick” and was performed by Hiroshi Fujioka – he’s the main star of the show, Takeshi Hongo. How cool is that?
The lyrics of the song were written by one of the series creators himself, none other than Shotaro Ishinomori. He also wrote the lyrics for the first ending theme, “Rider Action”. This ending theme was performed by Masato Shimon, who also went on to perform a variation of the opening as well as the second ending theme, “Lonely Kamen Rider”.
With the exception of Kamen Rider Stronger, Shotaro Ishinomori would go on to write the lyrics for every Kamen Rider theme up until the Kamen Rider ZX movie.
Kamen Rider Kuuga (2000)
Moving onto the actual Heisei era trivia, let’s talk about Kamen Rider Kuuga.
The self-titled opening to Kamen Rider Kuuga, “Kamen Rider Kuuga!”, was performed by Masayuki Tanaka, while the ending theme, “Aozora ni Naru”, was performed by Jin Hashimoto. These two songs are, as of January 2019, the only Kamen Rider songs to be readily available in English from the original singers.
Kamen Rider Agito (2001)
Kamen Rider Agito‘s opening is currently the last time a Kamen Rider opening actually used the title of the show in the lyrics, belting out “Ready to go, count zero, Kamen Rider Agito!” – up to this point, every show theme namedrops its hero, so that’s why it stands out. That being said, some later shows would work in the Rider’s name some other way, such as Blade or Fourze.
Rider Chips is a band that was put together just for Kamen Rider productions. Originally, they consisted of instrumentalists with guest vocalists. But Ricky, who was formally from Dasein, went on to become their permanent vocalist after Kamen Rider Blade‘s second opening theme.
Their first contribution was a 2000 cover of the original theme, “Let’s Go!! Rider Kick”, performed by its original singer, Hiroshi Fujioka. The title track from their second album, Deep Breath, became the third insert song for Kamen Rider Agito. From there, they performed songs for Ryuki in 2002, Faiz in 2003, Blade in 2004, and Kabuto in 2006. Then they eventually came back to perform several songs for Wizard in 2012.
In 2015, to commemorate their 15th anniversary as a band, Yoshio Nomura led the Kamen Rider Anniversary Collaboration Project, which featured Rider Chips covers for every TV opening up to Kamen Rider Drive.
Kamen Rider Ryuki (2002)
While not directly related to Ryuki itself, there is something to be said about its American adaptation, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. It was brought back to Japan with a dub featuring an impressive cast of Rider alumni, along with new songs.
The opening theme to the dub was “Dive into the Mirror” by defspiral. They also had the song “ANOTHER WORLD” which was performed by the dub voice actors Tatsuhisa Suzuki (Kit / Dragon Knight) and Satoshi Matsuda (Len / Wing Knight), credited under the pseudonym “Kit x Len”.
Kamen Rider 555 (2003)
Kamen Rider 555‘s second fight song, “The people with no name”, was performed by Rider Chips with rap lyrics by m.c.A.T. This vocalist is notable for becoming the voice for the transformation belt in Kamen Rider Ghost many years later.
In 2018, there was a new version of the show’s opening, which was a ballad between the two main Riders, Faiz and Kaixa.
Kamen Rider Blade (2004)
While it was pretty common for the Showa era shows to go through a couple opening themes, Kamen Rider Blade was the first time a Heisei era Rider had a second song made for its opening. These two songs are “Round ZERO~BLADE BRAVE” by Nanase Aikawa and “ELEMENTS” by Rider Chips featuring Ricky, both with lyrics written by Shoko Fujibayashi.
Kamen Rider Hibiki (2005)
Kamen Rider Hibiki was the first time – and so far, only time – one of these shows had an opening theme with no lyrics. The theme, “Kagayaki”, was composed by Toshihiko Sahashi. The second opening, “Hajimari no Kimi e”, was performed by Akira Fuse, making this the only other Heisei Kamen Rider series to have two separate opening themes.
While some like to refer to the fight songs in the show as ending themes, Kamen Rider Hibiki is the first time since Kuuga that an ending credit sequence actually got included, which has not happened since then as of 2018’s series. This ending theme was “Shounen yo”, which was another performance by Akira Fuse.
It’s also worth noting that, on top of performing all of these songs, Akira Fuse also made a guest appearance in the show as a character in one story arc.
Kamen Rider Kabuto (2006)
Before Koji Kikkawa was breaking hearts in Kamen Rider W as the hard boiled Kamen Rider Skull, he performed the ending theme for Kamen Rider Kabuto the Movie: God Speed Love, which was called “ONE WORLD”. It has a similar feel to the song he’s known for in W.
Kamen Rider Den-O (2007)
Kamen Rider Den-O is quite a beast when it comes to its vocal song variants, and no Rider series has topped it yet.
The opening theme, “Climax Jump”, was originally performed by AAA, under the name AAA Den-O Form – despite them having big hits of their own, “Climax Jump” is still their highest selling single of all time. One year after its release, it was also certified by the Recording Industry Association of Japan as a Gold Record.
There were also remixes of the song performed by the show’s Imagin; Momotaros, Urataros, Kintaros and Ryutaros. Each one had a different genre of music.
Within the show, a HIPHOP Version of “Climax Jump” would play when Ryutaros would breakdance, and a Dark HIPHOP Version played when the main villain, Kai, would also dance.
From episode 40 until the show’s finale, the usual opening was also replaced by a DEN-LINER Form version which was sung by Momotaros, Urataros, Kintaros and Ryutaros. So you could technically say THIS is the last time a second opening happened, but it was just a variant of the existing song with no change to the usual visuals.
There were also a few variants performed after the show’s end, because Den-O proves to be eternally popular.
The show’s main fight song was “Double-Action Sword Form”, which was a duet between the main characters Ryotaro and Momotaros. Ryotaro would be included in the other versions of this song used in the show, which include Rod Form with Urataros, Ax Form with Kintaros, Gun Form with Ryutaros, and Wing Form with Sieg. Like with the variants of the previous song, these each had a different style of music.
The song would go on to have many other random covers:
- “Double-Action Piano Form” consists of four different piano covers which were featured in two episodes involving a pianist.
- “Double-Action Coffee Form” performed by the prominent female characters, Naomi and Airi.
- “Double-Action GAOH Form” performed by the movie villain Kamen Rider Gaoh
- “Double-Action Climax Form” performed by the characters Momotaros, Urataros, Kintaros, Ryutaros and Deneb.
- Finally, “Double-Action Strike Form” was a duet between Kamen Rider New Den-O and his Imagin Teddy, which was featured in the Cho Den-O Trilogy.
And that’s not even counting the rest of the vocal songs from Den-O…
Also, apart from the usual instrumental variants that most vocal songs have, many of these song variations also include a “Dialogue” version which has the characters speaking in between their vocals.
Kamen Rider Kiva (2008)
Kamen Rider Kiva featured a band created just for the show: Tetra-Fang. The band featured the main star Wataru Kurenai as its vocalist, and was actually featured in the show, albeit briefly. The real world band would perform several fight songs for the show.
“Destiny’s Play” was the first fight song, with the band performing the song in episode 12 of the show. They also performed themes for Kamen Rider Ixa, a few for Kiva’s alternate forms, and the theme for both Kamen Rider Dark Kiva and Kamen Rider Saga.
As you’d expect, Tetra-Fang only existed during this show’s run. However, due to their popularity, they reunited for a final album in 2009 which consisted of new versions of their songs, including two original songs sung by Kivat and an original duet between Wataru and Otoya Kurenai.
The movie’s ending theme, “Circle of Life”, was performed by a similar one-off band called Crimson-Fang, which featured Nanase Aikawa, who performed the first Kamen Rider Blade opening, and Marty Friedman on lead guitar – several cast members from the show were also featured on the chorus. There was a 2008 version with Wataru performing, and a 1986 version with Otoya.
Kamen Rider Decade (2009)
Kamen Rider Decade was the momentous 10th Heisei Kamen Rider show, so it made sense for them to do something special for the opening. “Journey Through The Decade” was performed by Gackt, one of the most iconic Japanese artists out there. This single currently holds the record for highest selling CDs in all of the Heisei Kamen Rider series, and it’s no surprise considering the artist. He also performed another song called “The Next Decade”.
Apart from the two songs for the series, Gackt also appeared in the All Riders VS Dai-Shocker movie, portraying an alternate reality version of Riderman from Kamen Rider V3 – Gackt stated in interviews that he chose Riderman as his character when offered a role in the movie, because Riderman was an ordinary human who fights evil, unlike all of the other Showa Riders who were enhanced in some way.
Kamen Rider W (2009)
Things got interesting with Kamen Rider W. It had songs performed by fictitious bands within the city of Futo in the show, and each of them were named after major hurricanes of the 20th century:
- Labor Day (The 1935 Labor Day hurricane)
- Galveston 19 (The 1900 Galveston hurricane)
- Florida Keys (The 1919 Florida Keys hurricane)
- Wilma-Sidr (Hurricane Wilma and Cyclone Sidr)
The ending theme for the movie was performed by Mitsuru Matsuoka, who also played Kamen Rider Eternal in said movie. He would go on to perform the opening to Kamen Rider Drive.
Kamen Rider OOO (2010)
Kamen Rider OOO had fight songs for each of his main forms, which were sung by the main character, Eiji Hino, with backing vocals by Akira Kushida, the voice of the OOO Driver. Each of the songs has a title that sounds similar to the form name:
- TaToBa Combo: “Regret Nothing ~Tighten Up~”
- GataKiriBa Combo: “Gotta Keep it Real”
- LiToraTah Combo: “Right on right time“
- SaGoZoh Combo: “Sun Goes Up“
- ShaUTa Combo: “Shout Out“
- TaJaDor Combo: “Time Judged All“
- PuToTyra Combo: “Power to Tearer“
The last two are duets, featuring Ankh and Akira Kushida, respectively.
Kamen Rider Fourze (2011)
Kamen Rider Fourze followed a similar theme to W, with bands being formed just for the show.
The first vocal song was performed by Astronauts, fitting of the space theme, while SoutherN performed the theme for Magnet States, stylized with a capital S and N like the south and north ends of a magnet.
The band everset, who previously played for W under the name Galveston 19, also provided some songs here.
Kamen Rider Girls
Fourze is also the point where the Kamen Rider Girls became a regular part of the franchise, so let’s get into that.
Forming in 2010, this girl pop band first performed a cover for the original Kamen Rider theme, which was featured in the Let’s Go Kamen Riders crossover movie. They then made a cameo in the OOO summer movie, and a cameo at the prom in Kamen Rider Fourze. At the prom, they performed a cover of “Saite” which was a song originally performed by everset.
Since then, they’ve been providing vocal songs for several of the shows. Members of the Kamen Rider Girls would also make a cameo in Drive as employees at the driving school.
Kamen Rider Wizard (2012)
Kamen Rider Wizard featured several fight songs for each of Wizard’s forms. This marked the return of Rider Chips, performing a few of the songs.
Rider Chips’ songs included:
- Hurricane Style: “Blessid Wind”
- Land Style: “Strength of the Earth”
- Kamen Rider Beast: “BEASTBITE”
- Summer movie theme: “The Finale of the Finale”
Meanwhile, the Kamen Rider Girls provided vocals for
- Flame Style: “Last Engage”
- Water Style: “Mystic Liquid”
- Dragon forms: “Just the Beginning”
- All Dragon: “alteration”
- Infinity Style: “Missing Piece”
Kamen Rider Gaim (2013)
Kamen Rider Gaim featured another band with an altered name, Shonen no Kaze, who went by the name Gaim no Kaze during the show’s run.
The Kamen Rider Girls continue their contributions with “E-X-A (Exciting X Attitude)” (by) for the first fight song, and “Toki no Hana” for Gaim’s Jinba forms. By the way, how do you pronounce the first song there? According to the lyrics in the chorus, it’s “Exciting by Attitude”.
The main star, Kota Kazuraba, performed “Raise Up Your Flag”, the theme of his Kachidoki Arms form. “Ranbu Escalation” was also a duet between Kota Kazuraba and Kaito Kumon, which represented the two characters in their strongest forms.
Team Baron, consisting of Kaito Kumon, Zack and Peco, sang Kamen Rider Baron’s own theme “Never surrender”. Kaito would also perform the theme of his Gaim Gaiden spinoff, titled “Unperfected world”, and the trio would once again perform together for the song from Kamen Rider Knuckle’s Gaim Gaiden spinoff, titled “Dance With Me”.
After the show ended, a vocal song collection was released, which featured an original song for Kamen Rider Ryugen called “Point of No Return”. And although she doesn’t appear in Kamen Rider Zangetsu’s Gaim Gaiden spinoff, the actress for Mai performs the theme for it, titled “Lights of my wish”.
There exists a short story for Kamen Rider Gaim called Real Riders: Kaito Kumon Gaiden, which was written by Mitsunori Enami under the supervision of the show’s head writer, Gen Urobuchi – not to be confused with Gaim Gaiden. Why am I telling you this? Whether it’s intentional or not, it happens to share the title of a song by the aforementioned band Shonen no Kaze, “Real Riders”.
Lastly, an odd one: Kamen Rider Gaim was the first time in recent years where they stopped releasing the fight songs and OSTs as the show was airing. One theory suggests that they simply weren’t selling as well as the main themes. By this point, it became the norm for a music set to be released after the show ended, which included all of the OSTs for the shows and movies, as well as every vocal song.
Kamen Rider Drive (2014)
Mitsuru Matsuoka, who previously played the movie villain from Kamen Rider W, returned to perform the opening to Kamen Rider Drive, using the name Mitsuru Matsuoka EARNEST DRIVE.
The first two fight songs were performed by S.S.P.D. ~Steel Sound Police Dept~, another case of a band being made just for this show. They would perform the songs “Full throttle” for Kamen Rider Mach, and “Don’t lose your mind” for Kamen Rider Drive.
The Kamen Rider Girls would also make a return performing “UNLIMITED DRIVE” as the theme of Type Tridoron.
Kamen Rider Ghost (2015)
Kamen Rider Ghost actually marks the first time since Hibiki that a Rider series went without fight songs – usually, Ghost would just use the show’s opening during a special fight.
The opening theme is titled “Warera Omou, Yue ni Warera Ari” by Kishidan. The title can be translated as “We think, therefore we are”, a reference to the philosopher René Descartes – fitting of the show’s motif of historical figures. There was a special edition for the single which includes the Special Ore Ghost Eyecon, an exclusive Eyecon themed after the band.
When the show ended, a soundtrack was released with an exclusive song by m.c.A.T., the voice of the transformation belt. It strings together all of the Ghost Eyecon transformations in a loose attempt at a rap.
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid (2016)
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid featured Daichi Miura performing the opening, “EXCITE”, which is one of the most downloaded singles in Heisei Kamen Rider history.
Poppy Pipopapo’s actress performs “People Game”, the theme of the Kamen Rider Chronicle game in the show. Likewise, Hiroyuki Takami, who plays Masamune Dan, provides the vocals for “Wish in the dark” and “JUSTICE”. Hiroyuki Takami is part of a pop duo band named Access.
The show once again has the Kamen Rider Girls providing songs, this time for “Let’s Try Together” and “Time of Victory”.
While he didn’t provide any proper songs in the traditional sense, it bares mentioning that the transformation belt for this series is voiced by Hironobu Kageyama. He might be best known now as a part of Jam Project, but he’s also known as the anime song guru, with a lot of opening themes from the 80s and 90s. He’s also best known for providing many songs for the Dragon Ball Z anime, movies, and several video game openings. He’s no stranger to tokusatsu, either, having provided some opening and ending themes to Super Sentai.
Kamen Rider Build (2017)
Kamen Rider Build’s opening, “Be The One”, was performed by a new band called PANDORA, likely named after the Pandora’s Box that was a major plot point in the show. This band features composer Daisuke Asakura, who’s the second half of the previously mentioned band, Access. Another part of PANDORA was Tetsuya Komuro, who had to retire in January 2018 due to an affair that ruined his public image.
The vocalist for this song was Beverly, a Filipino j-pop singer. On her album 24, she included an alternate mix of the song, which is called the “Let’s Start Experiment!!” Mix. She also provided the vocals for the summer movie’s theme, “Everlasting Sky”.
Since this is the latest summer movie as of writing this, here’s a bit of trivia that I saved until now: Did you know that a lot of these shows have a summer movie theme performed by the same artists who performed their opening? Fourze, Gaim, and Ex-Aid are some good examples of this. It feels like a nice bookend for those series since the movies debut so late in their runs.
Kamen Rider Zi-O (2018)
This brings us to Kamen Rider Zi-O, the current show. The opening theme, “Over ‘Quartzer'”, is performed by Shuta Sueyoshi, featuring ISSA. Sueyoshi is from the band AAA, who previously performed the opening to Kamen Rider Den-O. ISSA, leader of the band DA PUMP, also performed the opening to Kamen Rider 555, and the ending theme to Kamen Rider The Next.
The single for “Over ‘Quartzer'” was released on January 23rd 2019, and on its first day, it reached the #2 slot in the music charts, and sold around 14,000 copies.
Here’s one last bit of trivia, and it’s a strange one. The instructions on the DX Ziku-Driver made reference to the opening theme, but it credited Takanori Nishikawa as the featured vocalist instead of ISSA. Nishikawa sometimes goes by the name T.M. Revolution, and is a prolific artist who’s provided songs for anime and video games. It seems as though they might’ve considered him for the show’s opening, but swapped in ISSA at the last second. Bandai has commented on this, simply referring to it as an error that would be fixed in future releases.