Are fans missing the most important part of Kamen Rider? What makes it such a significant series? Team TokuNet Staff Writer Brody Salzman dives deep to discuss the answers.
Below the surface of a society wrapped up in its everyday business, there exists a group united in our love of the cheesy, our blood boiling with a sense of justice, and week after week calling out a simultaneous declaration: “henshin!” We are the Kamen Rider fans of the world.
Kamen Rider does mean a lot to the fans. It’s amazing that the Internet can unite fans of anything, even a cheesy Japanese kids’ show, but there has to be something more to it for such a large and passionate fan base to exist the way it does. What is the underlying significance of Kamen Rider? What is it that draws us to this show despite its cheese and target audience?
The Legacy That Carried From Showa To Reiwa
First, look at Kamen Rider‘s enduring legacy. The original show was about Takeshi Hongo who was kidnapped by the evil organization, Shocker, to be turned into a cyborg. Shocker meant for Hongo to be their weapon, but he turned their own technology against them in order to uphold justice and protect the world. Now, just short of the 50th anniversary, Kamen Riders are still using the powers of monsters as protectors of humanity. There’s something inherently meaningful in a legacy of heroic warriors that goes so far back through history and in the camaraderie between so many people holding the same title- “Kamen Rider.”
Hiroshi Fujiyoka has been quoted saying:
There’s a Shocker in everyone. It’s a hero who notices it for themselves, fights it, and overcomes it.
This is to say that heroes grow from their mistakes and downfalls. Whatever monster you have within does not make you a monster. A hero uses what they have to do something worthwhile.
What’s fascinating is how Kamen Rider makes this metaphor literal. It’s a show about taking the powers of evil monsters and using them to protect others and to protect the world. Kamen Rider Wizard takes it a step further by making the source of Haruto Souma’s power a literal monster inside his body that generates magic energy, which Haruto can then tap into.
Deeper Meaning Powering The Script
Even when Kamen Rider looks like a typical hero show, its very premise is a nuanced take on what it means to be a hero, blurring the line between hero and monster. Kamen Riders can be heroes, but their powers also make them the same in some ways to the monsters they fight. Sometimes, fellow Kamen Riders are even the villains. Each show added into the series offers new lessons and new statements to make on the world, sometimes going so far as to comment on politics and war.
Some Rider shows are episodic, some are intense character dramas, and some comment on the human condition. In the end, though, it always comes back to protecting people and becoming something more than the monsters that the Kamen Riders share their powers with. It always comes back to making the world a better place and becoming a hero.
Kamen Rider offers even more lessons the deeper you look. Kamen Rider Fourze focuses on friendship and an intense determination to help others work through their insecurities. It’s also about helping others feel accepted even if those people are considered outcasts. Kamen Rider 555 is a story about heroes whose powers come from a phone and yet serves as an ironically cautionary tale about communicating properly with the people you care about. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is about setting aside differences to work together for the benefit of everyone. Kamen Rider Build is about the importance of love and peace because even the most miraculous advancements can be corrupted and twisted into something evil or violent when you lose sight of those values.
It’s important to understand the morality of the heroes we look up to in these shows because we’re meant to learn from their example. Kamen Riders are meant to be the best of humanity, often coming from someone who otherwise would have been a completely average person. They are characters who face the worst the (supernatural) world can throw at them and who still come out finding a way to make the world better in light of that.
Accepting others for who they are and standing up for the freedoms of others, even just their right to do what makes them happy, is a big part of what Kamen Rider demonstrates year after year.
The Legacy Continues On
Kamen Rider teaches us to stick up for others, to do what we can because we have a responsibility to, as well as to simply be kind. Kamen Rider teaches us to be the best versions of us we can be and to take our weak points and grow from them. Kamen Rider teaches us not to let the Shocker within ourselves win.
A Kamen Rider show might look like a shallow superhero show for kids, or it might look like something much more mature with much more depth. Either way, each and every entry has something to say about what it means to be a hero, and the series will continue to deliver lessons which are important for its viewers to pay attention to. Kamen Rider‘s meaningful legacy and deeply important lessons are sure to continue on, stronger than ever, into the Reiwa Era and beyond.
Sources: Daisuki Toku