TokuNet writer Malunis talks about Kamen Rider and its tendency to stir debate over an innocuous subject: What counts as a Kamen Rider? In talking about examples, this article contains spoilers for the Showa era, and generally shows Riders from all parts of the franchise.
The Kamen Rider franchise is one that relies heavily on theming and titles. Largely, every series has at least two distinct sides: the Kamen Riders, and the enemies. As the Heisei era brought on plenty of change, things also got more complicated. Kamen Riders sometimes come from both sides or from an entirely different side we may or may not have known was part of the battle to begin with.
But the subject of this article is the title of Kamen Rider. For some it can be as cut and dry as “Do they have Kamen Rider in their name?”, for some it might be as simple as “Do they transform into an armored warrior?” Everyone has their own classifications, and maybe there’s some semantics here you didn’t even think were even there. Some of it is even the result of conflicting information from official sources!
Before we talk about the meat of the subject, let’s discuss what the official sources are. Well, over the years there have been several guidebooks or just general lists of things. It could be monsters or in this case, it could be a list of Riders.
One particular example I will be citing here is from Televi-kun magazine, your monthly source of plot reveals – after the reveal of Ark-Zero, they put out a list of “210” Riders that takes some… interesting liberties to get to that number. Many of the non-Riders in this article are in that list.
Perhaps the most pertinent source out there right now is the above image, and also the inspiration for this article: the Kamen Rider Zukan, or Kamen Rider Photobook. This official “Wiki” was started after the debut of Kamen Rider Zi-O. It features information on Riders, monsters, characters and items from across the franchise. To date, it has Agito, 555, Den-O, Kiva, Decade, OOO, Drive, Ex-Aid, and Build; though in the case of that last one, it only goes up to the final episode. Worth taking a look around for all the high quality photos.
When the Zukan first got revealed, there was a post they made about it that caught my interest, because it acknowledged the fact that fans often aren’t sure what counts as a Rider.
Some of the interview snippets:
“So far, there have been a number of compilations of Heisei Kamen Riders, in books and such, but there are questions about how many Kamen Riders there are in total, whether this character is a Kamen Rider or a monster, etc. Let’s take this opportunity to sort out those uncertain areas as gradually as possible.”
“For example, there are subtle characters like Silvara and Goldra in Kamen Rider Den-O, that make you go ‘Is that a Kamen Rider?’ Take Another Agito in Kamen Rider Zi-O, for example: that’s definitely not a Kamen Rider, it’s a monster. But you also had Another Agito, who appeared in Kamen Rider Agito. Since HE is treated as a Kamen Rider, we will now distinguish the name as Kamen Rider Another Agito.”
“However, characters that are closer to Kamen Riders than monsters, those are listed in the Kamen Rider sections – in Kamen Rider Build’s case, it’s characters like Night Rogue or Hell Bro’s.”
So yes, while attempting to eliminate confusion, they admittedly add more confusion by lumping non-Riders with Riders on the basis of them not being monsters or requiring a separate section. However, if you look at their Rider section, you can easily see a distinction by the fact that Riders have their name presented behind them in English. If you can read the tag filters, they also feature tags like “Not a Kamen Rider.” (仮面ライダーじゃない)
Now, the main topic at hand. To break this down, we’re going to talk about them by category, rather than with each series. These are some characters that confuse fans one way or another.
The Showa Era Confusions
The early years of Kamen Rider was a real wild west in terms of rules. While they had a pretty good idea of what Kamen Rider shows were about, they only had a general idea of what counted as a Rider and what didn’t.
Appearing in the original Kamen Rider series, the Shocker Riders (ショッカーライダー) are just that: Riders led by Shocker. From a design standpoint, they are the main hero with yellow added to the suit, and 6 different colored mufflers for the 6 numbered Shocker Riders.
As we’ll get into at the end of this Showa rundown, it seems like these probably don’t count as Riders simply because the title was reserved for heroes. At least, that’s the most logical explanation for it.
Though not the first, the notable example of title inconsistency can be seen with Kamen Rider V3‘s Riderman (ライダーマン), who definitely counts as a Rider despite the name.
A bit of trivia you’ve probably heard about him is that he dies at one point. In response to his sacrifice, V3 calls him Kamen Rider No.4 (仮面ライダー4号), with V3 obviously being No.3. These name choices for them don’t really mean anything now, they just made sense at the time.
Also, Riderman is more or less the only secondary Rider to be considered a main Rider, as decided upon by series creator Shotaro Ishinomori.
Skyrider (スカイライダー) is a weird one. His show was just titled Kamen Rider, because at the time, he was conceived as a reboot to the franchise. But once they worked in the previous Riders, they called the character Skyrider. No title, but he counts.
Shin, as far as I’m aware, does go by Kamen Rider Shin pretty consistently, but he’s only strange in that his movie title is a little different from the other movie-exclusive Showa Riders: Shin Kamen Rider Prologue. This is because the “Shin” (真) in the title is meant to be “New,” in reference to how this movie was a (failed) backdoor pilot for a gritty reboot to the franchise.
Then we have some examples of confusion that causes quite a bit of discourse. Let’s begin with Kamen Rider Stronger‘s own Electronic Wave Humanoid Tackle,(電波人間タックル) or simply just Tackle.
Serving as a secondary hero, with a similar title as the protagonist (Electric Humanoid Stronger), and an insect motif fitting of Riders of the time, she absolutely should be considered our first female Rider… but has never been acknowledged as such.
Kamen Rider Spirits, a manga that provides a modern continuation and “alternate timeline” to the Showa Riders’ stories, gave its own spin on the matter. In a nutshell, Tackle never wanted the title because she wished to retain her humanity. It’s an unsatisfying answer that ultimately relies on what that title meant for heroes in the Showa era, as compared to now when any regular person could become a Rider without the implication of being a mutant or cyborg.
I have significantly less ideas about the Century King Shadowmoon (世紀王シャドームーン), the enemy of Kamen Rider Black / Black RX.
By all means and by current standards, it’s a villain Rider! But, sadly, the official answer is… up in the air. Sometimes he gets counted as a Rider and sometimes he even gets counted as a monster. I think it all comes down to what I was saying before about what the title meant at the time. He’s a villain, and the title of Kamen Rider is used for the heroes, right?
I recall one time, when Kamen Rider Drive introduced Mashin Chaser, an official source made the comparison to say that Mashin Chaser is a rival character in the same way that Shadowmoon is. Televi-kuns list says he counts, Zukan says he doesn’t. Even now, the debate continues.
At the very least, it seems that Shadowmoon is considered a prototype for what would later become a standard for the franchise, a first taste of Dark Riders.
Kamen Riders Who ALMOST Have Proper Names
Let’s talk about some characters who sort of got Rider names after their shows ended, but frustratingly, those names aren’t always acknowledged in merchandise or crossover fiction. Even so, they are considered Riders.
The Zukan quote above mentioned this guy, so let’s talk about Another Agito.
In the fiction of Kamen Rider Agito, those with special powers are known as an Agito. Because of that, when Kino showed up and demonstrated similar powers, he would apparently be known in the TV script with a placeholder name as Kino Agito. Promotional materials have always called him Another Agito (アナザーアギト), as if to say he is, quite literally, one of the other Agitos.
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid‘s Kamen Sentai Gorider miniseries brought together 5 Riders, and it was about this time that he got acknowledged directly as a Rider. The name Kamen Rider Another Agito (仮面ライダーアナザーアギト) was featured on a Buttobasoul arcade game medal at the time, and the Zukan stuck to their promise of giving him the title there as well.
In Kamen Rider Hibiki, there are a couple of students to the Riders/Oni who get to transform but don’t get a Rider name in the show.
Kyosuke Kiriya would be the most notable of these, as he was known as “Transformed Kyosuke” (京介変身体), having only appeared at the end of the show.
He received a proper name in the last stage show for Hibiki, where he would be named Kamen Rider Kyoki (仮面ライダー強鬼). However, I’ve yet to see the name be used anywhere else, as he would still be called Transformed Kyosuke as recently as 2019 with his appearance in Kamen Rider Zi-O. I think this is just a case where Toei did not have 100% involvement with the stage show, thus they don’t acknowledge it.
A similar example of this is Ibuki’s student, Akira Amami, who briefly transforms and is known as “Transformed Akira.” (あきら変身体) Though it isn’t clearly visible in its one appearance in the show, the suit is just Kamen Rider Danki minus the chest armor.
She would later just transform into the Ibuki suit in Kamen Rider Decade after borrowing his transformation item, where she received the name Kamen Rider Amaki (仮面ライダー天鬼).
Confusingly, the Zukan indicates that this is the Decade version of Amaki, adding on the “(DCD)” suffix like they do with all of the alternate takes on existing Riders. This implies the name is retroactively part of the Hibiki canon, but the Zukan is not prone to errors they will fix later.
Since we’re talking both Hibiki AND Decade at the same time here, we also have Decade’s version of Asumu, who is shown transformed into the “Kyoki” suit minus the helmet. The Zukan gives this one the name of “Transformed Asumu” (アスム変身態), and confusingly makes the distinction that it is NOT a Rider. So, debate that one if you’d like.
All of these examples within the Hibiki setting can somewhat be explained, as to why they lack proper titles and have dubious Rider status; Those training to become Oni will not truly be considered as such until they’ve proven themselves. In other words, once they graduate from being a student, they are considered one of the Oni. This is somewhat touched upon in Zi-O’s Hibiki arc, where Todoroki explains to the main characters how Kyosuke never became a proper Oni. It’s somewhat unsatisfying, but there’s at least some sort of logic.
Then we have the mysterious mentor-esque character of Kamen Rider Wizard, known simply to everyone as the Shiroi Mahoutsukai (白い魔法使い), or White Wizard/Mage.
It wasn’t until the finale episode aired that a proper name was officially given to him outside of the show: Kamen Rider Wiseman (仮面ライダーワイズマン). This name would go on to be used in the Detail of Heroes book, but beyond that, most pieces of promotional material continue to use the generic Shiroi Mahoutsukai name he was given in the show.
I Call Them Pseudo-Riders
There’s a term that is used officially by a certain character in this category, which translates to Pseudo-Rider (疑似ライダー). This is what you’d call a warrior who transforms, isn’t a monster, but also isn’t a Rider. In some of the aforementioned books, these guys are ones you might see inconsistently listed among all the Riders.
If V-1 doesn’t ring a bell, that’s understandable. Iit was a brief appearance in Kamen Rider Agito as a combat system that was meant to rival G3, the show’s secondary Rider. Sometimes called V-1, sometimes V-1 System, it is also inconsistent whether he’s considered to be a Rider.
And I can see why; though the design isn’t that elaborate, the name fits with G3’s naming scheme, and the story context is there. It’s probably more debatable than factual, but generally you don’t get merchandise of V-1 compared to everyone else from Agito, and most recently, the Zukan does not count him as a Rider.
Kamen Rider Ryuki is a series with 13 Riders, a very distinct number. So when Alternative and Alternative Zero show up, it’s hard to really count them. At least in retrospect, the Kamen Rider Ryuki movie provided a list of all 13 Riders, along with emblems on screen, none of which were the Alternative duo.
Basically, there doesn’t seem to be much room to debate when the show establishes a solid number. These two are the source of the term Pseudo-Rider, so it goes without saying that they are 100% designed to not count as Riders. The old TV Asahi site for Ryuki also makes the distinction of making a Pseudo-Rider page, and the term these days is used for non-Riders.
Of note, though, the American adaptation Kamen Rider Dragon Knight actually DOES use this suit for a Rider.
So, Kamen Sentai Gorider is a thing I mentioned before. Are they Riders, or a Sentai?
Well, just so it doesn’t come off as a random idea, here’s a brief history lesson! It’s an homage to a scrapped Showa era series called Gonin Rider (五人ライダー) which would have had a group of secret agent types who transform into Kamen Riders. Toei scrapped this in favor of Kamen Rider Stronger, but they would revisit the idea with the first ever Super Sentai entry, Goranger.
According to the Zukan… it’s weird. At the time of writing this article, the Goriders didn’t count as Riders in the tag searches. However, as of this article going up, they now appear under the Kamen Rider tag but still don’t have English text behind them. So, I feel like there’s conflicting information even from the Zukan.
Amusingly, Televi-kun’s list of 210 Riders counts the Goriders as ONE ENTRY on the list.
They would make an appearance in the Kamen Rider Zi-O summer movie alongside the likes of Kamen Rider G and Kamen Rider Brain, suggesting their status as Riders who are somewhat unofficial.
The gun-slingers of Kamen Rider Build are straightforward. Night Rogue, Blood Stalk, the Kaiser duo, the Hell Bro’s duo, they’ve never counted as Riders. These are the quintessential Pseudo-Riders; Not quite a Rider, not quite a monster.
The only really notable thing is that the two characters behind Night Rogue would both go on to become Riders called Rogue and MadRogue, but that just means they got promoted to being Riders.
And Then There’s the Troopers…
Ahh yes, the classic debates. Riotroopers use design elements of Faiz, so they’re so close to being Riders! Ride-Players are directly called Riders! Those all count, right?
Well… I’ve seen the Riotrooper be counted as a Rider sometimes, but not usually. When it comes to these kinds of mass-produced characters, with multiple identities, it’s hard to really classify them isn’t it? Usually a Rider has at least a single notable character, like Delta and its one user after it got used by several villain characters.
The Riotrooper also has at least one piece of semi-reliable fiction, and of all places, it is the 10th Anniversary Project: Kamen Rider Live & Show – it’s a stage show musical that happened during Kamen Rider Decade. The story focuses on Decade‘s version of Kuuga, who is considered weak by everyone and is depicted in his white Growing Form for most of the musical. He’s captured by Dai-Shocker and ends up befriending one of the Shocker Combatmen, who becomes infatuated by how cool and heroic Kamen Riders are. At the end, when they stand together for the final fight, Kuuga obtains his familiar red form and the Shocker Combatman becomes a Riotrooper, who Kuuga very directly remarks is a type of Kamen Rider.
ZECTroopers don’t get much of any attention in that regard. At least as far as I can recall, I’ve never seen them be called anything but ZECTroopers. However, once we enter the second half of the Heisei era, we do get some changes to this… and more debates.
Kamen Rider Wizard introduced us to the concept of a society where everyone has magic, in the summer movie, and they all transform into this one design called Kamen Rider Mage. In the show, we got a single character that uses the amber-jeweled Mage design, Mayu. Not long after her, we would also get the blue-jeweled Yuzuru, and the green-jeweled Masahiro.
This is where the confusion happens. Do you call them each something separate? Due to the lack of Kamen Rider Mage merchandise, we have very few examples of this, but they do seem to make some distinctions, such as mentioning the gem color like “Kamen Rider Mage (Amber)” or tacking on their name like “Kamen Rider Mage (Yuzuru)“. So, depending on who you ask, we have several Riders in Wizard.
My favorite series, Kamen Rider Gaim, presents us with one of the more frustrating ones. We’re introduced to Ryoji Hase, who transforms into Kamen Rider Kurokage. Not that long after, in the second saga of the show, Yggdrasill introduces what are known as Kurokage Troopers.
In design, they are 100% just the Kurokage suit with a small cosmetic difference on the Sengoku Driver/belt strap, which results in a Rider not counting as a Rider. Of note, I guess, Jonouchi transformed into one in the show’s finale; The Ganbarizing arcade game made a card for this, called “Kurokage Trooper (Jonouchi)“, providing us some merchandise that makes a distinction between Riders and non-Riders. Still, easily debatable.
I don’t suppose there’s much to say about it, but towards the end of Kamen Rider Drive, Kamen Rider Mach’s transformation gear was planned to be mass-produced. The show’s comedic cop character, Jun, demonstrates by transforming. This, despite its comedic context, is considered to be Kamen Rider Jun. That said, the Zukan takes the stance he doesn’t count as a Rider, even though he has been counted in other sources like TV Asahi.
We also have an odd one in Kamen Rider Ghost, called Kamen Rider Dark Necrom, which I would count as mass-produced on the basis we have 4 of them, 3 of which serve as bodyguards for the summer movie villain.
Much like Mage, we have a situation here where there’s a distinction made between the different characters; The movie trio are Dark Necrom R (Red), Dark Necrom B (Blue), Dark Necrom Y (Yellow), and the one in the show is Dark Necrom P (Pink). Though it’s written out using the English letter, the reading of that letter is their respective color. Use your preferred spelling of their names.
Now, the Ride-Players are an annoying one because there’s a glaring issue with the debate: The very premise of Ride-Players in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is that they are people who transform using the Kamen Rider Chronicle Gashat, a game that very clearly dictates that normal people transform into Kamen Riders as part of a competition.
Ironically, for such a blunt statement in the show, I have NEVER seen them officially be classified as Riders in any capacity. This sadly means that Nico is not a female Rider as is, for her official title is Ride-Player Nico, creating a distinction between those with a proper title.
Nico fans can at least rejoice that she received Rider status in the Final Stage show, where she transformed into Kamen Rider Nico Snipe, which is essentially Snipe with a pink cloak. The Zukan actually makes mention of this on her profile, which is where I found an official use of the name Kamen Rider Nico Snipe. Incidentally, it’s the only stage show content acknowledged on the Zukan. Good for her!
Riders that are, confusingly, considered monsters
Let’s talk about a somewhat small category: monsters/enemies that definitely should be counted as Riders but aren’t.
Here’s an iconic one. Kamen Rider Decade had a crossover with the then-airing Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, and in it, a monster from the Shinkenger setting called Chinomanako gets ahold of Diend’s gun, transforming into a monstrous version of the Rider. This is simply known as “Chinomanako (Diend Transformation)” (チノマナコ ディエンド変身態) and, as you might imagine, is not counted as a Rider or form.
To my surprise, while working on another article, I learned that Gold Drive has never been referred to as Kamen Rider Gold Drive in any merchandise or on TV Asahi. The Zukan very directly lists him among the Roidmudes instead of listing him with Riders.
He’s a gold recolor of Drive, so it’s quite odd, but fitting of the other examples in this category.
When Kamen Rider Cronus absorbs the power of Gamedeus, the final boss of Kamen Rider Chronicle, he transforms into a gold form that’s known as Gamedeus Cronus. Despite this and despite still having his transformation belt, both the original TV Asahi site and the Zukan have classified this as a monster rather than a Rider.
When Kamen Rider Evol reaches his full power, he reveals his true alien form, Evolt. And it’s very much the same situation as Gamedeus Cronus; TV Asahi and the Zukan both list him as a monster despite him wearing a Rider belt. If you pay attention to romanizations, you might also have noticed TV Asahi called him a Phantom while referring to this form. This is likely a mistranslation, as the standard word for monsters in Rider is “Kaijin” (怪人) which sort of translates to “Phantom” but is generally understood to mean “Humanoid Monster”. Even the Zukan, with its English text in the URLs, uses Phantom while the main page says Kaijin.
Lastly, we have the Another Riders from Kamen Rider Zi-O. They must be Riders! They have Rider in the name! The show calls out how they’re Kamen Riders! Nope, they’re this show’s monsters. But it seems that the Complete Works book considers them Riders.
Series Without Kamen Rider Titles
That’s a lot of debate. Let’s end on a fun note, shall we?
This is where we just point out how series differ in handling the title. Sometimes, probably depending on the tastes of the head writers, the title of Kamen Rider doesn’t even come up within the show despite the title and all the merchandise. Throughout the Heisei era, there are several shows where the title doesn’t come up, but below are just some ones where they happen to do something distinctly different.
Kamen Rider Hibiki: In this series, the way names are handled is kind of odd. Rather than Riders, they are known as Oni (鬼). Something you might not know if you haven’t seen the show, however, is that an Oni will cast aside their birth name; For example, Todoroki starts off with the name Tomizo Todayama, then he graduates to being Todoroki.
Additionally, every Oni’s name ends with the kanji for “Oni” which is why they all end with a “ki”, and all their original names have cute alliteration like Todoroki’s name there.
Kamen Rider Wizard: Another series by the head writer of Hibiki. Incidentally, the emphasis on magic means that everyone transforms into “Mahoutsukai” (魔法使い), or wizards/mages. Whenever the monsters encounter Wizard, they refer to him as the ringed mage (指輪の魔法使い).
Kamen Rider Gaim: Within fiction, there are dance teams known as Beat Riders. Because the titular hero is from Team Gaim, DJ Sagara of the Beat Riders community calls him Armored Rider Gaim, signifying he is an armored Beat Rider. From there, any named Rider in the show gets the name Armored Rider (アーマードライダー), rather than Kamen Rider.
While I’m at it, it’s worth noting that the show only gave us the names for the Riders that operated outside of Yggdrasill. We literally only know names like Zangetsu, Duke and so on thanks to promotional material and merchandise. So when a stage show name drops all of them, it feels a bit off, doesn’t it?
Whatever their status may be, whatever their name may be, to us, they are heroes.