Shinichiro Shirakura Interview Discusses Legacy of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider
Producer Shinichiro Shirakura talks about the continuing struggles of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider as well as the upcoming crossover film Superhero Senki.
A History of Built-Upon Ingenuity and Popularity
The Kamen Rider series premiered in 1971. The first series of the same name set off what’s called the henshin hero boom with a viewer rating exceeding 30%. Likewise, the first Super Sentai series — Himitsu Sentai Gorenger — premiered in 1975. While both series have been around for a long time now, they haven’t always been successful. There have been twists and turns in their histories, and they continue to this day.
There was a time when the Kamen Rider series was cut off, and Super Sentai walked on thin ice many times. The former was rebooted and the latter recovered. And the divine wind known as Power Rangers (the American adaptation) blew. Every year, the production team asks themselves how to revive its popularity, building upon its ingenuity. And here we are now.
There’s no guarantee both series will continue on forever. If they lose their popularity then it’ll get canceled. The production team is always trying to create something new in the midst of this tension.
As far as the Kamen Rider series goes, the show goes back to its roots over and over again. But for the Super Sentai series, what is its roots? Is it the evolving times? We had to think about why it lost its strength. We couldn’t be complacent about it. If we did, then we’d have to worry about the series coming to an end. At the same time, the fact that the crisis comes periodically does not mean that the sense of crisis has been maintained. Returning to basics and rehashing ideas are two sides of the same coin. I think we have become more resilient through the twists and turns.
Because of its universality, it continues to be loved even as the times change.
We always go back to #1 and #2 for Kamen Rider. We ask ourselves, what kind of team is the Super Sentai? To answer that, we have to think about the importance of a team.
We tackle this question very often.
It’s possible that’s what makes an individual and team change with the era. If they are no longer accepted, it means that they no longer fit the times, but since they have been around for so long, they should be popular.
Both Series Are Strange in their Own Way
Both shows share one similarity: that they are tokusatsu heroes. But as mentioned earlier, they are different.
Super Sentai has recurring formulas and carries with it a pursuit of fun in its pattern. In Kamen Rider, there is a certain style to the transformation with the belt, the rider kicks, the composition of the enemies, etc., but I wouldn’t call it a pattern. Each work has its own style. Even though Super Sentai has its own theme and taste, it is based on the pattern of its own cloth.
Both series are strange in their own way that there are some things we can’t put into words.
There was a time when I asked, “isn’t this kind of like Super Sentai?” when we worked on Kamen Rider. I couldn’t explain why.
The Heisei Kamen Rider series began as a backup of the mainstream Super Sentai series, although it was not a counter to the series that had been the mainstay of Toei up to that point.
I didn’t want to push Kamen Rider‘s circumstances onto Super Sentai. It becomes a real headache when there’s an animal-themed Sentai. Like when there was a shark in Super Sentai, there’d be a shark kaijin in Kamen Rider.
Kamen Rider Saber has a Super Sentai-like team called Sword of Logos, while Zenkaiger has only one human and the rest are machines, but each work as a team and how they work individually. While both series run in parallel, we are conscious of the themes of each one.
In Saber and Zenkaiger: Superhero Senki, we can expect a chemical reaction between Kamen Rider Saber and Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger.