Kamen Rider, one of Japan’s longest running Tokusatsu franchises, is the creation of the late Manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, who is also the creator of Cyborg 009 and Super Sentai better known outside of Japan as its Americanized adaption Power Rangers. Throughout its 48 years on the air it has given us a wide range of Henshin heroes of varying themes and stories especially in the last decade where they strayed further away from the insect themed heroes of it’s past. Now ladies and gentlemen join me in this journey through the last decade of the franchise’s history based off my opinion of each show.
Number 10: Kamen Rider Ghost
You know what sucks, death and not being able to eat, these are but two problems that our hero Tenkuuji Takeru deals with after he was slain by monsters known as Gamma on his 18th birthday. However while in limbo Takeru meets the mysterious Sennin who gives him the chance to regain his life and be able to fight the Gamma on the condition he is able to gather 15 objects known as Eyecons which contain the spirits of legendary figures such as Miyamoto Musashi, Goemon and Billy The Kid within 99 days or he will completely cease to exist while also being guided by a snarky ghost named Yurusen who is voiced by Aoi Yuuki. Now this sounds like it would be a very episodic show spanning those 99 days doesn’t it well by episode five they have already spent 42 days with only 2 Eyecons being obtained. The show’s pacing is honestly its biggest weakness as it tends to drag out what feels like 10 episodes worth of plot was dragged out for 40, in a fifty-episode series no less. It is commonly regarded as one of the series few low points but it still has some pretty good characters who are engaging enough to carry it for the most part but otherwise it’s life isn’t burning brightly besides when Takeru appears in later (and better) entries.
Number 9: Kamen Rider Wizard
LOVE IS SHOWTIME! Now we go from one of the weakest entries to one of the more visually appealing entries in the franchise. During a Solar Eclipse a mysterious ritual was held that released monsters known as Phantoms from the Underworld our hero, Soma Haruto, is a survivor of said ritual and hunts the Phantoms as the Final Hope Kamen Rider Wizard while also trying to find an alternate way to keep his friend Koyomi alive as her life is being maintained by his magic. The Phantoms plan to increase their numbers by driving special humans referred to as “Gates” past the brink of utter despair to open portals to the Underworld, Haruto himself has a Phantom inside him known as the WizarDragon that he must keep under control to use his magic and over time the WizarDragon turns from his internal enemy to one of his strongest allies. Wizard’s plot is fairly simple but has a lot of great two-part arcs filling it up with some of the franchise’s best fights and special effects fitting the show’s mystical themes. The only real problem the show has is that Haruto himself can come off as kinda boring during the more plot relevant episodes, but his actor has enough charisma to make it forgivable and the mostly fantastic supporting cast is help the series soar.
Number 8: Kamen Rider Zi-O
The legacy of the Heisei Kamen Riders has carried on throughout the era and now, they pass their power on to the new generation! Rejoice! For the birth of a new king! In the year 2068 the world is ruled by the tyrant known simply as Ohma Zi-O but two members of the always losing resistance against Ohma Zi-O’s nigh unstoppable power, Myokoin Geiz and Tsukiyomi, travel back to the era 2018 to try and stop Ohma Zi-O before his rise to power. Enter naïve 18 year old Tokiwa Sougo, a man with no ambition beyond achieving his dream of becoming King, a kind hearted brilliant but lazy young man who’s destiny is to become the heir of all Kamen Riders, Kamen Rider Zi-O and beyond that become the King of Time Ohma Zi-O. Geiz and Tsukiyomi wonder how could this guy even be the same person as the man who destroyed the future? That is for you to see but there is a caveat to this, this season is an anniversary season celebrating the finale of the Heisei Era and as such it features returning characters from throughout the last twenty years of the franchise and thus really requires you to know each entry before watching which is why it isn’t that high up on the list but I will say this, the first 10 or so episodes are pretty rough before it improves a lot.
Number 7: Kamen Rider Gaim
Fruits, samurai, the Sengoku era, dancing, Gen Urobuchi, what do these all have in common? They are all core elements of Kamen Rider Gaim, a show that some think belongs on HBO as it has ALL of the Urobutcher standards which Psycho-Pass, Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero fans love. In a city controlled by the Yggdrasil Corporation where teens and young adults rebel by forming dance crews as a way to keep up the City’s spirits join Kouta Kazuraba, a young man who gave up his love of dancing to try and get a job to help his hard working older sister however when his best friend Yuya from his dancing days is given a mysterious belt and contacts Kouta to discuss it but when Kouta arrives at their agreed location he finds Yuya has vanished and left the belt on the ground with a strange open zipper in the air leading to a forest. In this forest Kouta receives two fruits that after fleeing from a monster transform into objects called lockseeds that when used with the belt allow him to transform into Armored Rider Gaim and soon things in the city evolve into a modern-day Sengoku Era. This show is very story focused and is very much in the tone of Urobuchi’s other works so if those don’t appeal to you it’s likely you will not like Gaim very much however if you love Urobuchi works then you both know what to expect and will enjoy the flowered path on the stage.
Number 6: Kamen Rider Drive
Start your engines and get for a spin in the first of the two detective-based seasons in the franchise which is also the first automobile themed season. Officer Tomari Shinnosuke is on a case to arrest the leader of a crime organization called Neo-Shade when all across the globe time slows to a crawl in an event known as the “Global Freeze” which causes Shinnosuke to botch the case and cripple his partner and six months later be placed in the Special Investigations Unit tasked with investigating any occurrences of a similar phenomena referred to as “Density Shifts” and sometimes just simply “Slowdowns”. There he is given the Tridoron, a badass car, and with it a sentient belt he affectionately dubs Belt-San who shifts his life into top gear by introducing him to Shift Cars which allow him to both move at his normal speed during a Slowdown and transform into the warrior Kamen Rider Drive to combat the sentient robots known as Roidmudes who are behind everything. Drive starts off both light-hearted and depressing at the same time and manages to balance both of these tones pretty well and while Gaim is typically considered a hard act to follow Drive really kicks off in after episode 11 with its strong cast and sympathetic villains. But be warned though as of the entries on this list Drive has the most specials some of which include plot relevant stuff such as Episode Zero while others are side stories focusing on Drive’s support crew.
Number 5: Kamen Rider W/Double
Starting off the second half of the Heisei Era of Riders was the two-in-one hardboiled PI. In the windy city of Fuuto the halfboiled Hidari Shotarou and his amnesiac mysterious partner Philip are the on case as they investigate monsters called Dopants created using Gaia Memories, USB-like devices that contain a special toxin as well as transform their users. Through their use of more recent refined Gaia Memories and the Double Driver they can transfer their soul and mind into the other’s body to combat the Dopants as the half and half hero Kamen Rider Double and count up the Dopant’s sins. This season is one of the easier ones to pick up and watch and brings to the table a charming cast and the comedic detective story further helps keep the watcher entertained as long as they can get past some of the worst CGI ever implemented into a TV show.
Number 4: Kamen Rider Build
Now let’s begin the experiment and decide the laws of victory with the penultimate Heisei Era Kamen Rider, the Egotistical Hero of Love and Peace Kamen Rider Build. In a world where ten years ago Japan was split into three warring sub countries after an artifact called Pandora’s Box was brought back from Mars the brilliant amnesiac Kiryu Sento works to defend what he can from the organization Faust and find out the truth behind them, the wall, himself. Alongside our hero is Ryuga Banjou, an escaped prisoner who was falsely accused of murdering the genius Katsuragi Takumi but was kidnapped by Faust and escaped. Build is comparable to Gaim in terms of being a more dark story than other seasons and it never tries to take the viewer for an idiot, whenever it has given enough hints to one of its mysteries for the average viewer to figure it out it will usually come right up and reveal it. The only thing really keeping this show here is that it has a short stumble in it’s mid 40’s before picking back up in time for the last few episodes.
Number 3: Kamen Rider Fourze
Time for Space puns and wacky hairdos with the franchise’s 40th anniversary that somehow, they didn’t make the basis for the show’s plot in Kamen Rider Fourze. Amanogawa High’s new transfer student Kisaragi Gentaro may have the fashion sense and hairdo of a bad boy but he is one of the nicest sweetest dorks you will ever meet as he becomes Kamen Rider Fourze in his quest to befriend everyone and defend Amanogawa High from the mysterious Zodiarts after reuniting with his space- obsessed childhood friend Jojima Yuki and forming the Kamen Rider Club named after the urban legends of the franchise’s past heroes. What Fourze excels best at is being fun incarnate, from Gentaro’s eccentric friendship-loving hot blooded emotional personality to the secondary protagonist’s entire fighting style being a love letter to old school Kung Fu movies this show is one that will never fail to put a smile on your face as it grabs hold of your inner youth making it one of the better starting points in the franchise.
Number 2: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid
What the hell is this animeass looking shit you may be asking well this is the video game themed Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. A video game linked virus called the Bugster Virus has been released on humanity and to combat this the Ministry of Health works with the Genm Corporation to found Cyber Rescue, a group of doctors that are able to operate on the victims with the power of video games. One intended member of Cyber Rescue is the Genius Gamer M who turns out to be Hojo Emu, a clumsy yet dedicated pediatrician and surgical intern at Seito University Hospital who is somehow able to use Genm Corps’ Gamer Driver without the proper surgery to make him compatible with it. What are the secrets behind the release of the Buster Virus? What is Genm Corp hiding? These answers and more will be answered in what is a surprisingly dark show despite its bright pink colored hero once the Christmas episode hits.
Number One: Kamen Rider OOO
AND NOW FOR THE TOP PICK OF THE HEISEI ERA!
Medals, underwear, disembodied hands this show has it all. Hino Eiji is a man best described as void of negative desires as all he wants to be content in life is fresh water, a tiny bit of pocket change and fresh underwear for the next day but one day on his vagabond journey after being roofied while doing a temp job as a museum security guard he finds a strange red medal with a hawk on it which belongs to a disembodied arm calling itself Ankh who claims that he is one of a group of coin-based homunculi called Greeeds who feed off of human desires and just wish to have all of their medals returned to them so they can be truly alive again. Join our heroes as they use one another for their own goals and grow while also backed up by the mysterious Kougami Foundation to fight the remaining Greeed. What made Eiji how he is? Why is Ankh just an arm? These answers and far more are answered in Kamen Rider OOO, read as Os, which brings a powerful character driven story to life with its small yet amazing cast, color costumes that give Super Sentai a run for its money and beautiful soundtrack while also being one of the series’ best starting points alongside Double and Fourze.
What is YOUR favorite Kamen Rider? Tell us and they might appear in a review in the future! Until next time Riders~!