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Kamen Rider: Japan's Symbol of Hope

Updated on May 22, 2019
Nolan Johnson profile image

A 27-year-old nerd who loves writing, history and just learning as much as possible about the world around him.

A Symbol of Hope

In the wake of 3/11, the days fresh in our minds as we look back towards the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, the city of Ishinomaki was utterly devastated, as were other parts of the island nation. However, among all of the rubble, stood a statue. The figure of Kamen Rider Ichigo, the first in a long history of bug-themed superheroes stood amongst the chaos, and one writer for Tokyo Sports noted that they hoped that it would give the people devastated in the area, hope for things to get better.

Now, like its sister series Super Sentai, Kamen Rider is what Superman is to us westerners. It's Japan's modern-day superhero and a character that's preserved itself for nearly fifty years. And as the years rolled by, eras changed and mantles have been passed, but Kamen Rider has still served as the beacon for those who strove for peace and security in a dark, corrupt world. And as an example of this, I want to turn your attention to probably one of the most well-received theatrical releases in the franchise's history.

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Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever, was the annual 2018 crossover event with the current 2018-2019 season, Kamen Rider Zi-O, and the 2017-2018 season Kamen Rider Build. What makes this movie stand out is the fact that Zi-O is the season which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Heisei Era Riders. For those who don't know, Heisei is the name of the Era of Japan spanning from 1989, to April 30th 2019. Kamen Rider Kuuga, is the series that began in 2000, being the first of the Heisei Riders. Since then, year after year a new Kamen Rider takes on the mantle, and in 2009 and now in 2018 respectively, Kamen Rider Decade and Zi-O respectively are series that celebrate the anniversaries of the Heisei Riders, their motifs based around their predecessors.

A quick synopsis of the movie, Kamen Rider Zi-O, Tokiwa Sogou and Kamen Rider Build, Kiriyu Sento team up to fight against Tid, a Time Jacker who seeks to use a young boy named Shingo, to erase Kamen Riders from existence. As the name implies, Time Jackers are a group of time travelers who are trying to "hijack time" manipulating things in their favor. In the case of the Kamen Riders, they make contracts with willing people, turning them into Another Riders, corrupted versions of the heroes we know and love, which also "erases" said Rider from the timeline. Only way to beat them, is for Zi-O to use the powers of his predecessors via Ridewatches to beat the Another Rider and fix the timeline (to some extent)

As the pair look into this respectively, they realize their friends are slowly losing their memories and things complicate when they eventually run into a teen named Ataru, who is a fan of Kamen Riders, but not in the way they think. It's through Ataru that the pair learn why things are happening the way they are. As it turns out, Kamen Rider is just a TV show...

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What stood out to me, aside from the fact that it's taking the whole "meta" trope in a direction I never imagined would happen (and it working) is the wholesome theme. Whether the Kamen Riders are real or fictional characters, does that make them any less heroic? Do they lose that symbol of hope just because they don't exist in the real world? And as you get older, do you leave them behind? I know for a lot of us, Power Rangers is one of those things we all grew up with, and while a lot of us let it go as we grew up, a lot of us held onto it. Me being one of them, obviously. But even so, the movie is asking that question to the audience. Do you still see them as heroes? Are they still symbols of hope in your hearts? There's one scene towards the end of the movie that answers this, and it does its job of reminding us who we looked up to as children ourselves and reminding us that this is a generational thing, not something solely for children. It pulls at our inner child and reminds us that our heroes live in our hearts and they're not going anywhere. And I'm willing to argue, its this same feeling that has given the MCU such phenomenal success over the last decade. Lots of these heroes we've known all our lives, and the Avengers movies especially, make us feel like kids again.

My goal when it comes to writing is to give people new avenues to explore the wider world around them. Entertainment and nostalgia are things my millennial self crave quite a bit. Hence why it's exciting to find stuff like this and look into it. I discovered Kamen Rider in my sophomore year of High School and the nostalgia and creativity drew me in immediately. Between the storytelling, action among other things, its so cool to see the similarities that we share with people across the globe. Especially in a world full of divide and a "me first" attitude for the most part. But that in mind, like our Superman and Captain America give us hope for a better future, Japan's got their Kamen Riders and Super Sentai doing just the same.

And who knows, maybe we'll be inspired to become our own superheroes and some good may come out of it after all.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Nolan Johnson

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