Super Sentai and Kamen Rider: All About Japan’s Toei Hero Series

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  • Toei is the brand name behind Japan’s all time favorite and most successful superhero series: Kamen Rider & Super Sentai, or better known internationally as Masked Rider & Power Rangers. Even though there are distinct differences between the international version and its original Japanese counterpart, they are both watched by millions of people globally. The series have fan clubs all across the globe, with members of all ages. Even though at first glance they look like typical series for kids, both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai are loved by people of all ages.

    I’m in my early 20’s, and I’m a big fan of tokusatsu series (Japanese term for series using many special effects), and after watching the series for so long I have stumbled upon many situations where friends judged and questioned my watching perceived kid’s stuff. I believe that I’m not the only one experiencing that judgment. Here is my explanation as an experienced fan that the tokusatsu series are suitable and enjoyable for all age groups.

    Kamen Rider (Masked Rider)

    Kamen Rider was released before Super Sentai, and has a rich history that starts with first Masked Rider Ichigo with the iconic bug eye grasshopper-like appearance, and is still running with its latest installment featuring the Masked Rider Ghost. In the picture above you can see the list of Kamen Rider series that have been released every year since 1971.

    Compared to similar series, the Rider series caters more towards the young adult community as the storyline may be a bit dark at times, especially the Showa Rider era (1st Kamen Rider Ichigo until 5th Kamen Rider J). However, recently Toei has changed the way of delivering the story line so that it became suitable and more balanced for any age group.

    The Appeal of Kamen Rider

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    With different themes for every installment, Toei made the story line quite dramatic with unexpected events and plot twists to cater to older audiences, while at the same time making the series as educational as possible so that the kids in the audience will learn something after watching the series. Taking latest Kamen Rider GHOST as an example, the theme of Rider power-ups (a Rider’s special abilities) have been based on famous historical beings (eg. Newton, Edison, Robin Hood, Nobunaga, etc.) Audiences can also easily fantasize to be one of them by purchasing the rider’s belt and buckle from their neighborhood toy store. Many hardcore fans (especially the older ones!) also like to purchase them as a collection item.

    The Rider series is suitable for all age groups due to its dramatic story lines. It is also cool, colorful and has fun computer generated images that can entertain anyone. The creativity of the writers and directors with plot twists and their ability to incorporate different aspects while sticking to the original theme makes the series a success, and one to look forward to every year.

    Super Sentai (Power Rangers)

    Toei’s Super Sentai series is the second most successful series and comes right after Kamen Rider. Unlike Kamen Rider, Super Sentai is aimed more at kids between age 5 and 15. In the picture above you can see the many varieties of Super Sentai that have been shown since the start of the show in 1975.

    What is appealing about Super Sentai? The storyline is much simpler and less dramatic, with each episode having a story of their own. The stories are very rarely connected, only sometimes there are bits of pieces of previous episodes. Because of this it is easy to start following the series at any point, and it is no problem if you miss a few episodes.

    The weapons and robots that are used tend to be very very toy-like, this could be a form of advertisement in order to sell more toys. Compared to the weapons used in Kamen Rider, the ones used by the Sentai look a little too cute to be a weapon, and sometimes could be something that you won’t think of.

    The themes used for every Super Sentai series are more fun and educational, based on things like dinosaurs, animals, Japan, cars, trains, the kind of themes you can find in the toy box of a kindergarten wall or in children’s textbooks.

    The music theme for the series is always fun and cheery, usually involving simple dance moves for children to learn and follow in front of the TV at home while the music themes for Kamen Rider tend to be more J-pop oriented.

    It is very obvious that the target audience for the Super Sentai series is younger kids, but if you are a bit like me, and you can actually see the fun in watching glass explode and the cute, flashy, fancy and colorful attacks launched on cute monsters, you may actually end up enjoy watching it.

    In conclusion, the tokusatsu hero series are actually suitable for all age groups as the storylines are fun and entertaining. You may have an image of the series as one of the many regular kid shows, but it really depends on an individual whether you would enjoy watching it or not. Therefore, there is really no such classification on who should be watching it and who should not.

    For those who are still new to this and feel like watching a tokusatsu series after reading this, I suggest you especially watch the new Kamen Rider series featuring Ghost and Shuriken Sentai Ninninger. For those who wants to start out with an old series, I would suggest Kamen Rider OOO, Gaim, Drive and Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.

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