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The Double Writer's Guide to Kamen Rider

by Coop Bicknell & Christopher Farris,

With Hideaki Anno's Shin Kamen Rider hitting Japanese theaters, we decided it may not be a bad time to take a look at the slowly but surely growing collection of Kamen Rider series and films available in North America. In the spirit of the Double Riders themselves, what follows is a guide to the currently available series in North America with thoughts from a pair of “Double Writers” on each entry: Christopher Farris and Coop Bicknell.

Full Disclosure: Coop Bicknell has worked with Discotek Media & MediaOCD, having provided the back of box description for their upcoming release of Kamen Rider BLACK RX. His opinions given here are purely his own and do not reflect those of his employers.

Kamen Rider (1971) - 98 Episodes


What's it about: While prepping for an upcoming motorcycle race, genius biochemist Takeshi Hongo is abducted by the evil organization Shocker. He awakens sometime later to discover he's been surgically altered by Shocker to become one of their cyborg pawns. On the verge of being brainwashed into one of their loyal soldiers, Hongo is saved by Shocker defector Professor Midorikawa. Soon after, the professor's daughter Yuriko, learns that her father is alive. However, when she finds her father, he's firmly in Hongo's grasp. Now blamed for the professor's murder, Hongo becomes the Kamen Rider to clear his name and protect the world from Shocker's schemes. He's not the only Kamen Rider, though! When Hongo abruptly leaves Japan alongside Yuriko to fight the organization's international machinations, he leaves the country in the capable hands of Hayato Ichimonji, Kamen Rider 2! Once Hongo returns, the two team up as the Double Riders in their allied front against Shocker!

Who's licensed it: Shout! Factory

Where's it available: Streaming on Tubi, Shout! Factory TV, Pluto TV, & The Roku Channel.

Coop: Considering this classic's gigantic episode count, I honestly haven't had the chance to watch through the original Kamen Rider series in its entirety. However, what I have seen makes it pretty clear to me why the series was so groundbreaking. Kamen Rider is a show that really rolls with the punches, especially when Hongo's actor, Hiroshi Fujioka, broke his leg while filming a motorcycle stunt. It necessitated Takeshi Sasaki's introduction as Hayato Ichimonji in episode 14 to continue producing the series. Oddly akin to Doctor Who's regenerations of its title character, Hayato brings a new personality, vibe, and concepts to the series. The bespoke transformation sequence, the larger emphasis on a central hangout for the supporting cast, and the occasional bit of silly comedy—Kamen Rider as it's known starts falling into place here. As for the rest of the series, trusted Rider historians have previously recommended that you be there whenever the Double Riders come together, but it can largely be viewed in whatever way best suits you.

Chris: The Showa-era Rider series tend to be characterized as tougher sells to newer, modern crowds. So perhaps it's a blessing in disguise that the only game in town as far as official streaming options is the original itself. The other blessing is, of course, that Kamen Rider is a genuinely entertaining series in its own right, backed by the strength of Shōtarō Ishinomori's concept. The action is one of the most distinguishing aspects of this debut outing. The stuntmen know they have only their own bodies and some rudimentary post-production editing tools to work with. There's nary a noise-making, transforming sword-gun in sight, and that helps keep things feeling tense, grounded even, regardless of if our hero is facing down an evil Mexican cactus-man wielding a floppy saguaro saber. Yes, there are a lot of episodes of the 1971 Kamen Rider, but it's worth checking out, at least a little bit, to feel the foundation of the whole series, and also get an idea of if the Showa shows might turn out to be your taste.

Kamen Rider V3 (1973) - 52 Episodes


What's it about: Riders 1 and 2 believe the world is at last safe after defeating Gel-Shocker once and for all, but evil never truly dies. The enemy leader has resurfaced with a new organization known as Destron, who seek to kill anyone who learns of their existence. Hongo Takeshi's protege, Shiro Kazami, winds up as Destron's latest target, seeing his whole family killed by their monsters. Swearing vengeance, Kazami has his body modified by the Double Riders, transforming him into Kamen Rider V3, taking up the mantle as Japan's newest protector.

Who's licensed it: Generation Kikaida

Where it's available: DVD

Coop: Kamen Rider V3 takes the foundation cemented by the original series and hits the ground running. The pure charisma of Hiroshi Miyauchi quickly endeared me to his performance as the series' lead, Kazami Shiro. Miyauchi's charm especially hits whenever he gives a hearty laugh to taunt the bad guys. Like the original Kamen Rider, V3 is a series I'm not super intimate with, but I can see exactly why it's become a favorite of those who grew up with it on Hawaii's KIKU-TV. Generation Kikiada's box set status as a passion project makes me mighty tempted to pick it up, even if it is a little pricey.

Chris: Definitely the oddest duck of releases included on this list. Generation Kikaida's DVD box set of Kamen Rider V3 could most generously be described as "lavish," and it's been something of a fandom in-joke for ages. But it is there, still in print, if you want to go in for it. And while it's hard to say if it's worth that money for the format, there's no denying that V3 is a certified classic. After nearly two years, Toei had really settled into its groove with Rider productions. Bringing in the now-legendary tokusatsu star Hiroshi Miyauchi as the new lead lends this series his distinctive charm and swagger, with Kazami's trolling of the Destron baddies providing some of the most memorable moments of the show. Whether that's worth the triple-digit price for a DVD set is a decision you have to make for yourself.

Kamen Rider BLACK (1987) - 51 Episodes


What's it about: Kotaro Minami and his adopted brother Nobuhiko Akizuki are kidnapped by the primordial cult Gorgom. This fiendish cult of mutants surgically alter the young men to become their new god, the Century King. Right before he is to be brainwashed into their ranks, Kotaro escapes Gorgom's grasp with the help of his adopted father. Learning the true nature of their aims, Kotaro vows to fight Gorgom's schemes as Kamen Rider BLACK! He searches for Nobuhiko in the meantime, but Kotaro might not like what he finds.

Who's licensed it: Discotek Media

Where's it available: Blu-ray

Coop: Kamen Rider BLACK was my introduction to Showa era Kamen Rider. The hot-blooded protagonist, bare-knuckled action, and top-notch guerrilla horror elements blew my mind. Black takes that gonzo spirit of the original's initial 13 episode run and refines it with the technology Toei had developed establishing the Metal Hero series. It's fairly serious in tone from the jump, but it still has more than a few wonderfully silly moments. I feel it would be best suited for someone who wants to feel the exciting, white-hot essence of Kamen Rider, but might not gel with the original series' aesthetics.

Chris: Visiting Kamen Rider BLACK so close to the original 1971 series can make for an interesting exercise in comparisons, because Black really does come off like a refinement of the first show, down to direct mirrors of scenes from the '71 premiere. And while it's funny to think of a show that opens with some awkwardly green-screened floating baddies as "polished," that genuinely is how Black comes off. True to its title, Black can be visually and thematically dark a lot of the time, reveling in lighting change-ups for fights and scenes highlighting the roller coaster of emotions our hero experiences through the journey. Surreal flashbacks or dream sequences populate parts of the story, feeling calculated in their intent apart from the psychedelic energy of the '70s series. There feels like some real art to much of Black's production beyond the scrappy energy of its Showa forebears, and it's absolutely worth checking out.

Kamen Rider BLACK RX (1988) - 47 Episodes


What's it about: With Gorgom disposed of, Kotaro Minami thinks he might finally be able to settle in and focus on enjoying his life. He and the Sahara family are living in a new home, and he's fulfilled his dream of getting his helicopter pilot's license and taking that up as a job. But new threats can emerge from anywhere, and this time it's the Crisis Empire coming from within and without the Earth itself. Seeking to supplant humanity, the Empire offers Kotaro a place among them, and when he refuses, they chuck him into deep space for his trouble. Down but not out, Kotaro's Kingstone gets supercharged by the energy of the sun, revitalizing him to defend the Earth from the Crisis Empire as Kamen Rider Black RX!

Who's licensed it: Discotek Media

Where's it available: Blu-ray, set to release later in 2023

Coop: To be honest, I'm not very familiar with Black RX. Outside of the first two episodes available on Toei Tokusatsu World and my very slight involvement with the upcoming Blu-ray release, only fuzzy memories of Saban's Masked Rider really come to mind. Ferbus aside, I do look forward to checking out Black RX in full as it seems to take many cues from the Metal Hero series. Especially when you consider Kotaro has a whole garage of vehicles to help him fight against an evil alien menace. It makes sense since there was a good bit of cross-pollination between the production staff of both franchises at the time.

Chris: Obviously, as a direct sequel series, Black RX is not recommendable as a starting point for your Rider viewing experience (which makes it all the more ironic that for many people, it was). But even then, its status as a follow-up is a contentious one. Resolving his baggage of the Gorgom cult and his brother understandably results in a shift in stakes for Kotaro, which can come off as dissonant with the previous show. Much of the overarching darkness of the original Black has been supplanted by some seriously spacey sci-fi vibes. While we do love a bit of cheese in our tokusatsu, here it can make for an odd sequel. There is fun to be had, but you'll also need to temper your expectations if you go in expecting more of Black's particular polish.

Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue (1992) - Film


What's it about: Ever since volunteering to be a test subject in his father's genetics research, motorcycle racer Shin Kazamatsuri has been having dreams of committing violent murders. When he discovers that the murders are real, a terrified Shin starts to investigate his father's eccentric research partner and the shadowy organization funding them. The situation quickly escalates with the CIA's involvement and Shin soon learns there's a beast sleeping within him, ready to tear its way out.

Who's licensed it: Media Blasters

Where's it available: Streaming on Toei Tokusatsu World, Blu-ray Announced

Coop: I find this film to be fascinating for its effects work, with the body horror in its transformation scenes making it worth a skim. I say “skim” because outside of those impressive effects, the film is a pretty run-of-the-mill melodrama with some light direct-to-video nudity. Prologue is an interesting effort to get to the core of Kamen Rider—a monster who fights others like them to protect the humanity they have lost—but not a successful one.

Chris: Definitely not to be confused with Hideaki Anno's forthcoming Shin Kamen Rider. Its time has long since passed, and it's been outmoded by several other projects. All that remains is a movie that is equally parts frustratingly boring and astonishingly poorly made in places. Scenes are messily edited into exhausting loops stretching what's clearly about 45 minutes of film into an untenable hour-and-a-half. It does almost rise to the level of "riffable" in its last stretch, devolving into a mess involving psychic bug pseudoscience and a fucked-up grasshopper baby. But apart from a few glimpses of grittiness, Shin Prologue can't even rise past the basic fight and effects sensibilities of its family-friendly forebears, and those at least usually have good stories supporting them!

Kamen Rider ZO (1993) - Film


What's it about: Masaru Aso awakens in the mountains, called to action with a single directive: protect Hiroshi. Having been infused with grasshopper DNA and transformed into Kamen Rider ZO, Masaru seeks out Hiroshi, the young son of his geneticist mentor, to safeguard him from the monstrous beings which are hunting him.

Who's licensed it: Media Blasters

Where's it available: Streaming on Toei Tokusatsu World, Blu-ray Announced

Coop: Where Shin: Prologue fails, Kamen Rider ZO delivers as a tight, just shy of 50-minute flick that gets right to business. The design work and direction of Keita Amemiya (GARO, Zeiram) is what really makes this movie sing. Looking at its goopy sets, killer stop-motion animation and dynamic action, ZO is a perfect distillation of the classic concepts behind Kamen Rider. If you want a low time commitment taste of the franchise, Kamen Rider ZO is your movie.

Chris: Look, just do yourself a favor: Set aside forty-five minutes and go watch Kamen Rider ZO whenever you have the opportunity. This thing is Rider in its purest, most essential form, and don't let that trick you into thinking it's "basic" or "average." ZO executes its aesthetics and effects like nothing else in the franchise before or since. The story has just enough to briskly propel its scant runtime, and it even has a couple of instances of healthy tokusatsu weirdness.

Kamen Rider J (1994) - Film


What's it about: Accompanied by his younger sister, photo activist Koji Segawa is covering the pollution ravaging a mountain valley. The situation quickly changes when his sister is kidnapped by aliens known as the Fog. Left for dead after her abduction, Koji is resurrected by spirits of the earth to protect the planet as Kamen Rider J! With his oversized grasshopper sidekick, Berry, Koji fights against the Fog to rescue his sister before she is sacrificed to unleash the Fog horde.

Who's licensed it: Media Blasters

Where's it available: Streaming on Toei Tokusatsu World, Blu-ray Announced

Coop: While not ZO, Kamen Rider J is a fun flick in its own right. Keita Amemiya and his team return to flex all over the film's visuals, but it's more your standard “video game” kind of movie. Our hero takes out the bad guys on the way to a spectacular big boss finish. While nothing mind-blowing, it is rad to see a Kamen Rider deliver an Ultraman-scaled Kick.

Chris: If Kamen Rider ZO was the perfectly concentrated distillation of everything Rider, then Kamen Rider J stands as simply the most functional, aggressively "fine" example of the entire franchise. The minimalist characters aren't crafted as confidently, the special effects and cinematography are more pedestrian, and the scenes where our hero communicates with a grasshopper aren't as delightfully inexplicable. Still, it's only 45 minutes out of your day, perfectly worth sitting through if only to have context for the guy Kamen Rider is obliged to break out whenever they need a giant-sized character for crossover movies.

Finally, as a note on all three of these '90s movies: It is nice that Toei has these up for free on their YouTube channel, but the quality of these uploads in particular is so crusty that I can't recommend it as the ideal way to experience them. So maybe wait a bit and hope for that Blu-ray release sooner rather than later.

Kamen Rider Kuuga (2000) - 49 Episodes


What's it about: When an archeological expedition unleashes a group of ancient monsters on Japan, the police seem helpless against them. Enter adventurer Yusuke Godai, who inadvertently fuses with a mystical artifact, transforming him into the champion known as Kuuga. Working with police officer Kaoru Ichijo, Godai seeks to uncover the mysteries of these unidentified lifeforms and find a way to protect the smiles of all the people counting on him.

Who's licensed it: Shout! Factory

Where's it available: On Blu-ray & Streaming on Tubi, Shout! Factory TV, Pluto TV, & The Roku Channel.

Coop: Watch this series. I'm biased as Kamen Rider Kuuga is my absolute favorite entry of the entire franchise. That comes from my proclivity for media that speak so much to the times they were made in. Not that Rider hasn't done that before, but the measured commentary of the rough times Japan faced in the 1990s is nigh inseparable from this series. For more on that, check out my feature on that very subject. Kuuga is the series I recommend to people who are not familiar with tokusatsu given how grounded it is. You owe it to yourself to give this one a look.

Chris: Much like the original 1971 series, there's a sense of discovery to watching Kamen Rider Kuuga. Launching the Heisei era of the Kamen Rider TV series, at a time when it was uncertain what that should be, led to experimentation that codified so many elements still felt in the franchise today. Kuuga feels like one part police procedural drama, another part an examination of the defining sentiments in Japanese society (particularly the younger generation) at the time. There's an earnest seriousness about Kuuga, having the least comical or cartoony moments of any of the Heisei shows, yet still feeling bright and optimistic even as it's not shying away from darker events. It's a milestone in these kinds of franchise productions and makes for a great starting point for those just getting into Kamen Rider.

Kamen Rider Agito (2001) - 51 Episodes


What's it about: A few years have passed since the Unidentified Lifeforms terrorized the nation. Amnesiac Shouichi Tsugami has been living a carefree life with the Misugi family. When a new race of monsters—The Unknown—start murdering victims in unorthodox manners, Shouichi feels compelled to fight them. Prepared for the situation, the police dispatch officer Makoto Hikawa in the experimental G3 armor to combat the new threat. However, Hikawa is instantly trashed and is saved in the nick of time by Shouichi's arrival. Recognizing his transformed visage, the Unknown refer to Shouchi as “Agito.” Joined by the similarly powered Ryo Ashihara, the trio find themselves embroiled in the unfolding mystery behind the origins of their powers and the Unknown.

Who's licensed it: TOKU HD

Where's it available: Streaming on TOKU HD's Amazon Prime Channel

Coop: Back in 2007, Kamen Rider Agito was one of my first exposures to Kamen Rider as a whole. Naturally, I have fond memories of the series, but I find myself eager to revisit it thanks to the efforts of one man: Toshiki Inoue. Anime fans may know him for his contributions to numerous anime series during the '80s such as Dirty Pair, City Hunter, and Lum The Forever. Kamen Rider Agito is an excellent example of Inoue's dedication to making a compelling television experience. Does the plot always make sense? No. Do you enjoy it? Yes. We'll come back to Inoue again in a bit, but the mystery he weaves throughout Agito is filled with great characters and explosive payoffs. I recommend checking it out, but perhaps not in its current form on TOKU HD.

Chris: With Kamen Rider Kuuga having its landmark Blu-ray release, it's nice to have Agito also available in some form. It follows up on Kuuga in a loose, conceptual sort of way. Much of that manifests in Toshiki Inoue delivering a series that so often feels like "Kuuga, but more." More characters turn into more Riders navigating more concurrent, intersecting plotlines. That experimental feeling that kicked off the Heisei era is still there, but you can also feel that the franchise really started to find its footing for this era.

Kamen Rider Ryuki (2002) - 50 Episodes + Episode Final (Film)


What's it about: There's another world parallel to our own just on the other side of mirrors, and it is populated with monsters. In investigating a story, journalist Shinji Kido discovers a mysterious deck of cards that allows him to form a contract with one of those mirror monsters, and transform into Kamen Rider Ryuki. But Shinji is not the only one. There are thirteen Riders in total, all of them set against each other in the Rider War, a battle royale they must fight in for a chance to have their wish granted.

Who's licensed it: Shout! Factory

Where's it available: On Blu-ray & Streaming on Tubi, Shout! Factory TV, Pluto TV, & The Roku Channel.

Coop: Kamen Rider Ryuki is a series I've only just jumped into as part of this guide, but I am truly gobsmacked about how strong this show is out of the gate. The uneasy partnership between Shinji and Ren as they fight for their lives in the Rider War is fantastic, harkening back to the idea of the original series' Double Riders. As the audience learns more, you're introduced to a whole cavalcade of fascinating characters who have their own complicated reasons for being involved. I'd be remiss if I forgot to mention that Ryuki also has some of the strongest humor in the franchise. Each passing episode is just more proof as to why Ryuki is one of Kamen Rider's most influential entries. I am stoked to finish this and would recommend you join me for the ride.

Chris: Yasuko Kobayashi is a writer who needs no introduction. Heck, she contributed to the preceding Kamen Rider Agito. But Kamen Rider Ryuki represents, in my opinion, her strongest work in the franchise. Ryuki is a story dedicated to exploring its own concept. Several episodes can feature only a few minutes of characters transforming into Riders to battle monsters or each other, yet every scene develops its themes, the knowledge of the Rider War, and the inherent need to view everyone as an opponent. The sheer number of Riders in the show made it stand out at the time, in a way that would influence many other later Rider series, as well as innumerable "battle royale" anime and other media from Japan through the 2000s. Yet even feeling those influences today, there's still nothing quite like Ryuki itself.

Kamen Rider 555 (2003) - 50 Episodes


What's it about: With a mysterious belt and motorcycle in her possession, Mari Sonoda is on her way to Tokyo when she runs into the aloof Takumi Inui. Through a comedy of errors, Takumi ends up donning the belt to protect her from monstrous Orphnoch assassins. Once they arrive in Tokyo, the duo's path is on a collision course with the omnipotent Smart Brain corporation and the Orphnochs under their care. That's all before we even get to the other belt owners too.

Who's licensed it: TOKU HD

Where's it available: Streaming on TOKU HD's Amazon Prime Channel

Coop: Hey, remember Toshiki Inoue? This is him firing on all cylinders, even more so than with Agito. From the jump, Kamen Rider 555 (pronounced “Faiz”) is dedicated to gripping its audience into a messy but compelling mystery. Like I said before, does the plot always make sense? No. Do you enjoy it? Yes. However, I do have to put up the warning that 555 contains depictions of self-harm and suicide in its opening episodes. I can recommended it, but like Agito, 555's presentation on TOKU HD isn't very flattering

Chris: 555 can be an attractive prospect to check out based on aesthetics alone, sporting some of the coolest suits and sound effects in the franchise. But you'll need to quickly acquire a taste for Toshiki Inoue at his most dramatic. 555 hits you with a purposefully opaque first episode with a ton of seemingly disparate characters. And the story develops into a soap opera-level drama, as love polygons, betrayals, and misunderstandings all frame the incidental monster fights. Inoue can make the series compellingly watchable, but it can also only take one question of plot inconvenience too far to throw you out of the story and frustrate your ability to stay engaged with it. To say nothing of the omnipresent asterisk of that Toku HD "translation" job.

Kamen Rider Amazons/Amazon Riders (2016 & 2017) - 2 Seasons, 26 Episodes


What's it about: Nozama Pharmaceuticals is deep in the process of covering up the escape of the Amazons—seemingly normal people who are actually bioengineered creatures who feed on human flesh to survive. A ragtag team of mercenaries is brought on board to do Nozama's dirty laundry while a former researcher has become an Amazon to eliminate all Amazons with his own hands. Initially on the outside of this conflict is Haruka, an apparently ill young man. When he suddenly stops taking his daily injections, the beast within Haruka breaks out to go on the hunt.

Who's licensed it: Amazon

Where's it available: Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Coop: I'm not too crazy about Amazons. What could have been a compelling series if more focused on its key cast and a singular rider turns into this muddy mess of ideas. Amazons tries to get at something deeper with its allegorical points via the series' titular monster people, but it crumbles at the foundation—and not in an enjoyable way either. It feels like a pastiche of early Heisei Kamen Rider in many ways but lacks the forward momentum of those series. Jin and Extermination Squad are characters that may make it worth a watch, but I'm not planning to revisit it anytime soon.

Chris: It's easy to at least appreciate the effort of what Amazons was trying to do. The first dedicated "adult" attempt at Kamen Rider since Shin Prologue puts some sort of foot forward. And it's another one written by Yasuko Kobayashi with an ambitious meta-narrative. Unfortunately, the story just comes off underwhelmingly undercooked, misusing or missing its own allegorical points a lot of the time, and its handling of the main characters is frustrating. The visuals are similarly haphazard, with a base style going for a gritty, "Peak TV" look that mostly just amounts to a grimy filter that still clashes with the shiny Rider suits. Amazons can still be interesting as a curiosity, but it's a first draft in a style that has since been done better.

Kamen Rider Zero-One (2019) - 45 Episodes + RealxTime (Film)


What's it about: Hiden Intelligence has revolutionized the world with their Humagears, advanced artificial-intelligence androids. These robots contribute to society by assisting with human tasks and jobs. However, a terrorist organization known as MetsubouJinrai.net lurks in the shadows, hacking Humagears and turning them against humans to advance their agenda. Aruto Hiden, aspiring comedian and new CEO of Hiden Intelligence, must take on the responsibility of resolving this robot revolution, by transforming into the company's secret weapon, Kamen Rider Zero-One!

Who's licensed it: Shout! Factory

Where's it available: On Blu-ray & Streaming on Tubi, Shout! Factory TV, Pluto TV, & The Roku Channel.

Coop: Kamen Rider Zero-One speaks to the times it was made in, but not nearly as deftly as Kuuga had for the late '90s. Before the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic provided major challenges to the series' production, Zero-One was trying to tell a story about the exploitation of minorities under capitalism. I believe the team behind Zero-One had their heart in the right place most of the time, but they don't directly touch on our hero's complicity with the situation. Not to mention that one specific episode plays into harmful black stereotypes with the character of MC Check-It-Out. Kamen Rider Zero-One is oddly kind of the perfect show to reflect on the mess that 2020 was. I enjoy the series' spectacular action and slick design work, but I feel like deeper readings of Zero-One might require an asterisk or two.

Chris: The starting point of Kamen Rider's Reiwa Era, Zero-One is perhaps not as definitive a beginning as the likes of Kamen Rider 1971 or Kuuga. It's trying to start something fresh while still directly following on from two decades of continuously released series before it. This, coupled with its themes of artificial intelligence agency as an allegory for minority rights, can come off as too ambitious for its own good, and lend it something of an identity crisis. It's not all the show's fault, as Zero-One was famously in mid-production when the first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks occurred, necessitating several delays and readjustments in continuing the series. With that in mind, there are engaging ideas and characters to latch onto in Zero-One (the arc for Isamu Fuwa in particular is a favorite of mine), and I have to admit I love the designs and overall look for the series.

FUUTO PI (2022) - 12 Episodes


What's it about: For the detective duo of Shotaro Hidari & Philip, their days in the windy city of Fuuto haven't been too hectic as of late. It's been less fighting monsters called Dopants and more searching for the occasional lost cat. That all changes when the mysterious Tokime comes to town with a shadowy organization hot on her heels. As the duo help Tokime untangle her twisted past, Shotaro and Philip soon find themselves on the case once again as Kamen Rider W.

Who's licensed it: Crunchyroll

Where's it available: Streaming on Crunchyroll

Coop: I was in high school when Kamen Rider W was airing, so it's another series I'm very fond of. Returning to the windy city of Fuuto thirteen years later was akin to meeting up with an old friend again. For new viewers, I feel it's a solid introduction to Kamen Rider on the whole, as not much information from Kamen Rider W is needed to enjoy FUUTO PI. I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the best hand-drawn action around with the occasionally smart integration of CG. The folks at Studio Kai took the spirit of Kamen Rider W's action and kicked it up a notch by doing things that are nigh impossible in live-action. I can easily recommend it to new and old fans alike.

Chris: I've already had plenty to say elsewhere about FUUTO PI, but looking back on it after a while like this, I'm still impressed at how rock-solid a little project it turned out to be. For one thing, this is almost certainly the most calculated gateway drug for anime fans. Unfortunately, there's no official option for viewing Kamen Rider W if FUUTO PI piqued your interest in it. Plus, FUUTO PI ends well before finishing any of the overall story it's adapting from the manga, making it feel frustratingly incomplete on either side of its existence. But the time you get to spend with it still comes off as one hell of a fun ride.

Kamen Rider Black Sun (2022) - 10 Episodes


What's it about: Modern-day Japan sits on the precipice of a civil rights upheaval. A tenuous peace between humans and the altered beings known as Kaijins threatens to be destroyed by the tensions of prejudice and intolerance. Young activist Aoi Izumi might hold the key to bringing people together, and thus finds herself targeted by antagonistic forces from both the human and Kaijin sides of the conflict. As a result of this, she comes into contact with a man named Kotaro Minami. Fifty years earlier, Kotaro was experimented on alongside his brother and is now imbued with the power of Kamen Rider BLACK SUN.

Who's licensed it: Amazon

Where's it available: Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Coop: Black Sun is fascinating for reimagining a classic while reckoning with 50 years of Japanese history. I'm far from the right person to delve into specifics, but I feel the show shines when facing those topics head-on. It's generally got its heart in the right place but occasionally steps on a rake when appropriating imagery evocative of civil rights struggles in the United States. Frankly, the series is upsetting with its brutal depiction of a lynching early on and a disrespectful recreation of an infamous 2020 police murder in its last five minutes. The action and design work is well done, though I feel the series lead Hidetoshi Nishijima isn't able to fully shine in the series, especially after watching his performance in Drive My Car prior to viewing Black Sun. I appreciated Black Sun for swinging with its heart in the right place, but it comes with a handful of asterisks that viewers should be aware of.

Chris: Black Sun is another turn at what Toei was trying to pull off with Amazons (and Shin Prologue, to a degree), and for my money is easily the most successful attempt. There's a wild ambition to Black Sun in a way that feels earnest in how it frames its story in social and political issues, compared to the mere gritty filter and half-baked commentary of Amazons. I was regularly in awe of the raw anger behind this show's storytelling and character work, and kind of astounded that so much of it got through mass corporations like Toei and Amazon uncompromised. Black Sun's rush to tackle such dense, often messy subject matter across its 10 episodes means it absolutely falls on its face a few times. But even then I still have to respect the show for its effort, to say nothing of its strong production and wonderful special effects.

The Final Kicks

Going over all these, it's kind of amazing to see how far the official availability of Kamen Rider series has come just in the last few years. And for all these physical releases and major streaming outlet releases, there is one more corner that we only briefly touched on a couple of times: The Toei Tokusatsu World YouTube channel. Over there, among the many, many other classic series episodes also hosted, you'll find English-subtitled releases of the first two episodes of virtually every Kamen Rider series (as well as the full trio of the '90s movies). They've even got a few of the supplemental movies, including the one for FUUTO PI's Kamen Rider W, as well as the excellent multi-series crossover Movie Wars Megamax.

Unfortunately, the quality of many of these releases leaves much to be desired, topping out at a crunchy 480p resolution, and again, you're only getting the first two episodes of anything there. But it does allow for an appreciable sampler platter if you're just looking around for something to catch your interest. And if you happen across something that hasn't yet made it onto any of the previously discussed official release outlets, it's important to make your voice heard regarding it. Shout! Factory's TokuSHOUTsu team has confirmed that they and their licensors are paying attention to social media requests. Kamen Rider Kuuga's own Blu-ray release was bolstered by the success of the "KuugaOnBluuga" hashtag. So if something does turn out to be your new favorite, don't hesitate to do what we've tried to do here today, and let others know about the wider world of Rider.

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