As usual after my usual themed month ended, I was thinking about how to transition from Mecha March to the usual sort of material. Last year, I went with a week of Log Horizon posts before just getting into the usual posts stuff. This year, it’s time for some Tokusatsu manga before I head into fate for a couple weeks. Is there a connection between the two? Nope. But, I did want to understand a bit more about Kamen Rider before the new Kamen Rider anime appears in the summertime. That was the original thought behind buying the manga too and now it’s doing this now. Either way, it’s just fun to talk about because of how important Kamen Rider and Tokusatsu are to anime.
Created from the mind of Cyborg 009, which is more popular in the United States, Shotaro Ishinomori is also the creator and/or starting spark of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai franchises. (Next post is about Gorenger, by the way.) It’s crazy to think about how influential Kamen Rider has been to so many creative people in the anime and manga industries. I mean, we could just talk about HIdeaki Anno taking the Rider Kick and turning it into the Lightning Kick. Possibly even Akira Toriyama also has so many tokusatsu references in all his manga from comedy to other parts there. That’s not even the tipping point, because it goes further than that if you have an eye for it. All of which provided another reason to look into Kamen Rider in some form.
Getting into it, this Kamen Rider manga is the original, and at first at least, a story of Hongo Takeshi. A guy that is strong in body and in mind as well as his deep love of riding motorcycles. One day, he got kidnapped by the mysterious organization known as Shocker. An organization that captured him and was slowly turning him into a mindless cyborg. So yeah, some Cyborg 009 connections there. Luckily, he woke up right before they were going to mind wipe him, so he escaped on a Motorcycle who became the Kamen Rider who fought the evil organization of Shocker and the many enemies that were sent after him.
The series is very simple in its characterization and plots, because the real winner is the execution of it all. Hongo Takeshi is interested in having the manga quickly explaining who he is and how intelligent he is until he turns into a cyborg bugman later on. I mean, he is a very intelligent and physically fit (especially with cyborg capabilities) billionaire who fights crime. Albeit the crime itself is against the standard sort of James Bond evil organization. There are not many layers there at the start because it doesn’t have enough time to do that. It’s mainly Hongo Takeshi trying to fight evil before it consumes him and that is enough to keep going with.
That sense of simplicity moves into its side characters even more. For instance, there is a conflict with a girl that starts living at Takeshi Hongo’s mansion while she blames our main character for killing her father and we all know that’s not true. But still, she never got any time to apologize for it and that is only one case out of many. The whole cast is generally like the unless they get into a larger role in facing Shocker. For instance, Takeshi’s butler who was there since the beginning and eventually disappears from the manga completely halfway through. It’s not necessarily bad because that’s not the focus of this Kamen Rider manga series at all.
With the tokusatsu series and manga coming out in the early seventies in mind, I’m kind of astonished this became as popular as it did. Not in a bad way at all, but I base it on a lot of other things. Especially since Kamen Rider is a franchise that has lasted until now with a lot of installments and it’s stunning that this was so huge. I was not expecting the material to be much closer to Devil-man then I thought it would be. Kamen Rider fights a lot of horrific battles against other enhanced cyborgs for the sake of surviving. There is such a huge unpredictability to it all that makes it much more exciting then a series where the hero wins and the story moves on.
There are so many viscerally horrible and horrifying fights that carry a crazy amount of weight in them. Not to mention one never knows how the stakes will change from one larger chapter to the next. It starts with Kamen Rider fighting a spider demon and Hongo Takeshi has the resources to deal with those situations. Then the budgetary evil of Shocker really shows up as they show how desperate they are to defeat Kamen Rider from stopping them from taking over the world, pushing their influence beyond the governments they have control over, or just have all of it through whatever means necessary.
Those means are very heavy and almost unlimited. At least compared to just a rich billionaire that has his own resources. What if Shocker created another powerful monster? What if suddenly there were 13 Kamen Riders? What if they researched who the Kamen Rider was and just ruined their life by turning the people they know into zombies for their own purposes. This manga is so heavy in what it sets out to do. Yet it’s so invigorating and stressful in a good way to see what is around the next corner. As I’ve been hinting at, it’s not for the faint or light of heart at all. That comparison to Devil-man already says it, but it feels like it goes beyond that.
Which helps with how visceral the manga is. The artwork is so gorgeous. I could also say that even if a person just watched the 2000’s Cyborg 009, the art work with character designs and angles Ishimori uses are almost the same. Then there is the way the manga is constructed. There are a lot of page spreads that have so much great energy into them. When Kamen Rider runs over someone with his motorcycle, you can feel it. Same with the 12 other Kamen Riders show up to face Hongo in the rain. The action scenes and atmosphere are so well put together and paneled that it’s amazing how it works. Or maybe its not because Ishimori is some kind of genius.
If I had to give any sort of recommendation with Kamen Rider, I think I spelled out what kind of audience would be interested in it. Not only just Kamen Rider or Tokusatsu fans, but possibly those who are curious about it. Or people who are into retro media and want some more of that feel that came from manga in the early 1970’s. Especially with how rare it is to see older manga get licensed these days. It’s just a lot of fun even in those hardest moments because there is always a good follow through to all of it. It is pure atmosphere in how it’s realized and executed and that’s great. More of this please. Maybe I will have to finally watch the Kamen Rider series. Maybe. I recently started some Ultraman so toku will be a drip feed for me.