Kamen Rider recommendations

Interested in knowing what this weird Power Rangers-y superhero series is? Here's a basic rundown.

In summary, Kamen Rider (or Masked Rider, if you prefer) is a Japanese superhero series made by the same people behind Super Sentai, which is adapted into Power Rangers. Instead of a team of heroes, it's one guy who is later joined by a few more guys. Instead of a giant robot, Kamen Riders have a variety of weapons, forms (think Mega Man) and collectibles that give them different abilities.

If you want to watch them then your best bet is online streaming sites like KissAsian, but there are also torrents that are sometimes available, but are mostly used for current ongoing series.

Below are the modern shows in order of how I personally rank them. I'll give a plot summary and some reasons why I think they are good or bad.

Kamen Rider Gaim (2013)


Gaim takes place in the fictitious city of Zawame, which is more or less owned by the Yggdrasill Corporation. Various teens have formed street dance teams, and in order to give them a place to dance, a game was put into place involving virtual monsters. This is how it begins, at least - our main character comes across a portal to another world, where he finds these virtual monsters in the flesh, as well as a transformation belt. Slowly, the conspiracy unravels, and this innocent game's darker origins are revealed.

Visually, the Kamen Riders in this series are based on different types of warriors (Gaim being a samurai, Baron being a knight, etc.) and they have swappable armors based on fruit and nuts. Despite that, they have a nice look to them that passes as armor, while having hints of fruit in their design. I think they look better than some might give it credit for at a passing glance.

It's a series that may turn some off due to its abundance of Kamen Riders - and by extension, collectibles - but it has a unique story and some good characterization. In particular, the four Riders that are considered to be the main characters go through some interesting developments over the course of the show and aren't who they were at the start. The series was written by Gen Urobuchi of Madoka Magica fame, so if you like that setup, you may enjoy this.

Between its music, design sense and its plot, this still stands as my top favorite.

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid (2016)


As the current show, it may be strange to toss this one out there as a second place entry, but it's earned it so far.

This series focuses on the Seito University Hospital. Through certain circumstances, a pro gamer working as an intern at a hospital ends up being recruited as part of the Cyber Rescue Center - they're a secret group that are trying to wipe out the Bugster Virus, an infectious entity that comes from video games. Transforming using what are essentially game carts made for combat, our main hero fights as Ex-Aid. Other Riders include a surgeon who's also part of this group, an ex-doctor who lost his license, and a mysterious black recolor of Ex-Aid who sides with the monsters. Despite what's thrown at him, Ex-Aid proclaims that he can clear this without Continues and change the fate of his patients with his own hands.

This series has a bit of a wacky design sense, particularly with the Riders. They feature bright colors and anime eyes, as well as attachable armors that are based around game genres. The monsters are also mostly meant to be video game bosses brought to life. It's a more lighthearted mentality, though the story goes to some fairly dark places (for its demographic). It has some good characterization and if you stick to it, they get some good development. It's also got some great villains.

Kamen Rider W/Double (2009)


W/Double is an old fan favorite, and I think it's still my first go-to recommendation even if there's shows higher on this list.

Taking place in the fictitious city of Fuuto, we follow a freelance detective Shotaro, who has a very unique partner named Philip: He can go into a sort of mental library where all information is kept, which they use to narrow down the culprit in the cases they tackle. In this city, there is a mysterious organization passing around Gaia Memories, which cause people to transform into monsters called Dopants, something they get addicted to using like a drug. Using a special Rider belt, Shotaro and Philip transform simultaneously, with Philip's mind going into Shotaro's to make them a two-in-one hero: Kamen Rider Double.

The series has a nice strong design sense to it, with minimalist Rider suits and monsters based on an interesting variety of motifs, ranging from elements (Magma), creatures (Smilodon) and even vague concepts (Liar). It's a show all about solving mysteries that happen to involve monsters, and it's a lot of fun for that reason. There's a lot of jazzy music involved, and Shotaro likes to ham it up like a film noire detective, which is just one example of its fun characterization.

This was not the first modern Rider series to make humans into the monsters, but it's the first in a long time, and that - along with various other elements from this series - carried on into the shows after it. It was a real trend-setter, establishing a lot of tropes that have slowly faded but were pretty noticeable. For good reason, mind you - they worked very well here.

Kamen Rider Den-O (2007)


Den-O is a very popular series, so it gets around a lot. Especially in 2017, with it being the 10th anniversary.

A shy young man with comically bad luck ends up accidentally boarding a train that travels across time. They're looking for someone to fight Imagin, creatures from the future who will grant a person's wish in return for access to a point in the past. There, they can wreak havoc and affect the present. In order to prevent that, this clumsy protagonist teams up with a rebelling Imagin, who possesses him to fight as the aggressive Den-O. Along their journey to stop time anomalies caused by Imagin, they eventually encounter more Imagin who don't wish to cause trouble.

This is by far the most cartoony of any Kamen Rider series. The various Imagin our protagonist teams up with tend to possess him by force, making him display a distinct personality with each one - the actor gets to stretch his acting abilities here. The designs are also pretty solid, with monsters based on folklore and Rider forms that are very futuristic in design. Den-O's main four forms involve the same armor being applied in different places, which all result in distinct designs.

It's also got some fun catchy music.

Kamen Rider Agito (2001)


This one is technically considered to be a sequel to Kamen Rider Kuuga, but it is not required to understand this series.

Agito follows an amnesic young man living with a family he voluntarily does a lot of chores for. They're unaware that when trouble comes near, he springs into action as a silent and fierce warrior called Agito. The police have been fighting off monsters for a while, but just as they've developed their own Kamen Rider, the new monsters who show up are a lot stronger. They must team up with the mysterious Agito. There's also a third Rider who follows his own path, but inevitably all three cross paths. There's also a fourth later.

This series features a few different themes. Agito himself has a mystical element, and literal elements since he gains flame and water forms later. G3, the police's Rider, is more technology based and has various weapons. Gills is much simpler and more organic. They all have something to offer.

This one is pretty down to Earth. The way they handle the villains at the beginning is a bit iffy, with a lot of intensely vague stuff that happens, but it goes away after a while. It has some good characterization, and while the writer of this series wrote 555/Faiz (lower on the list), which I criticize for miscommunication between characters, that's handled well here. In fact, everything Faiz tried to do is handled well here. It's an older Rider show that's still surprisingly good.

As an aside, I don't know what the fansub situation is with these, but I'd recommend seeking out Gomen Rider's translation over Cruel Angel. The latter had some pretty low quality footage associated with it when I watched this series.

This list is still in progress.

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