Five Ways Ultra Seven Defined the Ultraman Genre
Previous Background Actors who became Tokusatsu Heroes Part 2
There is no denying that there will be fans who are divided by different preferences, interests and opinions in every existing fandom. None of it were made obvious until the internet became an inseparable technology in our lives and with the limitless number of online forums and social media, it is becoming more and more clear. Some of the well known “fandom wars” on the internet are PS4 vs Xbox One, Marvel vs DC, Lord of the Rings vs Harry Potter, Game of Thrones vs Hunger Games and the list goes on forever.
The Tokusatsu fandom is obviously not spared from this kind of war, seeing that there are a few genres. While franchises like Ultraman and GARO cover about 5% of the fandom (and they hardly ever get any hate or war against each other), the most common “Tokusatsu fandom war” is none other than Super Sentai vs Kamen Rider. Both franchises were created by the same company and have been going on for many years, with the former turning 40 and the latter turning 45 next year, so it is definitely inevitable for them to be compared to each other.
I started out as a Power Rangers fan, just like everyone else in the Tokusatsu fandom, but got converted into a Super Sentai fan in late December 2004 when I watched Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger for the very first time. That was exactly 10 years ago and within those 10 years, I have been shaken up quite badly as most of the series were so bad. It was not until this year that I finally turned away from the franchise, thanks to the awful Shuriken Sentai Ninninger. Since then, I have been occupying my Sentai-free time by watching some Ultraman series, which I couldn’t get into for the past 10 years since I got into the Tokusatsu fandom, and other stuffs.
Unlike Ultraman, however, I never really got into the Kamen Rider franchise and even until today, it is one of the most difficult genres for me to really care for. Without further ado and longwinded essay, I will list five reasons why I can never get into Kamen Rider.
1. Snobbish Fandom
While most people would be in denial, this is not a total lie or “just my assumption/imagination”. The Kamen Rider fandom actually occupies more than 80% of the Tokusatsu fandom. Period. No matter what medium on the internet: Facebook, YouTube, online forums, blogs etc. you will always come across a person who loves Kamen Rider to death out of all the other Tokusatsu genres.
Sometimes these people will have at least two favourite genres, but Kamen Rider will always receive more of the love portion and these people are also usually the ones who scoff at other franchises, mainly Super Sentai and Ultraman, for being “the same old shit every year” and arrogantly claims that Kamen Rider “always try to be different”.
Nobody wants to be part of a fandom with such arrogance, unless they want to fit in with the “cool crowd” to avoid being the minority.
2. The ‘Lone Hero’ Concept
Outside of the Super Sentai franchise, almost every other Tokusatsu series adopts this concept where the story is centralised around a protagonist, although there have been a few series that adopted the concept of a five-man team as well. As a kid who practically grew up being home alone most of the time, I have developed a love for TV shows that put heavy emphasis on friendship and teamwork, hence my love for the Super Sentai franchise. Even now as I have fully become an Ultraman fan, which many people may think it is a franchise that uses the lone hero concept, the giant hero is still backed up by a defence team which doesn’t stray too far from what Super Sentai does: teamwork.
The lone hero concept is something that I can’t get into, despite being someone who loves to do most things alone, because I just can’t bear watching a hero isolating himself (or herself) claiming they don’t need anybody to help them save the world and whatsoever. Let’s just say I don’t like seeing my own reflection in a fictional character.
3. Lost Identity
When you see a team of five heroes with their own specific colours, you will immediately say it’s Power Rangers or Super Sentai. When you see a man in a red and silver rubber suit, accompanied with an oval head and egg shaped eyes, you will no doubt say it’s Ultraman. However, what clearly defines Kamen Rider these days? His belt? His bike?
Kamen Rider was originally created by the late mangaka, Ishinomori Shotaro, with a tragic lone hero theme. The franchise started out with most of its heroes being re-engineered by an evil organization to do their evil bidding, but when it came back on air with Kamen Rider Kuuga, they discarded the re-engineered human aspect and even started hiring younger, “better” looking actors for the main roles. The franchise gradually derailed from the original concept that Ishinomori has envisioned as the years pass, making the newer Kamen Riders less recognisable and almost unknown to new audiences.
If an amateur who doesn’t watch Power Rangers or Ultraman can still differentiate between the two, yet tells me Kamen Rider “looks like Power Rangers”, that’s already saying something.
4. ‘Wash, Rinse and Repeat’ Movies
Around the time the first Avengers film neared its debut in Japan, Toei decided to leech onto that idea of making a film where heroes gather to fight a greater evil, and hence the birth of the Super Hero Taisen movies came to be. Unlike the Avengers film, however, Toei made it a goal to have a SHT film every single year, with recycled storyline. If you have seen the first SHT film and thought it was crap, don’t expect the subsequent films to be of any improvement, as they are basically just carbon copies of each other with different titles and “face of the movie”.
You are probably thinking “Super Sentai is also gimmicky. Your argument is invalid.” but if I were to compare the gimmicks in to Super Sentai and Ultraman, Kamen Rider is definitely the worst offender so far. Why? In Super Sentai, the gimmicks are almost fairly divided and shared among the heroes, so each member would not have that many personal gimmick item of their own, whereas the gimmicks in Ultraman are there for story purposes and not for the sake of a 30-minute toy commercial.
Kamen Rider has always been known for their punches, kicks and form changes, but starting from Kamen Rider Decade, it seems that they even need to use a gimmicky item just to activate a punch or a kick. Gone were the days where Riders solely depended on their natural fighting skills, where form changes were merely just power-ups rather than gimmicks.
These days, the Kamen Rider series are revolved around a “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” plot, where the enemies are also there to do the collection. The fact that Shuriken Sentai Ninninger is also using this plot as well is a sign of doom for the Super Sentai franchise.
And there you have it, five reasons why I can’t get into the Kamen Rider franchise. While the upcoming Kamen Rider Ghost looks promising and has a fairly interesting concept going on, I can’t guarantee that I’ll check it out until the end.
If you have the same difficulties getting into a certain Tokusatsu franchise, let us know in the comment box below!