It’s always a little sad to deal with the “end of an era.” And if you’re a Kamen Rider fan, those words have a very literal meaning right now. With the arrival of the next Rider, a two-decade era will come to an end — and it’s going out big.
Hey, Say Heisei
If you follow Japanese history or politics at all, you probably know about the naming of eras. You may also know that the Heisei Era is due to end next April, when Emperor Akihito abdicates. But what the heck does all this have to do with Kamen Rider? If you’re a fan of tokusatsu, it’s a given; but those on the outside may be a bit confused.
For toku fans, these eras divide up not only Japanese history, but also their favorite franchises. Other factors may affect classification — for example, movies made in a certain era by a certain studio. In the case of Kamen Rider, a character’s era also depends on the life of the franchise’s creator, Shotaro Ishinomori.
The Heisei Era started in 1989… but there was no Kamen Rider on TV at that time. However, there were films, stage shows, soundtracks, and the like. Ishinomori died in 1998, but the show would not return to the air until two years later, with Kamen Rider Kuuga in 2000. Out of deference to Ishinomori, all Kamen Rider creations up to his death are classed as Showa Era, with the show’s Heisei period beginning with its return to TV in the 21st century.
Got all that? Good, because we’re starting all over again this spring.
It’s About Time
Our next Rider to hit the screen will see out the show’s (and Japan’s) Heisei Era, running through and past Emperor Akihito’s departure. Appropriately enough, the new character is time-themed, and can call upon previous Riders of his era for special attacks.
Kamen Rider Zi-O sports a clock face on his mask, as well as a chronometer on his henshin belt. So far, we know that his partner in justice is a girl from 50 years in the future, and that his special belt will allow him to summon up the powers of other Heisei Era Riders. (Fans of the Super Sentai series will recall that Gokaiger had a similar theme.)
In addition, fans can look forward to a movie featuring Zi-O, Build, and other previous Riders.
Kamen Rider 20th Memorial Work: Heisei Generation Forever will be hitting Japanese cinemas in December, a couple of months after Zi-O takes up the mantle.
So what else can we expect from this new era? Fans who attend the film Kamen Rider Build: Be the One get a first glimpse at the upcoming season. As for the rest of us, we’ll just have to wait and see!