I just found out last night during a screening of the 1975 Sonny Chiba Supernatural Action Film Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope- (good movie by the way, check it out if you like 1970s Toei exploitation films) that the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX is planning a June screening of the 1995 Keita Amemiya (Kamen Rider ZO and Garo) tokusatsu film Mechanical Violator Hakaider as part of their Weird Wednesday series! This is among my favorite stand alone tokusatsu films from one of my favorite eras of the medium and from one of my favorite directors! The chance to see this on the big screen totally made my night and has left me so excited!
More details to follow once I know the exact screening date!
The one solitary page I found via search from one of four Hakaider mangas, one of many unicorns I’m still stubbornly chasing to find. Like an elusive ghost, I see but a blurred glimpse of a page or a whisper of it in Japanese fan discussions and then nothing….
Comic Tetsujin: According to its Wikipedia Japan page, this one has ties to Cyborg 009!
Shonen Manga Monthly: Made by a guy who would later work on one of the Garo mangas!
Monthly Dengeki: No available data at all…
#4 is totally unknown aside from it being recent and made completely Internet-proof as I have yet to see a scan….
Just wanted to note that last night at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin, TX we were treated to an amazing 35mm print of Keita Amemiya’s 1195 film Mechanical Violator Hakaider. According to our host it had been struck to make the US DVDs and only screened once before at a private event. This was the first time this gorgeous print had been screened publicly and it was flawless. I loved this movie before but I found an utterly new appreciation for it after seeing it as it was intended, on a big screen. There were moments when I found myself grinning from ear to ear.
Also, I just wanted to note that I met @cooldownnow at the theater and he was a really cool guy! It’s so awesome to meet other tokusatsu fans who live in the Austin area! It’s even more fantastic because his first viewing of this film was the best way to see it!
Our editor-in-chief Paula Gaetos had the chance to interview prolific director, character designer, and monster designer Keita Amemiya, who is best known for being the creator and director of the GARO franchise. He is also known for being the director of various other tokusatsu, including Choujin Sentai Jetman, Choujuu Sentai Liveman, Kamen Rider J, Kamen Rider ZO, and Mechanical Violator Hakaider; he was also the character designer for Kamen Rider BLACK and Kamen Rider BLACK RX.
You cannot ever take away someone’s fundamental human rights. Bodily autonomy is one such right. To do so is a crime. Yet psychiatrists, with the help of judges and other legal mechanisms routinely violate the rights of their patients to say ‘no.’ They invade our bodies as we plead and they tell us that it’s for our own good.
Apparently, this is a topic more than one of my followers wishes for me to tackle. Let it never be said I do not listen to my followers.
TOP 10 VEHICLES IN TOKUSATSU
Because the requesters seemed to want to limit it to motorbikes or cars, I will not include any space-faring, water-going or flying vehicles for this list. This is about wheeled ground transportation only. Also, I won’t be including any giant robot component parts so if it transforms and becomes and arm/leg/head it’s not on this list.
So, ground rules set, let’s get started!
10. Spider Machine GP-7 from 1978′s Spider-Man.
Yes, in the Toei Tokusatsu version of the story of everyone’s favorite wall crawling hero, Spider-Man has a car. It’s not just any car though, it’s an alien car from the planet Spider that launches forth from the Marveller starship to give Spidey extra mobility while chasing villains through the city. While this technically violates my rules because it can fly it is primarily a ground-based vehicle and comes equipped with machine guns and rockets hidden beneath the hood!
9. Goranger Machines from 1975′s Himitsu Sentai Goranger
The original set of motorcycles with sidecars from the original Sentai series have to appear somewhere on this list and only rank this low because they aren’t the best bikes from that era or even the best Sentai bikes of all time. They’re a bit blocky and kind of plain but they are just cool enough to edge out a flying car from the planet Spider, so that’s something!
8. Battle Hopper/Acrobatter from Kamen Rider Black/Black RX
I should probably count these as separate entries but they really are the same bike. Battle Hopper served Kamen Rider Black well as a sentient motorcycle created by the evil Golgam the same as Black himself and was destroyed/killed in his final battle with Shadow Moon. However, when Black was transformed into Black RX, Battle Hopper was also reborn as the more powerful Acrobatter to continue his service to the hero.
7. Sidemachine from 1972′s Android Kikaider
Another motorcyle/sidecar combo this low-slung, streamlined motorcycle carried the android hero into battle against the force of DARK and propelled him on his quest to find and rescue his creator. This is one of the most low profile bikes on this list and looks super fast on film.
6. Tridoron from 2015′s Kamen Rider Drive
The newest vehicle on this makes is a sporty red car that is as much a part of Drive’s character as his belt. This is the vehicle that produces the tires used in his various power ups and actually becomes his armor for his final form. It can be driven like a normal car or given over to Mr. Belt to let him drive. The steering wheel can become a sword and the door produces a gun, making it a vehicle and arsenal all in one.
5. Hakaider’s Motorcycle from Android Kikaider and Mechanical Violator Hakaider.
This is the only villain vehicle to make this list and it actually places higher than its heroic counterpart’s ride. Why? Because a Black Knight requires a steed as DARK as he is and this ride is the opposite of everything Kikaider’s Sidemachine is. It’s a high sitting touring bike, almost Harley-esque in appearance made for power rather than speed. It’s also devoid of a sidecar as this man-machine has no need to carry anyone and works alone. It fits his persona perfectly and that’s why it makes the number 5 spot on my list.
4. Zubat Car from 1977′s Kaiketsu Zubat
Like Spider Machine GP-7 this one is a bit of cheat because it can fly but it is primarily a ground vehicle. This is Zubat’s primary means of transportation. It’s very interestingly designs with the giant fan on the back, rockets on the side and the long, protruding nose on the front perfect for being used as a battering ram or the air intake for a jet engine hidden inside.
3. Den-Liner from 2007′s Kamen Rider Den-O
There is no way I could make a list of important vehicles from tokusatsu and not include at least one train. Sure, this kind of sort of violates one of my rules because it can fly in some ways but it still travels along tracks, albeit tracks it lies down, making it a wheeled vehicle. This is the train that travels through time, the primary mode of transport and home base for the heroes of Den-O. Without this train, there would be no story making it as integral to the tale being told as the titular Rider himself.
2. The Pointer from 1967′s Ultraseven
Arguably as famous in Japan as the 1966 Batmobile was in the United States, this car transported the TDF (Terrestrial Defense Force) elite Ultra Squad into battle against all of the monsters and aliens that would threaten Japan. It was based on a 1957 Chrysler Imperial and made more public appearances than any other member of the cast save for Ultraseven himself.
1. The Cyclone from Kamen Rider
I don’t care if we are talking about the original version, it’s revision, the New Cyclone, the chunky touring bike version from 2016 or even the crotch rocket version from the 2005 movie Kamen Rider The First, the Cyclone is THE iconic vehicle in tokusatsu. The character gets part of his name, heck the franchise gets part of its name, from the fact that he rides a motorcycle and this is that motorcycle. The essential red and white bike with the Rider logo is as much a part of the character as his belt, scarf or mask. He is not Kamen Rider without the Cyclone!
Poster for the 1995 Toei Super Hero Fair, featuring the films for JUUKOU B-FIGHTER, CHORIKI SENTAI OHRANGER, and MECHANICAL VIOLATOR HAKAIDER.
It’s interesting to note how essentially, all three of these movies made it to the States in some form: Hakaider got a release from Tokyo Shock, while elements from both the Ohranger and B-Fighter movies made it into their respective adaptions of POWER RANGERS ZEO and BIG BAD BEETLEBORGS.
what are your thoughts on the 3 pre heisei era kamen rider films: Shin, J, ZO and would you recommend watching them?
Ooooo good question! After the hiatus Kamen Rider took in the early 1980s, the failure to launch a new series in 1984 with the Kamen Rider ZX special and the success of the two Kamen Rider Black series, the franchise when back into hibernation for a bit. The only new entries were the three film you are asking about, which started in 1991 with a straight to video entry while the next two were parts of the Toei Hero Fair festival showings paired with film versions of their TV tokusatsu entries of the time.
Let’s start with Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue.
This was the straight to video, V-Cinema release intended to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Kamen Rider franchise with an entirely new, re-imagined version of the character for a more adult audience. I am not going to mince words and just say this one is the weakest of the three films. A lot of the blame for this is reflected in the subtitle of the film itself: Prologue. This was meant to be the origin story for a hero design to launch a series. The fact that there was never a series speaks to the relative failure of this film. That’s kind of sad because what we are shown in this film is intriguing, even if it takes a while to get there.
This version of Kamen Rider is the first to deal with genetic manipulation as the origin of the hero rather than cybernetics or other technological means of transforming. Our hero, Shin, becomes infused with the genetics of a grasshopper. Why a grasshopper? Well, according to the scientist responsible, after the apocalypse….
Thanks to being genetically manipulated and not having a technological transformation, Shin’s is kind of painful looking and entirely biological. It also leaves him looking the most like what we would expect to be a monster in any other Rider entry.
The tone of the film is very dark and going for mature and violent while holding back the big fight scene until the end and not really giving us any closure as it was intended to launch a new series that never happened. What we did get though was some very out of place and random nudity:
plus a heaping helping of gore:
It didn’t really appeal to the intended market and the more mature content kept it out of the reach of kids who might have enjoyed it so it fell into a kind of limbo. It’s kind of a shame because these days, it might have worked on a streaming platform as is evidenced by the success of the similarly violent Amazon Prime Japan series Kamen Rider Amazons.
Skip ahead two years and a more family friendly but still VERY DARK Kamen Rider would grace the screens of Japanese theaters along with the Gosei Sentai Dairanger movie and the Tokusou Robo Janperson film as the 1993 Toei Hero Fair. This one was directed and art designed by my favorite modern tokusatsu creator, Keita Amemiya and also the very first Kamen Rider media I ever got the chance to watch, Kamen Rider ZO.
Oh man, I could gush about this movie for ages and it always makes my list of favorite Kamen Rider properties as well as recommendations for starting points for people looking to get into the franchise. It has just about everything I love about this particular tokusatsu hero; great monster designs, fantastic fight scenes, a compelling narrative and a likable hero.
Just look at these monsters:
The design work on this movie alone sold it for me and I still go back and watch it every now and then when I want a reminder of how good both mid-90s tokusatsu and Keita Amemiya’s early work was. I could go on more but I’ll make this one simple, WATCH IT!
Finally, in 1994, Toei’s Hero Festival brought the world Kamen Rider J.
This was another product of Keita Amemiya and along with the previous film and the next year’s Mechanical Violator Hakaider formed his Toei Tokusatsu Trilogy. It brings the same awesome design sensibilities and action as the previous entry but also brought one other thing, Yūta Mochizuki who has previously played Geki in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger as the new Kamen Rider, Koji.
Our villains this time are agents of the Space Mecha Beast Fog Mother who travels from planet to planet to devour all life on that world to spawn her children. They have a pretty sweet base of operations, a giant moving castle with an interior that looks like it was decorated by H.R. Giger and Clive Barker.
It turns out this is actually Fog Mother’s second visit to Earth. It came once before, 65 million years ago. You can guess what happened then:
So, now they are back to do the same thing to humanity! Fortunately, Koji gets found by representatives of the spirits of the Earth and turned into Kamen Rider J, who, along with his talking grasshopper companion are the only hope to stop Fog Mother and save all life on the planet!
Once again, the monster designs are pretty good. Maybe not as memorable as the ones from Kamen Rider ZO, but still pretty great.
Eventually, J works his way through the monsters around him and has to battle Fog Mother itself, which turns out to be the giant castle! That’s when J does what he is best known for, growing. J is the only Kamen Rider capable of stealing Ultraman’s shtick and becoming a giant!
Ok, here’s the thing about Kamen Rider J. It has a pretty unsubtle environmental message. The hero is an environmental journalist, the movie makes a point to note all the climate changes causes natural disasters around the world and the young girl in the film is seen morning the deaths of birds and squirrels. Of course, all of this is pretty much blamed on Fog Mother but it still has all the subtlety of an episode of Captain Planet. It don’t mind a movie with a message but this one comes across as ham-fisted.
It also lacks much in the way of character development and just moves from one setpiece fight to another. This is, of course, partially the blame of the short format these festival movies have to have but ZO seemed to use those limitations to tell a more compelling story.
One thing I just heard the other day regards the similarities in the looks between Kamen Rider ZO and Kamen Rider J themselves. Just take a look and you can tell they were based on the same design.
Apparently, they were intended as sort of modern (for the mid-1990s) versions of Kamen Rider Ichigo and Kamen Rider Niigo, based on very similar designs and meant to meet and work together. This only came about in the VERY short film Kamen Rider World which showed at special events and theme parks.
So, are they worth watching? Shin Kamen Rider is a neat glimpse into an alternate take on the character, Kamen Rider ZO is essential viewing and Kamen Rider J is a fun romp with some great design work. So, yes, they are all worth your time.