The original Kamen Rider series hit the airwaves in Japan on April 3, 1971 and ran for 98 episodes, ending in February 1973. The original Kamen Rider was a man named Takeshi Hongo, who was turned into a mutant cyborg by the terrorist organization known as Shocker. Before his final brainwashing by Shocker, Hongo escaped and began calling himself Kamen Rider, a grasshopper-themed hero.
Later, he would save another man from Shocker – Hayato Ichimonji. Hongo became “Kamen Rider 1,” while Ichimonji became “Kamen Rider 2.” The two fought against Shocker throughout the series, finally annihilating them for good in the last episode.
For a period of time, Hongo was completely absent from the show, with Ichimonji as the series’ only Rider; this is because the actor portraying Hongo shattered both of his legs while filming a motorcycle stunt and had to be phased out of the show accordingly. But from episode 53 through the end, both riders were seen fighting together.
The Kamen Rider television show was accompanied by a manga of the same name that also began publication in 1971. Though both stories started in the same place, the manga takes a slightly different path in the story to ultimately reach the same conclusion.
The original Kamen Rider series not only kick-started the entire franchise, but also helped to revive action television in Japan. Kamen Rider was also the first hero to have a “henshin,” or transformation sequence, where he struck a pose and shouted a catchphrase – henshin sequences are now a staple of the superhero genre in Japanese television.
Kamen Rider was followed quickly with Kamen Rider V3, featuring a new character fighting against a similar terrorist organization. The first two Riders made guest appearances on this show. These first two series were remade as films in 2005 and 2007 – Kamen Rider The First and Kamen Rider The Next, respectively.
There were a number of other Kamen Rider series in the 1970s and ‘80s – Amazon, Stronger, Black, among others – but after Black RX ended in 1989, the series and its titular hero wouldn’t be seen for more than a decade on television, though there were a couple of films made during that time.
In 2000, Kamen Rider returned with Kamen Rider Kuuga, which kicked off the “Heisei era” of Kamen Rider. The series that lasted from 1971 to 1989 has since been referred to as the “Showa era” of Riders.
The most recent series, Kamen Rider Drive, began airing in October 2014. And while the impact of Kamen Rider has been mostly felt in Japan, that’s not to say that he hasn’t been seen state-side.
Saban has produced two different Kamen Rider shows. The first aired in 1995 and was simply called Masked Rider (“Kamen” literally translates to “Mask”); this show used footage from Kamen Rider Black RX, Kamen Rider ZO and Kamen Rider J, following a similar formula to the way Saban turned Super Sentai into Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
However, Masked Rider didn’t see nearly the same success that Power Rangers enjoyed. More recently, in 2009, Saban adapted Kamen Rider Ryuki into Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight. Though Dragon Knight was cancelled after 40 episodes, it not only won a Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Stunt Coordination” but was also exported back to Japan as an independent Rider series.
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Ladies, gentlemen, and nobility of other genders, may I present to you the literal perfect casting choice for Li Shang in Mulan: Yoshua “Yoshi” Sudarso.
Some fun facts about Yoshi:
Was born in Indonesia, but is ethnically Chinese
26 years old (b. April 12, 1989)
Worked as a stunt double on the Maze Runner
Also worked as a model for several years
Has martial arts training
Currently starring as Koda on Power Rangers Dino Charge
Is a massive nerd and fan of Disney (Big Hero 6 especially), Free!, Spider-Man, and Power Rangers
Said in response to fancastings: “I’ll make a man, out of you! Waking up to all your fancastings and kind words really made my day. Of course it would be amazing to portray such a strong Male Asian lead, but I would be humbled to at least score an audition for Li Shang. So thank you for spreading the word and giving me such amazing exposure, maybe Disney will take notice, I love you all! And remember you must be swift as the coursing river!”
If none of that convinces you, then maybe this picture will: