With the end of Zi-O and the beginning of Zero-One, the Neo-Heisei era of Kamen Rider is now over. Not only this, but it fits perfectly into the last decade, meaning I have an excuse to take a look back at the last ten years of Kamen Rider, and assign arbitrary awards instead of moaning about how bad they were. Or good. Some of them were good.
Kamen Rider W: Best OP
Right off the bat, the Neo-Heisei era of Kamen Rider kicks off with the best OP of the decade – a feat that, if you ask me extremely prematurely, I might say Reiwa’s Zero-One is repeating. A jazzy tune with synthy beats, it’s a song that’s tailor made to appeal to me. Sprinkle in a copious amount of Engrish and it’s impossible not to call this one a winner. WBX, their own abbreviation of the song’s full title W-Boiled Extreme, is just amazingly silly and I love it.
As for the show itself, Kamen Rider W is easily the show I’ve attempted to get through the most, and that’s not to its detriment – I just have the attention span of a gnat. The setup feels very 2019’s Judgment-y, following a private detective who gets closer to the darker dealings in the city, so I’ll no doubt get around to watching more than three episodes of this show… eventually.
Runners up: Kamen Rider OOO for getting me sufficiently pumped, while also displaying Ankh being broody with his good hair, and also OOO’s vending machine motorbike. Also, Kamen Rider Build for having a future club classic, while the music video features the guys from Pandora bouncing around in the back like adorable dads while simultaneously looking like anime characters.
Kamen Rider OOO: Most Amusing Kamen Rider Name
Kamen Rider Birth is already a pretty amusing character. His entire gimmick is that his belt operates like a gacha machine, with coins being inserted to grant Birth extra power-ups when necessary. There are a handful of these, from tank treads to a breast cannon, and each of them shows up to worm Birth out of trouble at just the right moment, in true Kamen Rider fashion. However, Birth isn’t limited to one power-up; if he continues putting coins into his belt, he’ll eventually summon them all. They can operate by themselves when summoned this way, turning into a powerful, awful-looking CGI robot scorpion, or he can wear them on his person, turning him into Kamen Rider Birth Day.
I love this damn show, though. OOOs and his relationship with the generally antagonistic but actually nice guy Ankh steal the show, and the coins translating to powers feels like a cleaner way of what Build ended up doing, despite there being more room for complexity with three coins in OOOs versus two bottles in Build. This was also one of my earliest Kamen Rider shows, which I think I watched directly after finishing Gaim, but it remains up there in what’s probably my top 3 shows.
Speaking of birthday, OOOs is also responsible for this unrelated, but amazing clip.
Runners up: Kamen Rider Quiz (Kamen Rider Zi-O), Kamen Rider Barlckxs (Kamen Rider Zi-O)
Kamen Rider Fourze: Best Henshin/Best Supporting Cast
Kamen Rider Meteor’s transformation has a huge disco theme, so it’s undoubtedly the best in Neo-Heisei. The glitter ball aesthetic is terrific, his suit is terrific, his showy entrances that result from flying around as a big blue ball of light are terrific; Kamen Rider Meteor is terrific. I will never get tired of that satellite animation, beaming his powers down to Earth.
Also, I’m terrible at sticking to my own rules so I’m also giving Fourze a bonus Best Supporting Cast award. Everyone in this school club is great and have their own moments to shine, including the poor teacher (who’s also one of many real-life comedians that ended up in a Kamen Rider show). I would have loved to see the whole gang return for the Fourze episodes in Zi-O, but the actors for both Fourze and Meteor appear to be doing pretty well for themselves, appearing together in that Netflix Bleach adaptation, and, well, we don’t talk about Jojima Yuki’s actress.
Anyway, Fourze is a heck of a lot of fun, and perhaps one of the best places to start if you’ve not been told to watch Gaim.
Runners up (Best Henshin): Kamen Rider OOO – PuToTyra Combo (Kamen Rider OOO), Kamen Rider Rogue (Kamen Rider Build)
Runners up (Best Supporting Cast): Kamen Rider Gaim, Kamen Rider Build
Kamen Rider Wizard: Most Polite Kamen Rider
Another of my earliest Kamen Rider experiences, and not the best either. But this is an upbeat, positive look back at Kamen Rider over the last decade, so I’m aiming to be nice. I thought for a while about what positive award to give Wizard, finally coming up with most polite. Shut up, it’s not a cop out – Wizard is just a very polite donut lover. Or maybe his belt is the one that’s polite, I dunno.
Speaking of the belt, that standby jingle is pretty good. Silly, of course, but that’s pretty much what I want from a Kamen Rider show.
Runners up: Kamen Rider Necrom (YES SIR), also politely telling OOOs and Ankh to kiss already, damn it
Kamen Rider Gaim: Best Kamen Rider of Neo-Heisei
Kamen Rider Gaim is the best Kamen Rider show in the last decade. Somehow, expressing the opinion that Gaim is the best Kamen Rider can somehow really upset some of the fans that have been watching the shows for years, because it’s “not a real Kamen Rider” or whatever, but they’re also wrong.
Getting Urobuchi on board didn’t automatically make this show good; the man has written some great shows, undoubtedly, but he’s had some stinkers too. This is not one of them, and it very much fits in with the rest of his dark stories. And this is a kids show about fruit samurai who have dance battles. He obviously had a lot of free reign over the course of the series, as became very apparent when a main character was crushed to death between two rocks. Kamen Rider isn’t a show that shies away from on-screen death, but never to the extent we see in Gaim.
But more so than it being dark and breaking expectations, the storytelling is just darn good. Characters are important gears in the overarching story, there are twists and betrayals, and it ends in a pretty satisfying way too. The Gaim content that came after the conclusion of the main series suffers a bit from the focus that Urobuchi clearly brought to the table, but all in all, it’s a tremendous watch. If the thought of watching people running around in rubber suits and brandishing plastic weapons doesn’t put you off from the outset, Gaim is a pretty fine gateway into the series. Just note that it’s also pretty dissimilar from the other shows, too.
Runners up: Kamen Rider OOO was a solid romp, and Kamen Rider Fourze is undoubtedly the most fun Kamen Rider this decade
Kamen Rider Drive: Most Likely Toy To Find In Your Cereal
It’s been a pretty long time since Kamen Rider shows weren’t super focused on flogging you hundreds of toys on top of a belt, but the shows from this decade sure were, to varying degrees. My favourite items are those that really look like toys – they’re not even trying to look a regular item. I didn’t watch a lot of Drive, but one of my favourite things about it was watching a grown-ass cop playing with toy cars.
This also applies to other belt-related toys from the decade – the rings from Wizard and… whatever Ex-Aid has are good examples – but there’s something about the tiny toy cars that remind me of my childhood, where I’d pick out cereals not by what food was in the box, but by what shit toy was also in there. Truly the worst gacha.
Runners up: Coins from Kamen Rider OOO, rings from Kamen Rider Wizard, bottles from Kamen Rider Build
Kamen Rider Ghost: Best Puppet
I think it’s safe to say that Kamen Rider Ghost was the show I was most anticipated for out in Neo-Heisei. Mostly because I was still riding a high after Gaim, which encouraged me to watch OOOs and Fourze, but Drive wasn’t doing it for me. The Ghost suit design is also pretty rad, and his cameo in Drive was also pretty promising. I stuck with it for maybe 20 or so episodes, but honestly it all fell apart pretty quickly. The original big bad was carted off pretty quickly if I remember right, and from then on we got to meet Necrom and his family issues, along with a familial power struggle I couldn’t make sense of. Not fun to watch.
But we’re all about being positive today, so let’s talk about what was good – Yurusen. She’s the best character in the show, appearing to talk smack about Ghost or whoever before disappearing to do ghost things right afterwards. She’s also voiced by Aoi Yuki, so if you need Madoka voicing a hand-puppet then here you go.
Runners up: Most riders in Build, I guess?
Kamen Rider Amazons: Most Legally Obtainable
I did try to watch this, but there’s something just too darn weird about this Amazon-exclusive Kamen Rider show, where the riders transform by saying ‘Amazon’. Perhaps I’ll reconsider if we get a Kamen Rider Netflix or a Kamen Rider Crunchyroll.
*Before someone says it, yes, I know this is based on the 70s Kamen Rider Amazon. It’s still super weird, though.
Runners up: The country of Japan
Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Best Movie-Only Villain
I was very prepared to be the one guy on staff to like this show. When the suit was revealed, it felt like I was the only person who actually liked Ex-Aid‘s costume. Still do, in fact! Mostly because it reminds me of a photo of myself from the early 90s where I was wearing something very much in the same colour scheme. But even then, I’m into the suit designers getting weird and wacky – rather that than have 50 episodes of boring-looking characters. Which would have mattered if any of us here got past the first episode.
Look, I know that most people say Ex-Aid is super good, and it improves a lot around episode 13 or something, but… I’m alright. Instead, Ex-Aid gets the award for the best movie-only villain; Dr. Pac-Man. He’s exactly what you think he is – a bizarre collaboration between Kamen Rider and Namco Bandai to allow the movie baddie to adopt the famous video game character’s appearance. In a way, at least. Pac-Man, and other Pac-Men (?) also appear in the film.
Runners up: Kaiser, Kaiser Reverse and Bikaiser (Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FINAL: Build & Ex-Aid with Legend Riders) because they were all played by Ohtsuki Kenji
Kamen Rider Build: Best Belt Voice
The default belt in Build wasn’t anything particularly weird, by Kamen Rider standards anyway. You stick two bottles in there, turn the crank, and you’d get a mix of the two powers that were in the bottles. Easy enough. A little later on they introduce the Sclash Driver, an upgraded belt that didn’t take the original bottles – it took jellies instead. These are modelled after the energy jellies that were (are?) popular in Japan. The new belt came with a new voice, with the legendary Norio Wakamoto lending his voice to the show.
There’s not much else to say, really. Wakamoto’s voice is iconic, and he was an excellent get for the new belt. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the video up top just to hear his bellows again post-Build.
Build was pretty alright, by the way! Could have been better, and probably not top 5 this decade, but certainly a bump in form versus what I watched of Drive, Ghost and Ex-Aid.
Runners up: Kamen Rider W (Kamen Rider W), Kamen Rider Necrom (Kamen Rider Ghost), Kamen Rider Woz (Kamen Rider Zi-O)
Kamen Rider Zi-O: Worst Suit Since Decade
Zi-O sucked. I appreciate that it had a heck of a tall order in celebrating 20 years of Kamen Rider shows in the Heisei era, but the really disappointing thing about it is that all the parts it needed to succeed with were totally all there. Zi-O’s motivation for wanting to be a king was left completely unexplained for a good chunk of episodes, which meant that we were left dumbfounded as to why this guy was obsessed with the idea. The explanation didn’t exactly solve the issue, mind you, but it at least added some much-needed context.
This isn’t the only instance of this happening either – a lot of important information was stuck in flashbacks that happened way too late. There was no need for that, even if the show just wanted some excuses to bring the past and the future into this show occasionally. Geiz was also a poorly written character, and as much as people give his actor a bit of flak for this too, I’m not sure it was entirely his fault. He looked way more at ease in those goofy bonus episodes the first half of the show had, nothing like the stiff jackass we got for most of it. That’s not even mentioning Tsukuyomi, a character who turns out to be one of the most important, yet they relegate her to screaming Zi-O and doing nothing until they rush some character progression in the last few episodes.
I did watch all of Zi-O, but this was because I wanted to see the cameos from older Heisei shows. In that respect, the show did pretty well getting so many people to make reappearances. I’d even say that Decade’s actor stole Zi-O‘s own show from him, being by far the more interesting character while he was around.
Anyway, I know I was meant to be nice but Zi-O was bad. I’m awarding it a Worst Suit Since Decade award (based on his duel disk form), but it wins twice. Grand Zi-O is probably the worst suit in Neo-Heisei, but Zi-O Trinity is right there behind it.
Runners up: Zi-O Trinity (Kamen Rider Zi-O)
The first Kamen Rider show of the Reiwa era, Kamen Rider Zero-One, has been a blast so far. It’s been a breath of fresh air in many respects, and I’m excited to see if it’ll keep it up for the rest of its run. Hopefully, the upcoming decade of Reiwa won’t stray too far from the quality of what we’ve seen so far.