Kamen Rider might be one of the biggest tokusatsu shows around in Japan, but it’s taken a very long time for the series to get any traction in the West. Not that there weren’t attempts (we see you, very loveably bad Masked Rider), but it’s only been recently that classic Kamen Rider has been officially available here. That’s about to change in a very interesting way.
Collaborating with Nerdist, Shout Factory — through its recently launched TokuShoutsu streaming channel, which gave us the first ever Western release of the original Kamen Rider back in March — has announced that it will be officially translating and releasing Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever, the 2018 Kamen Rider team-up movie between Kamen Rider Build, its successor Kamen Rider Zi-O, and featuring every main Rider from the “Heisei” era of the transforming hero’s nearly 50-year history.
For context, that means every show released during the reign of Japanese Emperor Akihito, which concluded in 2019 — from Kamen Rider’s major return to TV with Kamen Rider Kuuga in 2000, all the way up to 2018’s Zi-O. The currently airing Kamen Rider series, Zero-One, is the first of Japan’s current “Reiwa” period, and began airing just a month before Emperor Naruhito officially succeed the Chrysanthemum Throne in October 2019.
But wait, what does this have to do with Generations Forever? Well, not much other than it means the movie’s about a whole arse bunch of Kamen Riders teaming up in a villainously corrupted timeline where, actually, Kamen Rider is just a TV show, and they’re not real superheroes.
The arrival of Generations Forever comes at an interesting time in Shout Factory’s slow process of officially bringing Kamen Rider stateside. Given that we only just got the original 1971 classic, outside of a few attempts — mainly the CW’s maligned adaptation of Kamen Rider Ryuki as Kamen Rider Dragon Knight in 2008, and the release of Kamen Rider Amazons on Amazon Prime — this is a major step in bringing Heisei-era Kamen Rider projects to the West. Given Toei’s recent reveal of a new, franchise-wide logo to market Rider merchandise “both domestic and to the world,” it’s hard not to feel like these might be some of the first tentative steps to bringing Kamen Rider, recent and classic entries alike, to a wider audience.
— 仮面ライダー公式 (@HKR20_official) June 22, 2020
We thought that might happen with Kamen Rider Zero-One, when Toei uploaded the series’ debut episode to YouTube and made it viewable internationally (albeit without subtitles), but that turned out to be an accident that was quickly fixed. If this is the start of a push to make Kamen Rider more accessible, it’d be a welcome example of Toei taking a leaf out of Tsuburaya’s book with the Ultraman franchise, which has made huge leaps and bounds with bringing the series to global audiences, from the Ultraman anime series on Netflix, to Marvel’s upcoming comics, and even the simulcast streaming of the current series in the franchise, Ultraman Z.
Bringing these beloved series over in an official capacity instead of fans having to seek out legally dubious fansubbed episodes can only be a good thing, not just giving fans already familiar a chance to officially support their Toku heroes, but to spread the reach of them beyond Japanese shores to people who may, say, only be vaguely aware of their origins thanks to something like Power Rangers. Hopefully, even if it marked the end of one era from Kamen Rider, Heisei Generations Forever is just the beginning of a new international one for the series.
Kamen Rider Heisei Generations Forever will re-debut during the Nerdist House 2020 streaming event — broadcasting on both the Nerdist and Geek & Sundry YouTube channels — before arriving on the TokuSHOUTsu channel on August 1.