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What's Cool

Japan: A Land of Superheroes

Part 1

Japanese Heroes on TV

Children today love watching superheroes on television just as much as they ever did. Inspired by adventure stories, manga, and historical plays, many popular Japanese superhero shows aired on television in the late 1950s. There are many different kinds of superheroes: some are like samurai, mysterious figures who fight for justice; some are aliens who come from far-away planets to save the Earth; and others are cyborgs with superpowers.

The original Kamen Rider

The original Kamen Rider. His unique transforming pose and "Henshin!" catchcry became a craze among children.

Since its TV debut in 1971, Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) is arguably the most popular superhero series. Captured by an evil organization, the hero of the story is turned into a cyborg with superhuman powers. After escaping from the villains, he fights on the side of justice. The Japanese love characters that have to overcome tragic fates, and they are especially fond of this kind of story.

Himitsu Sentai Gorenger

Himitsu Sentai Gorenger, the first entry of the Super Sentai series, created a new type of team-based superheroes.

Children have long idolized Kamen Rider, who rides a powerful motorcycle and fights using martial art moves and special attacks. Pretend battles often begin with kids striking the unique Kamen Rider pose, accompanied by yelling, "Henshin! (Transform!)" A long-running, popular TV franchise, Kamen Rider is now on its 23rd series.

The Super Sentai series is another superhero show that continues to be a favorite with viewers. It features a team of five fighters, each with special skills and powers, who battle evil. The first generation was Himitsu Sentai Gorenger, which aired in 1975. The five members of the team would strike poses inspired by kabuki theater poses, and fight in a style sometimes showy, sometimes funny. Having a team of heroes was a novel idea, and the combination with traditional martial arts was new, slick, and extremely popular.

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger

Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the thirty-fifth entry in the Super Sentai series.

The Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series exploded off the screen and was adapted to stage shows at amusement parks across Japan. Children thus had more opportunities to meet the heroes up close, and they became even more popular.