Kamen Rider Ryuki
Takamasa Suga, before and after his transformation into a masked rider. (Ishinomori Production, TV Asahi, ASATSU-DK INC., Toei Corp.)

Kamen Rider Star Popular with Women
November 5, 2002

Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) is a superhero fantasy that has been popular with children since the first television series based on the comic was released in 1971. Over the last two or three years, though, the audience has expanded from just children to include their mothers and young women. Many such people now tune in every Sunday morning to watch the exploits of this superhero.

The TV series Kamen Rider is based on the manga (comic) of the same name, which was created by the legendary manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori. Originally, the story was a simple one about a superhero battling the monsters of a secret, evil organization that aims to conquer the Earth. The target audience for this action drama was, of course, children. But in 2000 a new series called Kamen Rider Kuuga (Masked Rider Kuuga) debuted. This new series is more realistic and features more complex stories. This is one of the reasons its audience has expanded to include adults.

According to TV Asahi, the station that is currently broadcasting Kamen Rider Ryuki (Masked Rider Ryuki), women in their thirties make up the largest share of the audience after children aged 4-12. On the message board on TV Asahi's website dedicated to Kamen Rider Ryuki (site is Japanese only), many mothers have posted messages indicating that they enjoy watching the show with their kids.

Young Star Attracts Older Audience
But the main reason that many young women are interested in Kamen Rider is the popular young actors involved. The makers of Kamen Rider Kuuga first became aware of this trend when they received a number of requests from women's magazines wanting to do a feature on the show. Joe Odagiri (site is Japanese only), the star of Kuuga, has become quite popular with young women through such magazines and by word of mouth.

The creators of Kuuga reacted deftly. There was only one masked rider in Kuuga, but there were three in the subsequent Kamen Rider Agito (Masked Rider Agito), and then 13 (including one woman) in Kamen Rider Ryuki. This strategy has paid off, and all three series were able to maintain high ratings. Kamen Rider movies have also proved to be big box-office draws. Kamen Rider Agito Project G4, which was released in 2001, took in ¥1.2 billion ($10 million at ¥120 to the dollar), while Kamen Rider Ryuki Episode Final has raked in over ¥1.6 billion ($13 million) since its release in August 2002. Many mothers and other young women can be seen watching the movies in theaters alongside kids.

Related Books Selling Well
The recent popularity of Kamen Rider has not stopped at TV shows and movies; Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co. (site is Japanese only) has released three related books since 2001. The latest volume, Naked Seven Kamen Rider Ryuki Koshiki Album, has already sold 50,000 copies. All of these books seem to have been put together with women customers in mind, as they are photo collections with pictures not of the monsters or the masked riders but of the handsome young actors who portray them. Some 90% of the people purchasing this book are women in their twenties and thirties. Kiyoshi Fujimaru, the editor of Naked Seven, says, "Looking at the results of a reader survey, there are many women who indicated that they became enamored with the show after watching with their children. . . . There have always been a large number of viewers interested in the popular guys, and in the case of an ensemble drama like Ryuki, women can feel like they're catching a glimpse of how young men behave when they're together in a group."

Competition in the publishing world is intense, and four photo collections have been published just since July 2002. In addition to photo collections of the Kamen Rider series, publisher Takeshobo has also released a photo collection of the actors who starred in the Sentai series, which was the basis of the popular American TV show Power Rangers. This book, titled Soldiers, has already sold 30,000 copies. The editor, Toshikazu Tomita, says that in order for this book to stand out from others that have already been published, such as Asahi Sonorama's quarterly magazine Hero Vision, which has a circulation of 40,000, Soldiers uses still photos of TV scenes rather than staged photo shoots.

Meanwhile, all of these companies have plans for still more books, so it appears that Kamen Rider is going to be a hero for the publishing world for the time to come.

Copyright (c) 2002 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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