Today’s selection: Birth of the 10th! Kamen Riders All Together (1984, dir. Minoru Yamada)
Subgenre: Henshin Hero
Available from: fansub-only
If one were to claim that the “real” Kamen Rider franchise concluded with this 1984 TV special, it would be difficult to argue. There were shows, movies, anime and manga that followed after that point, but the first ten Kamen Riders all have a similar aesthetic that doesn’t quite jive with their more refined successors. It’s for this reason that this special became the basis for the excellent Kamen Rider Spirits manga.
The movie is odd in that it feels like it should be a TV series for Kamen Rider ZX (pronounced “ze-cross”, kicking off a long tradition of Riders with indecipherable phonetics), even beginning with a recap of his story, which had not actually been made. Maybe they figured that ZX’s story was standard enough that the audience had seen it all before in previous Rider shows: kidnapped by an evil organization that killed his family, turned into one of their soldiers, he rebelled, yadda yadda. The point is, while most movie-exclusive Kamen Riders feel conceived of for the movies, the ninja-themed hero ZX seems like he has his own series that we’re just not seeing. (Then again, a movie-exclusive Rider had never been attempted at this point.)
What we get is the “series finale”, where the previous nine Riders gather to help ZX take down the evil Badan empire. Fans of Heisei Rider may not be aware, but for the early Riders this was standard operating procedure; there were no “Movie Wars” specials so the upperclassmen heroes just showed up in the shows themselves. It’s fun to see all the Riders together like this in a context that doesn’t require going through a 50-episode program to do it, and the previous Riders all get their moments in the spotlight. I’m not sure if I would recommend the movie as a gateway into old-school Rider, but it’s certainly a fine capstone if you’re already into the franchise.