Rarely was there ever such a hero as Shoutarou Ishinomori's MASKED RIDER in the tokusatsu field before that time. Manga/anime characters such as Kazumasa Hirai/Jirou Kuwata's EIGHT-MAN (the granddaddy of the genre) and Ishinomori's own CYBORG 009 were similar to MASKED RIDER, but the more popular superheroes in tokusatsu was ULTRAMAN, its sequels (notably ULTRA SEVEN) and imitations. Toei producer Tooru Hirayama, attempted to bring back the Masked Superhero genre, but their drafts were unsuccessful, until Ishinomori published a 100-page one-shot comic-book story called SKULLMAN in early 1971. Though the character of Skullman was more of an antihero than his resulting TV counterpart, the comic was successful enough for Hirayama to request changes from Ishinomori, turning Skullman into a grasshopper variant (a design chosen by his then five-year old son Jou) called "Masked Rider Hopper King," which was shortened to just "Masked Rider," and the rest was history!The show concerns a runaway cyborg grashopper-man who sets out to avenge the death of his teacher and the loss of his humanity (he is, in reality, scientist/motorcycle racer Takeshi Hongou) by fighting the evil forces of Shocker, the Nazi-like organization that transformed him in the first place (he was meant to be the perfect weapon against society). As the "Masked Rider," Takeshi Hongou rides the super motorcycle Cyclone, and with super-speed and super-strength, performs high-flying rechniques such as the Rider-Jump to reach the top of buildings, or his killing technique, the Rider-Kick!The show began as dark, serious and violent, but many complications (including star Hiroshi Fujioka temporarily leaving the series due to a stunt-related accident) forced the series to change into the more kid-friendly and somewhat comical series that everyone's more accustomed to. However, it's still a fun, action-packed series with plenty of monsters and henchmen that Masked Rider and Masked Rider 2 (a similar Masked Rider, Hayato Ichimonji, played by Takeshi Sasaki, took over from the fallen Fujioka as star for a time) fight each week!The series ran for 98 episodes, and would be impossible to do a detailed review here, suffice to say that I thought the less-complicated sequel series MASKED RIDER V3 (1973) was even better than the original! Still, MASKED RIDER was the one that started it all for morphing superheroes (or "henshin" heroes) as we all know, and is the most important show in this genre! I highly reccommend the early episodes, from 1-13, but the rest is still fun and action-packed to watch! HIGHLY RECCOMMENDED!!!
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