The Heisei Era brought on a new string of heroes and themes, many of them quite dark. Here’s a rundown of some of Heisei’s darkest Kamen Rider themes!
Part 2: Heisei Era’s Dark Themes
Kamen Rider Den-O (2007)
Theme: Psychological Distress
The plot of Den-O focuses heavily on time travel and people who wish they could ‘fix’ mistakes or events that occurred in the past. However, what happens when you can’t even remember the past to wish it was fixed? Such was the situation of Airi Nogami, Kamen Rider Den-O’s older sister.
In the second leg of Den-O, we are introduced to a young man named Sakurai Yuuto who strikingly resembles Airi’s lost fiance. A string of events reveals that they are the same person, but the Sakurai Yuuto that Den-O encounters is ten years younger than the one who eventually meets and becomes engaged to Airi.
The strangest part is that from the beginning of the series, Airi has absolutely no memory or knowledge of Sakurai’s existence or their history together. Ryotaro Nogami (Kamen Rider Den-O) does remember Sakurai, and while he finds it distressing that his sister does not, initially he does not find it a good idea to remind her of who Sakurai is.
The situation of Ryotaro attempting to keep Sakurai’s real story a secret from his sister does cause some comedic backlash, but as memories of Sakurai slowly start to return to Airi, things get awkward to say the least – requiring both Ryotaro and Sakurai to keep things ‘as is’ in order to not influence their timelines negatively.
Kamen Rider W (Double) (2009-2010)
Theme(s): Substance Abuse, Crime
Gaia Memories – small USB-shaped devices that were being sold by dealers as devices to assist in committing nefarious crimes as Dopants – the monster-of-the-week in Kamen Rider W. Dopants were, in essence, immune to police forces, making the Gaia Memories invaluable to criminals.
MUSEUM, an organization manned by the Sonozaki Family, knowingly sold these devices to people who were down on their luck and were looking to crime as a means of escaping their current way of life. They only had in mind to use the data gathered for the Gaia Impact – a plan to help ensure the human race’s fate.
However, using these little devices alone caused its user to grow a addictive behavior. Each Gaia Memory also is filled with a lethal toxin that caused excruciating pain and the made the user fall into a state of insanity.
Kamen Rider OOO (Oozu) (2010-2011)
Theme(s): War, Death, Murder, Psychological Distress
The first dark element of OOO one may think of is Hino Eiji, or Kamen Rider OOO, and his past involvement in a civil war during his travels around the world.
During his stay in one village, he found himself caught in the middle of altercations that lead up to the demise of the first person to befriend him upon his arrival – a young native girl. Amazingly so, Eiji was able to pick up the pieces and used it as motivation in his fight against the Greeed.
Even more distressing is the back story of antagonist Dr. Maki, a man who literally carries his heart (well, his sister) on his sleeve. When first introduced, he was portrayed as a man with questionable testing methods, using others as violent pawns to further research. We soon delve further into his past to find out that his abstract way of life isn’t without reason.
Dr. Maki’s companion, a porcelain doll with no hair and a glazed look in its eyes, is an embodiment of his late sister that he lost in an arson accident. His relationship with his sister is first shown as being a loving and affectionate one, but as the story progresses, the truth begins to come forth.
In actuality, Dr. Maki’s sister spurned any signs of affection from her little brother, much to his dismay. He managed to destroy that image of her in his mind for a period and only remembered her as he wished she would’ve been.
He also conveniently forgot that the accidental arson death of his sister was in fact caused by Dr. Maki himself.
Kamen Rider Fourze (2011-2012)
Theme: Teen Angst (and lots of it).
Kamen Rider Fourze is easily one of the more light-hearted series released in the Heisei Era, so I imagine its inclusion in this list is a bit perplexing.
However, our main villains, the Zodiarts, targeted young people who were impressionable or fed up with their current situations.
All the Zodiarts were students who were dealing with feelings of rage, jealousy, and inferiority complexes – just to name a few.
The higher-up Zodiarts realized this and used it as leverage to get young kids to transform into an embodiment of whatever trait they seeked, up until the point where their consciousness and body were discarded and all that was left was a rampaging beast.
All of this was sandwiched between a layer of outer space and an enthusiastic cast, making Fourze a great balanced series that was fun and engaging.