Ultraman vs Kamen Rider: 25 Years Later

Sometimes I have these moments where I really have to stop and wonder why I like Tokusatsu. It's been a part of my life as far back as I can remember, but these days I find myself wondering just how I can like the genre versus just selecting a handful of shows that I really like. Some people live by angsty stories, some people like the absurd nature of the genre, and then there is the third set who likes anything shiny and new no matter how soulless it looks. The one common thread we all have is the action and effects. Every series starts out as a giant block of action and effects. The goal of the writer is to chip away anything that isn't a kickass series.

Writers today seem to chip away to the point of nothingness. Bandai wants a gimmick? *chipchipchip* Wait, they want a SECOND gimmick? *chipchipchip* Why don't we give the series some impossible setting to limit us to an awful set, bad CG and lazy trickshots? *chipchipchip*. By the end of the sculpture we're left with just a hollow series that is 1/25th the size of the block we started with.

I recently sprung for a copy of Ultraman vs Kamen Rider on DVD. It was cheap and an otherwise uneventful purchase. I'd seen the special in the past, so I didn't immediately watch it when I got home. It was one of those "It's nice to have again... I'll get to it someday.". I'm so glad I did just that...

For those who haven't seen it, Tsuburaya and Toei teamed up in 1993 to produce a 90 minute TV special which was broken into various segments such as "Henshin vs Henshin" and "Kaiju vs Kaijin" and interspersed with interviews and a glooooorius battle featuring Ultraman and Kamen Rider side by side.

Revisiting this special twenty five years later really put me in a better space. It may be 70% clip show, but it really is the perfect reminder of why I started liking these silly shows in the first place. When was the last time I watched an episode of, I don't know, Ultraman Leo (best Henshin, by the way...maybe not so much in the clip they used in the special though. LEOOOOOO!)?

The centerpiece of the special has to be the awesome battle featuring Ultraman and Kamen Rider. Ultraman is battling a Kaiju in the background while Kamen Rider fights a Kaijin on ground. Both battles end in simultaneous victory causing the Kaiju and Kaijin to merge. Kamen Rider grows to aid Ultraman in the fight ending in a overall victory. I know those are only words, but it's a damn exciting fight.

The big grain of salt with these specials is that, yes, of course it's good. That's because the clips are good. They cut out two plus decades of filler. Even then, though, the stories were never too much to get in the way of the action and effects. Ultraman had a limited time on Earth, but that's where the Science Patrol came in.

I kinda feel like rediscovered a lost love. It turns out that if you do as little chipping as possible to that block of action and effects, you turn out with a much more engaging show and memorable show.

In my first post of 2018 I sung the praises of 1993. It really was a milestone year for the genre. So much was right about it (and YES, I know Power Rangers debuted that year...it wasn't part of the narrative I was going for) and it seemed like the possibilities were endless. Tsuburaya and Toei working together to remind you just what an awesome run they've had.

From there it kinda just...went away. The next year Toei decided to make Kamen Rider J. If I worked for Tsuburaya I would have been like "What the hell, man?". That's alright though because Noboru Tsuburaya was busy doing weird things like recording vanity CD single with a little foreign girl until his untimely death in 1995 (so untimely, in fact, that the aforementioned CD was released posthumously). Ultraman Tiga debuted in 1996 and lead to a string of successes for the small studio since. Kamen Rider went away arguably forever after J. This special is the perfect celebration of not just Ultraman and Kamen Rider, but the genre as a whole. There was still the worlds of Toho and P-Pro to explore. Imagine if Godzilla and Sprectreman got in on the action too!

I know this post was very rambly, but I actually got really excited watching this special. This is why I got into the genre versus just being a fan of a handful of series. This is why Bandai continues to make several new toys of fifty-year shows every year. Am I sad that I feel it peaked far too soon? Honestly, not really. Today's shows are the future 30-something's memories. They definitely aren't for me...but one day that kid will look back and remember the good old days.

Catch you next time!



  1. Well, this is an interesting article. UvsKR was apparently one of those toku achievements. Celebrating 2 of the icons that defined tokusatsu is a glee for me.

    Happy 25th to this special.

    1. Thank you. ^^

      I kinda wonder what a Toei and Tsuburaya collaboration would look like today...but it's impossible to say since, bizarrely, Tsuburaya seems to be the more forward-thinking studio of the two.

    2. Ultraman always had less episodes than SS or KR

    3. Naturally. I think Toei would benefit if they did Sentai and Rider series that were only 39 episodes long or had a shorter runtime. A tighter story/less filler would be ideal.

    4. 39 episodes to focus on 6 people's adventures seems doable to me