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Taking A Ride Back to the Kotaro Minami Saga of Kamen Rider!

Considering today is Tetsuo Kurata's 47th birthday, I thought I'd write this article dedicated to him. This would be to talk about the time that he played his iconic role of Kotaro Minami, in not one but two series namely Kamen Rider Black and the less popular sequel Kamen Rider Black RX. Let's get started shall we? Remember spoilers ahead.

The Kamen Rider Black Saga

The actor Tetsuo Kurata was around 19 years old from what I recall when he got the role, after so many who auditioned for the iconic character that is Kotaro Minami. I remembered watching this show dubbed in IBC-13 as Masked Rider Black (its international distribution title) where he was called Robert Akizuki, the very source of inspiration for my Blogger identity, Sean Akizuki. Moving on to topic, it was said this show was meant to be a standalone series from the previous Kamen Riders but popularity forced it back to Showa era timeline.

The plot of Kamen Rider Black somehow recycles the very first Kamen Rider in terms of how he got his power, while adding new stuff. The two foster brothers Kotaro Minami and Nobuhiko Akizuki (in the dub, Nobuhiko was Steven Akizuki) were born under a solar eclipse. While they celebrated their birthday, a group of locusts hit the ship and the two were taken to the Gorgom Base, where they would commence their operation as both Black Sun and Shadow Moon. However Kotaro escaped the operation leaving Nobuhiko behind. Rather than call himself Black Sun, he called himself as Kamen Rider Black to fight against Gorgom and their mutant army. 

Black itself was sort of like a breaking ground but at the same time, Gorgom kept itself more or less true to the Shotaro Ishinomori formula for villains. If you notice, unlike the Heisei era Kamen Rider villains, the Showa era villains operated more or less in the same way as Super Sentai villains where a monster was sent for the day to execute an otherwise unbelievable/convoluted plan to take over the world (and in the Gorgom's case, get back Kotaro's King Stone).

Mid-series, a game-changing villain known as Saint Sword Bilgenia was introduced, acted by Atsushi "Jun" Yoshida, who also played as Priestess Poe in Shaider. It was because the Gorgom priests just kept failing (no thanks to their typical stupid plans to take over the world). Compared to his comrades, I always thought Bilgenia was really badass, cool and scary considering he focused on directly assaulting Kotaro rather than focusing on typical idiotic plans to take over the world. He was a supposed candidate but he was rebellious, so he had to be shut off in the past. What was stupid for me was that, sadly the character wasn't so developed as he was easily written off when Shadow Moon arrived. I mean this guy even stole the Satan Saber which was reserved for the next Creation King or did a lot more damage to Kotaro than the other villains combined.

The long awaited conflict arrived when Shadow Moon was revived. The Gorgom priests were already fed up with Bilgenia kicking their asses or making fun of their stupid plans, decided it was time to revive Shadow Moon. Unfortunately for Kotaro, he cannot save his now brainwashed and crazy foster brother who is now Shadow Moon. Now I think Shadow Moon's design is badass but I felt like killing off Bilgenia in his favor was uncalled for. It would have been better if we saw Bilgenia humbled to his knees by Shadow Moon, forced to declare the new character as "Shadow Moon-SAMA!!!!!!" or explore other possible stories with the character. Sad to say, it was focused on Shadow Moon who became more paperweight though the necessary conflict in part, was still there. For me, Shadow Moon may be the first evil Kamen Rider but Kamen Rider Ouja 

Kotaro must now choose between his past and present. The time for the Creation King's end had come and the two candidates Kamen Rider Black and Shadow Moon must fight. I thought this was a turning point as Shadow Moon's entire personality has been altered by Gorgom. The conflict itself gets deeper as Kotaro moves forward, deciding that the battle can no longer be avoided. Along the way, Kotaro also befriend the Whale Mutant who brings him back to life after he was supposedly killed by Shadow Moon. One by one, Gorgom's priests drop like flies as the time for the ultimate battle draws near. Eventually, Kamen Rider Black and Shadow Moon must battle to the death to determine who will be the next Creation King. Black wins but has a pain in his heart after Shadow Moon is defeated, I felt his pain too.

The decision came in when the Creation King reveals himself (or itself) to be a giant, disembodied heart. Kamen Rider Black must now pick the King Stone from Shadow Moon's body to succeed his predecessor but refuses. The Creation King threatens to drop himself into the Earth's core and blow up the planet, something that spelled a suspenseful scene for awhile. Our hero then summons the Satan Saber and uses it against his predecessor. However the series ends with a sad note as Kotaro now ventures the world alone. 

The Kamen Rider Black RX saga

You may know that Kamen Rider Black RX was adapted in the late 90s as Saban's Masked Rider. In Japan, this was the continuing adventures of Kotaro Minami. Due to the popularity of Kamen Rider Black, this show was created as a sequel which sadly did not become as popular as the predecessor. Issues like plot holes and excessive humor plagued the show. Personally, I still like the show even if its predecessor is clearly the superior show. But as said, I now choose not to bandwagon on popular opinion but rather, stress out my opinions. 

The show's plot starts off some time (I think six months) after the defeat of Gorgom. Kotaro is enjoying his life of peace working for the Sahara Family (and also living with them) but the Crisis Empire begins its invasion. Their unseen leader Grand Lord Crisis sent his trusted subordinates led by General Jack who in spite of punishing subordinates, was also caring about his subordinates. The whole crew was sent to invade the Earth since their planet was supposedly sucked by a black hole or something. It felt like a shoutout to Metal Hero series when they came in especially with having certain units having different type of monsters.

So here, Kotaro gets abducted and he's given the chance to join the Crisis Empire, telling him that he's not even fully human. How Crisis knew of his existence is unknown unless if there's that "Great Leader" plot or that, Grand Lord Crisis is really the "Great Leader" who was responsible for the existence of the villain groups. Refusing to do so, Kotaro was soon sent into space with his King Stone cracked but the sun's rays allow the form of Kamen Rider Black to evolve above the design Gorgom had - he is now the Child of the Sun, Kamen Rider Black RX. Sad to say but Crisis Empire lacked the charm that Gorgom had in being scary. Most of the time, I felt they were a joke but I was still entertained nonetheless or two, they had some nightmare fuel moments like when they tried to take over Kotaro's family and friends or the nightmare zone episodes. 

Black RX was also the first show to try out the multiple forms saga introduced as Robo Rider (Prince of Sadness) and the super cheesy Bio Rider (armed with the super sharp Bio-Blade). Robo Rider was conceived out of Kotaro's sadness when he thought Hitomi died. The Bio Rider was born out of rage. Robo Rider is the strongest form but it's also the slowest, it's also armed with the Robo Pistol which wasn't so used to finish off opponents in the later episodes. Bio Rider was for me the cheesiest Rider Form made considering it can not only become intangible, blend in but also its Bio Blade is just really that powerful. Even if the show lacked popularity but the concept of multiple forms kicked in.

Unlike Black, Kotaro would later receive help from his girlfriend Reiko, a later ally known as Kyoko (who lost her parents to Crisis Empire's attacks on her parents' water reservoir) and his new ally Joe.  In between, Shadow Moon returns in a quest for revenge. How Shadow Moon survived being buried under Gorgom's rubble for me is so unexplained, definitely a weaker point of the show. It was nice to have Shadow Moon return but I thought he was underused except for the last minute redemption where his humanity is restored. Later we get the Imperial overseer, General Tasmader who for me, didn't really add too much conflict except for the fact he's a real troll towards both sides. But there's more to him that the show would uncover. It was because Crisis Empire's invasion schedule was so behind schedule, truly it's an empire in crisis, pun intended.

As the show tries to reach its climax, there's this fanservice I feel fans are divided about namely the reappearance of the previous ten riders who I am not so familiar with. The last ones I've seen completely were Kamen Rider Amazon but the rest, I've only seen glimpses or not all of them to fullu judge them. I thought it was cool to have that fanservice but it just feels, underutilized at best. True we get that cool training scene, they would later help out civilians but other than that, it's just fanservice for most of its part.

At the same time, we get the typical Crisis officers drop like flies. The Grand Lord Crisis is now trying to change the Earth's atmosphere to fit for his citizens but wait, he doesn't care about them right? I always thought about the plothole that earlier, Crisis officers have been dropping in but later, not all of them could survive Earth's atmosphere? I wish the show explained that incredibly convoluted part so what's up with it? So earlier we hear that Crisis was dying due to the actions of the Grand Lord Crisis but later it's by human's inactions? Which is which?

I thought about how the way the Crisis officers died for me had some rather nice scenes. For example, I can't forget the Blood Pyramid that would have blown up, the voice of Grand Lord Crisis or how Gatezone bit the dust. My favorite was when Granzarias finally showed up, it's seemingly invincible and we are treated to Bosgan's final duel with Black RX or to where General Jack himself fights in his final form. It's also discovered that Tasmader was in a way, an extension of Grand Lord Crisis which would be shades of Psychorror in Sharivan. I always felt like it was a huh moment or not. I'm still mixed on that area nonetheless.

My beef against the finale is just how easily Grand Lord Crisis was defeated in spite of General Jack's last words. So really, what was really going on? I thought that having Tasmader as an extension of Grand Lord Crisis was really not good writing for me. The other ten riders should have been there in the final battle like in the other Great Leader battles. But in spite of the beefs I've had against the sequel, I still like it but never as much as predecessor.

Kamen Rider Decade and beyond

Years later, Tetsuo Kurata would later act as two versions of the character, Kotaro Minami. One of them was from the World of Black RX and the other from the World of Black (where Kotaro never became Black RX). In one way or another, it was nice for the actor to play his character or alternate versions of his character in later years.

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2 Responses
  1. Personally I love it Black and RX being different which respectively had they own specialties. Ishinomori stated in his interview, he named it Black because of the dark theme. Black RX returning the classic style (aliens, villains with spaceship, henchmen, many supporting characters, humors and more) with new innovation (multi form rider).

  2. Nice article! Personally I love it Black and RX being different which respectively had they own specialties. Ishinomori stated in his interview, he named it Black because of the dark theme, and Black RX returning the classic style (aliens, villains with spaceship, henchmen, many supporting characters, humors and more) with new innovation (multi form rider). - Buy Video Games for Consoles and PC - From Japan, Korea and other Regions
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