Kamen Rider: all Heisei riders, ranked (part 1)

As of May 2019, the Heisei era comes to an end. And with it, the Heisei era of Kamen Riders.

Kamen Rider’s gone through a lot of lead actors during the Heisei years. Which is more impressive when you remember they didn’t make any new TV series in the 90s at all. The first new Heisei rider didn’t debut until 2000 – 11 years in.

We’ve got 20 riders to rank up (not counting Amazons… we’re just not).

Agree/disagree with our choices? Let us know what you think in the comments. And click on any sub-header to see merch for that Kamen Rider series, direct from Japan.

20) Kamen Rider Kabuto

Alien worms are icky. That’s our opinion, and we’re sticking with it. ‘Kabuto’ can mean ‘helmet’, and it’s also part of the word for ‘rhinoceros beetle’. Guess this is the insect-themed Kamen Rider. Anyone who freaks out at centipedes, spiders or flying things could be scarred for life.

There’s something else about this series, though (spoilers): the main character’s been training to become Kabuto his whole life. If they already know for sure they’re gonna be a rider, that sucks some of the fun and anticipation out, to us.

19) Kamen Rider Kiva

Vampires that drain life energy. Violins. A ‘strange, shy young man with a hygiene obsession, oh also he can’t lie, and he stays home a lot’. Tune in partway through an episode, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a show about hikikomori.

It feels like Kiva is the most polarising Kamen Rider series, when you ask people. It never shows up in the middle of rankings like this, only at the top or the bottom. Maybe switching back and forth between 2 points in time’s too confusing. (Or maybe it’s still the vampires.) Gabu!

18) Kamen Rider Hibiki

The Hibiki series went through a lot of changes, making even the staff and cast feel like the show ended incomplete. Read that the lead man’s on record as saying “it should’t have ended this way”, and you know things didn’t go well behind the scenes.

Hibiki’s another Kamen Rider who knows the deal from the start. But we’re more distracted by the ‘fighting with sound’ concept. Especially against monsters that eat people. They’re not high school dropouts outside a conbini, they need stabbing in the face.

17) Kamen Rider Drive

Demoted cop, stuck in lazy mode, fights the ‘Slowdown’ – real slowly – until he gets his mojo back. In true Kamen Rider tradition of naming riders for their series, our hero’s surname, Tomari, can mean ‘stop’ in Japanese. (See also: ‘Crimson Cross’ from Kiva.)

Ironically, this series takes a long time to reach a decent speed. Kamen Rider Drive’s push to reach top gear spans nearly every TV episode. When you’re seeing the fans say ‘stick with it until episode 26, then it gets good’… you’d better microwave some more popcorn. Even Ishimori Pro decided not to put up a Drive fig in their own offices. Hmm…

16) Kamen Rider Agito

Is it the direct ‘2 years later’ sequel to Kuuga, set in a parallel universe, or a stand-alone Kamen Rider series? That’s… sorta up to you. Officially, it’s a new and original story by itself, but without Kuuga before it half the rider tech wouldn’t exist.

Anyone who’s ever watched tokusatsu and said ‘I have no idea what’s going on here’ – Agito’s your series. The lead conveniently lost his memories, and the enemies are literally called ‘Unknown’ and ‘Unidentified Lifeforms’. Nobody knows what’s going on here.

15) Kamen Rider 555 (Faiz/Phi)

Man, that Smart Brain corporation made some dumb decisions. Sent rider outfits to humans who couldn’t wear them, dissolved a bunch of belts… They literally made Hanagata the GOAT, as well. How does a corporation survive with management choices like that?

Somehow, this series brings together DNA and genetics, the Greek alphabet, photons, and PIN codes. We think that’s more henshin themes than any other Kamen Rider handled. It’s a good thing Faiz wearers are part alien, a normal human brain’d explode.

14) Kamen Rider Ghost

Must… not… make Ghost Rider jokes… Or the ‘hey, isn’t this just the tokusatsu version of Gantz?‘ joke. Who you gonna call? Okay, we’ll stop. It’s been done so often, we’re just surprised that the ‘Kamen Rider, but dead’ storyline didn’t happen until 2015.

Ghost ultimately became the ‘let’s teach kids history!’ Kamen Rider series, with the Eyecons based on famous people from around the world. The spirits of Beethoven, Houdini, Edison, Newton and Billy the Kid showed up in the stage show version.

13) Kamen Rider OOO (O’s)

Greed is bad (the Greeed are bad), and that should’ve been obvious from the start. ‘Yummies’ being evil when they sound so sweet, now that was a shocker. Even more than Shocker Rider OOO from an alternate timeline.

Both riders and their enemies get power from O Medals (or Core Medals), split into Head, Arms, and Legs types – the ‘OOO’ name explained. Using medals to level up’s like being at a game arcade. Collect enough of them, and who knows what you’ll win. Maybe a certain ‘HAND’?

12) Kamen Rider Ryuki

The Kamen Rider Battle Royale/Hunger Games/Celebrity Deathmatch. And not the first – or anywhere near the last – show to drag out the ‘in the end, there can be only 1’ line. In the end… there’s a plot twist that’ll determine how you rate this series.

The ‘multiple riders’ concept comes straight from the 1971 Kamen Rider manga, which we think is a nice touch. Sadly, with 13 riders, some of them end up evil – it’s that, or there’s no show. That move hasn’t been done often, but as the 3rd Heisei series Ryuki literally started it. And it got an American remake: Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. On that… no comment.

11) Kamen Rider Decade

The Decade series brings the first half of Heisei rider history together, tying it up with ‘deus ex Rider’ plot device ribbons. It acts like an ‘end of part 1’ divider screen for the Kamen Rider series. Putting it anywhere on this list other than in the middle wouldn’t have felt right. We ultimately gave another show the number 10 spot over this, find out what that was next week.

All previous Heisei rider worlds are in danger of becoming 1, which – not gonna lie – would make following their stories way easier. But obvs that’d destroy the universe, so Kamen Rider Decade pops up to save the day (in a hero-worship way). He manages it all as the rider who’s ‘just passing through’ (literally says that).

We’ll be back after this important commercial break

That’s the first half of the ranking done and dusted. Come back next week to see what order we put 10-1 in.

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