Then... and NOW! - Kamen Rider
Tokusatsu - the very mention of the word brings about thoughts of several things; special effects, stunts, gigantic costumes and lots and lots of dynamic flailing!
When it comes to power houses in the genre, again, several names might come to mind, one of which is undoubtedly that of Kamen Rider!
Influenced by his mentor, Osamu Tezuka of Astro Boy fame, Shotaro Ishinomori created the first Kamen Rider, which proceeded to hit airwaves on 1971. With huge expectations and tons of effort, much hope was riding on the success of this first ever series.
However, the initial few months were extremely turbulent for the show, with ratings that were lower than expected, as well as the sudden injury of Hiroshi Fujioka, who played the titular role of the original Kamen Rider, making him unable to act.
Ishinomori's quick thinking convinced Toei Company Ltd to take a risky gamble, and a new protagonist was introduced. Takeshi Sasaki was introduced as the new lead character, and successfully took over the reins, allowing the show to continue as before. Upon Fuijioka's recovery, the show evolved to having TWO lead characters with a strong partner dynamic.
The gamble paid off well, as audiences were won over by the show's then, far more "edgy" feel to it, with a much darker overtone compared to its peers at the time. This led to the creation of over a dozen more shows, each with its own feel, concept, and of course - hero! The series took a hiatus in the 1990s, before reinventing itself and returning with a new, modern look.
Over 40 years later, Kamen Rider is still going strong as ever!
Becoming a classic "cliché" in its own right, the plot was simple - university student Takeshi Hongo is kidnapped by terrorist organisation, Shocker. He is then experimented on and turned into a cyborg, with intentions of making him their ultimate weapon.
Before they can brainwash him and complete the process, a good hearted scientist sabotages the experiment and sets Hongo free, but gets killed in the process. With his heart yearning for vengeance, Hongo swore to fight Shocker, renaming himself as Kamen Rider!
Hongo would make many powerful enemies, but also make numerous, long-lasting allies as well!
The more things change - One of the series' biggest strengths is its ability to consistently reinvent itself with every new installment. The settings have changed, the locations shift, and even the motifs of the suits differ. With every new Kamen Rider show that debuts, it's always hard to guess what to expect next!
Things stay the same - Yet, the tried and true elements of the franchise as a whole are always kept: that despite all the odds he has to face and the tragedies he suffers, the Kamen Rider always fights to protect those important to him!
Kamen Rider has come quite a long way from the original story of Hongo and his friends. Being backed up by the likes of Tobei Tachibana, and later on, Hayato Ichimonji, who would become the 2nd Kamen Rider!
The more things change - Just as how the stories and motifs change with every show, so have the personalities and motives of every protagonist. From the strong-hearted Hongo, audiences have seen Riders with vastly different behaviours!
Arrogant, but secretly vulnerable show-offs, soft-spoken pacifists, social shut-ins - you name it, Kamen Rider has it!
Things stay the same - Yet, no matter how bipolar or weird a Rider might seem these days, the very basic fact remains. Whether if it's against big monsters, evil schemers, or even evil Riders, the Kamen Rider always fights to protect others!
Explosions, transformation sequences, dynamic (and often overly exaggerated) posing, and of course - special move finishers. These are just a few classic tropes that were either popularised, or created by Kamen Rider, and it is these things that Kamen Rider has long been loved, parodied, and overall appreciated for!
The more things change - As is the norm with a series that makes conscious effort to reinvent itself as much as possible, many things have either been toned down, or even set aside. Modern Rider shows often don't scream out special move names as often, and even the kinds of actors hired to play the main roles have changed, going from classic "Macho Men" with thick eyebrows, to more pretty, ikemen-types.
Things stay the same - Somehow, despite all the various changes, modifications, and outright bizarre new gimmicks the franchise comes up with, the basic charm of the series still shines through. It is this charm that people still recognise and appreciate, and is why Kamen Rider is still referenced, mentioned, and outright parodied till today.
The shows might be a lot more modern and slick, but one can't deny that at its very core, it still remains as a kid's show that has men in peculiar costumes beating on each other and making things explode - just the way we like it!