Friday, November 4, 2011

Why is Kamen Rider hard to adapt into English?

UPDATED 11/5/11 (Grammar corrected)
It is safe to say Saban is adapting Kamen Rider into Power Rider but we still don't know which series yet because Saban registering the copyright for 'Power Rider' and Elie Dekel told a fan that they got the rights to Kamen Rider Decade and that Toei stated recently in an interview that they were working on another American adaption. It may be/is the third time Kamen Rider will be adapted in North America. For those who do not know, Kamen Rider is a series that started in 1971, TV series stopped in 1988 and had a resurgent in 2000 and has continued just like Super Sentai and has since aired right after it. Currently it has higher ratings and toy sales and it is more universally known. Also, it has had more movie spin-offs than Super Sentai. But in the U.S., Power Rangers have been going on for 18 years and Kamen Rider still hasn't been as successful in an adaption. Is there a problem with adapting the series? Is it un-adapatable? I decided to explore that.

 Saban's Masked Rider (1995)
The first attempt to adapt Kamen Rider was Saban in 1995 with the 1988 series Kamen Rider Black RX. In a pilot presentation from Fox Kids, the president stressed many times how it was not like Power Rangers and it was more like a situation comedy. Masked Rider started with a tie to Power Rangers in season 3 but allegedly, because of season 3's low ratings, they retcon their connection in the show itself. While the original RX show was about a man who was operated on with a moon rock who lived with a family (which was a minor part), the American version had an Alien teen with his furry pet living with a foster family (which was a major part).

The show was canceled after low ratings. Many fans didn't like it because of its comical nature and too much focused on the unbelievable mixed family. I think one of the major failings was the editing, while PR had mistakes, they were excusable and VR Troopers editing was much better. There was conflicting images, they would use many old Kamen Rider series unconnected to Black RX and they didn't match. On top of it, they had the hero Dex wear the same jacket as the man in the footage, Kotaro.  The creator, Shotaro Ishinomori, didn't particularly like it. Ironically, Black RX was the last made KR series at the time, so even if they were going to have a second season, they would have to go in reverse. I don't blame them in making Masked Rider an alien because the Kotaro story line was complicated enough. Maybe because VR Troopers was more serious than PR, Saban Entertainment felt they had to do something completely different with Masked Rider.

Kamen Rider Dragon Knight (2009)
I was going to make a post a while ago on why I thought KRDK had failed but at the time, I thought it was too soon and it had been like pulling on wounds. I did like KRDK, but here are three main factors I think made it not succeed: 1) Promotion -- it had very little promotion on TV and toys (merchandise came too late in the game) and on a channel children barely watch; 2) Arc -- The show was not stand alone which was the nature of the source material (Kamen Rider Ryuki-2002) but on a channel like Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, they could had repeated it dozens of times so kids could catch up. Remember Avatar: The Airbender marathons on Nick? It helped the series; 3) Tone and Production -- People can complain of acting until the cows come home, but the greeness of the production value was obvious--Saban and Disney had it down pact, Adness and the Wang Brothers were still on a learning curve, the action sequences, drama and source footage had pacing troubles. Also most of the time it looked like they all lived in a ghost town unpopulated with no extras. But of course we know that comes with budget.

Also, the show was serious--which KR are and you got to give kids credit, they can handle dark and serious (the 90's X-Men or Naruto or Dragonball Z for instance). But when it isn't stand-alone eps or not even repeated frequently, it's hard. Also serious does not mean it has to be boring. There was writing, acting, and pacing issues on the show itself and zero promotion and lack of merchandising that hurt it. Look at Power Rangers Samurai, it has heavy promotion, lots of interactive material (Facebook, website, etc.) and even though not a lot of merchandise yet, the hype and reruns have helped. Even though some fans don't like the series itself, it proves that promotion helps with American Tokusatsu. Look at RPM, it had zero promotion and help and on a channel children barely saw, some kids I ask do know of RPM, mainly because of the toys and DVDs.

Too Violent? Too Complicated?
Kamen Rider is arguably more serious than Super Sentai, it is also darker. But could it also be considered more violent? Of course the Showa era (70's-80's) is more violent but currently, is the Heisei era (00's) more violent than Super Sentai? I don't think it is any difference because even if it is violent, that can be cut out in an adaptation, look at Saban's first attempt, lots of blood was cut of there. Okay so maybe violence is not an issue. Could it be adapting the source material storywise? Many of the Kamen Riders have sordid beginnings. The majority of the Showa era Riders were half or all cyborg, or half creature or had died and reborn thanks to some mythical crystal. The Heisei Era Riders either were of the same race of the villains or some connection to the villains and hid some sort of secret. Kamen Rider Faiz was an Orphnoch, the villains and many times the group the Rider was working for ends up being crooked or evil like Smart Brain, Zect, or Board. American producers might think that is too complicated for children, but the audience could be higher like ages 10-16.

 Power Rider??
Many may complain about the name Power Rider. One might think Saban is staying far from his Masked Rider in 1995 but it could just do with Toei's use of 'Masked' next to their imported Kamen Rider property and chosen to separate from it. Kamen Rider figures have been distributed throughout the world using the 'Masked Rider' label. Using Kamen Rider for Dragon Knight was risky and commendable but obviously Saban is staying away from that. Some sources state that the Wang Brothers wanted to call KRDK 'Kamen' but Toei wanted 'Masked'. With the 'Power Rider' label, it can obviously have a connection to Power Rangers (Regardless any American parent or non-Ranger fan adult would see it as a PR knock-off) and be distinguishable as Power Rangers is distinguishable from Super Sentai. With promotion like being on Nickelodeon, this one could have a chance. Some one on Rangerbaord (I forgot who) said that 'Three times a charm,' I wrote this on a poll and I am hoping it will be.

 Lavender Ranger's Tips to Adapting
So do I have tips to successfully adapt a Kamen Rider series? Seriously, I have no idea. I'm just a fan like everyone else of course. But after seeing Tokusatsu from Saban, Power Rangers and the last two Kamen Rider adaptions, I can say some ideas that might help.
1. Promotion: Look at Power Rangers Samurai, even though fans aren't that crazy about it, but it has high ratings and even though not lots of merchandise, it is making money and kids love it.
2. Prompt Toys: Have toys ready in advance. Look at Samurai, toys came out 2 months before the series started. Kamen Rider Dragon Knight had toys come out months way after it started.
3. Keep Rider names memorable and understandable. KRDK had a lot of riders and it was hard to keep track who was who because the names were vague (Strike, Torque, Sting, Spear, Axe, etc.). I say stay true to what the costume is about and if all fails, keep the same original name. For example, if Double is adapted, keep Accel the same name. As for KRDK, I think they should had stuck to the Ranger-color shirt thing. But luckily all series after Decade has 2 or 3 Riders. The main Rider now has many modes.
4. Keep it Simple: I don't mind if the adapted series is not exactly like the original or if it is a carbon copy but keep it understandable and consistent. Also understandable does not mean too simple, like speaking to three year olds. You can still tell an unique intelligent story that kids will enjoy without loosing your brain.
5. Watch that Tone: To distinguish Power Rangers from Power Rider, do what Toei did with Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, Kamen Rider is more mature and darker while Sentai is more light-hearted. Serious doesn't mean be boring.


Dessa said...

I never saw the original MR, but after watching Den-O, Decade, W, and OOO, I think the two-episode arcs would work in the US like those did. I'd personally love seeing W in the US, so I could buy the Memories without having to import them... ^^;

Douglas said...

i don't know if Kamen Rider will ever be successful over here. every time i've tried looking at the plots of the shows i get lost after 2 episodes and they just feel incomplete without even resolving anything. and if they did Decade i do wonder how they'd explain the other seasons and if they'd get the guy who played Dex back along with the main guy from Dragon Knight.

LUKE said...

Yup, i personally also feel that KR W would work in the US...because of the detective theme, they can change to a different story.

MrRebelliousNerd said...

I think if a company were to adapt Kamen Rider, I think they would have to a Kamen Rider The First like series
Using the movie suits and a similar story line to both the film and original series
Secret Organization known as the Shocker Alliance, a coalition of different groups from the 19th and 20th century create a cyborg super soldier in their quest to take over the world, as an example
If this is successful they could go on and adapt the other showa series(V3, X, Amazon, Black etc)
Treat it serious for one not comedic(it's fine to have comedic breaks but only once or twice)
Preferably air it on Cartoon Network as I think CN can do really well with it
Toei would also have to oversee production of it so it's in their liking

Shahida Alexander said...

I think that saban should bring back KR because KR and PR can have a crossover episode witch will be so epic oh and I'm 14 I'm using my mom Google account

Collin Murphy said...

Here's a suggestion for the toys. MAKE THEM GOOD AND ACCURATE TO THE SHOW! Have the same voice actor from the show making the sounds, like in Japan. Not some other, fake voice making the sounds. Make the design and painting better, soundboard better, import the Japanese stuff sometimes *Cough Cough* Drivers *Cough Cough*, make the weapons good. And about the show, make it so both kids and adults can watch and love it. We NEED more kamen rider in America, but better toys on shelves.