This year, an icon of Japanese superheroism turns 50: the masked hero of justice, Kamen Rider, first debuted in 1971. But the Kamen Rider franchise isn’t just celebrating its original iteration in 2021 — and it’s not just celebrating in Japan.
Early last year, Toei made the welcome, unprecedented step to start streaming some of its most beloved classic Tokusatsu series on YouTube worldwide for free, bringing subtitled versions of icons like Super Sentai, Juspion, and Space Sheriff Gavan to international audiences, in some cases for the first time ever in an official capacity.
Much of Kamen Rider was conspicuously absent, but perhaps for good reason: around the same time, Toei partnered with Shout Factory to officially bring the original Kamen Rider to a new linear streaming channel in the US, making the show’s first-ever arrival in the country (well, outside of westernised adaptations like Saban’s Masked Rider and Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, that is).
But now, that’s about to change. To celebrate the new year and Kamen Rider’s 50th anniversary, Toei announced that its Tokusatsu World Official YouTube account will begin regularly releasing English-subtitled episodes starting this month. The samples, which will be available internationally in an unconfirmed number of countries, will come from not just the original show, but across five decades of Kamen Rider history.
No schedule has been officially confirmed yet, but Toei is currently planning weekly releases “Every Saturday and/or Sunday.” It also hopes to have 1-2 episodes from every Kamen Rider series available on the platform over the year — from its Shōwa beginnings, to its revival and Heisei boom in the 21st century, all the way up to modern iterations, including 2019’s Kamen Rider Zero-One (there’s no word on if we’ll get anything from the currently airing iteration of the show, the second of the Reiwa era, Kamen Rider Saber).
It’s a huge step forward for Kamen Rider’s accessibility outside of its home nation. Last year already marked a major step for the franchise with its big U.S. debuts of both classic and more recent Kamen Rider offerings through Shout Factory, but this push brings Kamen Rider, one of Toei’s most prominent and successful Tokustatsu series, to an even bigger audience, who up until now, have had to fuel their support of the franchise through mostly legally-dubious avenues like fansubs. This is a big leap ahead for seeing more official releases of Kamen Rider around the world, and a way for people to experience one of Japan’s most iconic superhero series.
Toei Tokusatsu World Official’s rollout of Kamen Rider episodes will begin on January 16.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.