Kamen Rider is a Japanese Tokusatsu show. If that doesn’t make sense then take it this way; Kamen Rider is a special effects show in the same way that Super Sentai/Power Rangers is.
Kamen Rider has been around for quite a long time starting in the early 1980’s. Ever since its debut it has created an icon and has made itself a household name. Every children in Japan has heard and known of at least one Kamen Rider. Every year the Rider changes in the show by having a completely different story and hero. It aired along side Super Sentai and many viewers always saw the difference between the two. Kamen Rider was a show about one man (or a small group) fighting against an enemy in the shadows while protecting the people. Kamen Rider was advertised as an all age drama show. Although it appealed heavily to children its target audience was broad enough to encompass young teens and adults. Super Sentai on the other hand is aimed purely for children and young teens. It’s storyline, sometimes being complicated, always taught the viewers about teamwork and doing good things because they are good. Kamen Rider on the other hand taught a different lesson. Never give up and sometimes doing the good thing will hurt but that is okay.
Kamen Rider can be split into two (three according to people outside of Japan because it technically makes no sense to them what the third section is) sections. Showa and Heisei. Showa Kamen Rider are the riders pre 2000 because that is the era that is titled Showa in Japan. So the Kamen Riders released after 2000 are considered Heisei because that is the era it is shown. The third section that many have started to use is Neo-Heisei Kamen Rider. For Japanese people this makes no sense because the first two sections of Kamen Rider follows the era it was shown. So it would be an insult to the era itself to rename a section of a tv show as something else. So to Japan, Neo-Heisei Riders do not exist, they are merely called Heisei Riders.
These three sections of Kamen Rider are completely different from each other due to the era they are shown.
Showa Kamen Rider was about one or more Kamen Riders fighting against an evil organization that created them. They fight for justice and to keep peace. Showa Kamen Riders are a double edged sword. All Kamen Riders in the Showa era are described as monsters. With the exception with Super-1 and to some extent Stronger, the Riders were forced into their position. They are abducted, their body experimented on, their minds twisted, and turned into human transforming monsters. With some luck they are able to escape the complete mind control process and escape back into society where everyone they know and love are dead because the evil organization had already killed them as a precaution against their experiments. The experimented ones at first fight for revenge but in order to don the name “Kamen Rider” they need to accept Justice in their mechanical heart. After understanding that they cannot live with normal humans they start to understand that they are the only ones that can protect people from becoming like them; a monster. Once they have this “justice”, and only then would they call themselves Kamen Rider. Then the story goes for every season as they try to stop the evil organization while trying to protect people. But with just some logical thinking the story becomes disturbing. In each of the evil organizations that the Kamen Rider’s have fought against, they always have to create monsters in order to do evil deeds. And its implied but not shown that the monsters that the Kamen Riders fight are either lower level types as them or higher levels of experiments. The question then is how are these monsters made? The answer unfortunately are humans. Monsters are made by abducting human beings and changing their body then twisting their minds to do their evil deeds. So in order to protect people, Kamen Riders fight and kill monsters who are the same as them and used to be human. What intrigued many viewers about Showa Kamen Rider was how brooding yet heroic it was.
Heisei Kamen Rider on the other hand was almost the same beast. The huge difference in it was that it highlighted the dark and brooding moments more than the heroic parts. It established itself as heroes who were broken but not defeated. There seems to be a confusion with what a Kamen Rider is in this era. Some series follow the forced into fighting scenario and some gives them that option. The other difference is that the Kamen Rider sometimes may actually be human (until the end). Some Kamen Riders are humans who can become Kamen Riders due to a belt. The problem of humanity and being a monster is changed and instead its about humans fighting their monsters or rather fighting with their monsters in order to protect the people. Showa Kamen Rider was subtle about its dark themes but Heisei Kamen Rider put it up front. And due to its direction and themes it felt natural.
Then Decade happened. I have a theory on Decade and its that it literally destroyed the true Kamen Riders. With the advent of Decade, the whole Kamen Rider world was destroyed. Their past gone and when Tsukasa journeyed through their worlds the story changed. Some staying the same and many changing in themes and riders. Because of this Neo-Heisei was born.
Neo-Heisei in my honest opinion threw away what it meant to be a Kamen Rider and unfortunately it shaped itself as a one person Super Sentai team. Neo-Heisei has brooding moments and dark themes but they do not match with each other. W was the first Neo-Heisei Kamen Rider series and it seemed to start off good but in the end the execution and the story just seemed odd and Super Sentai-ish. In the previous Kamen Rider series’s if anyone died they are not revived (sometimes even the main heroes) because it uses it as a reason or a lesson for the cast. There was always a sense of urgency in the fights that if the Rider was to lose, the world would be taken over. Neo-Heisei does not give me that feeling. In fact the fights feel like children fighting each other. There aren’t huge disadvantages if Kamen Rider looses in W, Wizard, Fourze (ugh), OOO, and to an extent Gaim (but this is a different series in itself). In W, what could have been character development was destroyed when they revived a certain someone in the end. It felt like W in the end was saying “It’s okay nothing bad will happen”. Fourze is where it definitely showed that Kamen Rider is no longer the same as what it was. Childish, gimmicky, no danger, and idiotic main hero who is barely likeable and who can easily be killed if he went up against a real Kamen Rider. Fourze with its themes and colors being so bright makes its dark moment odd and its huge reveal for taking over the world seems easy to stop if they actually tried in the beginning. The sense of urgency is not there. And I’m guessing that after understanding that Fourze made no sense, the writers tried to put a sense of urgency at the forefront and Gaim happened. Unfortunately due to how showy and bright Gaim is, it feels odd that when the Beat Riders fight seriously the bgm for fighting is out of place.
The problem with the current Kamen Rider is that they are becoming Super Sentai and they are trying to sell a children show as an adult drama while still looking like a children’s show. Showa and Heisei Kamen Riders had the balance correctly if not okay-ish. Neo-Heisei Kamen Rider unfortunately does not match with what it is trying to do. And in doing so looses what it was before. And when they try to tell a serious story it is engulfed by idiotic main characters and way too childish themes trying to be an adult drama.
The unfortunate yet logical events that happen now is that everyone who starts with Neo-Heisei believes that, that is what Kamen Rider is about. So when Neo-Heisei fans (W, Fourze(ugh), Wizard, OOO, Gaim) watch Heisei and Showa Kamen Rider they wont completely accept it and to some point find it odd that being a rider isn’t glorified. Where in Showa and Heisei being a Kamen Rider meant endangering everyone by even existing; Neo-Heisei glorifies being a Kamen Rider. In the Showa Era being a Kamen Rider was a curse and it meant they couldn’t live normal lives. In Neo-Heisei being a Kamen Rider is a good thing and almost any action taken has no negative effect and that being a Kamen Rider is a good thing. Kamen Rider before meant throwing away what they had in order to protect everything. The characters, both main and support, change overall and in turn they sacrifice alot of things in order to change. In Neo-Heisei nothing is given away (in full because in the end they gain everything they lost back without repercussions).