The series takes place in a world plagued by Shocker, a mysterious world-wide terrorist organization formed by remaining members of the Nazis. To further its plans for world domination, Shocker recruited its agents through kidnapping, turning their victims into mutant cyborgs and, ultimately, brainwashing them. However, one victim named Takeshi Hongo escaped just before the final brainwashing. With his sanity and moral conscience intact, Hongo battled Shocker's minions as the grasshopper-themed altered human superhero Kamen Rider.
Well, it's even darker than the way the TV show began, for one thing, and even if Ichimonji's introduction does, as in the show, bring some moments of levity, the darker parts are still just as dark. The art, being pretty old, is dated in quite a few panels, with proportions and such, but when Ishinomori wants to draw something detailed for an emphasis or large panel, he does it well. Kind of like a proto-Kurumada (Kurumada is the mangaka of, among other things, Saint Seiya and Ring ni Kakero) in that respect, I guess.
The story (which is entirely separate from
the TV series; kind of an AU) is very streamlined and fast-paced, and doesn't slow down or stop much at all; which fits the impression they're trying to give of Kamen Rider--he's a very fast-moving, energetic kind of hero. It gives me the same kind of vibe, in that regard, as the early 30s/40s Superman comics. Characterisation is still achieved well within this streamlined frame, though, and while nobody in this manga is going to top your all-time favourite characters list, they're all well-defined and likeable enough. The fast pacing also doesn't cause any problems with plot holes like might potentially occur, with the possible exception that while it's implied, it's very vague about the fact that absorbing wind is what activates the Rider's powers (hence why he transforms by driving/running/falling especially fast) until finally stating it explicitly in volume 3. As in volume 3 of 4. Three-quarters of the way through the story. Ah well, I already knew that was how it worked (at least, in the TV show it worked that way until he got upgraded and used the Henshin pose thing instead), so I don't know if the implications are clear enough or not for someone who isn't already familiar with Kamen Rider.
And building on something I just mentioned--it's only four volumes long, with each volume only containing one to three chapters. With that said, though, another parallel with Kurumada is that these are some long-ass chapters--volume 4 is comprised of a single chapter of over 100 pages. Still, volume-length is about volume-length, consistently, so yeah, it doesn't take long to read at all--it took me just under two hours to blitz through the entire thing.
All in all, I don't know if I'd give it a screaming recommendation, it wasn't one of the all-time greats, but it was overall pretty good. I enjoyed it quite a lot. So...uh...yeah. That's my review.
Kamen Rider 1971: A good introduction to one of Japan's most iconic popcultural franchises.
I had heard of the Kamen Rider character through many references in contemporary manga and anime series and so I was looking for a series that would provide a basic sense of what it's all about.
I was aware that the franchise was/is primarily based on a long-running life action TV series, but since this manga was created in the same year as the first TV series and by the original author, I thought I'd give this a try.
I was not disappointed. The manga offers a very straightforward, fast-paced & classic superhero-saves-the-world-from-evil story
with a distinct 1970s feel. In fact, it is quite easy to see how Kamen Rider probably delivered an archetype for many subsequent stories of this kind.
For this very reason, however, a number of concepts within the story also seemed overly familiar and sometimes outdated to a contemporary reader. For instance, the dialogue will sometimes feel overly dramatic or will border on clichees, the plot will occasionally move along too effortlessly or will involve overly convenient turns of events, the villains can be quite goofy & cartoonish and Kamen Rider's fights occasionally involved motorbike stunts that looked as if the author just thought "...and now Rider does something cool with his bike!" without paying too much attention to realism.
Because of these somewhat outdated elements, this manga would probably not hold up on its own among contemporary works, but it is the sense of nostalgia and the idea of reading a classic work that made it worthwhile to me. Not to mention that it is only 4 volumes.
It has to be said though that the art is actually very decent for a 70s work and I strongly believe that, for a modern audience, the manga actually offers a better introduction to the Kamen Rider story than the original TV series will. After all, a manga allows the author to draw "realistic" monsters, fight scenes and stunts. The original TV series, on the other hand, featured rather primitive special effects and actors dressed up in rubber monster costumes, which makes it quite difficult to take it seriously and not just find it silly.
Hence, the manga seems the better choice to me. I therefore give it 6 points for the manga as such + 1 point for nostalgia value and encourage readers to give it a try.