Posted by: Z.F. | June 19, 2009

The Ocelli Report – Vol. 1 : Long Long Ago, 20 Years

Hey everyone, before I start let me introduce to you a new feature to my blog: “The Ocelli Report“. Simply put, the Ocelli Report (which is named after the simple eye of insects, you know the small middle eye that almost all Riders have), will be a collection of essays on tokusatsu. I originally intended to publish one on Den-o and then one on S.I.C. but with the news of Minami Kotaro’s return, I thought it was only right for me to start off with him:

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On Sunday, October 4th 1987, Kurata Tetsuo made his television debut as Minami Kotaro in Kamen Rider Black. Little did he know at that time, the show will catapult him in to stardom and in to Tokusatsu history. Only 19 at that time, Kurata Tetsuo recently graduated high school but flunked the admission test to enter his desired post secondary institution. A friend recommended him to audition for the role of Kamen Rider Black, the first Rider television show to be produced in six years. Kurata was reluctant. With no formal training in acting he had no urge to audition. However, he later realized the grand prize for the audition was more than just being the star of a year long television series but also 1,000,000 Yen. The money changed his mind and he along with thousands of candidates fought for the role of Minami Kotaro.

The one and only Ishinomori Shotaro, the creator of Kamen Rider, was at the audition. He was to decide which actor can fit in to the shoes of the 10 Kamen Riders before him. When the verdict came, Number 27, Kurata Tetsuo was called out. Kurata walked calmly in front of the judges. He was the winner and within minutes his co-stars surrounded him, including Ishinomori-sensei for a quick photo op. And just like that, Kurata Tetsuo would go on to make history. Kamen Rider Black went back to basics. A true dark, gritty, retelling of the Kamen Rider tale but with new twists. A young man living a normal life only to be kidnapped, tortured and surgically modified in to a killing machine. He became a Rider, deprived of all humanity, to bring justice and protect the world from experiencing what he had to experience. This was the image of the Kamen Rider hero and Kurata Tetsuo was the perfect man for the job. Not only did Ishinomori-sensei thought he was perfect but also the entire Japanese community. The show was a hit. A major hit for that matter. Before the recent wave of Den-o movie sequels, Kamen Rider Black was the first show get a true sequel, an additional series, Kamen Rider Black RX. RX was less successful but still did very well. Kurata is less fond of RX (as one can tell from interviews) but he, till this day, is honoured he got to play a Rider for 2 years. With 98 episodes, 2 movies and 1 special under his belt, Kurata Tetsuo manage to outdo all of his predecessors, including Fujioka Hiroshi and Sasaki Takeshi.

But that was it. In 1989 Kamen Rider Black RX came to an end. Kurata Tetsuo would bid farewell to his iconic role and pursue other projects. He didn’t return for cameos because Rider would be put on life support in the early 90’s and ultimately fall into a coma in 1994.

And this is where I come in and all of you as well. If you are reading this I am sure you have watched some Kamen Rider in your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the Showa Era or the Heisei Era, or if you watched the show in its entirety or bits and pieces, we all know what this classic tale is and we all vividly remember our first experience with Rider. Kamen Rider Black as well as Kamen Rider Black RX was my first show. I was young, really young, around two or three years old was when I first watched Kamen Rider. I didn’t know about Kamen Rider Ichigo or V3. Black was my first show. My older brother was the one who introduced me to it. He was a huge fan. He had all the toys, the clothing and most importantly he had the videotapes of all his favourite episodes recorded straight from TV. Unfortunately for me, our Kamen Rider Black videotapes were scarce, only a few episodes were recorded and some eventually were recorded over by our parents. I still remember watching Black RX’s first episode on our old TV, the scene when Battlehopper was being revived suddenly changes into footage from the local news. Every time I watch it, I hope I could see a bit more, maybe just one time I can see what happens but  I never got the chance to see the end of that first episode. But most of the RX episodes were intact including its grand finale. So that’s why Black and RX were my first series because I had watched both shows simultaneously in a sense. My brother filled me in on the story of Black and even at that age I realized how inconsistent the two series were.

So every since I can remember, Kotaro has been a part of my life. I can’t remember my life without him. He has become this symbol of heroism and no other character that came after him could top how much respect I had for Minami Kotaro. Sure, there was Batman and Superman that all my other friends liked but they were just characters. Minami Kotaro was a person. Every Batman I watched as a kid had different guys in that same suit. Superman was either live action or a cartoon. Kotaro was Kotaro, no matter when I watched it, he was there in his original form, complete with his racing jacket, fingerless gloves, jet black mushroom-style haircut and his deep gritty voice yelling his catchphrase “I won’t forgive you!”

I finally return to the Tokusatsu genre in 2004. With the advent of the internet and DVDs, I finally had the chance to watch more shows from my favourite childhood series, Kamen Rider. I enjoyed most of the Heisei shows but no character managed to be on the level as Minami Kotaro. I guess all the people like me who grew up in either the 80’s or the 90’s will look up to Kotaro. So perhaps one day these kids when they grow up would say someone like Tsugami Shoichi (hopefully and not Nogami Ryotaro) is their all-time favourite hero.

I am not sure about all the other Kotaro fans out there but I’ve always dreamed Kotaro would return. But it just didn’t feel possible so I lowered my hopes and wished that Kurata Tetsuo would return maybe as a mentor character for a new Rider show or just pulling a Sato Kenta, by wearing his classic Kotaro outfit, and sing the theme song in front of adoring fans. The first time Kurata return was in 2003 when he lend his voice for the Kamen Rider PS2 game, Genealogy of Justice. I played the game but I watched that intro more than I played it. It was extremely satisfying to see him back as Kotaro. It has been more ten years but the whole return still didn’t fully satsify me because he was now just a poorly rendered polygon and I feared that this might be the only return we will ever get.

And so the years went by. I finally watched Black and RX in its entirety. Black was superb and RX was just like I remember it. It might not have been as good as Black but it was a great show nonetheless. There were many great moments from both series, both the first episodes were captivating, the battles with Shadowmoon, RX gaining new forms, Kotaro one by one eliminates the Crisis crew and the final team up with all the previous 10 Riders. I know the 10 Rider team up was a really cheap and poorly done finale but as a kid it was truly an amazing sight and something I thought I would never see again. There’s one moment however that is currently resonating in my mind. And that’s the final scene in Black RX:

Whenever I hear “Long Long Ago, 20thCentury” or “Someone Loves You”, I feel as if I am classically conditioned to feel sad. Not only were these songs played during the bittersweet moments of the show but they were played at the end of every episode. When I was a kid and I heard that song I knew I was running out of episodes to watch, that’s why I was sad. And despite the tragic finale of Kamen Rider Black, we all knew in the back of our minds that Kotaro will not stay alone or gloomy forever. He has a whole new journey awaiting for him and we all had the chance to continue with him. But this wasn’t the case in RX, and that’s why that scene is still so clear in my mind. I have that episode on VHS and neither the ending credits of “Long Long Ago, 20thCentury”, “Someone Loves You” or the end of Kamen Rider Black can surpass the uneasiness and the unwillingness of letting go.

I watched that scene countless times as a kid, the scene when Kotaro says goodbye to all of the character in the last scene of RX (but really he is saying goodbye to the fans who’ve watched the shows for two years). It’s emotional and filled with very clichéd lines. He tells everyone that “they will certainly see each other one day” but never tells us when this will happen. As a kid watching it, they almost felt like empty promises because I knew that was the end and there’s no denying but I felt deep down maybe one day we will see him again. So like the naive kid I was, I would watch that scene, thinking maybe there was a chance he would return. Maybe, just maybe there will be another sequel but then time goes by, year after year and suddenly all you have left are just the memories.

But on Sunday May 24th 2009 that all changed because that day has finally come, 20 years after the finale of RX and Kotaro has kept his promise.


I hope that really long set up managed to convey the sort of ecstasy I went through when Kurata Tetsuo was confirmed and was present in last month’s press conference for this summer’s movie entitled “Kamen Rider Decade: All Rider vs. Daishocker”. I don’t know if I am the only one who feels this way. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder.

My expectations for the movie are high. It has been a 20 year wait no less. To put that in a little perspective, the so-called “long wait” for the highly anticipated Star Wars Episode 1 was only 16 years and we all remember how highly publicized that was. The main question is, will it live up to those expectations. All I can say is : “I sure hope it does” but there hasn’t been a big focus on Kurata’s return. The news media skimmed it in favour of Fujioka’s return (but it seems it will only be in voice form). Which is understandable since Fujioka is more famous to the public than Kurata is.

I am sure we will see actual screens of Kotaro in action soon. We have yet to see him in and Decade promo shots except in the Press Conference (above) but if history has taught us anything, those who are there promoting the movie usually have a significant role. There’s also rumours circulating about Decade travelling to Black/RX world, so I guess we might see Kotaro a bit before the movie. We will in fact get online spin-off movies like last year’s Kiva and Kotaro might be in there as well. All I really want to is see him triumphantly return, do his Henshin pose, ride his bike and kick some kaijin ass!!! And let’s please hope that Yonemura (the screenwriter) won’t make a mockery of this legend.

 The last scene of RX which I mentioned before really feels more sentimental than it ever was with the news of his return. Watching it makes me feel like a kid again, it’s rather nostalgic. I never thought I would get to see Kurata Tetsuo come back but now that it’s true I really can’t wait to see the movie. I am really regretting I went to Japan last year, but oh well, Kiva’s movie was pretty good. So, I’ve been re-watching that scene a few times lately and I just hope that after I watch the movie and then watch that scene once again I can say to myself that Minami Kotaro’s ultimate return was really worth the 20 year wait.

By: Adrienzo


  1. Dude… this bring up all the good old days… you know what? I even skipped extra classes just to watch Kotaro Minami / Kesatria Baja Hitam@Suria Perkasa Hitam (what do they called Kamen Rider Black in Malaysia) in action every Thursday at 4.30 pm.

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