Another Kamen Rider season has come and gone and another one is days away from premiering. After Saber and being pretty sure it is my least favorite Kamen Rider season I’ve watched so far, I started thinking about my own personal rankings of seasons. I did a “Top 5” favorite Sentai and Power Rangers seasons a few years ago. (Of which, I definitely need to update. At least on the Sentai side maybe.)
So ahead of Revice, I decided to rank the Kamen Rider seasons I’ve watched so far.
1. Kamen Rider Build / Kamen Rider Zero-One
It’s hard for me to pick between these two amazing seasons. Both share similar traits and qualities that not many other Kamen Rider seasons do. And one of those qualities is that both of these seasons made me cry. Multiple times at that. If you haven’t heard of the acronym “MaCMCM,” you can learn more about it here: https://dryedmangoez.com/magmcm/. 😊
But both Build and Zero-One made this grown man cry numerous times. And it was thanks to incredible writing, engaging characters, and edge of your seat action. Both seasons left me the most satisfied and fulfilled.
After Gaim, I felt a bit disconnected with the three seasons that came after. Then Build came and subverted a lot of the problems that had plagued those three seasons, including apparent lack of endgame from the beginning, pulling things out of nowhere, lack of character development or connection with each other and the audience and underwhelming and hollow climaxes, especially finales.
Build was able to put all the pieces together for a truly refreshing, surprisingly relevant in the real world, very exciting and emotionally resonant season and story that I didn’t know was still possible with Kamen Rider.
Before Zero-One, Build was my undisputed favorite season. But Zero-One rose to the top of my list for many of the same reasons as the former. It was the complete package. Zero-One ticked all the boxes for me: well-developed characters, excellent cast, dynamic and exciting action. And maybe even more importantly, timely and well-developed stories.
It will be hard to top these two seasons for me.
3. Kamen Rider Gaim
Gen Urobuchi’s Kamen Rider masterpiece will be right up there with the best. Gaim was an ambitious, dramatic series. And very much unexpected in its intricate and broad story. Up to this point, I had only seen three seasons of Kamen Rider. And all three of those seasons were a bit more lighthearted, even when they had darker underlying themes. Gaim seemed to follow suit at first. I mean, it had a fruit motif, for starters. But soon enough, things really kicked into high gear. It was very surprising for me, but I think that’s part of what made this season so appealing and exciting.
Gaim told stories I had no idea were possible in a show like Kamen Rider. Especially when at this time, I was only just starting to become familiar with both Kamen Rider and Sentai.
4. Kamen Rider Fourze
Your “first” will always hold a special place in your heart. 😉 And Fourze is the season that brought me into the world of Kamen Riders. After having gotten completely sucked into the world of Super Sentai in 2010, I decided to take the leap into Kamen Rider the following year. It was the week OOO ended and Fourze was about to begin that I made the decision. With OOO completed, I originally wanted to start with it so I could binge on the episodes. But somehow, I ended up watching Fourze first instead and followed along every week for the next year.
And Fourze ended up being the perfect season to introduce the franchise to me. A mix of fun, over-the-top fluff, exciting mystery and surprisingly sincere emotion and depth. Not every Kamen Rider season may be the same, but Fourze gave me a first impression that immediately got me hooked. Especially at a time when I was losing interest in my local tokusatsu production, Fourze helped to fill that void for me. And I’ve watched every Kamen Rider season since.
5. Kamen Rider OOO
My almost first, OOO would end up being my second Rider season and it helped to give me a fuller picture of what to expect from this storied franchise. Odd, quirky and random. But also a distinct and engaging premise and great, endearing characters. After more than ten years of enjoying the franchise, I would realize this is what most Rider seasons would look like. But OOO had just the right amount of everything to make it thoroughly enjoyable. And again, helped solidify me getting hooked on the franchise.
6. Kamen Rider Wizard
At the time, I felt Wizard maybe suffered from a lack of focus toward the endgame even though I loved the characters. Little did I know, the seasons that would come after proved they could do much, much worse. Because of that and the years distance from the season, I look back at Wizard much more fondly now. Honestly, Wizard might even tie both OOO and even Fourze on this list with the latter two only getting the edge because they were my first seasons.
But Wizard, for whatever flaws it had in the build-up, stuck the landing. The last third of the season really delivered. Especially when that elusive endgame finally took shape. And more importantly, the bonds that the show nurtured between the Omokagedo gang were put to good use to give the final episodes a bit of emotional depth. The finale was satisfying and emotional thanks to great characters.
Though not perfect by any means, Wizard delivered where it counts. Especially when compared to a couple other seasons that would come after.
7. Kamen Rider Zi-O
Zi-O benefits from being an anniversary season. In a similar way to Gokaiger, Zi-O was able to do the tribute episodes well without sacrificing our main characters. While the endgame ended up a little predictable, Zi-O nonetheless had a solid story that came together in the end. Though some arcs were better than others, they were all able to provide something for fans of the original seasons, fans who have not a single clue about the original seasons and everyone in between.
I decided early on to not focus on the details of every little time travel or timeline change or deleted Rider. I accepted that Zi-O would just be a fun ride paying tribute to the last 20 years of Kamen Rider and wrapping up the Heisei Era. Those lowered expectation, perhaps, helped give me a more positive feeling about the season during that year. And ultimately, it was a fun, celebratory season.
8. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid
Ex-Aid is an interesting season. Coming after Drive and Ghost definitely helped it in my eyes. The level of plot cohesion is definitely one of the season’s strongest points. The story developed at a steady pace, even if it lost a bit of steam a few episodes too early before the finale. But the fact that things weren’t pulled out of thin air was kept to a minimum, if at all. Especially compared to the last two season.
The overall concept of Ex-Aid was interesting and engaging for most of the season. There’s certainly things I wished they had done differently or stories (and characters) that should have been expanded on and developed more. But I definitely don’t feel the same level of disappointment and regret about what could have been like I did at the end of Drive and Ghost.
9. Kamen Rider Drive
An even more interesting season for me is Drive. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed something I was disappointed in as much as I do Drive. Wait, what?
Yes, Drive was a disappointment for me. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. Weird, I know. But basically, I feel like of all the Kamen Rider seasons I’ve watched, Drive has the most wasted potential out of any of them. I felt sad at the end of the season enumerating all the times Drive dropped the ball. Instead of being something truly epic and amazing, they left a lot on the table. And that’s a shame, especially when it has probably one of the strongest ensemble casts as well.
There was a lack of character development and establishing the bonds between everyone at the SID. Not to mention the too-little, too-late development of our Roidmude friends who should’ve gotten a much bigger focus through the season. The lack of endgame and the lack of development on the part of the villains held Drive back. The season had a lot of moving parts that sadly never came together even if they were all there.
Nevertheless, I still liked the characters and there were a lot of fun moments. But I most remember Drive for what could have been.
10. Kamen Rider Decade
The way Tsukasa and Decade have remained so relevant to almost every season since it first aired is really quite amazing. And I think Decade has become much more interesting post-season than it might have been during its run.
I’ve found the fandom is divided on Decade (the season). If not totally negative on it. But I guess it might have a lot to do with most of those fans actually having experience with the seasons Decade was paying tribute to. For me, the season was a fun adventure-type of story. Literally traveling through different worlds, it was an interesting crash course for me to previous seasons of the franchise I’ve yet to watch.
From a shallow perspective and watching it via bingeing and not weekly, I actually like Decade for what it was. I might not understand everything. (And I don’t even think I’ve watched every actual piece of content from the season’s story yet.) But I still like it (the season) and don’t necessarily have strong feelings about it either way. Again, its legacy and impact on the franchise and even stories of subsequent seasons are probably the most interesting aspect of Decade.
11. Kamen Rider Ghost
And here we go with the two seasons I actually do have strong, negative feelings about.
Right up front, even before Saber came along, my negative feelings toward Ghost eased ever so slightly thanks to its actually good arc in Zi-O.
But that doesn’t erase how Ghost was my least favorite season up until this year. The season started off so well. An intriguing premise with a charming and likeable Shun Nishime as the title character. I held out hope for a long time, maybe because of my disappointment with Drive. But instead of revving up and getting to the meat of the season’s stories, Ghost seemed to wander off even more than it had been.
“Hollow” is a word I used to describe Ghost a lot. And that’s really what it was. Nice designs, cool action and potentially interesting characters had zero depth. The season remained unfocused to the end. There was no clear objective for any of the characters. And for Takeru, our title character, his only goal was achieved a couple of episodes into the season. What else was he to do for the rest of it then?
Though I might not have enjoyed Ghost as much as I enjoyed Drive, even if I was similarly disappointed in the wasted potential, it is the season’s only post-season movie that really drags it down for me.
Kamen Rider Ghost RE:BIRTH: Kamen Rider Specter is an absolute travesty. A mess. A crime. I don’t know what the hell that was. But I do know what it did. It absolutely retconned and dismantled a season that was already on shaky ground. Maybe if the basic premise of the film had been fleshed out in the series itself, it could’ve worked. But it takes a lot of effort to feel more hollow and unfocused than the series was.
And being the last Ghost content, it left a horrible taste in my mouth for a very long time. That is, until…
12. Kamen Rider Saber
Saber was essentially Ghost 2.0 for me. Suffering from the same problems Ghost had, Saber took it to the next level and made me feel something I have yet to feel for any Kamen Rider (or even Sentai) season I’ve watched so far: Apathy.
My main criticism of Saber essentially boils down to me not caring enough about the characters or the story. And a reason that I didn’t care being the show just didn’t execute whatever it was trying to do properly.
An easy criticism is to say the season had no vision. But actually, Saber did have a vision. Several visions, to be exact. And I think that’s the problem. Too much going on with too many characters. And with too much going on, it doesn’t allow for any of what’s happening to have a chance to land and marinate.
But, no focus. Zero depth. Unfinished ideas. Wasted potential. Baffling decisions. I do not hesitate to say Saber is my least favorite Kamen Rider season.