Super-popular Japanese masked-action show Kamen Rider Ryuki has gotten an American version, courtesy of the CW. Just like the old Power Rangers, it's got American actors mixed with Japanese stunts. We talked to the producers.
The brothers Steve and Mike Wang were approached to create an American version of Kamen Rider Ryuki by Toei Studios a few years ago. They did a sort of "test pilot" for the American version, and the studio loved it.
In the U.S. version, called Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, a young guy named Kit Taylor is constantly getting into trouble and being wrongly accused of being a juvenile delinquent, while he broods about his missing father. And it turns out his dad was actually kidnapped to another dimension by the evil General Xaviax, who is imprisoning and enslaving humans. Then Kit gets hold of an Advent Deck that lets him create weapons and armor, and he gets recruited by a Dragon Knight named Len, who teaches him to be a Dragon Knight too. It's a fun kids' show, and the stunts, from the original Japanese version, are pretty awesome.
The Wang brothers explained that they use a lot of the Japanese action and special-effects footage for budgetary reasons. But their version doesn't follow the original Japanese storyline at all. They used some of the concepts and a few of the characters, but for the most part it's all an original story.
"The original Japanese story is really different. It's way darker than we'd be allowed to do in America," explains Mike Wang. "It's very bloody. People get kidnapped. [And] it's way complicated. When i was watching the subtitled version, I didn't understand what was happening sometimes." Also, the Japanese version doesn't have one main villain, like General Xaviax. Instead it's more like Highlander, with people dueling and battling, and whoever wins gets a wish granted. Also, the Japanese version has a new Kamen Rider ever year, and the Wang brothers aren't sure if they'll follow that model in a second season.
The American version is more of a coming-of-age tale, with a strong focus on good versus evil and saving the world. Kit faces a lot of situations that aren't easy to face, and has to make a lot of tough decisions. So far, the response from fans of the Japanese show has been pretty positive, except for a few die-hards.
"For us, it was a big honor to do this show," says Steve Wang. "We're treating it with a lot of respect." So it's great that some fans like their version better than the original.
Another change from the Japanese version: The Wang brothers expanded the roles of a few of the main riders. One of them is a female Kamen Rider, the first in the history of the franchise. "It's important to us to expand her role," says Steve Wang. She shows up in episode 21 (out of 40) and plays a really important role in the story.
Kamen Rider is more mature and sophisticated than Power Rangers, the Wang brothers insist. There's more of a serialized story, and less monster-of-the-week stuff. Doing a more episodic format was not even an option for Kamen Rider becuase of the nature of the Japanese footage. They want it to be along the lines of other addictive serialized shows, like Macross/Robotech.
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight appears Saturdays at 11:30 on the CW.