Known for making a handful of great games, Hideki Kamiya has become a well-known name among the gaming world. From Resident Evil 2 to Devil May Cry, Okami, Bayonetta, and more; when Kamiya is on staff, you know you’re in for a good time. Hideki Kamiya has also created what he calls the “Hero Trilogy,” a series of games each inspired by different Japanese superheroes, particularly those known by some tokusatsu fans as “The Big Three.” Wonderful 101, which will be receiving a remastered release soon (at least digitally) is one of these games, alongside the remaster-needing Viewtiful Joe and the upcoming Project G.G. Japanese Superheroes aren’t as popular outside of Japan, partially due to lack of access, but more and more of these series have been receiving official English subtitled releases recently thanks to the advent of streaming. Here is some information as well as some suggestions if you’d like to learn more about the inspirations behind Kamiya’s “Hero Trilogy.”
Writer’s Note: Most of the content featured in this article are available on the U.S. versions of various streaming services. Please make sure to support official releases whenever possible.
The Wonderful 101: Power Rangers & Super Sentai
Although in the end it took more inspiration from western comic book superheroes, former 2013 Wii U exclusive title The Wonderful 101 has its roots in the Power Rangers and Super Sentai metaseries, and you can definitely see the influence when looking at the game’s art direction and through some of the original design documents. The color-coded individual members of the superhero team even kept their sentai-like names (Wonder Red, Wonder Green, etc). The heroes’ ability to combine into weapons is also similar to when Power Rangers or Super Sentai teams work together to combine all their weapons into one bigger weapon.
For those who might not know, Super Sentai is a Japanese metaseries first created by Shotaro Ishinomori, Toei Company, and Bandai about different color-coded teams of superheroes with each series having a new team and a different motif. The different Power Rangers series, originally created by Saban and now owned by Hasbro, serve as American adaptations of a ton of Super Sentai shows, reusing Japanese footage for fight scenes (most of the time), and containing brand new scenes when the heroes aren’t suited up. Over the years Power Rangers has become a more well-known brand than Super Sentai internationally, but a number of Super Sentai series have become easier to watch over the past few years thanks to Shout! Factory.
Power Rangers is probably the most accessible show on this list and every series besides season 2 of Power Rangers Beast Morphers and the newly announced Power Rangers Dino Fury, is available on Netflix in the U.S. The available series are the following:
- The three seasons of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
- Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers,
- Power Rangers Zeo
- Power Rangers Turbo
- Power Rangers In Space, which concludes the “Zordon Era” started by Mighty Morphin
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, which takes place after In Space and has some rather surprising story elements (no spoilers!)
- Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue
- Power Rangers Time Force, which is about Power Rangers traveling through time from the far future
- Power Rangers Wild Force
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder, which sees the return of former ranger Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank) to the main cast
- Power Rangers S.P.D.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force
- Power Rangers Operation Overdrive
- Power Rangers Jungle Fury
- Power Rangers RPM, the only Power Rangers series with a post-apocalyptic setting (and happens to star iZombie’s Rose McIver in her pre-undead days)
- Power Rangers Samurai
- Power Rangers Megaforce
- Power Rangers Dino Charge
- Power Rangers Ninja Steel
- Power Rangers Beast Morphers
Personally, I also highly recommend the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comics and graphic novels by Boom! Studios, especially the Shattered Grid storyline which is basically Power Rangers’ Infinity War equivalent, with many of its plot points and characters used for the Battle for the Grid fighting game.
As stated previously, for those who want to know more about the Japanese origins of Power Rangers, Shout! Factory has a handful of officially subtitled seasons of Super Sentai available to stream for free either on their site or through Tubi TV. These series also air on PlutoTV Tokushoutsu channel (channel 681 in the Tech+Geek section). The currently available series are the following:
- Chojin Sentai Jetman
- Zyuranger (Mighty Morphin source material)
- Gosei Sentai Dairanger (where the Mighty Morphin White Ranger comes from)
- Ninja Sentai Kakuranger (Alien Rangers)
- Chouriki Sentai Ohranger (Zeo)
- Gekisou Sentai Carranger (Turbo)
- Denji Sentai Megaranger (In Space)
- Seijuu Sentai Gingaman (Lost Galaxy)
- Kyuukyuu Sentai Gogofive (Lightspeed Rescue)
- Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger (Wild Force)
- Mirai Sentai Timeranger (Time Force)
- Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger (Ninja Storm)
You could compare some of their catalog with the corresponding Power Rangers adaptation (such as watching Mirai Sentai Timeranger and Time Force back to back to see the differences), or you could watch one of the seasons they have that was never adapted, such as Gosei Sentai Dairanger or Chojin Sentai Jetman. VRV also has an English dub of the first few episodes of Kagaku Sentai Dynaman (known as just Dynaman) that serves as more of a parody than a proper dub of the source material.
You could also watch Saban’s Power Rangers 2017 film adaptation by Lionsgate, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Hasbro is also reportedly working on a reboot, so you can look forward to that as well.
Viewtiful Joe: Kamen Rider
The first entry in Kamiya’s “Hero Trilogy,” which originally released in 2003 for the GameCube (and PlayStation 2 a year later) and later received several sequels and spin-offs, is Viewtiful Joe. Viewtiful Joe is based on the beloved Japanese superhero, Kamen Rider (as well as the lesser-known hero Kaiketsu Zubat by the same creator), as one can see by his costume design, transformation, and kicking attacks. We may have to wait a bit longer until Viewtiful Joe gets the HD remaster he deserves — whether that be through Capcom themselves or Kamiya and Platinum Games getting the rights in the future — but in the meantime, you can watch a handful of the metaseries Viewtiful Joe is based on.
Kamen Rider is probably the series featured in this article that has remained the most elusive outside of Japan. Originally created as an adaptation of Ishinomori’s Skull Man manga, many factors were changed and morphed into the original character and story for Kamen Rider, which was then made into a live-action TV show prior to Super Sentai. Kamen Rider follows the adventures of Takeshi Hongo, who was kidnapped by the evil organization known as Shocker in order to become a brainwashed mutant cyborg. The experiment isn’t completed, however, and Takeshi is able to escape before he’s brainwashed, with his new powers in tow, he decides to fight against Shocker and prevent their goal of world domination. Like Super Sentai and Power Rangers, Kamen Rider also spawned a number of series and spin-offs since the original series all with different motifs and with some being connected to each other slightly and others not connected at all.
Although Saban did adapt Kamen Rider Black RX into Masked Rider back in the ’90s (we don’t talk about that), and Adness Entertainment adapted Kamen Rider Ryuki into the Daytime Emmy award-winning Kamen Rider Dragon Knight (which even got its own fighting game on Nintendo DS and Wii), no other adaptations exist, and officially released Japanese series with English subtitles haven’t been available, until Shout! Factory recently got a hold of a few of them.
All 98 episodes of the original Kamen Rider series from 1971 are available to watch on Shout! Factory and Tubi TV for free, and you can also watch it on Amazon Prime Video with the Shout! Factory Channel Add-On. Kamen Rider is also broadcast on PlutoTV on the Tokushoutsu channel). Luckily, Shout! Factory didn’t stop with just the original Kamen Rider but also obtained the rights to Kamen Rider Kuuga, a series from 2000 that was made after the series had a decade long absence in Japan. Kuuga is also available to watch on Shout! Factory and Tubi TV and airs on Tokushoutsu channel on PlutoTV as well.
While it is currently unknown at the time of writing if Shout! Factory has or is planning on obtaining any other Kamen Rider series, there is one more Kamen Rider series fans in the U.S. can easily watch officially. That series is the Amazon original production, Amazon Riders (known in Japan as Kamen Rider Amazons). Even though some Kamen Rider series do have some dark themes, Kamen Rider Amazons is much more violent and keeps an adult audience in mind. The best way I could describe it would be a cross between Kamen Rider and Tokyo Ghoul, due to its body horror elements.
A more recent source of old Tokusatsu shows and movies is Toei’s new Tokusatsu World YouTube channel, and although it may not have any Kamen Rider series at the moment, it does have the Shin Kamen Rider movie, which like Amazons is darker than a typical Kamen Rider series and meant for an older audience. Both Amazons and Shin Kamen Rider are not connected to any other Kamen Rider series, so you don’t have to worry about watching anything else beforehand.
Project G.G.: Ultraman (and Gridman)
While all we’ve seen so far for Project G.G. (working title) is a teaser trailer and we probably won’t see more footage or even know that actual title for some time, if you’re familiar to Japanese superheroes at all it’s pretty easy to determine what the game was inspired by. When speaking to IGN Japan about the upcoming title and how it fits into his “Hero Trilogy,” Kamiya himself even said, “In Japan, the next type of hero would be the giant hero, and I’ve always wanted to make a game based on that idea.”
Likely the oldest Japanese superhero featured in this article, Ultraman is different from the two aforementioned series as it features aliens that combine with humans in order to become giant superheroes to fight against city-destroying kaiju. Tsuburaya, the company behind the massive hero of light (and named after Ultraman’s creator Eiji Tsuburaya, who’s also one of the co-creators of Godzilla), has been trying to expand their brand a lot internationally with several recent series, as well as upcoming series and video games, with a substantial amount of series and movies having been made available through Mill Creek Entertainment. There are select episodes of different Ultraman series on the Tsuburaya YouTube channel, but not all have English subtitles and as of right now you’re out of luck if you want to watch the entire run of one of those series on that channel. For those who’d rather be able to watch an entire series without having to worry about when it’s uploaded or taken down, a handful of different Ultraman series are available on either Crunchyroll or Amazon Prime Video with the Toku channel add-on or Toku’s streaming site itself. Both services have the following series:
- Ultraman Gaia
- Ultraman Ginga
- Ultraman Nexus
- Ultraman Orb
- Ultraman X
And these series are on the Toku add-on channel for Prime Video:
- Ultraman Cosmos
- Ultraman Zero
- Ultraman Mebius
- Ultraseven X
- Ultraman Leo
- Ultraman 80
- Neo Ultra Q,
- Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle
- The Ultraman (animated series)
Only two series are exclusively streaming on Crunchyroll, which are:
- Ultraman Geed (also available for purchase separately on Prime Video)
- Kaiju Girls (animated web series)
Additionally, Ultraman Leo and Ultraman 80 can be watched on Shout! Factory or Tubi TV, with Ultraman Max also available on the latter. Prime Video also has several other Ultraman series and even a few Ultraman movies available for purchase, which is noteworthy when compared to the nearly nonexistent official availability of the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai movies.
The original Ultraman series may have to be purchased on Amazon separate from a Prime Video subscription at the moment, the first season of the Ultraman anime, which is based on the manga of the same name and also serves as a sequel to the original series, is currently available on Netflix. Various Ultraman series and movies have also received English dubs over the years such as the 1966 dub of the original show, and the 4Kids dub of Ultraman Tiga. Unfortunately, the complete run of these dubbed series can be difficult to find and could use an official re-release. Additionally, the Tsuburaya YouTube channel also has the English dub of Ultra Galaxy Fight: New Generation Heroes miniseries, which serves as a spin-off of Ultraman R/B the Movie and a precursor to the Ultraman Taiga series. A Shin Ultraman movie produced by Hideaki Anno (Shin Godzilla, Neon Genesis Evangelion) is also currently in development.
Update: June 20, 2020: The most recent Ultraman series, Ultraman Z, airs on the official Tsuburaya YouTube channel and has English subtitles available. Episodes premiere on Friday nights and are up for two weeks until they’re taken down.
Update 7/10/2020: Shout Factory and Mill Creek have announced a distribution alliance agreement for a tom of Ultraman Properties including but not limited to: Ultra Q, Ultraman, Ultraseven, Return of Ultraman, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Taro, Ultraman Gaia, Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace, Ultraman Cosmos, Ultraman Nexus, Ultraman Max, Ultraman Mebius, Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers, Mega Monster Battle Ultra Galaxy: The Movie, Ultraman Saga, Ultraman Ginga, Ultraman Ginga S, Ultraman X, Ultraman Orb, Ultraman Geed, and more to be revealed.
A similar superhero also created by Tsuburaya has also been becoming more familiar to western audiences lately, and that is the virus-fighting hero, Gridman. Originally designed by Kazumitsu Akamatsu, the Gridman series Denkou Chojin Gridman, starts when three kids finish building their own computer (which they name “Junk”) while also creating their own digital superhero they name Gridman, and when monsters start wreaking havoc in the computer world causing computer systems to crash — thanks to the efforts of the evil mega virus Khan Digifer and his human ally Takeshi –, it is revealed that Gridman is actually an inter-dimensional patroller who has been pursuing Khan Digifer and that he must merge with main character Naoto to help fight against the mega virus and his monsters.
Gridman is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video with the Toku channel add-on. However, I do have to warn readers of the subtitle quality though, as there are many grammatical errors. Luckily, they’re still comprehensible enough to understand the basic plot of each episode.
Gridman also received an American adaptation in the 90s known as Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, which was produced by DiC Entertainment, Ultracom, and Tsuburaya. Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad was an American adaptation of Gridman. With producer DiC Entertainment under Tsuburaya’s supervision, most of the core story was able to remain the same, with new live-action segments being made with a North American audience in mind. It also featured Tim Curry as the voice of Kilokhan (Khan Digifer). As of writing, the show has not had an official complete series release other than two separate DVD volumes in 2013 released by Mill Creek Entertainment and currently out of print. You can also find out more about the production of the series in this SYFY Wire article.
SSSS.Gridman is a Japanese anime television adaptation of the original live-action series, however, it is not a reboot and is a new story that serves as something more akin to a continuation. It was a collaborative effort between Tsuburaya and Studio Trigger (as well as one of the best anime series of 2018 according to this writer and two 2018 Crunchyroll Awards nominations), who had previously worked together on the Denkou Choujin Gridman: boys invent great hero animated short for the Japan Animator Expo.
In SSSS.Gridman, high school student Yuta Hibiki wakes up one day with amnesia seeing and hearing possible hallucinations including a giant monster standing still in the distance, but when a voice from an old computer tells him to remember his purpose, the monster comes to life and Yuta is quickly pulled into the computer world before reappearing in the real world as Gridman.
SSSS.Gridman has both an English dubbed version as well as a Japanese version with English subtitles on Funimation Now, while Crunchyroll only has the Japanese version with English subtitles. SSSS.Gridman will also soon be getting a second series set in the same world called SSSS Dynazenon, which will highlight brand new characters as well as some Gridman characters that did not appear in the first anime series Well-known anime Youtuber Mother’s Basement also has a great video about the “realistic” animation featured in SSSS.Gridman
So that’s where Hideki Kamiya’s ideas for his “hero trilogy” originally came from. It may take more time before we get more information about Project G.G. or see the announcement of a Viewtiful Joe remaster, but in the meantime we can still watch the sources behind their inspiration and play through The Wonderful 101 Remastered on whichever modern platform we choose. Hopefully, in the future, these heroes become more popular internationally both through Kamiya’s work and through more official English subtitled releases. Who knows? Maybe a rise in popularity could inspire Kamiya to expand his “hero trilogy” even more in the future with the abundance of source material.
You can also tune in every Friday to listen to Erroll and his co-host Jason talk about Japanese video games like those featured here and more on Parallax’s own In From Japan Podcast! Available on Podbean, Spotify, and YouTube.