I finally had the opportunity to finish watching this one. Adapted Power Rangers-style from a Japanese series, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight succeeds where Saban’s Masked Rider failed, by faithfully adapting the concept, while reworking it with English actors and stories.
Additionally, the show has great special effects for a kids show (and some adult sci-fi shows) which even won it an Emmy, great fight scenes, and an epic storyline. So why haven’t they put this out on DVD yet?
[UPDATE: 2/12/2021: Had to use Dailymotion to get a decent video years after Vodpod was shut down. Let’s see how long this post stays up. Sorry about the subtitles. I found a version on YouTube where the video quality wasn’t as good and in three parts, so this is the best I can do as of this update.]
The “Kamen Rider” series is big in Japan. Based on a concept by Shotaro Ishinomori, Kamen Riders are people with the ability to transforms into superheroes. The original Kamen Rider design was based around insects, although current versions of the “Heisei“era of the series bear only a passing resemblance to their “ancestors” of the “Showa” era. Much like Godzilla, the designations refer to a point where the franchise ended for a period only to be rebooted later. I’ve never looked up the individual terms until now.
The original version of this show, Kamen Rider Ryuki, followed a similar story, but there are differences. In Ryuki, a bumbling journalist is drawn into something closer to the Highlander franchise, where the Riders battle each other and the winner getting a wish fulfilled. Not knowing this, but knowing that monsters were kidnapping people, Shinji Kido makes a contract with the dragon much like Kit did (although this particular dragon isn’t quite as friendly as Kit’s “Advent Beast”). You’ll see in the next episode (if you check out the series) how Kit ends up becoming Dragon Knight, but his is purely a battle of protecting the worlds of Earth and Ventara from an evil force.
Sadly, Victoria Jackson doesn’t appear after the earlier episodes. The other actors on the show, including the ones that come after, do a great job in their roles. Sometimes the effects are obvious but not a distraction if your caught up in the stories and battles. They must have done something right. Kamen Rider Dragon Knight even aired in Japan, where Ryuki apparently didn’t fare too well. (Based a passing comment on the Series Wikipedia page, so who knows. TV Tropes claims that the US version was a hit.) The show even received the first Daytime Emmy Award for Stunt Coordination.
So why is there no domestic release for the DVD? Wiki blames it on the series being canceled, with the last three episodes (a two-parter and epilogue) hosted at 4KidsTV.com. Where ratings bad? TV Tropes seemed to think so, but I can’t find the actual ratings. I would love to have this series on DVD. The only Kamen Rider show we get is a remake of the original. We’re really missing out on a great franchise, including one series that the US did right. At least for now, you can watch the on 4Kids’ website (at least domestically) and you really should.