Kamen Rider Hibiki was the fifteenth instalment in the popular Kamen Rider Series. It is a joint collaboration between Ishimori Productions and Toei. Kamen Rider Hibiki first aired on January 30th 2005 and aired its final 48th episode on January 22nd 2006. This series is noted for introducing new themes and styles yet unseen in other shows. The catchphrase for the series is “To us, there are heroes.”
The Kamen Riders, known as Oni, battle man-eating beasts called Makamou with “pure sound”. One of the Oni, a man named Hibiki, ends up having a “teacher-and-apprentice”-like relationship with Asumu Adachi. A young boy unsure of himself and is at a crossroads in his life as he transitions to high school, Asumu learns to be an adult through watching Hibiki and the other Oni as they all train together to hone their skills in fighting the Makamou and the homunculi aiding them. However, the sudden raise of Makamou numbers proves to be a prelude to an upcoming calamity.
Kamen Rider Hibiki began with Shigenori Takadera as the Toei producer, however, Shinichiro Shirakura, who though having participated in other Heisei Kamen Rider series, had no involvement whatsoever in the Hibiki production, was appointed producer of the movie Kamen Rider Hibiki and the Seven War Demons, eventually replacing Takadera in the TV production from episode 30. The writing staff also changed; Tsuyoshi Kida and Shinji Ooishi were replaced by Toshiki Inoue and Shouji Yonemura, who had worked with Shirakura in Sh15uya and other Heisei Kamen Rider series.
In addition, personalities such as Sensha Yoshida, a renowned manga artist; Hiroshi Yamamoto, a video-game designer; Masao Higashi, a seasoned television and movie critic; and many others published severe criticisms in their personal blogs because of this. Even the show’s star, Shigeki Hosokawa, who portrayed Hibiki, stated in his personal website that Inoue’s scripts “needed adjustments” and that this whole staff change was “fraudulent”. With the first production staff, Hosokawa would join the writers meetings and give suggestions, however Hosokawa could not give his opinion in the second production staff meetings due to time restraints.
In an interview published on TV Asahi’s main website, Hosokawa stated that the script for the final episode was rewritten on the final day of filming. He later said that the script was sent in so late that it arrived on set as the final battle was being filmed.
This finale was scrapped and then a new ending that, according to Hosokawa, was nothing like the intended ending, was filmed. Later in the interview, Hosokawa said that the Oni suit used by Kiriya was a kitbash of two new suits made especially for the characters of Asumu and Kiriya. Hosokawa said that this was the most upsetting change to him as the final script had been rewritten six times at that point and all but the filmed version contained both Asumu and Kiriya becoming Oni.
In January 2006, at the Kamen Rider Super Live, Hosokawa stated that the series was “essentially an incomplete process” and that “it should not have ended that way”. Mitsu Murata, who portrayed the Douji characters, declared on his blog: “I cannot forgive them, I want to continue his idea”, complaining about the removal of Takadera as producer. These declarations caused an unprecedented storm within the professional tokusatsu market and many of Toei’s executives were berated for allowing a series to be handled in such a manner.
There has never been any official statement from Toei, but many critics point out several facts might have caused it, the main reason being the low toy sales. It is not usual for a Toei production to have two different producers for the TV series and the movie. It is likely that a different producer was appointed for the movie because Toei was suffering from schedule problems with Takadera.
- Asumu’s opening narration at the start of every episode was removed.
- A new opening was introduced in episode 34 and following.
- The use of kanji being flashed on screen during scenes was removed altogether.
- The ending sequence was removed altogether.
- The characters of Kyousuke Kiriya and Shuki were introduced to the series.
- Originally Eiki and Shōki were both supposed to be main cast members, but had their parts completely removed.
- The fire breathing (Onibi) and the Oni claws (Onizume) abilities’ sequences were completely removed along with Ibuki opening his mouth for his attack. The Makamou that opened their mouths too wide or spurted liquids were also removed. There had been complaints about these sequences from parent advocacy groups who claimed that they scared children.
- Things as complicated-to-animate CG Makamou and shooting in mountains were almost entirely reduced probably due to cost issues, leading critics to believe that Takadera was forcefully removed from the project due to his unwillingness to change his script to adapt to these changes.