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Kamen Ranger’s Ramblings: To Kill Or Not To Kill

Superheroes are something of a global constant at least if you take the term as broadly as possible and include mythical demi-gods like Hercules and Maui. However one thing that seems to divide the east and west is the “no kill rule” that many western heroes have that’s not so widely shared by their eastern counterparts.

That’s not to say that all Japanese heroes kill. Far from it. They’re not all Redman after all. However, from my outsider’s perspective it seems like much less of an issue than it is over in the west.

For example, let’s take Batman who has perhaps the most famous stance against killing. He’ll routinely be given impossible choices where his only options are kill or kill. Other times he’ll be lectured about how his rule puts more at risk or other times he’ll just brood and feel conflicted. Now Kamen Rider #1 on the other hand will happily kick his foes into oblivion rarely worrying about whether or not there’s an option b. In fact I can only recall one time he’s ever been anywhere near conflicted and that’s when he (ironically) reflects on the fact that Bat Man was once a human abducted by shocker like he was.

Now it’s hard to fault him feeling bad about killing his enemies these days since Hell in the Kamen Rider universe seems to have ditched the gates and gone for a revolving door. So even if he does kick Ikadevil into a disgusting squiddy mess he’ll be back in a few months anyway.

Another example is all the angst in Arrow regarding Green Arrow’s killing in season 1 and subsequent change of heart. While this seems fairly trite and dull in a western show it might be an interesting change of pace in something like Kamen Rider or Super Sentai rather than having the monsters be one note cannon fodder that our heroes murder without remorse.

Given the more recent push to recycle suits in Super Sentai and Kamen Rider it might be a good idea to flesh the monsters of the week out more and make them sympathetic so that the heroes have to reconsider blowing them up. Now of course I know that not every toku hero kills their enemies, Kamen Rider W just breaks the gaia memories for example but this is more of an exception than a rule.

 

I’m not actually sure which I prefer to be honest, on the one hand avoiding killing as much as possible and feeling conflicted about it seems more realistic but on the other hand blowing your enemies up seems to get the job done. The Joker terrorises Gotham on a weekly basis but Shocker at most only turns up once a year or so and rarely manages anything that causes any lasting damage. So there’s definitely something to be said of the practicality of kicking your villains to death.

I guess the best option would be a mix of both to prevent us from getting too used to either one side. I’m not calling for Batman to go full on Punisher or for Kamen Rider to suddenly start brooding about the morality of weaponised explosions but a little nuance would be nice here and there.

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