Tokusatsu Legend Toru Hirayama Passes Away

Disposable Henchman snapped Hirayama (right) and Toru Okazaki (left), aka Kamen Rider Amazon, at Super Festival 53 in 2010.

Disposable Henchman snapped Hirayama (right) and Toru Okazaki (left), aka Kamen Rider Amazon, at Super Festival 53 in 2010.

Behind every mask, there is a hero. And behind every hero, there is a great producer. Toru Hirayama, the legendary producer who helped transform Kamen Rider and Super Sentai Rangers from the pages of Shotaro Ishinomori’s manga to the screen, passed away from heart failure this Wednesday at the age of 84.

Hirayama began his 35-year career at Toei in 1964 where he learned the ropes working behind the scenes on historical samurai dramas. In 1969 he served as a planner on Judo Ichokusen, a martial arts series that launched combatants from off-screen trampolines to execute ridiculous killer moves. He borrowed the gimmick for his next show--Kamen Rider--and Japan’s superheroes have been soaring through the air without the assistance of capes ever since. 

The choreographed swordplay from period pieces carried over as well. He pushed to implement kata--set patterns of movement--into all aspects of the show. Next time you see Nyaruko bust a swag Rider pose, take a moment to thank the pioneer.

After retiring from Toei in 1990, Hirayama went on to become CEO of Red Entertainment Deliver Corporation, a production company that specializes in tokusatsu action, where he dedicated his remaining days to raising the next generation of action stars.

Hirayama loved his fans and would never hesitate to agree to an interview or event appearance. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at Super Festival, a toy swap meet in Tokyo, where he was all smiles as he recounted kaiju wardrobe malfunctions (mecha-gorillas nearly falling from gondolas) and which Rider was the biggest ladykiller. (Amazon, for the record.)

If your life has been touched by his works, join us as we strike a henshin pose in his memory!