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Henshin (変身) is the Japanese phrase for "transformation." It is also a popular superhero genre prevalent in Japanese media, in both tokusatsu and anime.


In tokusatsu

Screen shot from "Jinzo Ningen Kikaider", a Japanese Henshin show Screen shot from "Jinzo Ningen Kikaider", a Japanese Henshin show

"Henshin Heroes," usually produced by Toei Company Ltd., is a superhero genre about a person or persons with certain powers that he/she/they use to fight evil and/or corruption. The standard was set by the Japanese superhero Kamen Rider (AKA: Masked Rider) in 1971. In that show, the hero transforms by striking a specific pose with a specific word, usually "Henshin" (Japanese for "transform"). After the success of Kamen Rider, there were many sequels as well as scores of imitations, which had heroes similarly pose to transform or attack. Some of those popular imitations were created by Kamen Rider's creator Shotaro Ishinomori, which include Android Kikaider, Inazuman and even Himitsu Sentai Goranger, the first of the "Sentai" Series. A (Super) Sentai is a fighting team of typically five members, with sometimes with a mixed gender lineup.

However, not all "henshin" style superheroes are produced by Toei. Some other "henshin" style superheroes produced by other companies are Toho's Rainbowman, Viewtiful Joe, Meteor Man Zone and the more recent Sei Shin series.

In much of Henshin drama, there is a group or syndicate of villains that create and send out monsters to fight the protagonists. The identity of the villains is sometimes known by the fighters, demons from another plane, or even total strangers that the protagonists encounter.

Much henshin involves a transformation sequence, and among American otaku the terms are synonymous. This is a very special part that involves the hero striking a series of poses, or saying a transformation word. Kamen Rider, for example, just says "henshin" while Viewtiful Joe says "Henshin a go-go, baby!" or sometimes "Henshin around!" in the first Viewtiful Joe game. This pose and recitation comes about mid-episode, and is crucial to the destruction of the monster. A special attack is commonly used.

In anime and manga

In anime, henshin are often depicted with lavish (but ultimately money-saving) stock footage and lots of special effects. Usually the sequence is identical and is repeated every episode. Cutey Honey is thought to have established the infamous naked henshin sequence often depicted with magical girls, in particular. The 'naughty' tongue-in-cheek sexual humour of Cutey Honey is underlined by her use of the word 'kawaru wa yo' in place of the usual Henshin-formula. Kawaru wa yo is a phrase which a Japanese girl might say to a sexual partner, roughly translating to 'shall I take my clothes off'?

In series outside of Japan

Animated television series

Ben 10
Winx Club
One of the Action Man spin-offs

Comic book

  • Witch

Live Action

Power Rangers
VR Troopers


The video game Viewtiful Joe, released by Capcom in 2003, is a tribute to (and parody of) the genre.
Although some speculate that the "Henshin pose" originates from kabuki or cheerleading, the original inspiration is unclear.
Alternatives to "Henshin" include "Souchaku" (meaning equip) and "Chenji" (an Engrish pronunciation of change). "Henshin" is usually associated with Kamen Rider, while "Souchaku" is associated with the recent Chouseishin Series.

External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.