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What “Henshin” Means to Me

February 3, 2010

“Henshin” is a Japanese term meaning “transformation,” which in most cases usually refers to a change or transformation of one’s physical body. It is commonly used in anime, manga, or tokusatsu dramas, and most commonly heard as the transformation call of people who play characters in Kamen Rider (Masked Rider) series.

What does this have to do with Games and Geekery? Well, a lot actually.

Before I got into video games, one of my best childhood memories was waiting for 6:00 P.M. to roll by every Saturday so I could watch dubbed versions of the 1987-88 television show Kamen Rider Black. It was one of my main forays into a world of heroes fighting a good fight, and it’s my introduction to the idea of a person given tremendous power choosing to do good with the power he was given, even if that power was forced upon him by an evil terrorist organization.

Now, I could go off on a tangent about how it’s a kids show, and how it’s a show meant to sell toys, but that’s not what this essay is about. Instead, I wanted to discuss what that one word, Henshin, meant to me.

I’m a firm believer of the ability of a person to change, not in the literal superhero sense, but in the emotional or psychological sense. It’s not about gaining strength, but in acquiring depth of insight. It’s not about power, but about how one chooses to use his gifts. Whenever I think of Henshin, I think about the potential of an individual to change, and even if we think we don’t see it often, it does happen.

Henshin is also about choice, and when one changes, one chooses how he changes, whether it’s a positive change or a negative one. For instance, I see it when I think of Syncaine these days, as he’s still the same individual he was before, only more considerate of others’ feelings. I see it when I think of how people helped each other during the worst storm in Metro Manila, or when people gave their all when Haiti fell into a state of calamity.

Of course, it also has its root in video games, as the games allow me to live out heroism on a different scale, but then, that’d be a write-up for a different day, I suppose.

Note: if you’re wondering why Kamen Rider sounds so familiar to American ears, it might be because there are American adaptations of Kamen Rider Ryuki, known as Kamen Rider Dragon Knight in the US, and Kamen Rider Black RX, known as Masked Rider (back in the 1990s).

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