I don't know if anyone remembers, but I used to have two video tributes to Yoshida on my old YouTube account -- one, "Poe'nd," dedicated to his Shaider character, and "Birugenia Action," dedicated to his Kamen Rider Black character. I wasn't really happy with how either turned out (mainly due to song choices), so I thought I'd just write something about about him here instead of reuploading them.
Yoshida was born on October 17th, 1961 -- the son of longtime Toei producer Tooru Yoshida. Jun had a couple of small movie parts before landing Shaider. While he was one of the finalists for the actual role of Dai/Shaider, he eventually ended up with the part of Priest Poe. I've always thought Poe was an interesting character, and a lot of it has to do with what Yoshida brought to the role.
The whole theme for the villain group that Poe was part of in the show, the Fuuma, was "strangeness." The show would have odd filming techniques or bonkers scenes of deluxe WTF weirdness or would always be playing that damned earwormy theme song of theirs which lets their victims and the audience (of which I imagine many young viewers at the time considered themselves fellow victims) know they're comin'. A lot of the WTFness is just unexplained -- hey, they're the Strange Group. Deal with it. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the character of Poe. Poe's involvement early on pretty much just hinges on how creepily calm the character is and the weirdness that he's a dude dressed like a lady. We're never told that much about Poe, but -- there he is, dressed in a gown, right in the middle of the villains' lair, seemingly high in rank. Who is he? What's he about? In one of his first focus episodes, episode 24, he's given the background that he's really thousands of years old, his true face decomposed, and that he kidnaps beautiful women in order to perform a ritual and take their beauty, perpetuating his own beauty. It gets Naomi Morinaga's Annie more involved in a story, as Poe becomes obsessed with her. (Poe's true face, and the voice Yoshida uses in those moments, is pretty creepy. This part of the story gives off horror-ish vibes that I like, of course.)
|Poe's real face.|
(A lot of places still incorrectly refer to Poe as Kubilai's "grandson," when "granddaughter" is clearly spoken in the show. And, sure enough, Poe is listed with other toku villainesses in books like the Superheroine Chronicles.)
Four years after Shaider, Yoshida finds his way to Kamen Rider Black as Birugenia, the one-time contender of the King Stone who was so crazy he had to be sealed away. I'm a big, big fan of Birugenia. I think he's awesome, and the jolt the show needed, since he was the only really physically active villain until Shadow Moon woke up from his nappy-time. One reason I love Birugenia? He's like the Scott Evil of tokusatsu villains. A little more practical compared to the Golgom priests' typically convoluted and/or unbelievable plots.
Golgom priest: "We're going to lure Koutarou out by staging a mass kidnapping! First, our Buffalo Monster will infiltrate a school, where his lessons will contain subliminal messages that fester in kids' heads, and at night, when he plays his Song of Doom, it will activate the messages and tell them to seek out the Buffalo Monster, who will capture them, and we will then send a recorded message to Koutarou to come and give us the King Stone -- or else! And if that fails, we will try the subliminal message on Koutarou and coax him into giving us the King Stone!"
Birugenia: "Yeah, how about we just go kill him when he's on the crapper, dropping a Blackhole Message? It would be mighty easy to cut the King Stone from his dead body. Guys! Remember, you dug me up so you'd stop doing crap like this! You really think you can take over the world with necklaces that unleash bees? Gosh!"
Birugenia not only always kicks Black's ass and steals his motorcycle (he steals a Kamen Rider's motorcycle!), but he always hits him where it hurts -- not the random kid crying on the side of the road, but his family. I've always liked Birugenia more than Shadow Moon -- he's tough and at least does stuff! Even if he's not always successful, Birugenia's willing to put himself out there and dive into a fight. It's a shame that the show had to kill off Birugenia in favor of Shadow Moon -- why couldn't they keep both? Wouldn't it have been interesting for Birugenia to have been around when Shadow Moon was just standing there, doing nothing, waiting for the series to reach the end so he could have his final duel with Black? Why write off the ONLY villain who was active and regularly an actual obstacle and threat to Koutarou -- Shadow Moon just stood around all day like a paperweight and even when the Golgom priests got their upgrades, they weren't exactly brawling with Black.
But, Yoshida's good in the role. I couldn't believe when I first looked up Birugenia's actor and realized he was Poe. I'll still look at the two, and then at a picture of Yoshida, and can't picture them being the same person. He's either one amazing actor or someone took over his identity between Shaider and Black -- he's made two completely opposite characters, with two really dedicated performances, two everlasting characters -- a villain and villainess. Although he's made brief guest and voice appearances in a couple of other tokus, I think he definitely deserved a couple of other regular roles -- like, hey, where was a Sentai villain for him? (While he deserved a better show than Fiveman, I could easily picture him as Shubarie.) Still, for the two memorable, radically different characters he created, I name Jun Yoshida a Toku Legend.