The Daimajin Trilogy (3-Disc Limited Edition)
(Miwa Takada, Yoshihiko Aoyama, Kojiro Hongo, Shiho Fujimura, Hideki Ninomiya, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2021 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: The Daimajin Trilogy saw Daieis Kyoto studios bringing its own iconic movie monster to life in a unique but short-lived series that transplants the Golem legend to Japans Warring States period of the late-16th century.
Blu-ray Verdict: In Daimajin (1966), directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (Yokai Monsters, Zatoichi on the Road), the young son and daughter of the benevolent feudal lord Hanabusa flee to the mountains when their parents are slain by the treacherous usurper Odate.
Ten years later, when the elderly priestess who has harbored them is also murdered, the rage of the slumbering ancient god that lies beneath the crumbling giant stone idol hidden deep in the forests in the mountains is invoked.
Daimajin represents something truly unique and original in the annals of cinema: the fusion of those two most quintessentially Japanese genres, the samurai period piece and the daikaiju eiga, or giant monster movie. More surprising than the juxtaposing of these two genres is that the film actually works quite well as an example of both.
For most of the runtime the movie belongs firmly in the first category, as it tells the story of a feudal lord violently overthrown by his scheming chamberlain Samanosuke, his childrens flight with their bodyguard, Kogenta, and their exile to the top of a nearby mountain said to hold an evil spirit, or Majin, sealed inside by an imposing statue of a god.
Ten years quickly pass as the children grow into adults and the new lord cruelly exploits his unwilling subjects.
When this finally becomes too much for the young prince to stand any longer, he and Kogenta begin preparations to start a rebellion and overthrow the evil Samanosuke.
Sadly, their plan goes badly from the start, and both are soon captured, leaving the princess with no allies and no way of rescuing our heroes - except for prayers to the angry god within the mountain.
Alright, the story is rather broad and predictably, but also quite compelling for all the care and skill with which it is told. The prince is as naive and cocky as they come, but in a relatable way.
Kogenta serves well as the dashing, slightly grim hero. And the princess is so beautiful, serene, and utterly selfless that you cannot help but sympathize with her plight.
The imposing Gomi Ryutaro makes an even stronger impression as the villainous Samanosuke, leering and hamming it up not quite to the point of cartoonishness, but enough that we really want to see him get whats coming to him.
In Return of Daimajin (1966), Kenji Misumi (Tale of Zatoichi, Lone Wolf and Cub) brings his usual stylistic flourish, as the wrathful deity is roused from his new home on an island in the middle of a lake by the violent incursions of a vicious warlord.
In the sequel, villagers defy an evil warlords order to turn over one of their protectors, Lord Juro (Kojiro Hongo), and end up seeing their people being brutally attacked by the warlord and his soldiers. As a result, the villagers pray upon Daimajin, the great stone god, to fight for them.
The plot, I thought, was not as suspenseful and solid as the original movie, as it has more of a general turn over your hero to us or we will screw your village over story line.
But, there is plenty of sword-wielding and good guy vs. bad guy action to keep the film engaging, and the nastiness of the villains will make you want to root for the god to awaken and teach them a lesson they will never forget (yet again!) - showing them that they should not mess with the faithful.
The acting was pretty good too, cinematography was brilliant and special effects were neat. Also, you really cannot go wrong having the great Akira Ifukube score the music soundtrack to this film (although much of the music is reused or reworked from the scores of past Toho films).
In the final film, Wrath of Daimajin (1966), by veteran jidaigeki director Kazuo Mori, four young boys make a perilous trip to elicit the help of the ancient mountain god in freeing their family members who have been enslaved by a tyrannical lord.
As noted, this is the third and the final installment of the awesome Daimajin trilogy, although the three stories are not connected in their plots.
Daimajin, the 50ft tall stone talisman with a spirit of deity residing within, as we know, turns mobile when the innocent people are oppressed to battle evil!
Four kids embark on a journey to rescue their father who is enslaved by an evil warlord in a place called Hells Valley. On their way they pass the mountain where Daimajin resides.
Daimajin sends a hawk to accompany the kids and to protect them, but when things goes badly for the kids, Daimajin turns his fierce face to the evil warlord.
The four kids are unusually resourceful, and gets around where even adults would find it a challenging situation, surviving in mountainous wilderness, and in a snow storm.
Daimajin awakes this time in a snow storm, and rest is a bad day for the evil warlord and his soldiers!
The production is not as good as the previous Daimajin movies, in my humble opinion, as the movie relies heavily on the acting ability of the four very young actors.
That said, they all put in a surprisingly good performance, but they are no Jody Foster in Taxi Driver, trust me!
The special effects are just as good though and it is, for sure one of the best 60s suitmation movies made! It is better, again, in my humble opinion, than the Gamera series done by the same studio around the same time. Not a masterpiece in any way, but a movie that still holds its own after nearly half a century! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation of the three Daimajin films
Lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio for all films
Optional English subtitles - Illustrated collectors 100 page book featuring new essays by Jonathan Clements, Keith Aiken, Ed Godziszewski, Raffael Coronelli, Erik Homenick, Robin Gatto and Kevin Derendorf
Postcards featuring the original Japanese artwork for all three films
Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank
DISC ONE â€“ DAIMAJIN
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese film expert Stuart Galbraith IV
Newly filmed introduction by critic Kim Newman
Bringing the Avenging God to Life, a brand new exclusive video essay about the special effects of the Daimajin films by Japanese film historian Ed Godziszewski
Alternate opening credits for the US release as Majin
The Monster of Terror
Trailers for the original Japanese and US releases
DISC TWO â€“ RETURN OF DAIMAJIN
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese film experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
My Summer Holidays with Daimajin, a newly filmed interview with Professor Yoneo Ota, director of the Toy Film Museum, Kyoto Film Art Culture Research Institute, about the production of the Daimajin films at Daiei Kyoto
From Storyboard to Screen: Bringing Return of Daimajin to Life, a comparison of several key scenes in Return of Daimajin with the original storyboards
Alternate opening credits for the US release as Return of the Giant Majin
Trailers for the original Japanese and US releases
DISC THREE â€“ WRATH OF DAIMAJIN
Brand new audio commentary by Asian historian Jonathan Clements
Interview with cinematographer Fujio Morita discussing his career at Daiei and his work on the Daimajin Trilogy
Trailers for the original Japanese release