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Arrow Video Presents Daimajin Trilogy: Part Samurai, Part Kaiju, All Fun

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Damaijin

Arrow Video finally brings to Blu-ray the DAIMAJIN films. All shot in 1966 and produced by Daiei’s Kyoto studios, these films brought together two of Japan’s most popular film genres at the time: the samurai films in the vein of Zatoichi, and the giant monster kaiju films ala Godzilla and Gamera.

All three Daimajin movies are presented in this single boxed set (that has been long overdue for a Blu-ray release in America) and this will be the first time ever this short-lived series will be available to be viewed in the UK.

Daimajin, directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda, is the first film of the series and sets the tone for what to expect throughout the franchise. When ruling warlords oppress their peasants to the point of total helplessness, the people revolt against them. They ultimately turn to the supernatural for help, a slumbering ancient god who lies beneath the crumbling giant stone idol hidden deep in the forested mountains.

Return of Daimajin, directed by Kenji Misumi, brings another tale of feudal Japan. The wrathful deity is roused from his new home on an island in the middle of a lake through the violent incursions of another vicious warlord, and awakens to liberate the peasants and bring justice to the villagers.

Wrath of Daimajin, by director Kazuo Mori, tells the story of four young boys on a perilous journey to beseech the ancient mountain god to free their family members who have been enslaved by another tyrannical warlord.

Borrowing the time-tested tales of such films as the 1920’s film The Golem: How He Came into the World, the Daimajin series all follow the same outline and act structure. Set up a story of oppression, and when all hope seems lost, a supernatural force answers the prayers of those who have been done wrong and serves long overdue justice in the final act.

These films are more of a samurai drama tale than a kaiju film, because the Daimajin only appears in the last act of the films. Slowly building the drama and tensions makes you feel for the characters as they victimized throughout the plot, and makes the payoff in the last act that much more enjoyable, rather than seeing the monster throughout the whole movie. That, in turn, let the filmmakers fine tune the special effects and make them as spectacular as they could be for the fifteen or so minutes the Daimajin is on screen. If you are the kind of viewer who only enjoys seeing a giant monster tearing up a city and punishing evil doers, then skip ahead to the final acts of each film. If you enjoy dramatic samurai tales of lords and peasants, warlords and common heroes, then the first two acts are right up your alley.

Arrow Video absolutely packed this box set with as many features as they could, including:

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  • High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the three Daimajin films
  • Lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio for all films
  • Optional English subtitles - Illustrated collector’s 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 – 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
  • Image gallery

DISC TWO – 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
  • Image gallery

DISC THREE – 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
  • Image Gallery

All three films are slow burns to get to the ultimate payoff and justice of the final acts, but it’s a ride that is well worth the wait. I suggest watching each one as close to back-to-back as you can to see each director's spin on the Daimajin lore, and see how they take the different settings and fully immerse the viewer in each tale. Each film is its own self-contained tale, and the last two films should not be considered as sequels as each film has nothing to do with the others; the only common bond is the god-like Daimajin that comes to them when they most need him.

 

Daimajin 2.5/5.0

Return of Daimajin 4.0/5.0

Wrath of Daimajin 3.0/5.0

Box set score overall 3.5/5.0

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0