Daimajin

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Daimajin, "great demon god" (大魔神) is the titular character from the Daimajin trilogy created by Daiei. All three movies in the trilogy — Daimajin, Return of Daimajin (Daimajin ikaru), and Wrath of Daimajin (Daimajin gyakushu) — were made in 1966 and were released months apart. Daimajin Kanon, a new television drama based on the films, premiered in Japan in 2010. It features a new Daimajin and takes place in modern-day Japan. Daimajin is a spirit who takes the form of a giant statue as a corporeal form. Daimajin appears to those who need his help and does not cease his crusade until peace has been achieved.

Daimajin[edit]

The movie opens with a household of peasants cowering during a series of earth tremors that are interpreted as the escape attempts of Daimajin, a spirit trapped within the mountain. The village gathers at their shrine. This is observed by the local feudal boss, Lord Hanabasa, a good and just man. It is also observed by his treacherous chamberlain, Samanosuke (Yutaro Gomi). Samanosuke has been waiting for just such a diversion to stage a coup d'état.

As the villagers pray, Samanosuke and his henchmen slaughter Hanabasa and his wife, but their son and daughter escape, aided by the heroic samurai Kogenta (Jun Fujimaki). Back at the shrine, Samanosuke's men break up the meeting, forbidding all such gatherings in the future. The priestess issues a dire warning, but the men ignore her.

Discouraged, the priestess, Shinobu, goes home, only to find Kogenta and the two children. She takes them up the side of the mountain into forbidden territory, where the stone idol which is Daimajin stands, half-buried into the side of the mountain. Near this idol is an ancient temple - safe as only Shinobu knows of its existence.

The children grow to adulthood. The son, Tadafumi (Yoshihiko Aoyama) reaches his 18th birthday. The years have been miserable on the villagers. Samanosuke is a brutal leader who is using every man in the starving village as slave labor. The place is ripe for revolution and surviving Hanabasa retainers are starting to return.

Kogenta journeys to the village to try to gather the old retainers, but gets himself captured. A boy gets word to Tadafumi and his sister, Kozasa (Miwa Takada) that their friend is a prisoner. Tadafumi tries to rescue him, only to discover it's a trap. With both awaiting execution, Shinobu tries to talk to the tyrant, who is drinking too much and becomes incensed at all this talk of the god of the mountain; he murders the priestess and orders the idol demolished.

The crew that travels up the mountain to smash Daimajin accidentally discovers Kozasa and force her to take them to the idol. The soldiers bring out an enormous chisel and proceed to hammer it into Daimajin's head; they stop when they see blood beginning to drip from the statue. Horrified, the men attempt to flee, but the earth cracks open and swallows them.

Kozasa begs Daimajin to save her brother and punish the wicked Samanosuke. At the fortress, Tadafumi and Kogenta are tied to large crosses, awaiting their fates. Kozasa offers her life to Daimajin and attempts to throw herself over the nearby waterfall, but the rock and earth covering the lower half of the idol falls away, and it walks out into the clearing. Kozasa prostrates herself before it, as the stone mask disappears, revealing the true face of Daimajin, a vengeful spirit resembling that of a grotesque shogun.

Daimajin goes to Samonosuke's stronghold, which he destroys. After impaling Samanosuke with the chisel from his forehead, Daimajin now turns its wrath upon everyone in sight. Only Kozasa, once more offering her life and letting her teardrops fall on his stone feet, stops its rampage. The spirit leaves the statue, flying away. It collapses into a heap of rubble.

Original release date: 17 April 1966. Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda.

Also known as Majin (literal English title), Majin the Monster of Terror (as released in the U.S. by American International Television), and Majin the Hideous Idol (Daiei's international sales title).

Return of Daimajin (Daimajin ikaru)[edit]

In The Return of Daimajin, the second film in the trilogy, Daimajin has taken up residence on an island in the middle of a lake. The lake is surrounded by two peaceful villages, Chigusa and Nagoshi.

Near these two villages, but not bordering the lake, is another village. Ruled by an evil lord, the citizens flee to Chigusa as often as they can and make their way there, where the lords are only too happy to take in the refugees. One day the evil lord decides to take over the two villages, and he sees a window of opportunity in a festival that is held every year.

The heroes end up on the run as the villains chase them. People keep ending up back on the island with the statue. Eventually, the evil lord has his men shatter the statue with a large amount of gunpowder. Daimajin's shattered remains end up at the bottom of the lake. True to the samurai formula is the amount of melodrama in Return of Daimajin. Occasionally something paranormal happens, but such occurrences are met rather indifferently. In the final fifteen minutes of the film, Daimajin finally comes to life and, like his predecessor, inflicts serious damage upon the evil lord and the surrounding landscape.

Original release date: 13 August 1966. Directed by Kenji Misumi.

Also known as Wrath of Daimajin (A.D. Vision (this was a mistake on their part)), Majin Grows Angry (literal English title), The Return of the Giant Majin (as released in the U.S. by American International Television), and The Return of Majin (international English title)

Wrath of Daimajin or Daimajin Strikes Again (Daimajin gyakushu)[edit]

In the third and final film, the same statue from the first two movies is on top of a mountain rather than on the side. The fathers of some of the local children have been captured by an evil warlord and forced to work in their labor camps. When the four sons decide to go out and save their fathers, they have to cross Daimajin Mountain, where the stone god lays sleeping, a notoriously dangerous area full of treacherous terrain, evil samurai, and the angry Daimajin. The four boys are smart enough to pay their respects to the statue when they pass it so that they do not incur the monster's wrath.

Eventually, the warlord's men anger the statue, who once again comes to life and destroys all those who have not been paying respect to him. The children and their fathers are spared while the work camp is destroyed.

This film is different, politically, from the first two in that Daimajin is awakened by the pleas of a poor, rural boy rather than by someone of rank, and fights to rescue and avenge common people. None of the heroes in this film are of noble rank, unlike the first two, in which the main protagonists were members of deposed noble families. This proves that Daimajin only takes side with commoners and is made clear when he kills castle retainers who, though unaffiliated with the villains, are indifferent to the commoners' peril.

Also noteworthy is that this final film in the trilogy very much parallels the Gamera series (also by Daiei) in which the titular monster forms a bond with young children.

Original release date: 10 December 1966. Directed by Kazuo Mori.

Also known as Return of Daimajin (A.D. Vision (again, this was a mistake)), Majin's Counterattack (literal English title), The Revenge of Majin (international English title), and Majin Strikes Again (informal English title that probably would have been used if AIP-TV had released it in the U.S.(which was never done))

DVD releases[edit]

ADV Films

  • Released: October 22, 2002
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen (non-anamorphic)
  • Sound: Japanese w/ English subtitles
  • Region 1
  • Note: The Complete Daimajin trilogy box set; contains all three films.

ADV Films

  • Released: February 1, 2005
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen (anamorphic)
  • Sound: Japanese w/ English subtitles
  • Region 1
  • Note: Individual releases. Daimajin and Return of Daimajin feature their original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratios. Wrath of Daimajin has been cropped from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to 1.85:1.

Image Entertainment

  • Released: January 9, 2007
  • Aspect Ratio: Fullscreen (1.33:1)
  • Sound: English
  • Region 1
  • Note: Single-disc double feature; contains the original AIP-TV versions Majin the Monster of Terror and The Return of the Giant Majin. Both films are cropped from their original 2.35:1 aspect ratios to 1.33:1 (full screen).

Blu-Ray releases[edit]

Mill Creek Entertainment [1]

  • Released: September 18, 2012
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen (anamorphic)
  • Sound: Japanese and English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Extras:
  • Daimajin: Behind the Scenes (28:13)
  • Return of Daimajin: Behind the Scenes (31:04)
  • Daimajin Strikes Again: Behind the Scenes (28:21)
  • Daimajin Trailer (2:31)
  • Return of Daimajin Trailer (1:53)
  • Daimajin Strikes Again Trailer (2:24)
  • Note: The box set contains all three films (Daimajin / Return of Daimajin / Daimajin Strikes Again) on two 50GB Blu-ray discs. The first two films are the AIP-TV dubs, while the third was a newly created dub.

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