Arrow Video’s The Daimajin Trilogy awakens the dormant giant with a massive Blu-ray collection for the celebrated Japanese series. Offering a combination of feudal Japan samurai flick with supernatural kaiju destruction the three films in the overlooked series were ambitious efforts to compete with other monster movies of the mid-1960s. Arrow Video has provided all three Daimajin films with an impressive A/V package, new special features, and packaging worth displaying in your collection. For fans of the celebrated films and those seeking out new kaiju-related films look no further than this release from Arrow Video. Highly Recommended.
In 1966 Daiei Studios simultaneously produced three films featuring a giant golem in heavy Samurai armor hoping to compete with the kaiju films dominating the market. Daimajin, Return of Daimajin, and Wrath of Daimajin feature an angry warrior god transforming from a statue form into a vengeful warrior bringing wrath to those who upset the balance of peace. The Daimajin Trilogy never achieved the raw power of the Toho Godzilla films or the campy silliness of the Gamera series but stands on their own as overlooked gems. All three films were produced with different directors shooting the films simultaneously at a time when television was gaining a foothold on audiences. Ramping up the release schedule allowed studio Daiei to generate plenty of buzz for this ambitious series.
Daimajin opens in feudal Japan where warlord Samanosuke (Ryûtarô Gomi) has seized control of a village and enslaved its people. The ground trembles evoking thoughts of the angry god Majin who is trapped in a statue in the nearby mountainside. Samanosuke kills the village ruler Lord Hanabusa (Yoshihiko Aoyama) and takes complete control of the village. The brave warrior Kogenta (Jun Fujimaki) rescues Hanabusa's children and takes them to a cave on the mountain near the Majin statue. A decade passes in the isolated caves. The children are now yearning to free the villagers and stop Samanosuke from expanding his empire to the capital. When Kogenta is captured a priestess warns Samanosuke if he doesn’t change his evil ways the god will punish him. As expected the evil warlord doesn’t care and eventually bears the wrath of Majin.
Majin arrives and we’re treated to mass destruction from the giant statue god. The monstrous entity fulfills the desire of those looking for kaiju wrath. Everything looks well presented in scale and function allowing the big action scenes to play out nicely. Even with HD quality, the angry god looks well detailed and never looks out of place. Daimajin takes its time to build the story and characters, making the appearance of the monstrosity even more exciting. Performances are engaging, the cinematography is beautifully lit with vibrant colors, and effects never appear badly dated.
In Return of Daimajin, the prosperous countries of Chigusa and Nagoshi are separated by a lake with an island at the center for their god’s statue. The mountainous Mikoshiba country nearby suffers from a lack of resources to care for its people so most of them flee to the lakeside countries. To combat this exile the cruel rulers of the mountain territory are planning to attack the other countries during a peace ceremony. When Nagoshi villagers pray to the Majin statue they witness the idol’s face turn red foretelling a prophecy that soon their village will be destroyed. Naturally, the evildoers ransack villages, take prisoners, and eventually blow the Majin statue apart with explosives. Like the T-1000 from Terminator 2, Majin reassembles himself and parts the waters like Moses to save a crucified girl and defeat the forces of evil.
Like most sequels, this one doesn’t offer anything new but gives you more of what you liked from the first installment. Here the baddies once again take over a village and anger Majin before the statue rises up. Characters are interesting and the cinematography looks brilliant with vibrant colors and elaborate set pieces for the intense action scenes. Miniature work on the Majin battle scenes are rendered perfectly against the lumbering giant. While it takes some time to get through the villagers battling against the warlords once Majin arrives it's totally worth it.
Wrath of Daimajin opens with a series of natural disasters utilizing some impressive miniature work. Villagers believe an angry Majin is causing the havoc bent on destroying the villagers. The evil Lord Arakawa (Tôru Abe) in Hell’s Valley is enslaving villagers to work his sulfur mines. There will be no rescue party sent to Hell’s Valley as the oncoming snowfall could mean certain death. The only way through the valley is to cross Majin’s Mountain which is home to the angry warrior god. Four spunky kids secretly make the difficult journey to save the enslaved villagers. When all seems lost a prayer for Majin’s help and forgiveness awakens the statue god in the midst of a fiery blizzard bringing a torrent of absolute destruction.
The emotional stakes in Wrath of Daimajin are much higher than the other two films. While it seems the film will be a silly children’s adventure saga the tone changes quickly once the kids are met with true danger. Featuring a drawn-out sulfur pool death scene and a child sacrificing himself, we're given the most devastating moments in the trilogy that don’t involve the statue god. Majin’s vengeance though is brought upon the evildoers with more creative fervor and cruelty than before. Burning sulfur and the liberal use of his giant sword produces plenty of bloody good death scenes offering a nice balance to the proceedings.
I am constantly impressed with the practical effects and miniature work on these films! It’s easy to dismiss them considering their similar plotlines but their production quality is outstanding. While Toho’s Godzilla films had plenty of destruction and huge model sets built for chaos, here Daimajin’s sets aren’t laughable models but rather fully realized stages for the climactic battle scenes. Crashing boulders, floodwaters, and buildings are developed and presented in scope and scale worthy of a feature ten times its budget. Wrath of Daimajin seems less of a retread than Return of Daimajin but when viewed together the three films blend into one amazing supernatural feudal Chanbara series.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Arrow Video unleashes the angry Majin on Blu-ray in The Daimajin Trilogy box set. Daimajin, Return of Daimajin, and Wrath of Daimajin are each pressed onto Region A BD-50 discs and housed in transparent keep cases with reversible artwork. Inside each case is a postcard featuring the original Japanese artwork and an additional Arrow Video ad card featuring artwork from another release title. Included in the massive box is a beautifully illustrated 100-page collector’s booklet filled with essays. Blu-ray sleeves and the box itself feature new artwork by Matt Frank. Each disc loads the Arrow Video logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing over typical navigation options.
The Daimajin Trilogy from Arrow Video arrives on Blu-ray with three AVC encoded discs in 1080p each with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Image quality is impressive with plenty of dynamic primaries and fine detail present. Colors are warm and well balanced offering the best home video presentation to date of the three films. Closeups and medium shots offer plenty of fine detail though soft lensing for dramatic moments is utilized quite a bit to heighten emotional and stylized moments. Specks, dirt, and age related wear are present on all three films but never distract from the presentation or muddy the experience. Grain is strong and film-like though it becomes quite heavy during the composited battle sequences with Majin.
Optical and composite effects used during the Majin battle sequences are nicely presented here keeping the spirit of the productions intact. A noticeable change in image quality is reflected here signifying the magnitude of the production and its limitations in 1966. Seams over composited elements, grian levels, and some focus issues are present but the sheer ambition and detail of the production renders these a minor and forgettable presence in the film.
Diamajin and Return of Daimajin offer similar HD presentations in regard to clarity, depth, and color. However, an uptick in color presentation on Wrath of Daimajin produces a bright and dynamic presentation making this the best A/V package of the three films. Specks and occasional dirt show up but this is by far the cleanest HD image in the box set. Yellows from the sulfur mining operation are bright and pierce the slate gray mountain landscape offering an initial hint at the impressive image quality for the remainder of the feature.
Those holding on to their 2012 Mill Creek Daimajin Triple Feature box set should consider upgrading to this one from Arrow Video. Color stabilization, depth, contrast ratio, and fine detail are much better here making it a worthwhile upgrade for fans of the series.
The Daimajin Trilogy arrives on Arrow Video Blu-ray with DTS-HD MA lossless Mono audio tracks in both Japanese and English for all three films. English subtitles are provided for each film. The LPCM audio is clear and clear without any trace of hiss or pop detected. Levels are balanced nicely offering a pleasing experience.
Japanese tracks offer more depth to the dialogue recordings rendering the exchanges somewhat more fulfilling than the English tracks. Audio across the board on Wrath of Diamajin is by far the best of the films with both Japanese and English tracks providing a bright and crisp presentation.
As expected Arrow Video supplies a bevy of special features to fill out this impressive release. In addition to a 100-page booklet, each film receives a commentary, new featurettes, and loads of trailers and production image galleries. Start with the introduction from critic Kim Newman then move onto the interviews before checking out the interesting commentary tracks.
Return of Daimajin
Wrath of Daimajin
Arrow Video’s The Daimajin Trilogy awakens the dormant giant with an impressive Blu-ray collection for the celebrated Japanese series. While the films don’t have the staying power of giant radioactive lizards or comical kaiju, these films are infused with enough supernatural elements to please fans of monster flicks while also providing some damn good storytelling, cinematography, and special effects work. Having never seen these films before reviewing this box set I consider myself a new fan and look forward to rewatching these again.
Arrow Video’s box set is a massive statement offering not only impressive A/V presentations for all three films, but also a slew of new interviews and segments with a beautiful box worth displaying. Those with previous home video versions should consider upgrading for the uptick in image quality, special features, and the stunning packaging. For fans of the films and those interested in seeking out more awe inspiring kaiju films look no further than The Daimajin Trilogy from Arrow Video. Highly Recommended.