Decked out in stone gray with a scowling jade-green war face, Majin is one of the most impressive of giant Japanese monster movie threats. This 60-foot statue come to life is an irresistible force, relentlessly driving ahead with the thundering echoes of his earthshaking steps. This unusual mix of the fantasy and samurai genres is found in these three monumental adventures set in the feudal past. In the first of the trilogy, this massive statue rising up out of the mountains contains the trapped spirit of a destructive god, or so goes the legend. An ambitious chamberlain plays on the peasants' fears to overthrow the peaceful lord and enforces an iron fist on his nation, but 10 years later he sends his soldiers to destroy the stone monolith. When Majin is finally roused by prayer and righteous anger, it proves to be an impressive figure, leaving the chamberlain's massive fort splinters and rubble in its wake while relentlessly hunting down the villain to deliver his poetic justice. Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda brings a stoic seriousness to these scenes, never once allowing them to slip into camp. If only his handling of the human drama were equally bold. The story of the royal heirs growing up in the shadow of Majin and planning their return to power is serviceable if conventional, but once Majin stirs at the 60-minute mark, the film roars to life for a destructive, ruthlessly satisfying conclusion. The title, Daimajin
, roughly translates to "Giant" or "Monster" Majin; the film is also known as Giant Majin
and Majin: Monster of Terror.
Return of Daimajin
The second of the Majin films is as much a loose remake as a sequel. Four kids from a peaceful mountain village trek over the forbidden Majin Mountain to reach the land of the tyrant king who has kidnapped and enslaved the men of their village, including their own fathers. This adventure takes the film out of the studio environs of the first film and into impressive mountain locations, but once again the meandering human adventure is merely a prelude to the wrath of Majin and his unstoppable march of vengeance. Despite the addition of these cute kids, director Issei Mori maintains the serious tone set in the first film; this really isn't kid stuff, despite a few moments of juvenile humor. After almost a decade of Godzilla films the Japanese film industry had perfected the use of scale and camera speed to turn the man in a monster suit into a towering threat on a grand scale. With the addition of the thundering echoes of his earthshaking steps and composer Akira Ifubuke's booming theme, Mori creates a truly impressive figure of Majin, the green-faced god who rises to administer his own brand of grim justice.
Wrath of Daimajin
A brutal warlord tries to stop the flow of refugees fleeing his kingdom by conquering his neighbors, but when he chases an escaped prince into the peaceful lakeside refuge of the worshippers of Majin (located on the island in the center of the lake), he is cursed by the prince's dying father. Taking no chances, the warlord sends his men to destroy the icon with explosives and succeeds in turning the stone monolith to rubble, but it takes more than gunpowder to destroy a god. Director Kenji Misume, easily the most accomplished of the three Daimajin directors, sets the exciting adventure of avenging young Prince Jaro and loyal Lady Suyori (keeper of Majin) at a rapid pace, building to a peak for the inevitable entrance of Majin, who dramatically parts the waters. With obviously limited resources, Misume gives a near-epic look to the film with impressive set pieces (a boat of soldiers is sucked under the churning waters of the lake, a courtyard is transformed into the site of a mass public execution) without slighting his human characters--the sacrifices of Majin's followers become unexpectedly poignant moments and receive their cinematic mourning in Lady Suyori's tears. Every element comes together to create the peak of the series, an exciting and involving tale on a grand scale. --Sean Axmaker