Mana on the Menu

Japan is on edge by Gamera 3. It’s a country amid drastic change, besieged by legends, its monuments torched, its people fearful. Jets continually recon airspace. National debate courses through the government and TV news, dividing people about Gamera, and whether his presence represents peace or a threat.

In this circumstance is a young girl, Ayana (Ai Maeda), a smoldering torch seeking a forest, bullied and living with relatives after her parents were killed in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. Uncertainty strengthens Ayana. It gives her cause and purpose. Other people hate Gamera too, so she bonds to a force capable of defeating him – Iris.

Gamera 3 is almost too well written not to be planned out since since the 1995 original. Every theme and character arc crescendos here, logically, sensibly. Even lyrically, like a haunting high art tragedy. It’s the littlest things, like Osako (Yukijiro Hotaru) who redeems himself, finds his strength, and engages after being so rattled as to quit his inspector job in Gamera 2. Gamera as well, defending humans who chose to abandon him, a forgiving god who leaves Gamera 3 still determined to fight to the last. Finally, the people accept their role too, choosing to fight alongside Gamera rather than against.

Among the rich and nuanced lore, Gamera 3 spills over into masterful action

Director Shusuke Kaneko went on to helm 2001’s Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and the two films display a thematic synergy. Both condemn a younger generation for dismissing traditions, and refuting warning signs. In Gamera 3, it’s Ayana, ignoring a truth that ancient writings foretold, this on a selfish quest to avenge her loss.

Among the rich and nuanced lore, Gamera 3 spills over into masterful action, including a Shibuya attack representing this genre’s greatest effects output. There’s nothing better, whether in tone, unusually high visual casualties, or creatively precise compositions.

The action isn’t only here for display. Gamera 3 doesn’t rely on explosions and military shoot-outs. Those scenes segue into leering, judgmental commentary on humanity’s faults. Bringing in anime-like flourishes, Gamera 3 connects to Asian religions/myth concerning Earth energy, and how we abuse the privileges. Through each successive film, Gamera appears angrier, harsher, more distorted. The advancing look suggests an expanding irritation with Japan’s inability to accept reality.

Ayana relives her parent’s death early in Gamera 3. Looking helplessly from a car, she sees Gamera trample her home, but in her visions, Gamera doesn’t match the design from 1995 – it’s notably vicious, with protruding spikes, soulless eyes, and blackened skin. That’s what she sees. That’s what everyone who expresses dismay toward Gamera sees, not the truth, nor the guardian. The more people hate, the closer he comes to making those nightmares a certainty. Gamera’s an alarm, but only a threat if the timer hits zero.

Video

Visually renewed via a 4K scan, Arrow’s disc reaches impressively detailed highs. Sharpness betters any previous disc release. Expect resolution drops during the late ‘90s CG (composites or effects), but consistency proves stable. Facial definition routinely stands out, even with Gamera 3’s darker aesthetic. Grain fluctuations matter little as this encode readily spits out natural, organic images.

Splendid color saturation does cause some over warmth in flesh tones, but otherwise elevates primaries to a pleasing tier. Take the Shibuya attack, littered with signage, all glowing against a pure black night sky. Iris’ luminescence flashes in bundles, and beam weapons merge with explosions in wonderful synergy.

Critical black levels keep Gamera 3 dense, and at limited cost to shadow delineation; crush happens only a few times. Even with the tonal shift compared to the previous two movies, contrast still excels, gorgeously lit and bright where required.

Audio

Sadly another mix lacking low-end punch. Whether English dub or Japanese (5.1 or 2.0 offered for both), LFE effects lack range. An occasional blast resonates (say a rocket launch), but jet engines, monster footsteps, destruction, or other possibilities fizzle.

It’s a shame, because the spatial awareness is reference tier. All of the flying, gunshots, missiles, and debris fields naturally swell outward from the center. Aggressive positioning scales up action scenes. Iris’ tentacles whip about, and Gamera’s flame breath dashes between speakers.

Extras

Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski provide a detailed commentary track, with a “comical” track from Gamera & Iris on the second (taken from ADV’s DVD). August Ragone’s intros continue their quality here. A Testimony of 15 Years finishes on this disc, the final part a 134-minute documentary. Promoter of the DNA Tokusatsu display, Kaho Tsutsumi is interviewed for 10-minutes.

Daiei’s announcement conference comes in next, a short one-minute photo op interview afterward. Raw set footage runs nearly five minutes, set to music. There’s more such footage running 37-minutes in another bonus. Deleted scenes last 10-minutes. Effects outtakes, rehearsals too, run two minutes. Dubbing outtakes, trailers, and another stellar image gallery secure a perfect score.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Gamera 3 represents the kaiju genre’s pinnacle, both in delivering effects-driven action and deeply thematic storytelling.

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