Villains from the Mikoshiba province, led by their lord Danjo (Takashi Kanda), plan on executing their rival’s children. They ties kids to posts, as if to demonstrate how far they’ll go in conquering the good in this world.
The fear in Return of Daimajin stems from refugees. Mikoshiba suffers, a village sandwiched between mountains, blocking access to the local waters. They send their own under cover, overtaking a nearby town, creating a scenario not unlike Japan’s (then recent) wartime experience. There’s an uneasiness about an enemy within, how no one is trustworthy, and everyone is out for themselves.
Interestingly, although steeped in Japanese historical lore, Return of Daimajin favors a Christian perspective. Where Daimajin suggested a feeling of cultural loss, the sequel leans into the idea further by mimicking biblical epics, notably a sea parting as the angered god statue begins a rampage. Mikoshiba pins their victims to crosses in a cruel retaliatory visual, while Danjo smugly rejects the idea of living stone idols.
The trio of Daimajin films vary little at their core; Return of Daimajin sticks with oppression and feuding samurai. Visually though, they differentiate themselves. Rather than land-locked, Return of Daimajin often takes to the water; it’s a symbolic touch that is part of the story as much as a harbinger of peace. Water douses flames set by Danjo’s command, it allows Daimajin to be reborn (another Christian element), and provides an escape to the heroes. What causes the invasion becomes evil’s undoing, an interesting, engaging story loop.
Consistent performers across each movie, Return of Daimajin excels in visual effects, that third act rampage iconic for a satisfying send-off. The cruel plot conquered and heroes saved isn’t unusual, but the methodology seems so pure, even with the persecution. Majin smashes someone with a rock, sets another ablaze during their escape, and generally devastates the local infrastructure. This is a fair god, but not a gentle being given he smashes homes and structures, the oppressed left with nothing when he leaves. It’s a message that people need to sort things out on their own, because their savior only interferes at the final second.
While on the dustier side in comparison to Daimajin, the print is typically sparkling. There’s no damage, just the minimal dirt, and the grain structure is preserved perfectly by the encode. That lets the scan show elaborate details from a source that isn’t inherently sharp. Definition dominates, both facial and costume textures notable. Gorgeous scenery sets the period and creates opportunity for the master to show its best elements.
What black levels lack in firmness, they still manage to bring necessary depth to the imagery. Shadows have enough strength to suffice. Return of Daimajin carries reasonable brightness, lively enough, and revealing little if any fading from age.
Naturally elevated color gives zip to flames, sunsets, and occasional costumes. Daimajin’s red glowing face looks great, and the same goes for the deep greens when he awakes. Attractive, without being overtly so.
Akira Ifukube’s score wanes a bit in treble terms. Horn sections erode over time, lacking the firmness they likely once had. That’s hardly a complaint, and typical for the era. Clarity remains strong. Likewise, dialog functions the same, crisp enough and satisfying.
Jasper Sharp and Tom Mes join for the commentary. The Toy Film Mueum’s director Professor Yoneo Ota speaks on the three films for over a half hour. Alternate US credits, trailers (including a US TV spot), storyboards, and an image gallery conclude this disc.
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Return of Daimajin
While following tightly the formula, Return of Daimajin finds a unique Christian angle that segues perfectly from the first film.
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