Snow Day

The Daimajin formula isn’t changed for this third entry: an oppressed town is enslaved by a corrupt ruler, the victims pray for help from their mountain god. Unlike the previous films, Wrath of Daimajin focuses on children who adventure through a mountainous region, looking to help their parents and brothers.

Instead of samurai action, Wrath of Daimajin plays like a Grimm fairy tale. There’s an elder woman warning the kids not to go, an all-seeing hawk protecting and watching over them, and not all survive in the end. It’s slower, morbid, and thematically dark, where the pressure isn’t on local leaders to find justice, rather grade schoolers determined to save their small village.

Wrath of Daimajin saunters along with ready-made heroes and villains

Wrath of Daimajin is more about scale and scope. Also, stubborn pacing that mistakes natural beauty for entertainment; the two are not equal. Akin to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, the camera soaks up wide grassy plains, treacherous slopes, and craggy rocks in natural locations. Gorgeous, but at the expense of character or theme. Wrath of Daimajin saunters along with ready-made heroes and villains, neither defined beyond that, and the child actors struggle in conveying their emotion. It’s a stubborn, sluggish effort, if visually distinct.

While the third act giant statue rampage doesn’t contain a memorable image like Return of Daimajin’s parting sea, the attack itself is sensational, the best of the lot. The wait was purely designed to deliver on this finale. Impeccable miniatures mix with brutal deaths, delivering on the title’s “wrath.” Lord Arakawa’s forces run from their sulfur slave camp, crushed underfoot, smashed by logs, squished by toppling buildings, and then stabbed by Daimajin’s sword.

It feels right given the adventure before, knowing Arakawa’s men were willing to kill and chase down the young to preserve their ways. Their heartlessness is matched by the vengeful god. While tonally dark, there’s a spirited quality derived from watching brave kids step up. That’s gone by the end, where only the ferociousness remains, Daimajin rising from underworld fire, stepping into what should be a gorgeous snowfall. Soon, it’s blood-stained, evil is eradicated, and peace restored. It’s almost exhausting, if a well-deserved punishment.

Video

On par with the work done on the other two films, Wrath of Daimajin sports pleasing color saturation, all natural, with a mild age. Perfect flesh tones and some vibrant primaries result from these recent masters. Sulfur near the slave camp layers the rocks, giving them small richness against the gray earth tones.

Set in the winter months, the snow makes an impact, brightening the images through the natural contrast. Black levels drift toward shadows without hitting the deepest levels, but do enough to establish image density and tone.

Encoding encounters a few rough spots, but otherwise handles the film’s inherent grain flawlessly. That allows texture to flow, and Wrath of Daimajin employs numerous wide shots of mountains and landscapes. Those look marvelous, and for matte painting fans, each brush stroke shows. Resolution is able to draw out the cinematography’s purity.

Audio

Drums within Akira Ifukube’s score survive into this digital era wonderfully – boomy and full as a ’60s era mono mix allows. Treble wobbles during the peaks, ultimately minor in a clear, precise vintage track. Balanced dialog contains the usual harshness expected, if menial to the overall track.

Extras

Johnathan Clements provides commentary on this one. Cinematographer Fujio Morita speaks on his career (Daimajin included of course) for nearly 90-minutes. Trailers and an image gallery come up as the finale.

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.

Wrath of Daimajin
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A children’s fable set during the samurai period, Wrath of Daimajin doesn’t tone itself down, sticking to formula while teaching a brutal lesson.

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