A Better Alternative to Godzilla

DaimajinWhile searching the shelves of a local video store, I chanced upon the Daimajin boxed DVD set (Daimajin, Wrath of Daimajin, and Return of Daimajin).  I’m a moth drawn to unusual or older Japanese movies, a viewer that just can’t keep his eyes off the light of the television once the intro rolls onto the screen. The store got my 20 bucks and I got several hours of popcorn munching entertainment.

Daimajin isn’t a bad flick. If you’ve seen the original Godzilla, you kind of have an idea of what to expect from Daimajin: a big something squashes the pulp out of bad people. I prefer this story over a plot that involves a giant lizard punishing all of mankind for creating nuclear technologies. While Godzilla and Daimajin are fables (of a sort), Daimajin’s story is a little more personal.

Daimajin is set in a time when the gods and feudal bosses rule over village peasants that eke out a small farming existence; at anytime, a peasant can be ruined by the whims of the other two. I suppose it’s only natural, then, that a priest or priestess mediates, helping the peasants cope when nature ruins crops and feudal bosses become abusive. Both bad events occur in Daimajin.

What may work in Daimajin’s favor, making the movie interesting, is the feudal setting and the smaller scale of the story’s village–unlike a sprawling Tokyo city and most of Japan becoming a monster’s playground in the movie Godzilla. Gods and myths are somewhat credible components in Daimajin’s older agrarian culture; science just isn’t hanging around some corner, ready to explain why earthquakes swallow up a peasant’s cow. (I’ve always considered the radioactive lizard science to be far more incredulous, anyway.) A smaller village means fewer characters to involve the movie viewer in fewer troubles so that we mostly focus on Tadafumi and Kozasa, two of Daimajin’s protagonists.

While Daimajin’s story is interesting, I don’t think it is good enough to carry Wrath of Daimajin and Return of Daimajin. The suspense is gone and similar bad events occur in the sequels. The sequels’ directors, Kenji Misumi and Kazuo Mori, must come up with innovative ways to make Daimajin exciting to the viewer–just like when Godzilla fights a new monster with a new special power. At least, the popcorn was good.

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