director Kenji Misumi
Lucky for fans, the Return of Daimajin hit theaters four months after the first one. Interestingly, as kindred as the Return is to the original Daimajin (1966), it’s actually also kind of totally unrelated.
Like in the first film, the giant statue of the god comes to life to wreak vengeance on cruel bad guys, but this statue was located on a mountain on an island in a lake. And the vengeance he seeks is against an invading kingdom who has come to steal the wealth of the two lakeside kingdoms. These kingdoms worship their giant stone warrior god very ardently.
Really, that is one aspect of these films. There is a very strong current of religiosity, prayer, and ultimately deliverance by the divine ruthless giant. I suppose that in other kaiju films where the monsters are good and people are calling to them to save them from whatever catastrophe (usually another kaiju), you could make the case that they are also sort of praying and worshiping the giant supernatural beings. But here it’s very clear. This is religion.
These bad guys, I don’t know if they could have learned from what had happened in the original Daimajin only months earlier. Same statue, different location. These villains don’t just mutilate the statue, they blow the whole thing up, launching his head into the depths of the lake. It’s oddly evocative of events that would happen years later to the Buddhas of Bamayan, blowing up the giant statuary image of a religious figure (it would have been cool perhaps if those two Buddhas came to life and took vengeance on their destroyers).
Of course, by now we kind of know that in the last reel, Daimajin won’t let us down. Even if all the good guys are tied to sticks and about to be burned alive (also vaguely referential of Jesus). In fact, the cool effects and fine film-making are even cooler here. Daimajin parts the waters as he comes to ground to smash the bad guys and save the good. These movies have a really cool aesthetic and design.
I’m only bummed I had to order the third and final film from Netflix because for some unknown reason, the third installment was not on Amazon Prime with the other two. Go figure.