Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon (1994)

Toho knows about multiple headed dragons. But here, they are in service to a fairy tale film that deals with the birth of Shinto.

Honestly, this movie blew my mind and I’m not certain I’ll ever be able to get it fixed again.

After the birth of twin princes, the emperor feels hatred for one of them, Ousu. He orders a shaman to kill his son, but Amano Shiratori, the White Bird of the Heavens, appears and the shaman decides to raise him.

Yet when he finally grows up and his father pardons him, within days Ousu’s mother has died mysteriously and his brother attacks him, dying in the process. The emperor sends his son away again, into the Kumaso area to battle the barbarians that live there.

Along with a girl named Oto and his friends Genbu and Seriyu, the prince changes his name to Yamato Takeru and begins to complete a series of heroic feats. However, he must now find the Sword of Dark Clouds before the evil moon god Tsukuyomi who has somehow learned how to transform himself into the eight-headed dragon named Orochi. And oh yeah, Tsukinowa — the evil priest who caused all this — is the one who killed our hero’s mother and brother. And get this, Oto is really the sun goddess Amaterasu. And then a sword gets pulled from a stone. And…

Seriously, this movie is absolutely packed with astounding moment after astounding moment, like heroes dying and being reborn, Amano Shiratori becoming a mecha phoenix and the titular eight-headed dragon. You should pause and realize that this effect is a physical effect and not CGI. It’s one of the most incredible looking monsters that I’ve ever seen, blowing away nearly any kaiju movie.

A remake of 1959’s The Three Treasures, this was intended to be a trilogy, but didn’t do well in theaters. It did lead to a Yamato Takeru anime. It was directed by Takao Okawara, who also made Godzilla vs. Destoroyah and Godzilla 2000. He also was an assistant director on one of Toho’s weirdest movies, Nosutoradamusu no Daiyogen. Wataru Mimura, who wrote the script, also worked on several of Toho’s 2000’s kaiju movies.

This is the closest a movie has come to a Harryhausen effort in decades. I say that with the highest praise, as this is a visually stunning feast that kids of all ages will love.

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