I know it might be hard to believe, but Toho does make kaiju movies that do not revolve around Godzilla. Most of these movies were made in the 50’s and 60’s during the height of the kaiju movies popularity but today’s movie came during the Heisei era, towards the end of the 90’s Godzilla movies run. Now this is a movie that I honestly didn’t really hear much about until a couple of years ago and I randomly came across it on a kaiju movie list. Knowing that it was a Toho movie, I decided that it would more than likely be entertaining so I wound up picking up a copy on Amazon. Now let’s see if this was a good purchase as I watch today’s movie, Orochi, The Eight-Headed Dragon.
The plot: In ancient Japan, the shaman Tsukinowa is trying to summon the god Tsukuyomi to Earth but he is unsuccessful. Suddenly he notices a strange light coming down from the sky, which lands on the hut where the queen is giving birth to twin princes, and the light seems to flow into one of the twins, Ousu. Tsukinowa tells the emperor of Yamato that the birth of twins is a sign of great evil and the emperor, feeling a strange loathing for Ousu, tells Tsukinowa to deal with him. Ousu is taken from his mother and Tsukinowa drops the baby off of his mountain temple but the god Amano Shiratori, the White Bird of the Heavens, rescues the baby and takes it to a nearby temple. The priestess sees this and takes the baby back to Yamato and says that she will raise it. The emperor starts to refuse but when she asks if he will defy the gods, he relents and the empress thanks the priestess for caring for her son. Ten years later, Ouso is warned by two of the temple guardians to stay away from a cave as a great evil lives there but Ousu sneaks back into the cave during the night. Inside, he finds a strange pendant and when he touches it, he is transported into a temple where a giant statue rests with a sword embedded in the ground in front of it. When Ousu tries to pull out the sword, the statue speaks and says that he was chosen to be a warrior of the gods but he is not ready yet and the statue sends Ousu back to the temple. Years pass and Ousu, now a man, receives word that the emperor has forgiven him and he sets out to return to his family. However, Tsukinowa plans to kill Ousu and uses a gas to render him unconscious so he can do it but the pendant protects Ousu and a blast of energy sends Tsukinowa flying from the room. The emperor chastises Ousu for causing trouble the first day he is there and tells him that the only reason he was allowed back was because of his mother, who has become ill. Ousu goes to see his mother and gives her his pendant to protect her from the illness but she ends up dying that night. Kneeling by her body, Ousu’s twin brother sees the pendant in her hand and believes that Ousu killed her. Mad with grief, he attacks Ousu and tries to kill him but the power inside Ousu wells up again and Ousu sends his brother flying with a blast of energy, inadvertently killing him. Tsukinowa sees this and tells the emperor, twisting the facts so that it seems Ousu did these things deliberately and the emperor banishes Ousu until the barbarians in the far off region of Kumosa are dealt with. Ousu sets out and finds the two temple guardians, Genbu and Seriyu, waiting for him, as they were sent by the priestess to accompany him. Stopping for water, Ousu hears the voice of the statue telling him that he will meet someone that is destined to be a part of his life. Stopping at a shrine for rest, they are attacked by Oto, one of the shrine’s priestess, and after subduing her, Oto’s sister apologizes and explains that their sacred relic was stolen and they thought the men were the thieves returning for more. As Oto tends to Ousu’s wound, she feels a connection with him and after telling her sister of this, she decides to accompany Ousu and the others. Reaching the Kumosa region, the group decides to help a farmer, whose daughter is to be taken to a nearby temple to be sacrificed by the barbarians. Oto tries to sneak in and rescue the girl but she ends up being captured and is prepared to be sacrificed instead. Ousu, Genbu, and Seriyu sneak in and begin fighting with the barbarian king and his men and Ousu ends up killing him. They then go to rescue Oto, just as a stone monster appears out of the lava and attacks them. The group appears to be outmatched but when Oto is about to be killed, Ousu uses his powers to kill the creature, and the sacred mirror appears out of the sky and lands in Ousu’s hands. Ousu returns to the emperor, who congratulates him on defeating the barbarians but says it is not enough to make him forgive Ousu. Meanwhile, the priestess feels a great evil coming and summons Ousu to her. She explains that Tsukuyomi is coming back to Earth and tells Ousu that he must steal the Sword of Dark Clouds, which was forged from Tsukuyomi’s body, and hide it in a sacred temple. Ousu does this but is seen by the emperor, who has his men chase after Ousu. As Ousu is hiding from the emperor’s men, he meets up with Oto and they go to the shrine together. As the walk along the sea, they are seen by Tsukinowa, who summons a sea monster to kill Ousu. The monster drags Ousu underwater but Oto dives in after him and rescues him, then sacrifices herself to destroy the creature. Reaching the shore, Ousu spots a woman on the beach and thinking it is Oto, races towards her only to be surprised to see his mother. Ousu picks her up and starts carrying her but the woman stabs him in the throat with a dagger, then transforms into Tsukinowa. Tsukinowa boasts about being the one to actually kill Ousu’s mother and brother and Ousu pulls the dagger from his neck and throws it into Tsukinowa’s chest, and after being blasted by Tsukinowa’s magic, he passes out. Tsukinowa heads back to the mountain shrine and is able to summon Tsukuyomi back to Earth. Once he is on Earth, Tsukuyomi summons the Swrod of Dark Clouds to him, and after regaining his full power, causes an eclipse and makes a huge palace rise from the Earth. Meanwhile, Ousu awakens to find himself back in the cave temple and his wounds healed. Heading into the chamber, he finds a man sitting on the steps in front of the statue, who tests Ousu to see if he is the chosen one. Ous faces off with the man but when he is disarmed, Ousu races for the sword in the stone and pulls it out, then uses it to cut the helmet off of the man’s head. The man is revealed to be a god and the father of Tsukuyomi and says that Ousu was created for the sole purpose of killing Tsukuyomi. The man then reveals Oto, who has returned to life, and says that both Ousu and Oto were born on the same day, at the same time, and both have powers from the gods inside them. He then sends the two to Tsukuyomi’s palace, where they confront the evil god and after a brief fight, Ousu manages to wound Tsukuyomi. Tsukuyomi transforms into an eight-headed dragon and uses it’s flame breath to try and kill the two warriors but the White Bird of the Heavens appears and rescues them. Flying atop the bird, Ousu and Oto continue to fight the dragon but they end up getting knocked into space. Oto dissolves in a cloud of dust, which surrounds Ousu and helps him transform into a giant armored samurai. Returning to Earth, the armored samurai fights with the dragon and eventually defeats it then transforms back into Ousu and Oto. Seeing Tsukutomi still alive and in his human form, Ousu quickly grabs the Sword of Dark Clouds from him, then hears the god tell him to trap Tsukuyomi in his pendant, then throw it into the sky. When Oto questions why they don’t kill him, the god explains that when Tsukuyomi returns, he might return as a god that brings happiness. As the eclipse fades and the sun returns, the emperor and priestess both feel Ousu’s presence and thank him for saving them while Ousu and Oto fly off on the White Bird of the Heavens.
This was definitely an interesting movie to watch. The acting was pretty decent, though sometimes the dubbing probably doesn’t due much justice to some of the emotions that were supposed to be displayed. The story was a little odd as it seemed to go from a Japanese style sword and sorcery style movie to morph into a kaiju movie in the last half of the movie. The special effects were very flashy and looked good but honestly, didn’t really help the movie much. An interesting movie, but I much rather watch either a straight up kaiju movie or samurai movie because the mixture honestly didn’t work.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5