One of the best things about roundtable challenges like this is they can force me to finally, finally watch movies that have been in my possession for years. In this case, since the days of VHS. Luckily, I still have a player that works, because domestic distribution of this movie in this digital age has been rather, shall we say, spotty. And monster movies starting with O are not terribly common.
Orochi is the Western name; most Japanese and fans of their movies know this as Yamato Takeru, which is the main character’s name, and is a long-standing legend in the Island Nation. Wikipedia has an easy-to-read breakdown of the legend… but that’s not going to do you a whole lot of good with this movie.
Twins are born to first century Emperor Keiko, and the Emperor’s advisor says that the youngest of a set of twins is always bad news, so he throws the baby off a mountain. The baby is rescued by the White Bird of the goddess Amaterasu, and deposited at a nearby temple, where the baby grows up to be our hero, Yamato Takeru.
That poison pill advisor is actually a minion of the exiled god Tsukoyomi, and he knows that Yamato was born to be a Warrior of the Gods, to do battle with Tsukoyomi when he returns from his exile. All this is your standard Chosen One movie plot, but what is uncommon is the White Bird is obviously a robot and Tsukoyomi was exiled (and is returning in) a UFO made of ice.
After various misfortunes engineered by the evil advisor, Yamato is sent by his father on a seemingly impossible task to kill a tyrannical warlord; to give us all our standard fantasy tropes, he will be accompanied by his two older mentors, basically a Paladin and a Wizard, and he will pick up his eventual lady love, Oto, a half-elf who is really good with the Magic Missile spell. You may think I am kidding about the standard tropes, but Yamato has to recover “Three Lights” and claim the magic sword of the storm god Susanno’O, which flares into light often enough to remind us it’s a lightsaber. Yamato and Oto fight the returned god and are the verge of victory when Tsukoyomi cheats and turns into the title creature.
Divebombing the enormous hydra on the White Bird of Amaterasu doesn’t work, so Oto pixilates and joins with Yamato, and they turn into a Giant Divine Warrior Robot, a God Gundam if you will, complete with Flaming Sword Action Feature.
I have to admit, I was not expecting that.
You might be saying to yourself, “How is this a Halloween movie?” Pfui. The answer is monsters, my friend, and Orochi has two of them besides the titular dragon. The first, the warlord’s pet beastie, is a not terribly inspiring suit that keeps morphing weapons out of its hands. The second is a be-tentacled sea serpent that the evil advisor sics on our two heroes, and it is magnificent. Orochi himself is no less spectacular. Man does not live by vampires and slashers alone, my friend. Let yourself have some fun.
And that’s what Orochi is – it’s a fun fantasy adventure with only the slightest of connections to its source material. The blending of science-fiction elements with the fantasy gives it a unique enough feel to distinguish it from it’s brethren. If there’s one false note in the whole affair, it’s the effects done in an early stage of computer morphing madness. It’s like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, every now and then something crops up that just makes you wince.
Orochi was supposed to be the first film of a trilogy, but poor box office put paid to that idea. Whether it was the science fiction elements, the complete bending of a well-known legend into something cosmic, or perhaps the simple fact that there is no possible way to top the God Gundam – I have no idea.
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