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Orochi:  The Eight-Headed Dragon
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Box Front Japanese Title: Yamato Takeru
Director: Takao Okawara (Godzilla and Mothra:  The Battle for Earth, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
Original Release Year: 1994
Running Time: 105 minutes

DVD Released By: ADV Films
Video: Widescreen (the box says 4:3, but this is incorrect)
Audio: Japanese 2.0, English 2.0
Extras: ADV previews
Subtitles: English
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 25
Packaging: Originally issued in a white keepcase; more recent pressings come in a black keepcase with reflective cover art.
MSRP: $19.98
UPC #: 702727062223
Catalog #: DORD/001
Status: Out of print


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The Film: Twin princes are born in the ancient kingdom of Yamato.  On the advice of his sinister advisor, Tsukinowa, the Emperor orders the younger of the two, Prince Ousu, executed.  The goddess Amaterasu intervenes, and Ousu is whisked away to safety by the White Bird of Heaven.  He is raised by his aunt, who is a priestess of Amaterasu.  Two warriors, Seiryu and Genbu, are his guardians.

At the age of ten, Ousu receives an amulet that turns him into a wildman with incredible power when he is in danger.  He also learns that he is destined to become a warrior of the gods.  When he grows into a strong young man, the Emperor pardons him and he returns to the court of Yamato.  His father remains suspicious, however.  When Tsukinowa attempts to assassinate the prince, Ousu’s wild power protects him.  Ousu is later blamed for the deaths of his mother and brother.  Anxious to be rid of him, the Emperor sends him to kill the king of rival kingdom Kumaso.

Seiryu and Genbu accompany Ousu to Kumaso.  Along the way he meets Oto Tachibana, a priestess and skilled warrior who is destined to share his life.  With their help, Ousu kills Kumaso Takeru and earns the name Yamato Takeru.  His aunt then requests that he bring her the mystical Sword of Dark Clouds.  It is the sword of the dark god Tsukuyomi, who is returning to Earth.  Thousands of years ago, Tsukuyomi assumed the form of an eight-headed dragon and tried to destroy the world.  If he regains the sword, his full evil power will return to him.  Yamato Takeru’s destiny is revealed:  He was born on Earth, and trained by the gods, to defeat Tsukuyomi and save the world!

Orochi:  The Eight-Headed Dragon is a period action fantasy based on Japanese mythology.  It has the familiar look and feel of the Heisei Godzilla series.  Godzilla series veterans Takao Okawara (director) and Koichi Kawakita (special effects director) were behind the camera.  Familiar faces in front of the camera include Masahiro Takashima (Aoki from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II) as Ousu, Yasuko Sawaguchi (Erica from Godzilla vs. Biollante) as Oto, and villainous Hiroshi Abe (Godzilla 2000) as Tsukuyomi.  During the course of his travels, Ousu encounters such creatures as the God of Kumaso (a devil-like monster made of molten iron who forms weapons out of its own body) and a tentacled reptilian sea monster.  For the climax, he is transformed into a giant armored warrior to battle the imposing Orochi on the surface of the moon.

This is an impressive, good-looking production.  The action scenes are well staged, and thankfully don’t borrow from the overused Hong Kong-style of wire-fu.  (Though Oto does have a couple of
Crouching Tiger-like moves, they’re more effective for not being overdone.)  The film could have benefited from a stronger musical score (it sounds like John Williams lite at times) and a sense of humor (like Ray Harryhausen’s fantasy movies).  Some things seem oddly contemporary.  The Bird of Heaven and the armored warrior are both very robotic.  The warrior even has the arms and legs of Mechagodzilla ’93!  Overall, this is a welcome addition to a genre that has been unfortunately neglected since Harryhausen’s heyday.  Recommended for fantasy / mythology fans, and Heisei Godzilla fans.  Grade:  B

Video: The film is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.  The print is in very good shape, and color reproduction is good.  All of the bright rays and flashy magic are shown to good effect.  Aside from the disappointing lack of anamorphic enhancement, the only real problem is frequent grain.  The amount of grain in some scenes is surprisingly noticeable.  Too bad; if the picture was less grainy and anamorphically enhanced, it could have really sparkled, like Image’s Ultraman DVDs.

On a related note, ADV needs to get someone to proofread their DVD covers. 
Orochi is the second tokusatsu DVD from ADV this year with incorrect video specifications on the box.  Gamera:  Guardian of the Universe was listed as 16:9, but it was not anamorphic.  Orochi is listed as 4:3 (fullscreen), but it’s in widescreen.  Grade:  B-

Audio: Both the film’s original Japanese language track, and an English dub, are included in 2.0.  The quality of both is good.  All of the sound effects, music, and dialogue are clear.

Being a period fantasy based on Japanese mythology, the film works better in Japanese.  The English dubbing is okay.  Lip synch isn’t bad, but the voices are familiar from many of Toho’s international dubs.  There are a few dialogue changes that don’t work well in English.  For example, when the Emperor sends Ousu to Kumaso, it is to “put down a peasant revolt.”  However, Kumaso is obviously an independent kingdom.  So, stick with the Japanese version and save the dub for children or those times you just don’t feel like reading. 
Grade:  A

Extras / Menus: The only extras are 6 ADV promo trailers.  They are for:  Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris, The Princess Blade, Destroy All Monsters, Yokai Monsters:  Along With Ghosts, The Complete Daimajin Trilogy, and Dragon Blue.  Except for Dragon Blue, most of these previews are common on ADV's tokusatsu releases.  Unfortunately, no original Orochi trailers are included.

Additional promos for
The Anime Network and Newtype USA magazine play when the disc first boots up.  There is also a “DVD Credits” screen selectable from the main menu.  It’s a single page of general film credits and copyright information, as well as the DVD credits.  Curiously, ADV’s cute animated “Rubbersuit Pictures” logo has been altered.  This new version is red, and the dino-like kaiju now sports “devil horns” and tiger stripes instead of Godzilla-like spines.  Perhaps Toho wasn’t amused?  If that’s the case, they seriously need to grow a sense of humor.

The menus are still images with background music.  The film’s main title theme plays on all of the menus, which gets tiresome.  Different music cues on different screens would have worked better.  The “Chapter Select” and “Coming Attractions” menus have animated film clips in the selection windows.  Only 8 “acts” are selectable from the chapter menu, even though the film is actually divided up into 25 chapters.  This may not be the best possible setup, but it
is nice to have so many chapter stops.  Grade:  D

Final Analysis: Now this is a rarity:  A region 1 dual-language DVD of a Toho film!  Many thanks to ADV for going the extra mile to include both the Japanese and English language tracks.  The film is an enjoyable period fantasy with a “Heisei Godzilla” feel to it.  Check it out!  Final Grade:  B
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