JIRAIYA THE BRAVE: Ninja and toad magic in the roaring 20s

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This 1921 silent movie might just be the first time the legend of Jiraiya was put on film. It could also well-be the first time giant toad and snake magic with special effects transformations appeared on screen, four decades before heroic ninja and tokusatsu monster action were all the rage.

If the tale of toad-powered Jiraiya and snake-powered Orochimaru seems familiar its because it’s been adapted and re-imagined over and over, from the technicolor era to Naruto today.

There’s even a sidekick employing SLUG MAGIC! Not sure how menacing a big ass slug actually is, (that’s him in the middle, below) but there you are…

Silent films in any country are beyond rare, with most lost to the ravages of time, but throw in the war and it’s a miracle any of these flicks still exist. The ritualized combat choreography and simple but ground-breaking effects work here have real charm. Glad this not only survived, but is on YouTube!

Want to credit Ninja Attack co-author Matt Alt for turning me onto this video. Read his article on toads in Japanese popular media here. A new edition of his book is due in July.

On sale at FUJI ARTS

Don’t own an antique Japanese print of a ninja (or ninja-like) wizard doing TOAD MAGIC? Well, end the shame and embarrassment of it right now over at Japanese art acutioneers Fuji Arts!

I’d love to a be a heavy hitter and score some of these expensive relics, but financial fate has had other plans for me alas, so I was just poking through just the Clearance section of their online offerings. Lo-and-behold I found all sorts of warrior action and monster reptile mayhem! The clearance selection has ‘buy-it-now’ prices, too, with a lot of stuff under $100.

Look at that TOAD MOUNTAIN from this print of the Jiraiya lore!!! I’m ready to move in there and make it VN Headquarters.

A little MAGIC SERPENT to start things off

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 3

Surely the apex of shinobi-kaiju cinema, Magic Serpent (for the Sandy Frank/AIP-exposed) or Kairyu Dai-Kessen, is a no brainer to start of Monsters and Masks 2010!

This is a staged publicity shot, you rarely if ever get that clear a shot of the two dueling ninja transformed into giant pagoda-crushing critters. That is one loooong-legged toad…

Serpent is available in two different forms; the English-dubbed full-frame “Magic Serpent” cut is on a Gamera double feature disc, and a widescreen Japanese language print with grey market subs is circulating as “Dragon Showdown” or “Battle of the Dragons.” I recommend both, as I grew up with the former’s goofy translations and Godzilla sound-effects, but love the original’s kids chorus theme song and widescreen glory.

Hiroki Matsukata and Ryutaro Otomo posed with their amphibious alter-egos.
French market title MONSTERS OF THE APOCALYPSE ignores the ninja-ness of this masterpiece for some reason. YOUNG FLYING HERO is an un-official Thai sequel/knockoff.
This French market re-title of the above, cashing-in on the 80's ninja VHS rental boom, is THE FUCKING BOMB!!! Look at that misleading cover art. C'est magnifique!

Further reading:

We did a big write up on this last year: Part 1 / Part 2

The un-official Thai sequel sounds like a real blast, too. TarsTarkas.net

TOAD!

Damned if this isn’t the greatest drawing of a monster horny toad EVER!

This is just one ‘plate’ from a 19th century scroll of yokai and human oddities featured over at the superb Pink Tentacle blog.