Misa the Good Witch (Kimika Yoshina) returns in this superior prequel! Only here she's a happy go lucky teenage girl, blissfully unaware of her magical powers. If the first Eko Eko Azaraku draws upon Sam Raimi and Dario Argento, this movie comes across like The Terminator (1984) by way of Tsui Hark. Pumped up and hyperkinetic from the get-go, it begins in 1880 where a village full of warriors are slaughtered by a cackling witch. A wise old mystic (Eisei Amamoto, a.k.a. "that international Judas, Dr. Who" in King Kong Escapes (1967)) sends time-travelling warrior Saiga (Wataru Shihodo) into the 20th Century with orders to locate potential world-saviour, Misa Kuroi. We jump forward to 1996. An archaeologist unearths a mystical mummy, who swiftly kills his assistant (Miho Fukuie) and possesses her corpse. This creature is Kirie the mad witch and her mission is to destroy Misa Kuroi.
Poor Misa hasn't a clue, but is troubled by her absent parents and a sinister, yet strangely familiar young man trailing her around Shinjuku. When Kirie invades Misa's home and slaughters her friends, only mystery man Saiga offers safety, regardless of his crazy stories about demons, time travel and world-saving witches. On the run, they find bloodthirsty Kirie at their heels. Hopping from body to body. Seemingly unstoppable from ruling the world. Until Misa finds an old spell book with the magic words: "Eko Eko Azarak."
This time around Shimako Sato takes both scripting and directing duties and quickens the pace with car chases, stunts and unrelenting action. She makes the most of a low budget, working wonders moody lighting and often ingenious sound effects to suggest supernatural terrors constantly on the verge of penetrating our reality. The film simmers with repressed passions, thwarted romance and adolescent longing. Centre of all things remains Misa Kuroi, who is far more faceted, charismatic and even hotter than before. Kimika Yoshino is outstanding as the initially terror stricken Misa, who steadily grows in confidence and power. In a gesture that seems very Japanese, she eventually shows her mettle by offering to end her own life rather than cause people more pain. "Kiss me. That will give me courage", she implores Saiga - whose heart actually lies elsewhere. Though playing fifteen, Yoshino was twenty-one so one feels less guilty about adding she is heart-meltingly gorgeous.
Birth of the Wizard's first twenty minutes borrow a little too obviously from James Cameron, but the film settles into its own fantastical groove. Sato throws several plot quirks including the identity of who resurrected Kirie, and the man who was Misa's childhood benefactor, plus an amulet that may be her salvation or end. Mean and moody-looking Wataru Shihodo also excels, especially in an endearing flashback to Saiga's first encounter with the young Misa (Erika Suzuki). There is a memorable battle where Kirie is ripped to bits, but... still... keeps... fighting, while Sato delivers one final, heartbreaking twist. Naturally, Misa blossoms into a full-blown witch for the visually audacious, monster-laden finale, but the closing scene stays true to her fundamentally tragic and lonely existence.