Wise individuals have claimed our enemy is no exterior but the demons that reside inside us from our devastating weaknesses, selfishness, hypocrisy, and blind sentimentalism. And perhaps that explains our inability to cast off any materialism/superficialities that plague the human virtue of learning to live with love and peace.
It’s a continual metaphor that director Hiroshi Akabane explicitly lays down in The Divine Protector: Master Salt Begins, with some intellectual insight regarding Buddhist ideals and how humanity needs to strive for a higher self and growth. The story revolves around a few young high school girls: Nanako (Saya Fukunaga), and her friends, Miki (Kokoro Nishiwaki) and Hiraku (Rino Otaki). They are battling demon spirits in their lives and need assistance to remove them. Thus, they turn their heads to a ritual ceremony (at exactly 7:07 PM) to summon Master Salt (Rin Kijima), who arrives with gusts of wind and wears a white and black outfit. She knows the issue and utilizes magic to lure the devil out.
Upon doing so, a mystical demon appears and tries to argue their case before Master Salt repels them out of existence for their evil characteristics. At this point, it sounds like a genie tale (a la Aladdin) and could be a fun fantasy ride.
However, what Akabane forgot to accomplish was evolving the narrative past this same device. It frustratingly occurs incessantly, without remorse for the audience’s attention span and the rote sense of relaying similar lessons (to a limping effect). Even the cast onboard seems lethargic for its grand doses of philosophy, running in endless circles to convey the same life lesson. The dialogue is quite imprudent, ruining the structure and pacing of the tale, and the special effects are somewhat mediocre. Add it all up, and it becomes almost mundane and generic for its standards.
Yes, incorporating such topics regarding scientific analysis and human imagination are great ideals, but they become lost in the framework once two hours have rolled. Even the severe issue regarding women’s freedoms gets little momentum, questioning why it came into the film in the first place. Self-discovery and awakening need more than potent notions; it requires the process of creation where the inner spirit masters the outer matter.
The movie could’ve been so much more due to superb insight into philosophical aspects and thought-provoking inquiries into human nature and the divine. Instead, The Divine Protector is simply another lecture about right vs. wrong.