Movie Review: A Japanese Religious movement makes a movie about removing curses via “The Divine Protector: Master Salt Begins”

Let’s resist the urge to judge a new Japanese religious movement with the label we slap on every faith new enough to invite ridicule — “cult.”

Instead, let Happy Science explain itself via a movie it has released, although maybe explaining its philosophy through a comical, campy and patently ridiculous action picture isn’t the smartest move.

It’s about ordinary folks taking pro-active measures to address the problems in their lives.

A schoolgirl (Saya Fukunaga) is haunted, fainting at school with strangulation bruises on her neck?

A young salaryman wants to marry, but is drowning in the pressures of work?

A grandmother falls victim to a COVID-free nursing home scam?

A man is beating his wife?

Must be…DEMONS.

And what do the simple Happy Scientists do when that’s the diagnosis? They draw a pentagram in chalk, write their complaint on paper, and summon “The Divine Protector.”

Merely making this gesture, a sulfurous summons of the ancient soul named Master Salt (Rin Kijima) can be liberating. And entertaining. She has her very own walk-music (in Japanese, with English subtitles).

“She is coming coming COMING…She is here, here HERE.”

No, that doesn’t make her, the religion or the movie seem less ridiculous.

Rin Kijima plays Shioko Kamono, aka “Master Salt,” an eight hundred year old “protector” who can “never fall in love” because her mission is to drag demonic curses to hell (perfect place for phone scammers) and deliver justice.

She speaks in head-slappingly obvious aphorisms. The “three poisons of the mind (dubbed into English)?”

“Greed is desire.” Yeah, we know. “Anger is rage.” You don’t say. “Ignorance is foolishness.”

Oh noooose. THIS movie is “foolishness.”

As with any religion rendered into action cinema form, a little profundity goes a long way. “A selfish mind that keeps seeking what it wants even as the cost of other’s happiness, that’s a curse,” is worth emulating. Just be leery of any anti-materialist “faith” that wants you to transfer that material wealth its way.

“The Divine Protector” opens with a visit to a shrine in the shadow of Mount Fuji, and as the schoolgirls are tested, we keep seeing them in religion class, a not-too-subtle way of connecting Happy Science to Buddhism and Shintoism.

There’s a lot here anybody who’s had a comparative religion course will recognize — a plea for selflessness, self-reflection, non-violence and being considerate of others. But what makes “The Divine Protector” flirt with being campy fun is the scary lady’s walk-on music. Justice is on its way, we figure.

“She is coming, coming COMING.”

And the way this two hour walk on the cultish side is structured — the dubbed insipid dialogue and the song, in Japanese, turning up again and again — makes one wonder Happy Science’s stance on alcohol.

Because I know a movie with a built-in drinking game when I see one. And hell’s bells, “Master Salt Begins” implies there’ll be a sequel.

Rating:  PG-13 for thematic content and some violence

Cast: Rin Kijima, Saya Fukunaga, Donpei Tsuchihira

Credits: Directed by Hiroshi Akabane, scripted by Sayaka Okawa. A Happy Science release.

Running time: 2:01

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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