The Great Yokai War Review

The Great Yokai War Review

The Great Yokai war is probably Miike’s first truly mainstream film. Zebraman was definitely one foot in that direction, but this is a film that was absolutely made to appeal to everyone. After a merger in 2004 Kadokawa-Daiei decided to revamp some of the old Daiei franchises, which resulted in Gamera The Brave, The Great Yokai War, and a a planned Takashi Miike helmed Daimajin movie. Unfortunately, the Daimajin reboot never came to be and we ended up Daimajin Kanon instead (but that’s another story).

This film is absolutely for kids, even more so than the sixties yokai trilogy and focuses on the child protagonist more than it does the yokai. That said, the sheer amount of yokai in this film is nothing short of outstanding. If there’s anything that I could complain about it would be that we are rarely given any background on any of characters that we see, although this is understandable given that many of them would already be familiar to a Japanese viewer. Given that we easily see over 100 of these creatures I know that would be impossible, but it would be nice to have an introduction to some of them.I can tell that there are countless references to the jobs of each yokai as I saw some of them. One I caught was the Kappa constantly pawing at the boy’s shorts when angered (Kappa are known for pulling out the intestines of children through their anus). Yes, for real. There’s also some of the spirits from Kwaidan in here, most notably Yuki Onna.

If you’re a fan of Yokai or old manga then the Great Yokai War is made as much for you as it is for kids. There are so many references to Shigeru Mizuki that it’s almost impossible to count. Kitaro is name dropped, the protagonist goes to a Mizuki museum and Mizuki himself shows up as a kind of king yokai proclaiming about the dangers of war. Mizuki is know for his anti war manga and sentiments as much as anything so it was a nice inclusion. You also get a funny nod to Daiei’s own Gamera in the film. The other biggest reference (if you can even call it that) is that the film is almost a sequel to Akio Jissoji’s Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis. This film is written by the same author and includes the same villain, who this time has a plot to turn all yokai in to mechanical beasts. It’s a real love on for Japanese monsters much like a late era Universal horror monster mash.

My biggest complaint would be that I don’t feel as though Japan’s film industry has the economy to do this kind of epic well. Whilst the numerous yokai costumes are really well done, the cgi monsters and backgrounds often times look really cheap. A lot of recent mainstream Japanese films I’ve seen have this problem and it genuinely does hurt them. I know it’s a shallow complaint, but it did take me out of the film slightly. As another reviewer said on here, it would make for a killer ghibli anime.

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Craig 41 posts

Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.

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