Year of release: 2005

Genre: action/fantasy

Director: Takashi Miike

Writers: Takashi Miike, Sawamura Mitsushiko, Itakura Takehiko

Producer: Kadokawa Tsuguhiko

Cinematography: Yamamoto Hideo

Editor: Shimaura Yasushi

Music: Endo Koji

Stars: Kamiki Ryunosuke, Takenaka Naoto, Toyokawa Etsushi, Kuriyama Chiaki, Okamura Takashi

Rated IIA for violence

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The Great Yokai War

The Great Yokai War

Takashi Miike is a director best known for his twisted movies which feature healthy doses of sex and violence. So it might come as a shock to many people that his latest effort is what could be considered a "kiddie" film. The Great Yokai War is based on a series of popular mangas (comic books) penned by Shigeru Mizuki. The yokai themselves are characters based on Japanese folklore -- ranging from the vicious (like ogres) to the silly (household objects like umbrellas) -- and can only generally be seen by children. Knowing this, the viewer might expect a Pokemon-style excercise in annoyancy. But this is Miike we're talking about; The Great Yokai War is a classic example of a kid's movie that only adults will truly enjoy.

The Great Yokai War

The story centers around a little boy named Takeshi (played by Kamiki Ryunosuke, who could teach his US counterparts a thing or two about actually acting, rather than just screaming or crying endlessly) who has moved from Tokyo to a small village to live with his grandfather while his parents go through a divorce. Grandpa is off his rocker and Takeshi is bullied by the kids at school, so life isn't too great. After a festival in the village, he is elected the "Kirin Rider", and so when he hears about a quest that the Rider must go on, Takeshi (even though he doesn't quite believe in the tall tales of the villagers) jumps at the chance to get the mighty "Goblin Sword". Soon after heading to a mysterious mountain, Takeshi not only stumbles upon some yokai, but also finds out that an evil wizard plans to take over the world by enveloping it in permanent nightfall.

The Great Yokai War

This might sound like your standard kid's fantasy stuff, but with Miike at the helm, it's anything but. Not only is the violence ramped up (though it's not a gorefest, The Great Yokai War has some outstanding effects that reminded me a bit of The Thing) and dashed with a bit of sexuality from a couple of the female yokai, there is a matureness to the story that will probably put off many of the smaller set, but will satisfy any true movie fan. Even though The Great Yokai War will probably get labeled by many as a "cartoon" film (especially with the heaps of special effects and CGI present here), it has a surprising amount of true emotion to it, and for that fact, it draws a strong recommendation from this reviewer.

DVD Information

Company: Universe

Format: widescreen

Languages: Cantonese, Japanese

Subtitles: English, Chinese

Extras: trailers, making of featurette, interviews, various featurettes (The Introduction of Yokai, Documentary of Ryunosuke Kamiki, Short Drama of Yokai, World Yokai Conference, and Another Story of Kawataro), photo gallery

Notes: I wish Universe would do DVDs for HK movies like this - excellent picture and sound, and the three hours of extras on the second disc are actually subtitled. Even the packaging is pretty cool. But this is a Region 3 DVD, and so won't play in most US DVD players.