A young boy becomes an unlikely hero when he is chosen as the "Kirin Rider" and must lead Japan?s ancient Yokai spirits in their apocalyptic war against the evil monsters. A lavish remake of the 1968 film "Yokai Daisenso" ... more »from acclaimed director Takashi Miike (ICHI THE KILLER, AUDITION).« less
"I believe that almost every fan of Japanese film, if they actually like his films or not, are familiar with the cinema of Miike Takashi. With such films as Audition, Ichi the Killer, and Visitor Q Miike has left his mark on the world of cinema because of the pure brutality often depicted in his films, however, there is also another side of Miike. With films such as The Bird People of China Miike displays that his filmic scope can go beyond the realm of visceral violence, and with The Great Yokai War Miike does something that few of his fans and critics would think possible: create a film for children.
After his parents get divorced, Ino Tadashi moves with his mother to his grandfather's home in a rural village. Teased by the other children because of his Tokyo origins, Tadashi leads a pretty solitary existence either reminding his grandfather that he is not his mother's deceased older brother Akira or leading his grandfather back home from one of his aimless wanderings. He lives a pretty drab existence, but this is soon to change. One night while attending a local festival, Tadashi is chosen by the Kirin, two men in a costume, to be the one that it will bite that year. Receiving gifts of azukj beans and rice and a towel, makes his way home and has a phone conversation with his elder sister who he longs to see. Later he learns from a couple of the boys who bully him that because he is the Kirin Rider he must climb Hobgoblin Mountain to retrieve the sword of the Hobgoblin King. Making his way up the mountain, Tadashi is frightened by some voices and he runs to board an odd bus where he encounters an odd cat/rat/hamster creature that had been injured in an earlier scene by a mechanical monster and a female yokai, Kuriyama Chiaki, sporting a beehive hairdo and wielding a whip. However, this little, fuzzy creature is only the first of many yokai that Tadashi will meet. Later after learning that because he is the one chosen to be the Kirin Rider he is the one chosen to save the yokai from evil, Tadashi joins a group of yokai, including a kappa, a water princess, and an azuki bean washer in an amazing quest that will remind any child of the 1980s of the films The Never Ending Story, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Legend.
Although this might seem like an odd comparison, the first film director I thought of while watching this film was Miyazaki Hayao. While it does not play as strong of a role in this film as it does in many of Miyazaki's animated classics, the battle between nature and technology does play a role in this film. However, this role is quite tenuous at best and at some points it comes across as being a bit heavy handed. However, underlying meanings are not the main purpose of this film, what The Great Yokai War brings to the table is a visual delight of monsters that have filled Japanese folklore for centuries. While many of the creatures will remain unknown to the non-Japanese many such as the snow woman, tengu and demonic lanterns and umbrellas will be familiar to those with a basic familiarity with Japanese folklore. While not a great film, The Great Yokai War is a fun film to watch and, as I stated above, it is an interesting film to be added to the cinematic work of Miike. "
Kgar | SF, CA | 10/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Miike does it again! Just when you think you've got this guy figured out, he does something different and somehow makes it his own. THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is a fantasy movie in the same vein as NEVERENDING STORY, DARK CRYSTAL, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, LOTR, and LABYRINTH. However, by successfully integrating Japanese folklore and contemporary stylization, something new and fresh is created. While there is no overly didactic messages, elements of anti-consumerism and environmentalism are hinted at. Essentially the themes are as simple as believing in yourself and the magic of childhood.
Tadashi Ino is an introspective kid living with his mother at his grandpa's house after his parents divorce. When he is bitten by a puppet dragon (a kirin) at a festival, he is told by the local kids that he is now the Kirin Rider. Takashi takes the duty seriously as it becomes more evident throughout the film that this folklore is true. Soon enough this kid (who's a very good actor, by the way) is up to his chin in monsters and adventure! He teams up with a motley crew of spooks and weirdos (including the rock star of yokai, the KAPPA), gets an awesome sword, fights robots, and saves Tokyo from the forces of evil.
One of the greatest things about the film is the inventiveness of the yokai costumes themselves. All kinds of masks, suits, makeup, puppets, prosthetics, and digital effects are used to create an epic rouges gallery of monsters. Miike always works with great physical effects artists and designers. Also, Miike taps his large pool of veteran actors like Kenichi Endo and Renji Ishibashi to play some of the yokai. He creates a sort of yokai theater that both children and adults can get lost in. There are a few small scenes that might be a little on the scary side for very small kids, but overall this is a very colorful and light-hearted fantasy film. I'm glad this genre is making a comeback (MIRRORMASK comes to mind), and I'm happy to see that Takashi Miike dove right in there and gave us this gem."
Japanese folklore comes to life
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 09/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kappa. Tengu. Yuki Onna, Kawa Hime. Chochin Obake. Kasa Obake. Japan's fantasy monsters, called Yokai in Japanese, are an unending list of bizarre creativity, from a culture that spawns goblins for almost every situation. Something of a national obsession, there are books and comics and movies dedicated to packing as many of them as possible.
Takashi Miike's "The Great Yokai War" ("Yokai Daisenso") is the latest flick to gather all the yokai together, sending all the kids of Japan running for their copies of Shigeru Mizuki's yokai encyclopedias to see if they can name that obscure creature that popped on the screen for a few seconds. While Miike is best known in the US for his controversial hard horror films like "Audition" and "Visitor Q", this is not his first jaunt into light-hearted kid's films, having previously made the superhero film "Zebraman." "The Great Yokai War" is a remake of a 1968 film of the same name, that was released as "Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare" in the US.
All in all, it is lots of fun. The story is pretty typical of children's fantasy, with the young boy Tadashi Ino being a nobody at school, the target for bullies and abuse. Tadashi is one day chosen at a local festival to be the Kirin Rider, for which he receives a small flag and a special lunch. Although Tadashi doesn't think this actually means anything, he finds himself drawn in a yokai war, acting as the chosen human champion to help fight the evil Kato, who is merging yokai spirits into machine technology in order to create an army to take over the world. Tadashi gets some help along the way, with his fighting companions being a kappa, the red-faced Kirin Herald, and the childlike but seductive River Princess. Of course he has a magic sword.
The yokai are the real stars, and Miike has used modern special effects to create them in a realistic but amusing fashion. Some of them are scary, some are ridiculous, but they are all actual creatures from Japanese folklore. It is pretty cool seeing them all on the screen and moving around, especially the bizarre Kasa Obake, a haunted umbrella with a long wagging tongue. Along with his digital monsters, Miike has pulled in some of Japan's great modern actors too, including the ubiquitous Takenaka Naoto ("Shall we dance?" "Waterboys") and Kuriyama Chiaki ("Battle Royale," "Kill Bill 1"). It is really great seeing veteran actor Sugawara Bunta ("Battles without honor or humanity") playing Tadashi's grandfather.
Lots of comparisons can be drawn between "The Great Yokai War" and other children's fantasy films like "Neverending Story," and the similarities are obvious. However, "Neverending Story" is a great flick, and what works there works here too. Tadashi is a believable child-hero, and the yokai are as charming and funny as any of Bastian's companions. "
B. McDonald | 01/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i give this movie two thumbs up! It's a story about the creatures of Japan's folklore. (And it wasn't anything like the "Never Ending Story") The only way "it was like a kid's movie", or the Never Ending Story, is because the main character is a child... i believe this movie is for you if you take any interest in Japan's culture."
Japanese folklore gone gonzo!
trashcanman | Hanford, CA United States | 10/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Looking for Halloween costume ideas? Have I got a movie for you. I recall heaping praises upon the massive gallery of imaginative monsters brought to life in Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Well, leave it to Japan's most prolific and unpredictable director to outdo Hollywood at every turn. "The Great Yokai War" is Takashi Miike's bizarre-yet-endearing homage to the creatures of Japanese fantasy folklore and the fantasy film genre in general. Nearly 100 different kinds of them make an appearance in the film. Some you may recognize, most you will not, but all are insane. This movie is just a flat-out wild ride full of kooky humor, filming techniques new and old, and lots and lots of crazy costumes. Join me, yeah?
The story follows a young boy chosen at a festival to be the village's Kirin Rider, a legendary hero said to be the rightful owner of a powerful sword kept by the Great Tengu in the mountains. Everyone assumes this title to be a fun little yearly tradition, but this year is different. There's evil afoot in the form of a couple of villains who are imprisoning yokai and transforming them into killer robots by throwing them into a big pot. Yeah, I know, but work with me. The young boy begins seeing monsters and then meets a cute little fuzzy hand puppet monster who becomes his friend. Soon, he's introduced to many more yokai; some terrifying, some hot, some both, some friendly, and at least one who is just plain obnoxious. That would be the ubiquitous Kappa. Not sold? Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill/Azumi 2) in a white beehive hairdo. Oboard now? Good.
The story is nonsense, the humor is inappropriate, the special effects are uneven, and the tone is childish. And yet you must see this movie. Why? Well the uneven special effects are because Miike uses every filming technique in the book. There is some outstanding CG, tons of costumes as I mentioned, and best of all.....stop-motion animated robots, baby! You know you love it. Fans of both old-time fantasy and more recent works like the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki will love the many homages to the classics new and old. Spotting the different kinds of monsters is a blast. Be on the lookout for the lovely Yuki-onna -which was featured in Japanese horror classic Kwaidan- as well as any other classic Japanese beasties you can conjure from memory. I could swear I even saw the crab villain from Miike's Zebraman in the mix. And believe it or not, there is some damn creepy stuff here among all the childish glee. A few scenes had me feeling downright uneasy. Bravo.
Okay, the humor. Any fan of Miike knows that inappropriate comedy is a trademark of his, but he really tries to hit it out of the park this time. As if seeing our heroes hanging onto a plane's wing in flight wasn't silly enough, the picture freezes and a "kids, don't try this at home" caption appears. Also: I'd never seen urine successfully used as a weapon before; now I can no longer say that. As an awesome-looking flying beast so massive that looks like it could swallow Godzilla whole flies over Tokyo, one spectator simply dismisses it by saying that it's only Gamera. And don't get me started about the climax. Some people may well be turned off by these off-the-wall and out-of-the-blue bits of lighthearted fun at the viewers' expense, but that's the stuff that kept me smiling long after the credits rolled on this one.
Okay, so you've got nearly 100 costumed critters and a sword-wielding little kid battling Terminator-meets-Transformers stop-motion animated robots, Kuriyama-chan in her best role in years, lots of goofy humor, fantasy homages by the ton, and even a sexy water nymph. What's not to like, really? The adult in me loves Miike's use of practical effects and old-school filming techniques along with some very effective CG as well as the flippant humor. [morphs to child] But the kid in me loves the crazy costumes, sweet killer robots, nutty characters, and hot chicks. Sorry, morphed back into a grown-up on that last one. If you're in the mood for a light-hearted fantasy romp the likes of which you haven't seen since the 80's then "The Great Yokai War" is for you. The disc features a gallery of all the yokai featured on the film. It's quite lengthy, but a great feature for anybody looking to research the folklore behind the critters featured in the flick. Remember to eat your azuki beans!