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The Great Yokai War

a Japanese fantasy movie directed by Takashi Miike

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A Quick Tip by voilodion2012

  • Feb 4, 2013
This is another one of those big budget fantasy films which got a limited theatrical release in the US. Unfortunately the decision to release it here was not the exactly the best one, since one of the main appeals of the story is that it's built on a number of references to Japanese pop culture that most Westerners probably aren't terribly familiar with. The whole production is intended as a homage to the works of Shigeru Mizuki, the great manga artist most known for his work on Yokai-related studies and fantasy stories. The plot involves a young boy getting caught in the middle of a magical war between the good Yokai (representing characters from Mizuki's works) and the evil Yokai, led by none other than Yasunori Kato (the villain of the novel TEITO MONOGATARI or the anime DOOMED MEGALOPOLIS). There are more references here and there. For example, Tortoro from MY NEIGHBOR TORTORO is one of the good Yokai (and yes, this is the probably the only time viewers will ever be able to see Yasunori Kato and Tortoro in one film together). At one point Kato summons an enormous flying monster to invade Tokyo with, which one drunk onlooker sees and cries out "Hey, don't worry! It's Gamera!" (in reference to Daiei's giant monster movies of the same name).

You can see the problem here...with so many references to Japanese pop culture, something's going to get lost in translation. How many of Shigeru Mizuki's works have been translated into English? Not too many, and that includes the GeGeNoKitaro series (which the film HEAVILY references). The background of the villain Yasunori Kato (played by Etsushi Toyokawa) is never clearly explored. But a fan like me knows you can get more info about the character by reading the novels he originated from. Has TEITO MONOGATARI or any of its spinoffs have been translated into English? No. Can you see the problem here?

Still Miike's directorial abilities shine bright. It is a visually spectacular film as well as an incredibly fun one. i'm just frustrated that once again, English speakers are being given a product which skeptical viewers will be denied many answers about.
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February 05, 2013
Thanks for bringing this movie to my attention. I might check it out in the near future, when time permits.
February 05, 2013
AGREED. You know despite Miike's reputation as a gritty and horror filmmaker in the States, he is actually better known for films like this in Japan (ZEBRAMAN was a hoot). I liked this, but I can see some people getting lost in its narrative. Nice work with comparing it to other features.
February 05, 2013
Isn't that strange? Over here, Miike has this solid reputation of being dark and dirty. But films like this and ZEBRAMAN and even BIRD MEN OF CHINA are a testimony to how incredibly versatile a director he is. I wonder if Western viewers tend to overexploit the dark stuff because they don't understand or are bored by the more conventional material.
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About this movie


The Great Yokai War (妖怪大戦争 Yōkai Daisensō?) is a 2005 Japanese fantasy children's film directed by Takashi Miike and produced by Kadokawa Pictures. In the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival and on its June 30, 2006, American premiere, in New York City, it was released under the international English title The Great Yokai War by Tokyo Shock.

The Toronto festival site defines Yokai as "bizarre-looking monsters and supernatural beings from Japanese folklore who like to play tricks on unsuspecting humans". Daisensō literally means "great war".

It borrows the title of a 1968 film, which was released in the US by ADV Films as Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, part of the Yokai Monsters series and directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda. Whereas the original used tokusatsu special effects, the 2005 version makes heavy use of stop-motion puppet animation and CGI.

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Director: Takashi Miike
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Kadokawa-Daiei Eiga K.K.
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