Movie review: The Great Yokai War
Tadashi lives with his divorced mother in a small village. He misses his father and sister who live in the city, and he has to take care of his sometimes drunk, sometime incoherent grandfather. Shortly after we meet Tadashi, he attends a religious ceremony and is “chosen” as that year’s Kirin Rider. He’s a little frightened by the experience and doesn’t really know what it means.
His grandfather explains that the Kirin Rider must go to a magical mountain and reclaim his sword from the huge tengu spirit so that he can fight off evil yokai (demons). Tadashi heads off to the mountain out of curiosity and is soon enveloped in the world of yokai. Some are friendly and helpful, like the water spirit standing next to him in the image below, while others are pure evil, like the dude trying to stare you to death or the woman in the awesome dangly white outfit and beehive hair.
As the name of the film suggests, the story centers around a war between the demons. Tadashi must find the courage to join in and wield the Kirin Rider’s sword (and cool leather outfit) to defeat the evil yokai. The film also doesn’t miss the obvious product placement opportunity – a cooler full of Kirin beer that when drunk, allows you to see yokai. I might have to switch from Sapporo.
This film was a lot of fun to watch, especially seeing the plethora of Japanese figures from folklore come to life. All my favourites are here: the badger guy, the huge mountain Tengu, winter-lady, cat woman, the red faced dude and literally thousands of others, many of whom I didn’t recognize.
The story itself, however, loses points for being a little too Disney. The concept that the evil yokai is tapping into all the rage left over in cast off garbage from the human world and fusing these objects with other yokai to create hybrid soldiers is interesting – and plays in very nicely to the Japanese concept of Tsukumogami – but the way it plays out is a little too predictable and simplistic. And even though there’s far more horror and violence than Disney would allow, the tone is more kid friendly than I’d hoped.
A fun watch, especially for all the yokai, but I would recommend this only to parents wanting to expose their children to a whole new set of mythologies.