Yokai

Yokai

Takashi Miike is best known for ultra-violent, ultra-stylish and ultra-weird Japanese cinema including the likes of Dead or Alive and Ichi the Killer. So what would happen if he were to turn his hand to directing a film for children? Arthur suspects the result will be a long way from the usual Hollywood fare...

DVD Details >>

The Film

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Were Arthur to be a regular user of LSD, right now he`d be wondering if he actually just watched Yokai (also known as The Great Yokai War) or if the memories are just some bizarre drug induced flash back. OK, so maybe it`s not that weird but Arthur definitely thinks it won`t appear as children`s entertainment for a Western audience, at least not without some cuts.

The story involves Tadashi, a young boy from a broken home who lives with his mother and senile grandfather in a small seaside village, who is chosen as the "Kirin rider" at a quaint village festival that dates back hundreds of years. Legend says that the Kirin Rider must climb the goblin mountain and take its sword to fight off the forces of evil. Unfortunately for Todashi, he discovers that all this is actually true when the evil spirit Kato starts invading the real world with an assortment of mechanical creatures created from a pool of "Yomotsumono" which is the angry energy given off by every day objects when they are discarded (don`t throw away old shoes because they will hate you for it!). However Todashi is not alone and gets help form the Yokai, a strange assortment of creatures and spirits from various Japanese folk tales including a turtle man, a talking umbrella, a living wall and what appears to be a long length of intelligent, flying kitchen roll!

The star of the film is Sunekosuri (which translates as "shin scrape" according to the film), a small, furry Yokai that looks like the mutant offspring of Gordon the Gopher and a guinea pig with Kiss style eye makeup. This cute side-kick character spends half of the film sat upon Tadashi`s head like some sort of stuffed toy hat and has all the funniest moments (some of them unintentional as the character frequently appears as the cheesiest glove puppet you have ever seen) including a great moment involving a microwave oven...

The film is actually a remake of a film from the late 60`s although how closely the new version follows this is unknown has Arthur has not seen the original. This new version does have a lot in common with regular children`s films but there are plenty of scenes that would seem more at home in one of Miike`s usual cinematic outings, with impalements, shootings, talking cow foetuses, young boys running their hands up and down the moist thighs of scantily clad princesses and even a song about Azuki beans!

It plays out as a mixture of Spy Kids, Never Ending Story, Labyrinth and Nightbreed(!) but with a definite Japanese flavour. OK, so it is still kid`s entertainment for the most part but its kid`s entertainment like you have ever seen before. Maybe Japanese children are fundamentally different to those in the west (Arthur suspects that a sizable number of under 10s in the West would need some kind of therapy after watching this) but it makes great surreal entertainment for well adjusted adults who enjoy films featuring armies of Japanese monsters beating the hell out of each other.

The DVD

This Hong Kong disc a feature packed DVD. It is a 2 disc set with great gatefold packaging featuring loads of little pictures of the hundreds of monsters in the film. The first disc contains the film with Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES soundtracks. There are a few mistakes in the English subtitles but nothing too off-putting. The second disc contains numerous extras including some Yokai inspired short films (both serious and comedy), documentaries about the making of the film and a feature on the world Yokai conference (there`s a great moment where they introduce some old guy as the head of the World Demon Organisation!). Best of all, and very unusually for a foreign DVD, all these extras are subtitled in English! It`s an absolute bargain at less than £10 from all good stockists of Hong Kong DVDs!