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The Great Yokai War

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 Mike.

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