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Yokai Daisenso

The Great Yokai War

Japan 2005
produced by
Fumio Inoue, Tsuguhiko Kadokawa (executive) for Kadokawa Eiga, Shochiku
directed by Takashi Miike
starring Ryunosuke Kamiki, Bunta Sugawara, Chiaki Kuriyama, Mai Takahashi, Kaho Minama, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Masaomi Kondo, Naoto Takenaka, Kenichi Endo, Sadao Abe, Takashi Okamura, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Renji Ishibashi, Etsushi Toyokawa, Toshie Negishi, Asumi Miwa, Hiroshi Aranmata, Natsuhiko Kyougoku, Shigero Mizuki, Toshiya Nagasawa, Shiro Sano, Akira Emoto, Kanji Tsuda, Miyuki Miyabe, Minori Fujikaro
screenplay by Hiroshi Aramata, Mitshuiko Sawamura, Takashi Miike, based on the manga by Shigeru Mizuki, music by Koji Endo, CGI effects by Misako Saka (producer), Kaori Otagaki (director)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Young Tadashi (Ryunosuke Kamiki) has just moved from Tokyo to the countryside, and - with his parents divorced - finds it difficult to settle in, when at a local festival, he is pronounced Kirin Rider, the fighter for justice. Now normally that would just be a meaningless title, but for Tadashi it means much more, since it gives his life meaning again, and soon enough, he embarks on a search for the Yokai Sword, up somewhere in the mountains, and soon finds a friend in little Sunekosori, a little mouse-like Yokai (= demon) determined to show him the way. At first, Tadashi is totally freaked out by this new world of Yokai, but soon enough he learns that the Yokai are actually good-natured but bizarre beings, and he soon makes friends with some of them, including Kawahime (Mai Takahashi), the water spirit, who fill him in of what's really happening: Evil lord Kato (Bunta Sagawara) and his consort, sexy Agi (Chiaki Kuriyama), a former Yokai herself, do not only fight the Yokai, they plan to fight the humans and take over earth as well ... and they plan to do so using their big city-eating flying machine and their robots, which are even more bizarre than the Yokai.

Tadashi and friends cannot let that happen, but when Tadaashi has finally found the Yokai Sword, he is humiliatingly defeated by Agi, his sword is broken, and little Sunekosori is taken prisoner. And what's worse, the city eating flying machine is heading for Tokyo. Bugger.

When asked for help, most of the other Yokai though turn away from Tadashi and friends, all except for Azuki (Takashi Nokamura), the bean counting idiot, so our small group of friends has to go against Lord AKto on their own, with even Tadashi's sword broken. However, in Lord Kato's Yokai prison Sunekosori finds a swordsmith and helps him escape, even if that means he himself is turned into a horrbile robot in the process. The swordsmith soon enough fixes up the Yokai Sword, and Tadashi and friends go up against Kato's robots ... to soon enough realize they are grossly outnumbered - until the other Yokai come by, believing they wee invited to a festival, and thinking it's just part of the fun and games, they fight the robots like nobody's business.

Tadashi and Kawahime meanwhile have entered Kato's flying machine, and first, Tadashi has to fight his now robotic friend Sunekosori to death, which breaks his heart. Then he goes against Lady Agi, which ends in a tie - but Agi is ultimately killed by her own master, Kato, who claims her love for him bungles up his plans. For Lord Kato though, Tadashi proves to be no match, but (not surprisingly) in the end, it's one of Azuki's beans that puts a spanner into the works for Lord Kato, and all of a sudden both his flying machine and his robots fall to dust - and Sunekosori has apparently survived the ordeal after all ...

 

If bizarre, surreal monsters are your thing, this might be the film for you, as The Great Yokai War has a great many of them, and while they might not look too convincing as computer generated images, this is easily outweighed by their sheer outrageousness. Also, if over-the-top setpieces are your thing, this film has plenty of them.

... and yet, The Great Yokai War is not a particularly good film. The story simply takes ages to kick into gear, and even then it is little more than a succession of setpieces, the characters are not at all etched out, and especially lead Tadashi spends way too much time gasping in fear or disbelief to actually has the audience caring anymore. And by way too many pointless subplots, the whole thing is slowed down even more. And after the big showdown, there is a boring ending tagged on that does not make any (narrative) sense at all and only serves to reduce the impact of the climax that went before it.

Pity, this one could have been so much better.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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screenwriter and film reviewer
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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written by
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