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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.