Movie Review: The Great Yokai War

We rented this movie through cable on-demand because we wanted something fun on in the background while we signed and personalized copies of our Steampunk anthology. However, the first few scenes were too arresting, so we turned it off and went back to it when we had time to actually watch the film with our full attention. We’re glad we did. The Great Yokai War tells the fascinating story of an evil sorcerer (?) who is fashioning a kind of world-conquering machine that feeds off of the essence of various traditional Japanese spirits and mythological creatures. A boy finds himself in the unlikely role of hero in trying to help stop this wholesale torture/slaughter, and in the process tries to save the world.

Many of the special effects involving blue screens have a cheesy feel to them, but the director’s choice to put most of the monsters and spirits in actual physical costumes helps ground the movie in some imaginative, grotesque, and beautiful images. Yes, the plot is a little bit wonky, but when you see all of the weird spirit-things marching on Tokyo…it’s kinda breath-taking.


  1. says

    This is actually a remake of a 60s film that I have on DVD. I haven’t seen Miike’s version yet, but the original is sort of interesting. The original is marketed as Spook Warfare in the US I believe.

  2. Steve Winer says

    I actually thought of you when watching this movie not too long ago on the Sundance Channel, due to its occasional drifts into Steampunk territory. The director, Takashi Miike, is best known for ultraviolent gangster (Ichi the Killer) and horror (Audition) films, but he is quite capable of mixing as many genres as you can think of in one over-the-top concoction. If you liked “Yokai”, by all means check out “The Happiness of the Kakituris” — certainly the best example of the somewhat narrow ” ‘Sound of Music’ style musical featuring dancing zombies” genre.
    Steve W.

  3. says

    Actually, if you want to see a really good film (Miike’s best), see The Birdmen of China. This film is really exellent.

  4. says

    I’m shocked! Haven’t you been reading the Tähtivaeltaja-magazines I’ve sent you? There’s been a ton of reviews of Miike films since 1997. So you should know all of this by heart.

    Fudoh: The New Generation was the first Miike-film I saw and it really blew my mind, so we’ve been following closely his career since then. The Great Yokai War is a great example how different films the man can make – I was really pleasently surprised with it.

    The Happiness of Katakuris is also a remake – from a 1998 Korean film called The Quiet Family – with a crazy Miike-touch.

  5. says

    Miike is incredibly prolific and incredibly inventive. Yokai almost lost me a few times when it started to veer into Power Ranger territory, but pulled me back every time and left me with a good taste in my mouth — perhaps the taste of Azuki beans? I don’t envy the kid having to wear a stuffed animal on his head that much, though.