Great Yokai War (2005)Director: Miike Takeshi
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Etsushi Toyokawa, Masaomi Kondo, Mai Takahashi, Takashi Okamura
Tagline: Back to weird goodness for Miike! Hooray!
I thought Miike Takeshi had lost the plot after Izo so I wasn't planning on seeing any more of his movies. Someone sent me the trailer for this movie though and said he was going to make a kid's movie so I wanted to see how it turned out.
It is not the usual sort of kids movie though as there are some things that are highly questionable, such as the shots of young child star taking off his pants which made the screening audience laugh due to being uncomfortable with it. Lewis Carroll liked taking photos of young naked girls and no one mentions that though and Alice in Wonderland is still regarded as a classic children's story.
The story begins with Tadashi (Ryunosuke Kamiki) living in a small seaside village with his mother after his parents have divorced. He isn't having a very good time of it as he is picked on at school and he also have to look after his grandfather who seems to have Alzheimer's.
Things get worse when Tadashi is chosen as the Kirin Rider in a local festival and the local kids beat him up more. His problems pale in comparison with the trouble brewing in the spirit world with Lord Kato (Etsushi Toyokawa) and his assistant Agi (Chiaki Kuriyama) about the release the rage from things mankind has discarded against them with the unwilling help of the mostly harmless Yokai that they are rounding up by the score.
Shojo the Kirin Herald (Masaomi Kondo) tricks Tadashi into going to Goblin Mountain to get the sword and that is when the story really begins. There are so many other characters introduced it is difficult to keep track of them all, but the standouts are Kawahime, the River Princess (Mai Takahashi), Kawataro, the River Sprite (Sadao Abe) and the Azuki-Bean Washer (Takashi Okamura). They all set off towards Tokoyo where Kato has unleashed all his monsters. Hearing of what is going on in Tokyo, the rest of the Yokai mistake it for a festival and turn up to have a good time. Meanwhile Tadashi is fighting all the monsters and trying to save his friend.
What I liked the best about this film is that the human characters are really a distraction as there are so many different weird creatures you spend most of the time looking out for new ones and don't even notice the people. Some of my favourite creatures included the Wall with beefy arms and legs, the umbrella with a long tongue, one eye and one leg and the woman with the long neck. I recognized some of the creatures from stories I have seen before and you would get a lot more out of this film if you know something about traditional Japanese culture.
The terminator style robots that are the bad guys don't really get that much of a look in, but they are great when they do as there is a lot of imagination on display in their design. There are a lot of giant metal skulls with glowing red eyes and giant chainsaw type contraptions on display. Some of them might be a bit disturbing for really little kids, but most aren't as bad as what they would be seeing already in cartoons and video games.
If you don't like special effects then I recommend you watch something else as once the Yokai start appearing it is hard to tell what is real. My favourite strange sequence is when Tadashi is being tested in the Goblin's Cave and the landscape starts becoming very strange. The eyes appearing on the sliding door and the giant head trying to blow him away are great. There is also a giant explosion in this movie but that is not giving much away as you see it in the trailer. It was funny that the Yokai all enjoyed being blown up and didn't really care what happened to the people afterwards.
If you were a fan of Lord of the Rings and want something less serious and self important then I recommend this film. Along with Funky Forest - The First Contact it is the strangest movie I have seen this year.