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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #553  (Vol. 11, No. 44)  This edition is for the week of October 25--31, 2010.

"Conviction"  by Mike Smith
Friday the 13th: The Legacy Part 2  by ED Tucker
Halloween Horror Nights 2010: Been There -- Glad It's Back  by Brandon Tomasello
October's Album of the Month, Swans-My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope......  by Terence Nuzum
The Great Yokai War  by Jason Fetters
They're Dead .... They're The Walking Dead .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

The Great Yokai War

This Halloween, I was in the mood for something different and I would like to think that I found it. Take The Great Yokai War by Miike, the man responsible for populating the torture horror genre in such films as Audition and violent gangsters movies. Miike's name brings up graphic violence and painful physical horror. However, The Great Yokai War is a kid's movie that is accessible to everyone from children to grandparents and every family member in between. There is no violence, sex, horror, torture, psychological insights, nor anything that makes up hard-edged cinema. So what does this movie offer? Simple. It is a lot of fun, and something that is missed out on with big-budget CGI flicks like Avatar that do well at the box office but really are not that entertaining at all.

Yokai are creatures that exists in Japan that every Japanese child knows about. Take the Kappa, for example, a Kappa is a water sprite that is the size of a small boy with greenish froglike skin, a turtle's shell, and a duck's beak. Kappa can be found in rivers and ponds and their purpose is to play tricks on people. The Kappa even eat children and the Kappa's image is used in signs near rivers to warn children about water safety. Not all Yokai are bad, some even help drowning humans such as water sprites. Yokai come in all shapes, sizes, and appearances, which is so beautifully illustrated in The Great Yokai War.

The movie begins with a young boy, Tadashi, who has just moved into a small village after his parent's divorce. Tadashi attends a local festival and gets bit on the top of his head by a long red dragon. The dragon is operated by two people and resembles the dragons used in the Chinese dragon dance. Due to Tadashi bite, he is now regarded as the Kirin Rider who must protect the earth against all evil.

On returning home, Tadashi is befriended by a small yokai that looks like a cute hamster. Together they team up to investigate what is going on at Great Goblin mountain.

Meanwhile, an angry spirit called Kato wants what all monsters want, to destroy the world.

Tadashi and Sunekosuri, his hamster looking friend, finally meet up with Yokai in the forest. The prank loving Kappa, the lovely Princess water sprite, and a host of others such as a woman wearing a kimono who has the ability to stretch her neck out, or the woman walking around with a lantern who has no face.

Tadashi is given a powerful sword, which he will have to use against the bad Yokai that are out to take over. The sword gives Tadashi the ability to leap and fly around to take care of the bigger creatures. If you grew up playing video games and loved jumping around attacking creatures and dragons, you will experience that same kind of childlike awe in the many scenes of Tadashi taking on dangerous Yokai with his magic sword.

Japan does not really have Halloween but they do have numerous festivals. Yokai are a big part of such festivals like the Tengu, the red faced goblin with a long nose. What better way to celebrate in a Halloween fashion, then to have a Yokai Festival parading down the streets? A black mysterious creature about the size of Gamera descends on Tokyo. The creature releases a gas that causes Tokyo to have a black out. All traffic stops and no lights are on anywhere. When the gas evaporates, hundreds of Yokai are seen partying up and down the street. There is one adult who works as a journalist who used to believe in Yokai but becoming an adult has forced him to stop believing. He keeps getting bumped into and bit by unseen forces. The man discovers a cooler of Kirin beer and drinks one. Suddenly all the creatures dancing around him come into focus. It is thought that adults stop believing in Yokai and that Yokai feel neglected by humans because the creatures are discarded as a worn out old pair of shoes. Now the Yokai want to take the world from humans so they can finally live it up. Tadashi must band together with his good Yokai friends in order to save the planet.

Can he succeed?

Miike does a great job with storytelling that shows he can step out of his hardcore genre to create something that is accessible to every moviegoer. The CGI special effects, combined with stop motion animation, bring life to Yokai in a way that a mere drawing on a sign can never accomplish.

Perhaps, The Great Yokai War's greatest achievement is to show kids how cool it is to go on a great journey to battle creatures on one level, and on another level to show adults how much fun childhood really was. Halloween is a great time for childhood and the same type of spirit and fun is found in The Great Yokai War.

For more information on Yokai and how to survive a Yokai encounter, I highly recommended a book by a husband and wife team living in Tokyo called "Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide" written by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt. The book features beautiful Yokai illustrations by Tatsuya Morino. In fact, Hiroko and Matt are both dressed up as Yokai during the big parade but they are very hard to find. Yokai Attack! is currently available through Amazon and some Borders and Barnes and Noble location.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween and watch out for that black shape moving across the oceans from the East that is bringing troublemaking creatures to your door!!

Highly Recommended for Halloween Viewing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.