This film is a bit reminiscent of the German film, THE NEVERENDING STORY because a child is magically transported to a strange land in order to be a hero. However, due to far superior modern technology, puppets and CGI are used to make an amazingly realistic looking world--one that will blow your socks off due to its realism and scope.I enjoyed this film, but boy was it a chore at first! Unfortunately, for most Westerners, this film is one you might give up on very quickly or dismiss it since everything in the film seems so odd. However, give it a chance. Don't think or try to understand everything you see--just allow the story to unfold and you will most likely enjoy the film.In many ways, this is exactly the sort of advice I'd give to adults who watch Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY because it is very similar and features tons of Yokai (Japanese mythical spirits). The big differences between the two is that THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is live-action and SPIRITED AWAY is much more child-friendly. While I do think THE GREAT YOKAI WAR was intended mostly as a kids' movie, in the USA, most parents would not want to show this to younger kids because it's so violent, scary and features some adult behaviors. So who is the audience in the West? Well, older kids and adults who appreciate foreign films with non-Western themes and composition. This is a rather narrow audience, indeed! While you are watching, look for all the strange little touches. In fact, you could watch the film dozens of times and notice different tiny things each time. A few of the funny references I liked were the comment about Gamera, the scene that came with the comment "KIDS: Don't Try This At Home" as well as the use of Kirin beer to allow a person to actually see the Yokai (hmm,...perhaps that scene should have also contained this warning)! By the way, director Takashi Miike is a hard one to pin down stylistically, other than to say that none of his stories I've seen have seemed "normal". Some of his films are rather disgusting and disturbing and I hated them (especially AUDITION and ICHI THE KILLER)whereas some of them are magical and among the best films I've ever seen (THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS). One thing for sure, it's hard to watch one of his films and not have a strong reaction one way or the other.
I think I watched "Y?kai daisens?" (aka "The Great Yokai War") back around in 2006 or so. But I don't really recall the movie, so I sat down to watch it again here in 2019, as I was presented with the chance to watch it again.It should be said that the movie definitely has a lot of interesting costumes and creature designs throughout the scenes, but the storyline was watered down and almost non-existing. And that was a shame, because the movie suffered from having an inferior storyline and a weakly written script.Granted, the movie is from 2005, but the CGI special effects look like something you'd see in a late 1990s computer game in many instances. And that wasn't really helping the movie along either.What did work in the movie was most of the acting performances, as they put on good performances, despite of having little to work with in terms of a proper script and storyline. And also the creature design, that was definitely a plus for the movie.This is not really your average Takashi Miike movie. I mean, the director definitely have some odd and interesting movies to his director career, but "The Great Yokai War" is a deviation, even for Takashi Miike.All in all, "The Great Yokai War" was mediocre in terms of entertainment value and enjoyment. So I am rating it a five out of ten stars.
Where was this film when I was a kid? After his parents split up Tadashi moves with his mom to live his his grandfather. Tadashi's sister stays with their dad and they talk frequently on the phone. Grandfather is only "here" every third day. Moms never really home. The kids always are picking on the poor kid. During a village festival Tadashi is chosen the "kirin rider" or spiritual champion of the peace and justice. Little does he suspect that soon he will have to actually step into role of hero as the forces of darkness join up with the rage of things discarded in a plot to destroy mankind and the spiritual world.Okay that was the easy part. Now comes the hard part, trying to explain the film.This is a great kids film. No this is a great film,flawed, (very flawed?) but a great film none the less. It unfolds like all of those great books you loved as a kid and is just as dense at times as Tadashi struggles to find the strength to become a hero. Watching it I felt I was reading a great book, and thought how huge this would have been if it was a book. I loved that the film does not follow a normal path. Things often happen out of happenstance or through miscommunication, one character gets sucked into events simply because his foot falls asleep. There are twists and turns and moments that seem like non sequiters and are all the more charming for it (which is typical Miike) Certainly its a Takashi Miike film. That Japanese master of film is clearly in charge of a film that often touching, scary and funny all at the same time. No one except Miike seems to understand that you can have many emotions at the same time, or that you can suddenly have twists as things get dark one second and then funny the next. I admire the fact that Miike has made a film that is bleak and hopeful, that doesn't shy away from being scary, I mean really scary, especially for kids. This is the same dark territory that should be in the Harry Potter movies but rarely is. This a dark Grimms tale with humor. My first reaction upon seeing the opening image was that I couldn't believe anyone would begin a kids film with a picture of the end of the world, then I realized who was making the movie. Hats off to Miike for making a movie that knows kids can handle the frightening images.Its also operating on more than one level. The mechanical monsters that the bad guys make are forged from mankind's discarded junk. Its the rage of being thrown away that fuels the monsters.One of the Yokai (spirits) talks about the rage sneakers thrown away because they are dirty or too small feels when they are tossed. You also have one of the good guys refusing to join the bad guys because that would be the human thing to do. Its a wild concept, but like other things floating around its what lifts this movie to another level. (there are a good many riffs and references to other movies,TV shows and novels that make me wonder who this film is for since kids may not understand them, though many parents will) And of course there are the monsters. They run the gamut from cheesy to spectacular with stops everywhere in between. Frankly you have to forgive the unevenness of their creation simply because they are has to be hundreds if not thousands of monsters on screen. Its way cool and it works. One of the main characters is a Yokai which I think is best described as a hamster in a tunic and is often played by a stuffed animal, it looks dumb and yet you will be cheering the little bugger and loving every moment he rides on Tadashi's head. (Acceptance is also easier if you've ever seen the old woodcuts of the weird Japanese monsters) I mentioned flaws, and there are a few. The effects are uneven, some of the sudden turns are a bit odd (even if understandable) and a few other minor things which are fading now some two hours after watching the film.. None of them truly hurt the film over all, however most kind of keep you from being completely happy with the movie.I really loved this movie. I'm pretty sure that if I saw this as a kid it would have been my favorite film of all time. (where's the English dub?).See this movie. Its a great trip. (Besides its a good introduction to the films of Miike minus the blood and graphic sex)
Miike makes a children's adventure film, not unlike The Neverending Story. It's actually one of my least favorite of the director's films. Even the worst Miike is better than a good many films, though, and The Great Yokai War has a lot in it that's worth recommending. It's at least as loud and obnoxious as most American kiddie flicks. I might think kids themselves would find a lot to like in it (the DVD includes an English dub), but, like all of Miike's films, it can tend to move very slowly. That means you've got kind of a weird unevenness, where sometimes there's a loud action sequence and the next scene will drag on forever as characters converse. The story itself isn't very good, either, and Miike's perpetual flaw of incoherency rears its ugly head. Most of what I liked came from the technical side of things. This has to be Miike's most expensive movie, and it looks fantastic. "Yokai" are Japanese spirits, and they come in all different, fantastical forms, and the costume designers, special effects crew, and everyone else involved in the designs just did an outstanding job. I've seen the 1968 film this one is supposedly based on (Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare), and the cheesy rubber-suit monsters you can find there have been transformed into more believable entities using state-of-the-art makeup and special effects. I especially liked the look of one of the bad guys (or girls, in this case), Agi, who sports dark eye shadow, a tight, white outfit, a white beehive hairdo and a whip. She's played, incidentally, by Chiaki Kuriyama, whom you might remember as Lucy Liu's teenage henchgirl in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. The hero of the film is played by Ryunosuke Kamiki, who provided voices for Miyazaki's Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.
This is a movie that has a lot of things that only Japanese people can understand. Even well translated, there are some things that are obviously private jokes or regional symbolism. My guess is that it tried to send a message of some sort, but that just got wasted on me.What I felt that is basically this is a mediocre movie with nice special effects. Some kid becomes "The one" and in the end has almost no relevance to a yokai war that makes no sense whatsoever anyway. It would have been nice to understand what the hell they were talking about, but between the Azumi bean washing yokai and the one that looks like a big tongued umbrella (Rihanna eat your heart out!) I couldn't really discern the plot.Bottom line: nice visuals, the kid screams a lot, the river princess is terrible cute and the rest is crap.