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Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters

Entry updated 3 October 2022. Tagged: Film.

Japanese film (1968). Original title Yōkai Hyaku Monogatari. Daiei Film. Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda. Written by Tetsurō Yoshida. Cast includes Jun Fujimaki, Ryûtarô Gomi and Takashi Kanda. 80 minutes. Colour.

During the Edo period of Japan, landowner Mr Tajimaya (Kanda), working for the magistrate Lord Uzen of Hotta (Gomi), buys a local village's shrine. He plans to tear it down and build a brothel in its place; the caretaker protests but is fatally beaten by his thugs. The villagers are powerless as Tajimaya has used bribes and trickery to make the arrangement legal. Tajimaya and Uzen celebrate with the Buddhist "100 Monsters ceremony" (Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai), where tales of yokai (traditional Japanese Supernatural Creatures) are told, after which a curse elimination ritual is performed, as otherwise a yokai will appear.

The master of the ceremony tells of two fishermen warned by a monk not to take fish from a cursed lake: they ignore him and seem to return home during a storm. The wife of one prepares the fish. After they eat the wife becomes a rokurokubi, a long-necked woman: one dies of fright, the other suffocated as the rokurokubi's neck wraps around his body like a constricting snake. However, the following morning we see the wife ask the monk if he has seen the fishermen, as they never returned home: the monk points to two bodies struck by lightning (the pair's final experience seemingly an example of magical Dream Hacking). At the end of the story Tajimaya sneers at the need for the curse elimination ritual – and a distraction means it is never completed. Later, he orders the murder of the adjoining tenements' owner when attempts to get the deeds by other means fail.

The yokai now torment Tajimaya and Uzen, who die: the latter by his own hand, after he learns that one of the tenement's inhabitants, Yasutaro (Fujimaki), is an agent of the region's High Magistrate. The main yokai are an ōkubi, a giant disembodied head who causes Tajimaya's death, and – more light-heartedly – a kasa-obake, a long-tongued, one-eyed and one-legged (but two-armed) umbrella creature who befriends Tajimaya's son; numerous others have cameos. The tsurube otoshi, kasa-obake and – particularly – the earlier rokurokubi are the most impressive of the yokai special effects, which have an uncanny feel to them. A good, entertaining Tokusatsu Horror movie, it is untypical of the genre in that the story does not focus on the Monsters, being more a period drama centring on Tajimaya and Uzen and the people affected by their actions.

This was the first of a trilogy of yokai films made by Daiei; it was followed by Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968) and Yokai Monsters: Along with Ghosts (1969). Shigeru Mizuki's 1960-1969 Manga series Hakaba Kitarō (also known as GeGeGe no Kitarō), about a demon boy and his adventures with yokai, was an influence on the trilogy. [SP]


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