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Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare

Entry updated 3 October 2022. Tagged: Film.

Japanese film (1968). Original title Yōkai Daisensō, vt The Great Yokai War. Daiei Film. Directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda. Written by Tetsurō Yoshida. Cast includes Yoshihiko Aoyama, Chikara Hashimoto, Takashi Kanda, Akane Kawasaki and Osamu Ōkawa. 80 minutes. Colour.

Seven thousand years ago a Monster (Hashimoto) began hibernating in the ruins of Ur, once capital of Babylonia; awakened thousands of years later by treasure seekers, it makes its way to Japan (probably during the Edo period). On arrival, it bites kindly local magistrate Hyogo Isobe (Kanda) and possesses him: whereupon he angrily orders all shrines and alters in his home to be destroyed. He also possesses his steward and bites others in the household. A local kappa – a frog-like yokai, which are Japanese Supernatural Creatures – remonstrates with the monster, who humiliates him. The kappa goes to his fellow yokai for help, but as the creature described is not in any guide or colouring book, they disbelieve him. Shinpachiro (Aoyama), the samurai boyfriend of the magistrate's daughter, Lady Chie (Kawasaki), realizes something is amiss so informs his uncle, a Buddhist priest (see Religion), who identifies the monster as a Demon who drinks blood (see Gods and Demons; Vampires) to extend their life. The uncle attempts to kill the demon through Magic but is defeated and dies.

Wanting younger blood, the magistrate orders his servants to bring him village children: two kids flee their home and run into the kappa, who has them tell their story to the other yokai, who are finally persuaded a demon is present, and agree to combat him. Though scaring his staff is easy, the demon himself sees them off without difficulty and they end up trapped in a vase intended for the demon. Shinpachiro shoots an arrow into the magistrates eye, forcing the demon to leave the body – but he then possesses the magistrate's successor, Lord Ohdate (Ōkawa) – who orders Shinpachiro's execution. An army of yokai now attacks Lord Ohdate, who reverts to his monster form. Firstly he sends copies of himself (in the subtitles, referred to as Clones by one of the yokai) to fight his opponents, then grows to giant size (see Kaiju) and stomps on them: fortunately the yokai leader manages to blind the demon in his other eye, causing him to leave Japan. The yokai dance off, watched by Shinpachiro and Chie.

Preceded by Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968), this was the second of Daiei's trilogy of Yokai movies. Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare is lighter, more juvenile in tone than the other two, though there is some gore. Though fine, it is not as good as its predecessor, with the special effects being less impressive – the demon is unremarkable, whilst the yokai here are mainly comic, so losing the eeriness they had in the earlier film. Many yokai are shown, the main ones being a rokurokubi (a snake-necked woman), kasa-obake (a one-legged, one-eyed umbrella), futakuchi-onna (here a woman with two faces), a bekataro (here able to show events elsewhere on his huge belly) and their leader, an abura-sumashi (a small stone-headed person). A later film, The Great Yokai War (2005), is sometimes said to be a remake, though the similarities might be due to both being influenced by Shigeru Mizuki's 1960-1969 Manga series Hakaba Kitarō (also known as GeGeGe no Kitarō).

The third film in Daiei's yokai trilogy was Yokai Monsters: Along with Ghosts (1969; original title Tōkaidō Obake Dōchū). Here criminals murder a man at a shrine, despite the warnings of a priest, whom they also kill. They pursue his grand-daughter, who is trying to find her father, but has the documents the original victim was killed for. The yokai exact their revenge, but are less prominent than in the other films. [SP]


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