THE GREAT YOKAI WAR
A look at the incredible fantasy adventure YOKAI DAISENSO from Takashi Miike and Kadokawa Pictures
Author: Keith Aiken
Source: Media Blasters, Inc., Horizon Entertainment Ltd
Official site: Yokai-Movie
Special Thanks to Kyle Yount, Daisuke Ishizuka, Vivian Chen, JustBeComplex.com, Clay Holden, and Kyle Byrd
- DVD REVIEW: THE GREAT YOKAI WAR Double-Disc Special Edition from Media Blasters
- The Cast and Characters of THE GREAT YOKAI WAR
The legends of Japan are replete with tales of the strange creatures known as yokai. Not quite apparitions, monsters, or ghosts, the yokai are mystical beings that secretly live in the world of men. Mostly unseen, they come in a variety of bizarre forms— some hideous, some cute— and have incredible supernatural powers. They tend to be mischievous and playful, but they are sometimes dangerous towards humans because the yokai are not restrained by the laws of nature. Most avoid people and simply haunt the province where they were “born”, but others enjoy the company of men and travel all over Japan.
Despite their prominent place in Japanese folklore, the yokai have been the subject of only a handful of films over the years… notable examples include HIRUKO THE GOBLIN (Yokai Hanta Hiruko, 1990), Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar winning blockbuster SPIRITED AWAY (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, 2001), and director Tomoo Haraguchi’s SAKUYA, SLAYER OF DEMONS (Sakuya Yokaiden, 2001) and KIBAKICHI (Kibakichi Bakko Yokaiden, 2004). Perhaps the most enduring of the yokai movies was the classic trilogy produced by Daiei Motion Picture Company in the late 1960s; THE HUNDRED MONSTERS (Yokai Hyaku Monogatari, 1968), SPOOK WARFARE (Yokai Daisenso, 1968), and ALONG WITH GHOSTS (Tokaido Obake Dochu, 1969).
Set in the 18th century, THE HUNDRED MONSTERS tells the story of a crooked Shrine Magistrate and a greedy developer who tear down a shrine and replace it with a brothel. On opening day they call in a local storyteller to entertain their guests with the Hundred Monster Collection, a series of tales about yokai. But the developer was so entertained that he neglected the exorcism ritual that traditionally ends opening ceremonies. The brothel is soon haunted by the hundred spirits that had been set free by the storyteller’s tales, and the two men are driven to madness and death.
THE HUNDRED MONSTERS featured many of the most famous yokai characters— including Kasabake the umbrella monster, the water spirit Kappa, Lamp Oil, and Rokurokubi the long-necked woman— as spirits of vengeance. These same yokai took on more heroic roles in SPOOK WARFARE by banding together to protect innocent townspeople from Daimon, a powerful vampiric demon from ancient Babylon. In ALONG WITH GHOSTS, the yokai come to the aid of a little girl named Miyo whose grandfather was murdered on sacred ground by a corrupt clan leader and his men. The Daiei yokai movies were rarely seen in the United States until ADV Films released all three on Region 1 DVD in 2003 as the “Yokai Monsters” series.
In 2002, Daiei was purchased by Kadokawa Publishing, who merged the studio with the company’s own film unit to form the new Kadokawa Pictures. 2005 marked Kadokawa’s 60th anniversary, and as part of the year’s festivities the company decided to produce an updated version of SPOOK WARFARE. Billed as “the biggest fantasy adventure film in the history of Japan”, the new movie was given the English title THE GREAT YOKAI WAR.
In charge of the film was executive producer Tsuguhiko Kadokawa (chairman and CEO of Kadokawa Publishing) and producer Fumio Inoue, an experienced horror filmmaker who had produced INUGAMI (2001), ONE MISSED CALL (Chakushin Ari, 2003) and THREE… EXTREMES (Saam Gaang Yi, 2004). To direct THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, the pair chose a director Inoue had worked with before; the talented and prolific Takashi Miike.
Born near Osaka in 1960, Miike had studied directing under Shohei Imamura (PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS, UNAGI) and Hideo Onchi (YOUNG WOLF, THE CALL OF FLESH) following his graduation from film school. He has worked on over seventy films in the past fifteen years, starting with straight-to-video titles like BODYGUARD KIBA (Bodigaado Kiba, 1993) before moving to theatrical features with SHINJUKU TRIAD SOCIETY (Shinjuku Kuroshakai: Chaina Mafia Senso, 1995), FUDOH: THE NEXT GENERATION (Gokudo Sengokushi: Fido, 1996), and RAINY DOG (Gokudo Kuroshakai, 1997); the latter film winning Miike the Japanese Professional Movie Best Director Award. The disturbing AUDITION (Odishon, 1999) brought Miike international attention, the FIRPRESCI Prize at the 2000 Rotterdam International Film Festival, and a US theatrical release from the American Cinematheque and Vitagraph Films. It also earned him a reputation as one of the few Japanese directors guaranteed to draw audiences at festivals and cinemas around the world. Since AUDITION, Miike has repeatedly validated that reputation with a slew of movies in a variety of genres; a partial list of his credits includes the twisted family story VISITOR Q (Bizita Q, 2001), the ultra-violent ICHI THE KILLER (Koroshiya 1, 2001), the horror comedy musical HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS (Katakuri-ke no Kofuku, 2001), the tragic drama SABU (2002), the absolutely bizarre yakuza story GOZU (Gokudo Kyofu Dai Gekijo: Gozu, 2003), ONE MISSED CALL, the super-hero romp ZEBRAMAN (Zeburaman, 2004), the supernatural samurai story IZO (2004), several episodes of ULTRAMAN MAX (Urutoraman Makkusu, 2005) —including a hilarious show with three monstrous mutated housecats— and IMPRINT (2006), the banned episode of Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR series. Miike has also appeared in small roles in several films such as THE NEIGHBOR NO. 13 (Rinjin 12-Go, 2005) and Eli Roth’s horror hit HOSTEL (2005).
Taksahi Miike was an inspired choice to direct THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, and the news created a buzz among fans of Japanese cinema. With a budget of $10 million it would be his biggest movie to date, and many fans around the world eagerly awaited the director’s take on the yokai genre.
Along with his co-screenwriters Mitsuhiko Sawamura (.hack//Quarantine) and Takehiko Itakura, Miike worked with an “all-star supernatural team” to craft the story for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR. Headlining this group was 83 year old Shigeru Mizuki, the creator of the manga Little Devil (Akuma-Kun) and Kitaro (GeGeGe no Kitaro) which were first published by Shonen Magazine in 1966 and brought to television by Toei Animation. The popularity of these series earned Mizuki the title of “the father of yokai tales”. One scene in THE GREAT YOKAI WAR even takes place at the Shigeru Mizuki Museum located in his hometown of Sakaiminato.
Mizuki was joined by the other members of the Kwai Team (Scary Team) such as Hiroshi Aramata, author of the 1971 novel Teito Monogatari which was adapted into the live action movie trilogy TOKYO: THE LAST MEGALOPOLIS (Teito Monogatari, 1987), TOKYO: THE LAST WAR (Teito Taisen, 1989), and TOKYO STORY: SECRET REPORT (Teito Monogatari Gaiden, 1995), as well as the four-part anime DOOMED MEGALOPOLIS (1991). Aramata wrote the original story for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR and acted as the script supervisor for the writing staff. Natsuhiko Kyogoku, author of horror novels Eternal Love (Warau Iemon) and Summer of Ubume (Ubume no Natsu) which were both recently made into films, was brought on as a “yokai casting agent”. Rounding out the production team was Miyuki Miyabe, screenwriter of the Toho movie PYROKINESIS (Kurosufaia, 2000).
Many of the yokai could never be described as “realistic” by western standards, but the sheer variety of shapes, sizes, and appearances of these spirit creatures gave the filmmakers an opportunity to play with just about every technique possible —suits, makeup, prosthetics, puppetry, props, computer graphics, and more— to bring these creatures to cinematic life. Art director Hisashi Sasaki, whose credits include KEIZOKU: THE MOVIE (Keizoku Eiga, 2000), ICHI THE KILLER, and MADNESS IN BLOOM (Kyoki no Sakura, 2002), worked with the four designers who were in charge of creating, updating, and building the yokai. Many of the yokai models and props were designed and sculpted by Tomo Hyakutake, creator of the suit for CASSHERN (2004) and the poster designs for the film ASHURA (Ashura-Jo no Hitomi, 2005). Other yokai were designed by Takayuki Takeya, who had worked on EKO EKO AZARAK II: BIRTH OF THE WIZARD (Eko Eko Azaraku 2, 1996) and GAMERA: REVENGE OF IRIS (Gamera 3: Iris Kukusei, 1999), and manga artist Junya Inoue, creator of the Otogi Matsuri stories serialized in Gum Comics. The machine yokai called Kikai were the work of Yasushi Nirasawa. Nirasawa has also worked on VAMPIRE HUNTER D (2000), DEVILMAN APOCALYPSE (Amon: Debiruman Mokushiroku, 2000), and designed the new Gigan and Xilians for GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (Gojira Fainaru Uozu, 2004).
The yokai makeup and prosthetic appliances were created by Yoichi Matsui of THE EEL (Unagi, 1997) and ICHI THE KILLER. The CGI director for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR was Kaori Otagaki, a talented computer artist who has worked on Miike’s films ICHI THE KILLER, ONE MISSED CALL, TOUCH (Tatchi, 2005). The beautiful, humorous, and haunting soundtrack was created by Koji Endo, the main composer for Takashi Miike’s films including RAINY DOG, AUDITION, VISITOR Q, HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, SABU, GOZU, ONE MISSED CALL, ZEBRAMAN, IZO, and MASTERS OF HORROR: IMPRINT.
The creative team worked for a year and a half, with 7 months of principle photography, to make THE GREAT YOKAI WAR. Their combined efforts created “the first family film from Takashi Miike”… a large scale fantasy for all ages that manages to retain much of the horror, action, comedy, and bodily fluids that the director’s fans have come to expect. As with better fantasy films like WIZARD OF OZ (1939), THE NEVERENDING STORY (1981), or the Harry Potter series, THE GREAT YOKAI WAR will appeal to (perhaps less squeamish) children and adults alike.
Unlike the 1968 version of YOKAI DAISENSO, the new film takes place in modern day Japan. Times are tough for 10 year old Tadashi Ino (Ryunosuke Kamiki). After his parent’s divorce, Tadashi and his mother Yoko (Kaho Minami) leave Tokyo and move in with his senile grandfather Shunta Ino (Bunta Sugawara) who lives in a rural fishing village in the Totori prefecture. Having been raised in the city, Tadashi is not as physically fit as his new classmates so they constantly taunt and tease him. One night, Tadashi wanders into a local shrine festival and is knocked on the head by a man in a traditional dragon costume. One of his classmates explains that he has been chosen as the next Kirin Rider, the defender of justice and peace in times of darkness. According to legend, the Kirin Rider must climb the nearby Goblin Mountain and claim the legendary sword guarded by a spirit called the Great Goblin.
Remembering the bullies at school called him a crybaby, Tadashi is determined to climb the mountain and fulfill the prophecy. But he soon grows scared, turns back, and boards a bus heading towards town. As he rides home, he suddenly realizes there are scores of strange creatures staring at him through the bus windows. Tadashi screams in terror, and the spectres fade away before his eyes. The boy is startled by Sunekosuri, a catlike sprite that only he can see. The tiny creature has a damaged leg, so Tadashi brings Sunekosuri home with him to nurse it back to health. Checking a reference book, he learns that Sunekosuri is one of the yokai from Japanese folklore.
Meanwhile, children begin to disappear across Japan, and terrifying mechanical monsters launch a series of attacks against human beings. This is the handiwork of an evil being named Lord Yasunori Kato (Etsushi Toyokawa), who has used the power of Onmyodo (a mixture of natural science and occultism) to reawaken the giant raging spirit Yomotsumono. With the assistance of his lover Agi the Bird –Catching Sprite (Chiaki Kuriyama), Kato merges the souls of captured yokai with trash and discarded mechanical items to create an army of machine monsters called Kikai. The anger and sadness of the yokai and human victims adds to Lord Kato’s power, and soon he will merge with Agi and Yomotsumono into a being that will become the absolute ruler of earth.
Only Tadashi and the good yokai stand in Lord Kato’s way, but will the boy be able to find his courage, become the new Kirin Rider, and convince the good yokai to work together to prevent a new age of darkness?
THE GREAT YOKAI WAR was a co-production between Kadokawa Pictures, the Japan Film Fund, and Nippon Television Network, with theatrical distribution in Japan handled by Shochiku. The film premiered on August 6, 2005 and opened in 4th place at the box office, behind MADAGASCAR, STAR WARS EPISODE III, and POKEMON: LUCARIO AND THE MYSTERY OF MEW (Myu to Hadou no Yuusha- Rukario), and ahead of such big budget US fare as WAR OF THE WORLDS and THE ISLAND. In five weeks the movie topped $22 million at the box office, making it a major hit for the studio. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa quickly announced to the Japanese press that THE GREAT YOKAI WAR would be the first movie in a series that will rival HARRY POTTER and LORD OF THE RINGS in worldwide appeal. Kadokawa Pictures also tapped Takashi Miike to direct a remake of the classic Daiei monster movie DAIMAJIN, but that project has been reportedly been put on hold due to the poor box office for the studio’s kaiju film GAMERA THE BRAVE (Chiisaki Yusha-tachi Gamera, 2006).
Horizon Entertainment is the world sales agent for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, and the Canadian company set up the film’s international festival premiere in Venice in late August of 2005. These were followed by festivals in Toroto and in Sitges, Spain and the first US screenings on November 5 and 7, 2005 at the American Film Market. On February 12, 2006 Kadokawa showed THE GREAT YOKAI WAR as part of the SF Indie Fest in San Francisco. Not long after, Media Blasters acquired US rights to the film. They launched a limited theatrical run in June with dual premieres at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California and Subway Cinema’s annual New York Asian Film Festival. The theatrical run apparently ended with a screening on September 29 at the Idaho International Film Festival, and Media Blasters released the film on DVD on September 12.
DVD REVIEW: THE GREAT YOKAI WAR Double-Disc Special Edition from Media Blasters
Media Blasters brings THE GREAT YOKAI WAR to DVD in America with an excellent 2 disc special edition loaded with a wealth of extra features, and packaged in a standard amaray case inside an embossed heavy cardstock slipcase. The set has a SRP of $29.95 and is worth every penny.
Disc 1 includes the uncut 124 minute long film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Language options are the original Japanese audio track in both 2.0 and 5.1 stereo, an English dub in 2.0 and 5.1, and removable English subtitles. There are 12 Chapter stops. The extras on Disc 1 are…
ORIGINAL TRAILERS: Two Japanese theatrical trailers with English subtitles.
STILLS GALLERY: A selection of 31 publicity photos and promotional art.
YOKAI CHARACTER PROFILES: Photos and names for 181 different yokai, with descriptions for a dozen or so major characters.
TOKYO SHOCK TRAILERS: Original language promos for the Media Blasters titles HORROR THEATER (Umezz Kazuo-no Kyofu Gekijo, 2005), DEATH TRANCE (2005), and SPACE AMOEBA (Gezora – Ganime – Kameba: Kessen! Nankai-no Daikaiju, 1970). The latter two come with English subtitles.
Disc 2 focuses on supplemental features…
THE MAKING OF THE GREAT YOKAI WAR: This 40 minute long feature is a series of interviews with Takashi Miike, yokai designers Junya Inoue, Takayuki Takeya and Tomo Hyakutake, yokai makeup artist Yoichi Matsui, art director Hisashi Sasaki, machine yokai designer Yasushi Nirasawa, and CGI director Kaori Otagaki.
SHORT DRAMA OF YOKAI: Episode 1: WHOSE HOTCAKES ARE THESE? (6 minutes) and Episode 2: WHO’S THE MOST ANNOYING? (7:40) are two shot on video skits about what happened to some of the yokai immediately after the events of THE GREAT YOKAI WAR.
INTERVIEWS WITH THE CAST: 50 minutes of interviews with Masaomi Kondo, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Sadao Abe, Mai Takahashi, Etsushi Toyokawa, Takashi Okamura, Bunta Sugawara, and Chiaki Kuriyama. The feature has a lot of behind the scenes footage, including actor Kiyoshiro Imawano getting into his yokai makeup and filming wirework scenes in front of a blue screen.
ANOTHER STORY OF KAWATARO: Two more skits starring Kawataro the Kappa. In the first skit Kawataro, Hyakume, and Nuppeppo discuss plans for their date with three stewardesses. In the second, Kawataro is interrogated by police (16:46 minutes).
DOCUMENTARY OF THE WORLD YOKAI CONFERENCE 2005: Natsuhiro Kyogoku hosts a GREAT YOKAI WAR panel at an event held by the World Yokai Association on July 23, 2005 at the Nakano Sun Plaza Hall. The guest speakers include Hiroshi Aramata, yokai researcher Masami Tada, Takashi Miike, actress Miyuki Miyabe (Tadashi’s school teacher), “the father of yokai tales” Shigeru Mizuki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mai Takahashi, and a host of yokai. Midway through the panel a mild earthquake shook Sun Plaza Hall (13 minutes).
ANNOUNCEMENT OF FILM COMPLETION AND THE PREMIERE: The June 27, 2005 press conference announcing the end of filming features comments from executive producer Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, Takashi Miike, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Masaomi Kondo, Mai Takahashi, Chiaki Kuriyama, and Etsushi Toyokawa. The same team is joined by Sunekosuri to introduce the film’s premiere at the Marunouchi Piccadilly. Oddly, this is followed by the September 1, 2004 press conference at Kadokawa Studios that announced the start of production for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, Takashi Miike, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Chiaki Kuriyama, Mai Takahashi, Bunta Sugawara, Shigeru Mizuki, and the Governor of Totori prefecture Yoshihiro Katayama all make brief statements (17 min).
DOCUMENTARY OF RYUNOSUKE KAMIKI: A featurette focusing on the shooting of stunt scenes with Ryunosuke Kamiki, plus the young actor’s appearance at the theatrical premiere of THE GREAT YOKAI WAR. (12:30 min)
A SUMMER VACATION OF RYUNOSUKE KAMIKI: A behind the scenes featurette about the actor’s experiences filming a large scale fantasy film. (14:45 min)
BUYER BEWARE: Wal-Mart is selling an “exclusive” single-disc version of Media Blaster’s GREAT YOKAI WAR that retails for $25.46, but does not come with the slipcase or most of the extra features on the Double-Disc Special Edition. Spend the extra four dollars and get the loaded 2-disc version instead.
THE CAST AND CHARACTERS OF THE GREAT YOKAI WAR
According to the filmmakers THE GREAT YOKAI WAR features 1.2 million yokai, most of whom will be unfamiliar to western audiences. The following list should help viewers identify many of the key yokai and humans in the film.
Tadashi Ino: Tadashi is the young “pipsqueak” who is chosen to be the new Kirin Rider. He quickly matures as he joins with the yokai to fight against an army of evil spirits.
Tadashi is played by 12 year-old Ryunosuke Kamiki. Already a ten-year veteran of the acting business, Kamiki’s film credits include ROCKERS (Rokkazu, 2003), BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 2 (Odoru Daisosasen 2: Rainbow Bridge wo Fuusa Seyo!, 2003), INSTALL (Insutoru, 2004), and ZOO (2005). He has also provided voices for the Japanese versions of Hayao Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY (Sen to Chihiro-no Kamikaushi, 2001) and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (Hauru-no Ugoku Shiro, 2004) plus the documentary MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (2005).
Shuntaro Ino: Tadashi’s half-senile but lovable grandfather who tells him about the legend of the Kirin Rider. He loves to eat red bean rice.
He is played by Bunta Sugawara, a longtime audience favorite from his many films with director Kinji Fukusaku. Born in 1933, Sugawara had his first starring role in MODERN YAKUZA: THE RULE OF OUTLAWS (Gendai Yakuza: Yotamono o Okite, 1968), and in 1972 he had his first collaboration with Fukusaku, MODERN YAKUZA: OUTLAW KILLER (Gendai Yakuza: Hito-Kiri Yota). In 1976 he won the Best Actor Blue Ribbon Award for his work in COPS VS THUGS (Kenkei tai Soshiki Boryoku), and followed that with a Japan Academy Award for THE MAN WHO STOLE THE SUN (Taiyo o Nusunda Otoko, 1979). His long list of credits includes BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY (Jingi Naki Tatakai, 1973), THE BURMESE HARP (Biruma no Tategoto, 1985), SPIRITED AWAY, and TALES OF EARTHSEA (Gedo Senki, 2006).
Sata: Sata is Tadashi’s friend and a reporter for Kai, a magazine about the strange creatures. As a child, Sata was saved from drowning by Kawahime, and he longs to see her again. He also takes part in a funny bit of product placement during THE GREAT YOKAI WAR.
Actor Hiroyuki Miyasako is a well-known television comedian in Japan whose work in WILD BERRIES (Hebi Ichigo, 2003) won him the Mainichi Film Concours Sponichi Grand Prize New Talent Award and the Best New Actor award from the Yokohama Film Festival. Other recent credits include CASSHERN (2004), KAMIKAZE GIRLS (Shimotsuma Monogatari, 2004), and SUMMER OF UBUME (Ubume-no Natsu, 2005)
Lord Yasunori Kato (Majin Kato): The King of the Evil Monsters, Lord Kato was first introduced in Hiroshi Aramata’s novel Teito Monogatari. He is an evil spirit raised from the dead by the grudge of the native people of Japan who were overthrown in ancient times. Kato mixes the things humanity has used and thrown away with the souls of yokai to create an army of mechanical monsters to destroy mankind.
Kato is played by Etsushi Toyokawa, an award-winning actor for his roles in TWINKLE (Kira Kira Hikaru, 1992) and LOVELETTER (1993). He played a serial killer in Toho’s THE MAN BEHIND THE SCISSORS (Hasami Otoko, 2004) which is now available on DVD from Media Blasters. He followed up THE GREAT YOKAI WAR with the horror film LOFT (Rofuto, 2005), DEAD RUN (Shisso, 2005) from Kadokawa Pictures, and the box office hit SINKING OF JAPAN (Nihon Chinbotsu, 2006) from Toho.
Agi the Bird-Catching Sprite (Torizashi Yojo): Agi is a cold-blooded yokai who betrayed and captures her brethren for Lord Kato’s spirit army.
Born in 1984, actress Chiaki Kuriyama is a former model and winner of the 1998 “Miss Tokyo Walker” competition. She appeared in the early video version of JU-ON (2000) and made a huge international impression with her performance in Kinji Fukusaku’s controversial blockbuster BATTLE ROYALE (Battoru Rowaiaru, 2000). That role caught the eye of Quentin Tarantino, who cast her as Go Go Yubari in KILL BILL VOL 1 (2003). Kuriyama also appeared in LAST QUARTER (Kagen No Tsuki, 2004), AZUMI 2: DEATH OR LOVE (2005), and the recent KISARAZU CAT’S EYE: SAYONARA GAME (2006).
Shojo the Kirin Herald (Shyo Jyo): Shojo is a baboon spirit whose body and clothing are entirely red. It is said he is that color because he is always drunk on sake. He stands at the head of the kirin dance and exorcises evil spirits so that god can go along the purified path. In feudal times, there was an outbreak of smallpox and many people used Shojo dolls as talismans to ward off the evil god they thought was responsible for the disease. In THE GREAT YOKAI WAR Shojo uses his strange magical powers to lead Tadashi to the Great Goblin Cave and to bring together the good yokai for battle against Lord Kato.
Actor Masaomi Kondo made his debut in director Shohei Imamura’s PORNOGRAPHERS (Jinruigaku Nyumon: Erogotshi Yori, 1968) and was a cast member of the long-running televison series SONG OF MAN (Ningen-no Uta, 1970-78).
Kawahime, the River Princess: Also known as the Yokai Pretty Girl (Yokai Bishojyo), she is a very good swimmer but rarely spends time underwater. She is very agile and can even walk on water. Legends state that if you see her your heart will be moved by her beauty and your spirit snatched away, and Kawahime has reportedly saved lives by a river in Fukuoka province and sucked the life out of men in Kyushu and Shikoku. Whether those stories are true or not, she is kind to children… and her thighs clearly hold a fascination for young boys. Kawahime has an ancient connection to Lord Kato.
21 year-old model/actress Mai Takahashi has appeared in magazine photo layouts, McDonalds advertising, and the musical FUTARI. Her roles include an episode of the Shochiku television series HORROR THEATER (Umezz Kazuo-no Kyofu Gekijo, 2005) entitled “The Present”, STRANGE CIRCUS (Kimyo na Sakasu, 2005) and THE BOOTH (Busu, 2005). A book of her modeling photographs was published in 2004.
Sunekosuri: A small, furry type of yokai from Okayama that can sometimes be seen along mountain paths on rainy nights. Their name means “rub the shin”, and Sunekosuri scares people by running around their feet and clinging to their shins. If they are entertained for a while they will leave once they are satisfied. In THE GREAT YOKAI WAR Tadashi befriends a wounded Sunekosuri.
Puppeteers Junko Takeuchi and Mao Sasaki performed Sunekosuri’s actions, with Sasaki also providing the yokai’s voice.
Kawataro: A water spirit known as a kappa that lives in ponds and rivers, Kawataro is a green-skinned creature with a turtle shell on his back and a plate on his head. Some kappa are pranksters but some are violent and will drag humans underwater and pull their victim’s soul from their anus. Some kappa are friendly and like to sumo wrestle for fun.
Actor Sadao Abe is a member of the theatrical company Otona Keikaku, and has appeared in the television series KISARAZU CATS’ EYE (2002) and the movies UZUMAKI (2000), KAMIKAZE GIRLS (2004), and KISARAZU CAT’S EYE: SAYONARA GAME.
Great Goblin (O Tengu): Originally an evil spirit that kidnapped children, O Tengu was defeated and punished for his deeds by the Kirin Rider. He then changed his ways, becoming the protector of his land and guardian of the legendary sword in the cave on Goblin Mountain.
He is played by Kenichi Endo, an actor whose extensive list of credits includes NINJA TASK FORCE KAKURANGER (Ninja Senta Kakurenja, 1994), FAMILY, VISITOR Q, THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, AZUMI, GOZU, ONE MISSED CALL, IZO, AZUMI 2: DEATH OR LOVE, FLOWER AND SNAKE 2 (Hana to Hebi 2: Pari/Shizuko, 2005) and SINKING OF JAPAN.
Lamp Oil (Aburasumashi): Also known as the Oil Licker, Aburasumashi resembles an expressionless old man wearing a traditional Japanese straw raincoat. He is the spirit of people who stole heating oil in ancient times. He lives in the mountain pass called Kusazumigoe in Kumamoto prefecture, and if someone says “Aburasumashi used to live around here a long time ago” he will suddenly appear to say “I still live here.” The Oil Licker is very wise spirit, and a member of the Yokai Council.
Lamp Oil is played by writer/director Naoto Takenaka. Takenaka won the Japanese Academy Prize for his performances in SUMO DO, SUMO DON’T (Shiko Funjatta, 1992), EAST MEETS WEST (1995), and SHALL WE DANCE? (1996), and was given the International Critics Association Award in the 48th Venice International Film Festival for his directorial debut, NOWHERE MAN (Muno-no Hito, 1991). His credits include HIRUKO THE GOBLIN (Yokai Hanta: Hiruko, 1990), PATLABOR 2 (Kido Keisatsu Patoreba Da Mubi 2, 1993), THE MYSTERY OF RAMPO (1994), POKEMON (1997), SAKUYA: SLAYER OF DEMONS, and AZUMI (2003).
Sunakake Baba the Sand Throwing Old Hag: Sunakake Baba is a shaman who was transformed into a yokai. Most people can’t see her, but she likes to scare people visiting shrines by throwing sand at them. She can also turn enemies into sand. Sunakake Baba has a funny encounter with Sata.
Actress Toshie Negishi has appeared in THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM (Hyoryu Kyoshitsu, 1987), AKIRA KUROSAWA’S DREAMS (Yume, 1990), AUDITION, GAMERA: REVENGE OF IRIS (Gamera 3: Iris Kukusei, 1999), AZUMI 2: DEATH OR LOVE, MASTERS OF HORROR: IMPRINT (2006), and GOD’S LEFT HAND, THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND (Kami no Hidarite Akuma no Migite, 2006).
General Nurarihyon (the Old Man): Considered to be the leader of the Yokai Council, Nurarihiyon resembles a wealthy elderly master with a huge head. He is a tricky yokai who never gets caught because he is slippery and hard to grasp like a catfish. Nurarihyon sometimes goes into people’s houses and makes himself at home. People assume he’s an invited guest, and by the time they realize he’s not he is already gone.
General Nurarihyon is played by Kiyoshiro Imawano, lead singer of the rock group RC Succession. He is known as “Japan’s King of Rock” and in 1992 he received an honorary citizenship from the Mayor of Memphis, TN. Imawano’s acting credits include HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS and OTAKUS IN LOVE (Koi-no Mon, 2004). He performs the theme song for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR.
Ippon Datara (One-Leg the Blacksmith): A one-legged yokai who lives deep in the mountain on Kii peninsula, Ippon is a skilled blacksmith who forges swords for the mountain god. Under his agreement with the mountain god, he gets December 20 off from work to do whatever he pleases.
Actor Hiromasa Taguchi has appeared in SUMO DO, SUMO DON’T (Shiko Funjatta, 1992), SHALL WE DANCE?, WHEN YOU SING OF LOVE (Koi ni Utaeba, 2002), SKY HIGH, and RAMPO NOIR (Rampo Jigoku, 2005).
Tofu Kozo (Tofu Boy): This yokai resembles a young man dressed in traditional garb and straw hat who is holding a plate of tofu garnished with a Japanese maple leaf. Tofu Kozo sometimes appears on quiet roads at night, offering tofu to travelers. Anyone who takes a bite of his tofu is cursed, with some victims even dying from a fungus that begins to grow in their stomach.
Tofu Kozo is played by Toru Hotohara.
Bakeneko the Monster Cat: An old cat that became a yokai, Bakeneko is a shapeshifter with magical powers. She will often haunt the house of her former owners, menacing them in their sleep. In some cases she will even take the place of her owner after eating her.
Bakeneko is played by Minori Fujikura, an actress who had earlier appeared in Takashi Miike’s ONE MISSED CALL.
Aobozu the Blue Monk: Before the wheat is ready for harvest, the one-eyed Aobozu emerges from the fields to kidnap any children who are playing after dark. This yokai is played by stuntman Makoto Arakawa.
Okubi: A yokai with giant head. When someone dies while holding an intense grudge, Okubi appears before the person they hate and scares them. He will not harm that person; he just frightens them and weakens them emotionally.
Actor Renji Ishibashi has appeared in more than a hundred movies, including the classic Lone Wolf and Cub series, THE INFERNO (Jigoku, 1979), TOKYO BLACKOUT (Shuto Shoshitsu, 1987), TETSU THE IRON MAN (Tetsuo, 1989), AUDITION, PYROKINESIS (Kurosufaia, 2000), GRAVEYARD OF HONOR (Shin Jinji no Hakaba, 2002), GOZU, ONE MISSED CALL, FLOWER AND SNAKE (Hana to Hebi, 2004), IZO, ONE MISSED CALL 2 (Chakushin Ari 2, 2005), SHINOBI (2005), and MASKED RIDER THE FIRST (Kamen Raida the First, 2005).
Nopperabo (No-Face): A yokai that delights in scaring people with her featureless face. She often imitates a real person in order to lure victims a close as possible before revealing her true face.
Nopperabo is played by actress Riko Narumi, whose credits include TRICK: THE MOVIE (2002) and WATERS (Uotazu, 2006).
Kasabake the Umbrella Monster: When an old umbrella (known as karakasa) has been abandoned, a spirit dwells in it and turns it into a playful monster. During the daytime it’s just a worn out umbrella, but at night it becomes a yokai that likes to scare people by licking them with its long tongue.
Nuppeppo: This yokai appears as a greasy chunk of meat to scare people. Nuppeppo generally wanders deserted streets, temples and graveyards. It stinks like rotting meat. According to legend, eating the flesh of Nuppeppo will give eternal life.
Otoroshi: A large, long-haired creature that guards temples and shrines. It lives on top of the shrine gates, waiting to pounce on people who are disrespectful.
Yuki Onna the Snow Woman: A beautiful female yokai, she usually appears on cold and snowy days. She is often described as having white or ice-blue skin, being cold to the touch, and with breath as cold as ice. She is thought to be the very spirit of the snow. Yuki Onna was the focus of a famous segment from the Toho film KWAIDAN (Kaidan, 1964).
Actress Rie Yoshii has also appeared in HIBI (2005) and NIGHTINGALO (2006).
Rokurokubi (Long-Necked Woman): This yokai is a beautiful woman who can stretch her neck to incredible lengths. According to a book from the Edo period, maids would become Rokurokubi after contracting a rare disease. Their necks would stretch out while they slept, hunting for insects to eat. Rokurokubi will also feast on the vitality of human males.
Actress Asumi Miwa plays Rokurokubi. Her other credits include UZAMAKI (2000), the video version of JU-ON (2000), and APPLESEED (Appurushido, 2004).
Nurikabe (Painted Wall): A weird yokai that often mimics walls and other man-made structures. It also walks around at night creating obstacles for anyone trying to pass by… particularly people who are in a hurry. His massive body is always knocking things over.
Nurikabe is played by stuntman Koichi Funayama.
Hyakume (Hundred Eyes): A creature with eyes all over his body. It protects shrines from thieves. If someone steals from a temple, Hyakume will send one of its hundred eyes to brand them publicly as a thief.
Hitosume Kozo (One-Eyed Little Monk): A small one-eyed yokai that resembles a young boy dressed in traditional clothes like a monk in training. Hitosume Kozo is a mischievous prankster who likes to scare people by leaping out of the shadows or sneaking into houses to steal candy.
Actor Kenji Hirono also played Mitsume Kozo, the Three-Eyed Little Monk.
Tsuchikorobi (Rolling Soil): Tsuchikorobi rolls down mountains but doesn’t do anything bad beyond running over the occasional traveler. It is played by stuntman Naoki Asaji.
Ittan Momen: A 35 foot long cloth-like yokai that used to fly around at night and attack people by wrapping around their throats. He is occasionally used as a magic carpet by the other yokai. Ittan Momen is a famous yokai thanks to his prominent role in Shigeru Mizuki’s manga Kitaro (GeGeGe no Kitaro).
Azuki Arai, the Azuki-Bean Washer: A yokai that stays by a riverside and washes azuki beans which are used for charms and driving off evil spirits. He cannot be seen and he uses the sound of washing red beans by the river to scare people. Azuki Arai used to be a young Buddhist disciple who was famous for guessing the correct number of azuki beans in a container just by looking at it. He was murdered and his spirit became a yokai. In THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, he holds an important key to the conflict.
Azuki Arai is played by popular comedian and television host Takashi Okamura. He won a Rookie of the Year Blue Ribbon Award for his performance in BOYS BE AMBITIOUS (Kishiwada Shonen Gurentai, 1996) and a Popularity Award at the Japan Academy Awards for NO PROBLEM (Mou Mon Tai, 1999). He also appeared in BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN 2.
Mitsume Kozo (Three-Eyed Little Monk): Similar to the one-eyed Hitosume Kozo, Mitsume Kozo is a ghost resembling a small boy in traditional garb. Mitsume has a third eye on its forehead, which grants it greater enlightenment and the ability to see below the surface.
The Three-Eyed Little Monk is played by actor Kenji Hirono.
Kamakiri: The Praying Mantis is also known as the hair-cutting yokai because it is known to sneak up on people and chop their hair off at the roots without them noticing. Kamikiri often attack people in bathrooms or while they sleep, and is said to have a fondness for the hair of servant girls.
It is played by Hiroyuki Otake.
Tenoume (Eyes On Hands): Tenoume is the ghost of a blind man who was murdered by a robber. He wanders through villages, searching for the man who killed him. He has eyes on the palms of his hands, and sees by waving his hands in front of him. But Tenoume is so blinded by his anger that he has never found his murderer and instead attacks anyone he can get his hands on.
Tenoume is played by Nobuo Fujiyama.
Ungaikyou: A Magic Mirror yokai that can show faraway places and people. Mirrors were extremely rare in ancient Japan so Ungaikyou would offer confuse people by reflecting their visage to them. If a mirror is preserved for a hundred years it may gain sentience and become an Ungaikyou.
Kikai: They are mechanical monsters created from the mixture of yokai and waste materials. They personify the anger and resentment of items that have been discarded after faithfully serving their human owners. Yokai that are transformed into Kikai lose their spirits and become the followers of Lord Kato.
Yomotsumono (Great Supernatural): The giant raging spirit takes the form of a living factory, a massive monster that even dwarfs daikaiju like Godzilla and Gamera.
Kirin: An extremely powerful mystical being that resembles a fiery golden, flying horse. The Kirin is a good luck omen that brings peace and prosperity. In THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, Tadashi attends a festival honoring the Kirin.
Farmer in cow barn: The unnamed farmer at the beginning of THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is played by Akira Emoto. Emoto’s credits include GODZILLA VS SPACE GODZILLA (Gojira tai Supesugojira, 1994), SHALL WE DANCE?, ONMYOJI (2001), ZATOICHI (2003), ZEBRAMAN, TETSUJIN-28 (2005), and SINKING OF JAPAN.
Kai Editor in Chief: Sata’s slick boss is played by Shiro Sano. Sano appeared in the film version of TOKYO: THE LAST MEGALOPOLIS (Teito Monogatari, 1987) and was the narrator for ULTRA Q: DARK FANTASY (Urutora Kyu: Dakku Fuantaji, 2004) and ULTRAMAN MAX (Urutoraman Makkusu, 2005). He particularly popular for his roles in the recent Godzilla films GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Ni-sen Mireniamu, 1999), GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (Gojira, Mosura, Kingughidora: Daikaiju Soshingeki, 2001), and GODZILLA: FINAL WARS.
Tadashi: Actor Kanji Tsuda has appeared in several high profile films, including FIREWORKS (Hana-bi, 1997), the massive hit BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN (Odoru Daisosasen, 1998), AUDITION, JU-ON (2003), ZATOICHI, MASKED RIDER THE FIRST, and GAMERA THE BRAVE (Chiisaki Yusha-tachi Gamera, 2006).