Written by: John White on March 4th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2005
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Etsushi Toyokawa, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takashi Okamura, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mai Takahashi, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Bunta Sugawara
DVD released: 24th February 2006
Approximate running time: 124 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 6.1
DVD Release: Universe
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: HK$138
Tadashi is the neglected child of a divorced mum. He is living in the countryside with his mum and senile grandpa. Local custom dictates that at a parade a new Kirin rider is chosen each year and Tadashi finds himself chosen. Other kids tease him that he is meant to go to the hills and fight the great Goblin and he is drawn there when he thinks his Grandpa has gone missing and he finds a cute creature called Sunoskuri who leads him through the forest. He comes across a young woman whose neck seems to grow and grow and then a Turtle demon, a river demon and Shojo(pictured). They tell him that he has passed the test and lead him to the Goblin. They are ambushed by a misbegotten demon, Agi, and her bastardised junk demons who kidnap the Great Goblin and Sunoskuri. Tadashi learns that Agi is acting on the orders of the demon Kato, a former human who is rallying the waste and discarded items of the world against the human race. Can Tadashi defeat Kato and his recycled demons and just what use is an Azuki bean washing demon anyway?
Miike’s take on the family film is not a sign that he is mellowing any. In the space of two hours, Miike manages to cram in a whipcracking Chiaki Kuriyama in kinky costumes, Bunta Sugawara painted in all red, cuddly beasts turned into murderous junk robots, young children kidnapped by monsters when they go to the loo and a shedload of special effects. That this is family friendly sex, violence and mayhem is rather wonderful and if only the next Spiderman film could have an ounce of the daring that Miike shows, if only. Oh and the film has Goblins, did I mention that it has lots of Goblins?
Tadashi is a typical Miike outsider – bullied at school, forgotten by his drunken mum, missing his sister and ignored by his divorced dad. Tadashi is also very very scared of everything. Kato is a great villain with his tremendous costume and his ability to fight by just flicking energy. He also is an understandable villain who profits from the misery that the human race inflicts on all it discards and destroys.
It is interesting that Miike does not make this a film about saving the human race as most such films are. Tadashi gets involved because he wants to rescue Sunoskuri and even the Goblins helping him hate the humans for forgetting their past and throwing so much away. They choose not to seek revenge like Kato has because to do so is “human”.
The Great Yokai War is one hell of a ride with sexy villains, a multiplicity of Goblins, a young avenger, and a cautionary sting in the tale should the world keep being so wasteful and forgetful. It flows at an incredible pace trying to keep all of its tangled plot in check and only loses some coherence in the Goblin festival sub-plot. Some will also get a little irritated at the young lead who is always scared whatever situation he is in.
Still, there won’t be a better example of how to make a fun adventure picture this year. Goblins, sexpot demons and molten lava – what else do you want. Marvellous.
The 2 disc HK release is a tremendous package. The picture is excellent and very sharp with good colour balance.
The sound is presented in 4 options with Japanese and Cantonese in DTS and 5.1. the Japanese DTS track has wonderful power and the explosions and rumbling were shaking my front room to oblivion. The English subtitles are very good but have occasional typing errors.
The extras in this package are immense and wonderfully enough are subtitled in English. They include behind the scenes footage, cast interviews, a documentary on the young star, press conferences, publicity materials, a short surreal tale of the Kappa Goblin being interviewed by Police and several short stories on Goblins.
This is a cracking package and a great addition to the crop of ace Asian films released on DVD this year. It is a feast for the eyes and will please Miike fans as well as kids wanting Goblin mayhem.