Yokai Monsters Collection: 3 Disc Limited Edition
(Chiyaki Kuriyama, Jun Hamamura, Tatsuo Hanabu, Ikuko Môri, Bunta Sugawara, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2021 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: From the makers of Daimajin comes a trilogy of terror ripped from the pages of Japanese folklore, with ghosts and monsters from ancient myths and legends brought to life through stunning special effects!
All created alongside an epic, big-budget reboot of the series from a modern-day master of the macabre, now available together on Blu-ray for the first time.
In the first film in the trilogy, 100 Monsters, a greedy slumlord’s attempts to forcefully evict his tenants invite the wrath of the titular spirits when a cleansing ritual is botched, with terrifying results.
The second film, Spook Warfare, tells the tale of an evil Babylonian vampire inadvertently awoken by treasure hunters, and a brave samurai that teams with the Yokai to defeat the bloodthirsty demon.
In the next film, and the third ad final of the trilogy, Along with Ghosts (released only 12 months after 100 Monsters), the Yokai are roused to defend a young girl on the run from deadly yakuza.
Decades later, none other than Takashi Miike (Audition) helmed The Great Yokai War, a loose remake of Spook Warfare that used cutting-edge digital effects to renew the franchise for a new generation.
In it, a young boy is given a grave responsibility: to band together with a group of Yokai to defend humanity against a vengeful and powerful demon that has sworn retribution against modern-day Japan.
Blu-ray Verdict: This simply terrific 3-disc, four film box-set opens on 100 Monsters (1968), a tale of when the local Yokai (Japanese spirits) interfere to avenge a murder and thwart the plans of corrupt officials.
A rather simple, but nice and very familiar story about some ruthless property developers kicking a bunch of worthwhiles out of their homes, even worse, they destroy a sacred shrine in the process, in truth, this storyline could be told in any country or era.
With characters above sufficiently interesting to keep viewers watching we also get the monsters, which are among the most bizarre ever filmed! I cannot really describe them here, but there is stuff that will have your jaw dropping, particularly the umbrella monster!!
Next up is Spook Warfare (1968) and brings us a tale of when a Babylonian vampire comes to old Japan, an army of Japanese demons and ghosts gather and battle him.
A zucchini-headed vampire from Europe comes to Japan, kills and then possesses the body of a good and noble lord. The local demons aren’t too pleased by the idea of a foreigner moving in on their territory and decide to battle the monster.
Thus, a horde of boogeymen assemble - a water demon who looks like a flat-headed Woody Woodpecker, a woman with two faces; one lovely and one hideous, a demonic umbrella with a tongue that Gene Simmons would envy, a tiny little dude with a round head who bears a freaky resemblance to Aunt Jemima and a woman with a deadly python-like neck!
As the vampire claims more victims and literally begins to reproduce himself, the villagers and the demons band together and go to war!
Then we get Along with Ghosts (1969) where the murder of an old man on sacred grounds provokes the intervention of vengeful Yokai (Japanese spirits).
The third and final Yokai Monsters movie, this time directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda and Kimiyoshi Yasuda, takes us back to feudal Japan, where Miyo has discovered evidence that could stop the corruption in her town, but when her grandfather is murdered on sacred grounds, she needs the help of the Yokai.
Unlike the second movie - which is everything you want, as it is literally packed with monsters - this is more of a horror film, using the Yokai in a more frightening way as they move into becoming the guardians of youth, which seems to be the fate of nearly every Japanese monster once the sequels start adding up.
And finally within this brand new box-set we get The Great Yokai War (2005) where a young boy is chosen as the defender of good and must team up with Japan’s ancient spirits and creatures of lore to attempt to destroy the forces of evil.
The hero in this film is actually the least interesting character, essentially playing the straight man, in a world gone suddenly mad!
Though he does go through the typical heroes trials he more often than not cowers, as do many of the Yokia themselves, who seem truly defenseless against the murderous robots, some spirits being umbrellas with eyes, talking walls, or creatures whose soul purpose in life is to count beans (for, of course, in this magical world of Miike’s Yokai war, even beans take a magical power when one believes in them!)
In several ways this film subverts the normal conventions of children’s fantasy, as few, if any, of the characters are heroic, their victory being a combination of happenstance, almost arbitrary faith, and a desire to party.
The Yokai spirits, only rally together and lay siege the villains hideout, after they mistake the end of the world invasion of Earth for a great Yokai festival, and even then only to dance and party.
Also the film ends not with the usual celebratory all’s well that ends well fantasy ending, but with a final scene, showing our hero years older, with an adult job, now unable to see the Yokai spirits of his youth, who then despondently turn to the villain, who being a spirit can never really die.
This ending, with it’s Yokai spirit who is the spitting image of Pokemon’s Pikachu, warns us not just of leaving behind our childhood selves, but of the horrors of over-consumption. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all four films
Optional English subtitles on all four films
Illustrated 60-page collectors’ book featuring new writing on the series by Stuart Galbraith IV, Raffael Coronelli and Jolyon Yates
Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jolyon Yates
Postcards featuring newly commissioned artwork for each film by Jolyon Yates
Foldout ‘yokai guide’ poster illustrated by Jolyon Yates
DISC ONE – 100 MONSTERS
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio
Hiding in Plain Sight, a brand new documentary giving a primer on yokai for Western audiences, featuring interviews with experts Matt Alt, Zack Davisson, Kim Newman, Lynda E. Rucker and Hiroko Yoda
US re-release trailer
DISC TWO – SPOOK WARFARE / ALONG WITH GHOSTS
Brand new 4K restoration of Spook Warfare by Kadokawa Pictures
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio for both films
Theatrical trailers for both films
US re-release trailers for both films
Image galleries for both films
DISC THREE – THE GREAT YOKAI WAR
DTS-HD MA 5.1 original Japanese and dubbed English audio
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes
Archive interviews with the cast and crew, including Takashi Miike
Short Drama of Yokai, two shorts detailing the further adventures of the yokai
Another Story of Kawataro, two shorts featuring the continuing story of the kappa character in the film
World Yokai Conference, a publicity event where Miike speaks about the film
Promotional Events, video of the press conference to announce the start and completion of filming, as well as the premiere in Tokyo
Documentary on the film’s young star, Ryunosuki Kamiki, and his experience making the film