Blu-ray Review: Yokai Monsters Collection



Every hear a bump in the night and wonder what it is? Or imagine something supernatural is around the corner while walking through the woods? In Japan, they have a name for what they think causes these events: Yokai. They are the mythical creatures found in nature. Daiei Films had major success with films about Gamera the flying turtle and Daimajin, the giant statue that game to life. They needed a new series and created a trilogy of films based on the Yokai. Now all three films along with a surprising reboot by Takashi Miike have been brought together in Yokai Monsters Collection.

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968 – 80 minutes) has a wealthy landowner wanting to really change up the neighborhood in his little village. In order to get the place back on the map, he plans on tearing down the local shrine and construct a brothel. The locals are not happy at this abrupt shift in the city’s tourism. They hold a Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai which is a ritual that translates into “A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales.” The tales are of the local Yokai which include Kasa-obake, an umbrella that has a face and arms. There’s also Rokurokubi, a woman with an elongated neck that wraps around people. Turns out it might not be a good thing to be talking about all these supernatural creatures since they might still be lurking outside the village ready to give them new scary stories.

Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968 – 79 minutes) starts out a bit like the Exorcist as guys digging around an ancient ruin in Iraq unleash a terrible evil in the form of Daimon. You might think they were cashing in on The Exorcist except this film was made five years earlier. Daimon splits the Middle East and arrives in Feudal Japan where he attacks Lord Hyogo, sucks out his blood and takes over his body. He then proceeds to possess others in the Lord’s circle. The turtle-like Yokai Kappa observes Daimon’s work from beneath a few lily pads in the nearby pond. He tries to tackle Daimon on his own, but he can’t do anything with his level of supernatural powers. He has to meet up with the other Yokai to join together to fight the monster that’s taking over all the people in the area.

Yokai Monsters: Along With Ghosts (1969 – 78 Minutes) seems like it should be aimed at kids, but it’s rather grotesque. A kid finds proof of corruption except somebody wants her and the evidence wiped out. She takes off to the woods with her grandfather. The goons catch up to her and ruin sacred ground. This causes the Yokai to help her get revenge. Unlike the previous film where they were front and center, the Yokai are more supporting characters and scares in the final entry of the original trilogy.

The Great Yokai War (2005 – 122 minutes) was a bit of a shocker since it was directed by Takashi Miike. The director is best known for making such un-family friendly cinematic masterpieces as Visitor Q, Audition and Ichi The Killer. Thinking of him making a Yokai movie would be like imagining someone letting Abel Ferrara direct a Barney Movie. But Miike doesn’t give us a grotesque nightmare that’s even more disturbing to kids than the original films. He delivers a movie that’s in the spirit of the earlier tales with a bit more updated effects. A little boy moves into a village and during a festival gets appointed Kirin Rider. He’s supposed to keep the town safe from evil. It seems like a ceremonial position until an evil demon shows up. The kid learns the truth about the local Yokai in order to fight back against the demon. Miike really gets into the spirit of the original films.

While I remember Daiei Film’s Gamera and Daimajin movie playing on TV in the ’70s as part of the Creature Double Feature, the Yokai Monsters never made it. This is a shame since these film would have been freakishly devoured by the kids who embraced Ultraman and Space Giants. Perhaps a few of the Yokai were ruled nightmare inducing by the folks that would have distributed the films in America. The woman with the long neck and the talking umbrella would have freaked out a few of my old elementary school classmates. You would have easily known them by how they’d freak out on rainy days. Yokai Monsters Collection is best enjoyed as a grown up who can handle their supernatural weirdness.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfers bring out the richness of the color and the detail of the various Yokai creatures. The 1080p resolution shows the odd elements that went into them. The audio is Japanese only DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack for the original three films. The Great Yokai War’s soundtrack is DTS-HD MA 5.1 original Japanese. There is also an English dub. The levels are fine for the supernatural sound effects. The movies are subtitled in English.

Illustrated 60-page collectors’ book featuring new writing on the series by Stuart Galbraith IV, Raffael Coronelli and Jolyon Yates

Postcards featuring newly commissioned artwork for each film by Jolyon Yates

Foldout ‘yokai guide’ poster illustrated by Jolyon Yates

Hiding In Plain Sight: A Brief History of Yokai (41:11) gives a bit of background on what are Yokai with a series of folks that have dug deep. There is talk about how at one point, the Japanese government outlawed belief in the Yokai. They also discuss how these creatures evolved into the Pokémon.

100 Monsters Theatrical Trailer (2:16) gives us the nightmares of the creatures that lurk in the woods including the dancing umbrella.

US Re-release Trailer of 100 Monsters (1:08) focuses on the encounters between man and the creatures.

Image Gallery for each film has around 20 promotional photos, catalog listings, VHS box and posters. They even have the posters for when the films were double featured with Gamera flicks.

Theatrical Trailer for Spook Warfare (2:12) promises a Bloodsucking Babylonian Demon attacking Japan. We also get the return of the Umbrella. The townspeople beg the Yokai to defend them from the Demon.

Theatrical Trailer for Along With Ghosts (2:13) shows what happens when you get lost in the woods.

US Re-release Trailers for Spook Warfare (1:55) and Along With Ghost (1:19) don’t feature any English dialogue.

Audio Commentary by Tom Mes on The Great Yokai War give plenty of background on the production and Miike.

Interviews with the Cast includes nine of the actors discussing their parts and how they liked the earlier films. There’s plenty of behind the scenes footage so you can see how they worked with Takashi Miike.

Interviews with the Crew includes seven interviews. Takashi Miike discusses how he took nearly a year and a half to write and produce the film. Even though he’s known for working fast, he enjoyed being able to take time to make The Great Yokai War.

Short Drama of Yokai (6:03 & 7:45) is a two episode bit of weirdness about what happens to Yokai after the battle.

Another Story of Kawatoro (6:32 & 10:25) has two odd adventures involving the turtle-like Yokai. He gets interrogated by the police in one.

World Yokai Conference (13:07) has Miike come out to meet the fans. It looked like a fun time.

Promotional Events includes Announcement Event (7:40) which opens with a ritual, Press Conference for the end of the shoot (3:43) and Premiere (6:09) has the creatures at the movie theater. This was a major event film in Tokyo. Miike goes on an odd tangent about red beans and rice before the film rolls.

Documentary of Ryunosuki Kamiki (27:19) follows the filmmakers to the Venice Film Festival. Miike looks like a Miami Vice extra in his slick pink suit jacket at the festival. The documentary shows a religious ritual before they started filming. They did not want to upset the actual Yokai.

Theatrical Trailer of The Great Yokai War (1:44) sets up that a boy must save the world with the help fo the Yokai. It’s Yokai vs Demons. They had playing cards given out with the tickets.

Image Gallery has 22 behind the scenes photos, promotional pics, poster, press book and newspaper ads.

Arrow Video presents Yokai Monsters Collection. Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda, Yoshiyuki Kuroda and Takashi Miike. Starring Chikara Hashimoto, Akane Kawasaki, Yoshihiko Aoyama, Takashi Kanda, Keiko Yukitomo, Ikuko Mori and Gen Kuroki. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 3 Blu-ray discs. Rated: Unrated. Release Date October 19, 2021.

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