Movie Commentary: 'The Great Yokai War'

Michael O. Varhola

The Great Yokai War is, in short, a live-action version of an anime story, with doses of Japanese folklore, classic kaiju monster movies, medieval-looking transformers, and post-apocalyptic imagery thrown in. In many ways, it is very much a kids' movie (and is, accordingly, rated PG-13), and has as its protagonist the stereotypical small, bullied pre-teen with the heart of a hero, etc. It might nonetheless still be enjoyable to fans of any of the afore-mentioned genres.

Trying to portray in a live-action movie things that would be easy to shown in an animated feature is a not an easy task, and sometimes this movie falls short (e.g., the protagonist's pet rabbit or cat or whatever the hell it is does look pretty cheesy). Overall, however, the producers of this film have done an admirable job of depicting yokai -- what in the West would be referred to as fairies, spirits, or goblins -- using makeup and prosthesis and without relying too much on CGI or the like (there is, however, plenty of that in the battle scenes and with the transformers). Most of these creatures are pretty good and the creepy little turtle guy really is precious.

Many of the story elements are trite, overused, and predictable, such as the bullies that harass the beleaguered young protagonist or his turning into an epic hero almost apropos of nothing. But there are some concepts that appear to be unique to this film, such as the transformation of yokai into mechanical monsters.

Overall, a fun watch and an easily-overlooked film! My friend Will Thrasher brought this one to my attention and I thank him for that.