The Great Yokai War (2005)

Genres - Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure  |   Release Date - Jun 30, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 124 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Michael Buening

Normally you'd want to keep Takashi Miike as far from children as possible. But with The Great Yokai War the helmer of such splatter-fests as Ichi the Killer and Audition makes a sincere effort to craft kid's entertainment, with unimpressive results. The story, about a boy battling demons with the help of good yokai (spirits) in order to restore spiritual balance to the earth, borrows liberally from the animated features of Hayao Miyazaki without the enthusiastic wonder or pain-staking craft that make his films so impressive. The muddy visuals and use of puppets and costumes is closer to such darker-themed '80s children's films as The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal. There is a digital crispness to some of the early scenes and the brighter-hued characters and some of the yokai have a cute handmade aesthetic that hints at a more interesting design than the overall results. The more disturbing elements are offset by a goofy sense of humor channeled through offbeat supporting characters like a bean-washing yokai. However most of the action is jumbled and the lead boy, Takashi, is a screeching annoyance. Its intended audience will most likely be simultaneously bored, scared, and confused. Miike seems to be trying to meld his own irreverent style to the large-scale template of George Lucas, but the conception is mediocre and feels underdeveloped.