THE GREAT YOKAI WAR dvd review

Hong Kong NTSC Region 3 DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Japanese DTS-ES, Japanese DD 5.1 EX, dubbed Cantonese DD 5.1 EX

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8.5

EXTRAS: 0

 

I made a huge mistake – I bought the single disc version of Takashi Miike’s THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, thinking that I don’t care about extras and wasn’t sure if the DVD was going to be anamorphic or not (not exactly stated on the back of the DVD cover – it just says “widescreen”). I don’t usually care for extras in a film unless the film is extremely interesting. I’m almost tempted to give this single disc version away only for one reason – I should have bought the 2-disc DVD version of this fantasy masterpiece! THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is a fairytale nightmarish fantasy film that is pure genius and one hundred percent eye candy. And this was marketed as a Japanese family film? That’s nuts. Those Japanese kids are tough, because this movie is freaking scary if labeled as a children’s film. This movie is so unique, amazing, and I just learned about this film a couple days ago. I haven’t had such a cinematic surprise since watching MIND GAME and NIGHT WATCH. I really don’t want to give too much away about this film, but here’s how I would break down THE GREAT YOKAI WAR:

1. A live-action Hayao Miyazaki film

2. Japanese mythical folklore

3. The nightmares of Terry Gilliam and Guillermo del Toro

4. A Mathew Barney CREMASTER movie made for your average person

5. A G-rated JACOB’S LADDER

6. GAMERA

7. Industrial sci-fi

8. Monsters straight out of  the Mos Eisley Cantina bar in STAR WARS

9. Monster robots from that TWISTED METAL video game

10. Sexiness a la LABYRINTH and LEGEND

11. Gogo from Kill Bill dressed all in white, kicking ass with a whip

12. An R-Rated WIZARD OF OZ and NEVERENDING STORY

13. The best parts (robots/machinery coming alive) of Miike’s DEAD OR ALIVE trilogy

14. A Japanese EVIL DEAD film

15. Jim Henson studios on a combination of cocaine, speed, heroine, and extacy

Even though Takashi Miike is an extremely talented director, I have never really been a fan of him. I saw ICHI THE KILLER, the DEAD OR ALIVE trilogy, YATTERMAN, AUDITION, THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, and THE CITY OF LOST SOULS. I wasn’t crazy about any of them. These movies had some interesting and creative-filmed scenes, but they did not add up well to a whole. All I saw was a talented director without direction or balance. I think that THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is his first real masterpiece. This movie is a perfect balance of Takashi Miike’s brain – horror, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, nightmarish imagery, elegant pretty imagery, memorable characters, excellent CGI and trippiness. The movie is a masterpiece for its genre and Takashi Miike is a genius. I love this movie and I’m dying to watch it again.

The Hong Kong DVD (Universe, NTSC Region 3) is overall very good. The back cover only states that the DVD is “WIDESCREEN,” which made me think it could be letterboxed, but don’t worry, it’s anamorphic widescreen. The video quality is very nice looking, not perfect but pretty solid. The audio has a totally involving reference quality sound – sending out all the sound effects all across the room one would expect from a horror-action-fantasy genre movie. The audio options are Japanese DD 5.1 EX, Japanese DTS-ES, and a dubbed Cantonese DD 5.1 EX. The English subtitles are pretty good with some letters missing from words here and there, but the translation is very good. If you want the plentiful extras (Another Story of Yokai, 2005 Yokai Conference, Short Drama of Yokai, Making of Yokai Movie, Interview with Main Casts, Visual Records of Promotion, Documentary of Ryunosuke Kamiki, The Introduction of Yokai), buy the 2-disc DVD version, which I should have done. For one, I’m dying to see the creation of all the costumes/character make-up they made for this movie. Trust me, these aren’t Mighty Morphin Power Rangers costumes/characters – these are characters that are reminiscent of the original STAR WARS movies.

Although I think that THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is the director’s best film, I’m sure many will disagree and say that AUDITION is (it is a good horror movie, but I’m not too crazy about horror films), but it’s certainly a totally entertaining work of art, with not one boring scene in the film.

There is a USA NTSC Region-Free DVD now available but the audio is only DD 5.1 Japanese and DD 5.1 English. If you like English dubs or if you can’t play a NTSC Region 3 DVD, then buy the USA version.

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