Forget Godzilla. Forget the giant beasties karate-chopped into oblivion by endless incarnations of Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and the Power Rangers. Forget the Pocket Monsters. Forget Sadako from The Ring and that creepy all-white kid from The Grudge. Forget everything you know about Japanese tales of terror. The yokai are the spookiest Japanese creatures you’ve never heard of, and it’s high time they got their due.
By Hiroko Yoda & Matt Alt; Illustrations by Tatsuya Morino
Publisher: Kodansha America
Age Rating: All Ages
While not actually a manga, Yokai Attack! is a guide that most any manga fan will find useful. Yokai, also know as mononoke or bakemono, are the traditional monsters from Japanese tradition and folklore. Read most any supernatural manga and there will be a reference to some kind of yokai. This title details about nearly 50 different creatures ranging from the oft-referenced to the lesser well-known.
Yokai Attack! is divided up into five sections, grouping the yokai into categories; Ferocious Fiends, Gruesome Gourmets, Annoying Neighbors, the Sexy and Slimy and the Wimps. For each creature, there is a data sheet detailing basic information such as height and weight, gender, abundance and habitat. There is an artist’s rendition of the creature, and then two pages about the background of the creature, it’s forms of attacks, and ways you can defend yourself from them. Some of the more well-known yokai manga fans should be familiar with are the Karasu-tengu, Kappa, Kitsune, and Tanuki. But it’s the lesser known creatures that really make the book interesting. The Ashiarai Yashiki, a giant, dirty foot that demands to be washed, or the Dorotabo a human-shaped mudpile that rises from rice paddies and moans and crys are both rather unusual, but have interesting stories. While most of the yokai have a history going back to at least the 1800’s, there are some of modern invention as well, such as the Kuchisake Onna, or slit-mouthed woman and Toire no Hanako, or Hanako of the Toilet.
The entries on each creature are fun and informative. They retell the legends about them, where they were first recorded and even possible origins. The advice for surviving an attack is filled with humor as well as sound tactics to escape an encounter unharmed or at the very least alive. The illustrations portray the yokai to a modern audience, though there is also included prints of original renditions of the creatures. This title also includes a resource guide with movies available in English that feature Yokai as well as an extensive bibliography.
I really enjoyed Yokai Attack! Being someone who is fascinated with myth and folklore, this title did a great job of satisfying my interest in yokai and inspiring me to look up more. Anyone with an interest in the strange and weird will find something of interest in this book, as will manga fans who want to know more about the creatures they might be reading about in the latest supernatural series. I highly recommend Yokai Attack! for the spooky fun and cultural insights it gives about the Japanese and their strange assortment of monsters.