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Fantasia 2006: The Great Yokai War

And finally…

The Great Yokai War. Just, whoa.

Miike isn’t one of my top five artists in the world (David Cronenberg, Richard Thompson, Wong Kar Wai, George R. R. Martin, probably Aimee Mann; list subject to change), but he’s the guy I’d like to play Being John Malkovich with. I want to see what he’s thinking while he works. I want to figure out what he’s trying to do, and I want to figure out how he keeps up his insane multi-movie-per-year pace while still churning out heart-stoppingly beautiful, perfect moments of film.

The Great Yokai War is almost painfully emotionally involving. Miike digs his hooks in early and holds you: he makes you care about what happens. There’s some sort of visceral reality in the way he shoots a movie that gets you; he has a way of immersing audiences which is just as effective here as it is in Audition. It’s just the specific emotional responses that are different.

Then I contemplate the climax of the movie, in which the world is saved by a freak coincidence and a legume. Plus pop music. Is Miike engaging in a cynical angry satire on children’s movies? I am honestly not sure. One Missed Call was in part a deeply barbed stab at Japanese cultural media, so maybe this was the same. There’s a scene where Tadashi Ino, the kid protagonist, dresses up for the big fight with a deeply snarky line pointed directly at Dragonball Z and its ilk, so there are hints of satire. But man, Miike clearly adores the Japanese cultural goblin tales he’s working with…

I got no idea. Hard to figure out. Either way it was a superbly beautiful, scary, thrilling, involving movie about saving the world. I’m a little sad about missing the rest of the movies Saturday night and Sunday, but exhaustion had set in, and this was about as good a capper as I could have asked for.

Grade: A+.

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