The Great Yokai War is a fantasy-horror film directed by Takashi Miike, which tells the tale of a young boy caught in a war between traditional Japanese folklore creatures known as Youkai. Young Tadashi Ino is declared the "Kirin Rider" at a local festival, not knowing that the title will soon become literal. He becomes a reluctant hero in a war between the traditional Youkai, and a new, mechanical version created by the evil Yasunori Kato to destroy humanity. The film is an homage to the Yokai Monsters series of films, created in the 1960s by Daiei.
Received a sequel The Great Yokai War: Guardians in 2021, which includes the character Daimajin.
Noted for its similarities to The Neverending Story.
This movie contains examples of:
- All Part of the Show: The yokai congregate at Tokyo and fight the tsukumogami to more than a standstill, but don't seem to realize or care that there's a genuine danger.
- Always Chaotic Evil: All Tsukumogami seem to share a similar, all-consuming interest: KILL. Even Sunekosuri is not immune.
- Big Damn Heroes: When practically every yokai in Japan shows up for the "festival".
- Bittersweet Ending: The day is saved, and Kato is stopped. Years later, Tadashi grows up, and can no longer see yokai, including his old friend Sunekosuri. Also, Kato is Not Quite Dead...and tracked Tadashi down.
- Chekhov's Gun: The beans and rice that Tadashi got from becoming the Kirin Rider protect his family from the Tsukumogami.
- Distant Finale: In the epilogue, we see Tadashi all grown up and heading off to work.
- The Dreaded: Yasunori Kato. He's so greatly feared that most of the yokai will come up with any excuse to not face this majin.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Agi specifically points out that the end of her and Kato's project is for them to be reforged into one being. And then he kills her just to break her heart as the final step.
- Evil Makes You Ugly: All of the Tsukumogami are twisted assemblies of wreckage and sharp pieces. Even Sunekosuri.
- Godhood Seeker: Kato's purpose for creating the Tsukumogami is to destroy humanity and make himself the god of a new world.
- Growing Up Sucks: Because it comes with losing the ability to see the yokai unless you drink lots of alcohol.
- Kirin: At the start, Tadashi is bitten during a street festival by the dancer's kirin head, which according to local custom makes him the next "kirin rider", a hero fated to defeat malevolent Youkai; in the climax, he is seen riding the kirin through the sky.
- Living Structure Monster: One of the Youkai featured is a talking, limbed wall. Just picture an extremely wide Spongebob Squarepants with a disproportionately huge body. Guy's just a literal Living Prop though, and does nothing much in the story other than being literally part of the background.
- A Mythology Is True: Set in a world of Japanese folklore.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Maybe Agi would still have been able to break the sword without Tadashi throwing it away. But it sure didn't help.
- The Power of Hate: The Yomotsumono, the hatred felt by all things used and discarded.
- Reforged into a Minion: The Tsukumogami are made by smelting together a yokai and some human refuse, e.g. parts of a sign, or a motorcycle.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Sunekosuri, who resembles a guinea pig wearing a shirt.
- Spanner in the Works: Kato's goal is undone by a single azuki bean falling in with him. Since azuki beans are full of positive energy, it negates the Yomotsumono, leaving Kato with nothing.
- Swiss-Army Tears: Tadashi's tears restore Sunekosuri after the latter has been defeated.
- The Tokyo Fireball: Downplayed. After the battle is won, Kato's factory goes up in a giant explosion that blows away all the yokai in what looks like a World-Wrecking Wave - but nobody gets hurt, the yokai think getting blown away is fun, and no further damage happens to Tokyo.
- Tragic Monster: Tsukumogami!Sunekosuri.
- Transplanted Character Fic: In a sense. Kato is the only character from the Teito Monogatari series (though he still acts the same). The movie avoids being an In Name Only installation, however, as it's not billed as being part of Teito Monogatari.
- Unwilling Roboticisation: The yokai that are turned into tsukumogami. Including Sunekosuri.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: While not Sugar Bowl levels of sweet, the movie is largely a lighthearted fantasy romp with youkai. However, it quickly becomes very dark whenever Kato and his minions show up. Justified, as Kato is a very vile villain even in his own series.
- You Don't Look Like You: Kato received a major makeover, removing his Commissar Cap and replacing his dark green military uniform with a black suit and a Badass Longcoat. His pentagrams were removed from his hands and placed on his coat collar.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A major theme of the movie, as things that humans throw away because they find them useless created the Yomotsumono.
- Youkai: As the title suggests, most of the cast is yokai.