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Literature / Teito Monogatari

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A historical fantasy novel series published from 1985-1987, and written by Hiroshi Aramata, Teito Monogatari (literally "Tale of the Imperial Capital") is a retelling of the history of Tokyo from an occultist perspective, beginning with the Meiji Era and going up to the end of the 20th century. Upon his death, the samurai Taira no Masakado cursed the new city and its inhabitants. Over the course of the next hundred years, numerous characters, both fictional and historical, come into conflict with Yasunori Kato, an immortal villain out to harness Masakado's spirit to destroy the city.

The novels won the Nihon Science Fiction Taisho Award in 1987, have sold around some 4 million copies in Japan alone, and are widely considered the first major work to popularize Onmyodo (Yin Yang) magic and Feng Shui in its native country. Of course the series immense success has resulted in several visual adaptations including films, manga and even a stage adaptation. In Japan, the most well known adaptation is the 1988 live action special effects film Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis. However because western audiences aren't as inviting to Japanese live action special effect heavy works (barring certain exceptions), the most known adaptation in the west is the heavily stylized, Darker and Edgier 1991 anime adaptation known as Doomed Megalopolis. Both adaptations are (very) abridged adaptations of only the first 1/3rd of the series.

The original work has received an abundance of literary extensions including prequels, sequels, sidequels and reboots. As for the cinematic adaptations, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis would later receive a sequel in 1989 called Tokyo: The Last War. It was very loosely based on a later novel in the series and set during World War II. However, it was much lighter on the special effects and magic due to a smaller budget and a different director. Three spin-off movies were also produced. The first was Teito Monogatari Gaiden in 1995, which was even Darker and Edgier than Doomed Megalopolis. The second was Tokyo Dragon in 1997, an independent made-for-TV film based off Aramata's Sim Fu-Sui series which features the grandson of Shigemaru Kuroda (the Feng Shui expert from Teito Monogatari) in a starring role. The final one was The Great Yokai War in 2005, a family film by Takashi Miike that's decidedly the most lighthearted entry in the series.

The original novels were never published in English, but there is a campaign to get them translated.

Teito Monogatari provides examples of the following tropes. *Note that many of these tropes are specific to only certain adaptations, usually specified at the beginning of each entry:

  • Adaptational Consent: The relationship between Yukari and Yoichiro was consensual in the original novel. Not so in Doomed Megalopolis.
  • All There in the Manual: The films and the anime leave you with more questions than answers if you have not read the book. You'd really have a tough time understanding the entire Teito Monogatari backstory purely through its cinematic adaptations.
  • Alliterative Family: Yoichiro, Yukari, and Yukiko Tatsumiya.
  • Alternate History: Reimagines the history of Tokyo from an occult perspective.
  • Animated Adaptation: Doomed Megalopolis (duh).
  • Antihero: Yukio Mishima.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • With the exception of Kato, not many characters make it through all of Tokyo's history.
    • Kato himself does not survive the end of Doomed Megalopolis.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age:
    • The Tsuchimikado cultists fight the shikigami armed with simple shinais. Although this is noted as a rather basic tactic, they do manage to kill many of them before being outmatched by sheer numbers.
    • In the film, they use shakujo staves to corner Kato after he has captured Yukari.
  • Blob Monster: In Doomed Megalopolis, some of Kato's shikigami seem to be made of a black tar-like substance.
  • Blood Magic: In The Last Megalopolis, after Kato flees with Yukari, Hirai uses his own blood to power one of his shikigami to find them. The spirit is shown possessing a random bird which had flown through the paper before reaching its destination.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: In an odd twist of fate, this ends up being the reason Kato can't truly control Yukiko and use her to awaken Masakado.
  • Chainsaw Good: The goho doji in Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis has a built-in chainsaw that it tries to attack Keiko with. This is a reference to old goho doji depictions, where they are drawn wearing a collar of swords.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The decorated arrow that Hirai wields in the first episode of Doomed Megalopolis. The camera lingers over it during a couple of quiet, expositional scenes before it finally gets put to use in the climax.
  • Chest Burster:
    • The Last War features Yukiko's nightmare in which a clone of Kato bursts from her boyfriend's chest. At the end, Kato's soul bursts from his own chest after being DePowered.
    • The fukuchu-mushi inside of the nurse breaks out from her back when is summoned by Kato. It's unknown whether the nurse had been possessed by the spirit or instead she was a disguised spirit all along.
  • Clockwork Creature: Gakutensoku, a real-life robot controlled by air pressure. His creator is sadly forced to self-destruct it in order to destroy the underground energy flow.
  • Crossover: Quiz Daisousa Sen Part 2 crosses over the Teito Monogatari series with Neo Geo's quiz game series. In one of the scenarios, the main characters travel back in time and befriend Yukiko. And then Kato steals their time machine.
    • The Great Yokai War is a basically a crossover between Teito Monogatari and the works of Shigeru Mizuki, although it is generally marketed as its own entity.
    • Japanese owarai duo, The Tunnels, crossed Teito Monogatari with their super-sentai spoof series of skits, Kamen Rider Norida. The titular goofy superhero has to save Tokyo from a bunch of badly disguised Kato impersonators. He ends up getting saved by the real Kato, who is not happy with a bunch of wannabes pretending to be him.
  • Dark Action Girl: Kato's female servant in the live action film.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Tokyo: The Last War started this trend. Despite the first film's box office success, the producers felt that it was still too confusing for mainstream audiences, so they decided to streamline the sequel down into a more conventional horror movie inspired from thrillers like A Nightmare on Elm Street. Likewise the sequel is more violent and Bloodier and Gorier than the first film, and takes place in a much darker, grittier setting. Some of this is justified, since it does take place during the end of World War II.
    • Doomed Megalopolis expanded on the horror elements of Tokyo: The Last War to the point of being a Grossout Show. It contains more graphic violence and gore and boosts it up with added sexual imagerynote  than any of the previous adaptations. It also adds some disturbing, onscreen rape scenes to show that Yoichiro and Yukari's incestuous relationship is not consensual.
    • Teito Monogatari Gaiden is this to even Doomed Megalopolis. It contains so much gratuitous sex and violence, that it's pretty much an Exploitation Film. Fans despised it so much that there were several walk outs during its limited theatrical run.
  • Demoted to Extra: The classic Meiji era writer Koda Rohan had a much more active role in the novel and live action film. But in Doomed Megalopolis, most of his actions are given to Kamo, a fictional onmyoji. Ogai Mori (another famous Meiji era writer), who was also a major supporting character in the book, is just relegated to a cameo in the cinematic adaptations.
  • Diving Save: In the anime, Hirai does a rather spectacular one to save Kamo from one of Kato's attacks during their confrontation at the train station. Unfortunately, Kamo's two bodyguards are not as fast to put themselves out of danger and end up eating the attack.
  • Driving Question: What great power is fueling Kato? Who is he, and why does he want to destroy the city so bad?
  • Dub-Induced Plotline Change: The English version removed a lot of the cultural context from Doomed Megalopolis, as they thought it might confuse western audiences.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of The Last Megalopolis, we briefly get a glimpse of Keiko walking down the street when she was presumed dead...and Kato, too.
  • Epic Movie: At the time, the first film was one of the most expensive Japanese films ever made, almost matching Ran.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In The Last Megalopolis, a Shiba inu puppy gets very agitated when Kato walks by him.
  • Evil Is Hammy Kato is not usually an evil ham, but he is prone to Freak Outs and Villainous Breakdowns when things go horribly wrong.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: In the anime, Kato and his kodoku-controlled nurse use this to introduce a fukuchu-mushi (worm spirit) in Yukari. The spirit takes the form of a eyeball and is introduced via mouth-to-mouth.
  • Genre-Busting: Although Western distributors have insisted upon classifying its adaptations as horror, the original novel constantly gets classified as science fiction by the Japanese. However, it can't be just science fiction because it also has heavy elements of magic and folklore in it, placing it closer to fantasy. In fact, the author first described the novel to an English audience as a "fantasy romance". Also all the historical infodumping in the novel brings it closer to historical fiction.
  • Giant Flyer: In the anime, Kato summons a gigantic, flying manta ray-like spirit to besiege the Tatsumiya house.
  • Hand Seals: Most of the magic users in the series do these, as Onmyodo and other spiritual powers in the series require it.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Both heroes and villains use swords in Teito Monogatari. Koda and Kamo fight with wakizashis, and Kato use a katana at some point.
  • Historical Domain Character: One perk of the books is that many Japanese historical characters plays an important role in the story.
  • Historical Fiction: Imagines the history of Tokyo as influenced by the supernatural. Also works in numerous historical persons into the plot.
  • Homage: Practically ALL the supernatural/mythological subject matter is taken from the classic Japanese or Chinese folklore, from the medieval tale collections Uji Shui Monogatarishu and Konjaku Monogatarishu to classic Chinese literature such as epics like Romance of the Three Kingdoms. For example, Kato's magical impregnation of Yukari is based on obscure folktales about the exploits of King Wen of Zhou, one of China's ancient Emperors. Also, the character of Yasumasa Hirai is a direct descendant of the great onmyoji Abe no Seimei, and many of Hirai's actions in the story are directly based on those of Abe no Seimei from those old folktales. And the scene where Koda Rohan chops off Kato's hand is inspired directly from the legend of Watanabe no Tsuna, the proud warrior who chopped off the arm of an oni at Modoribashi Bridge. In fact, the story of Teito Monogatari could be seen as a speculative continuation of all these old stories set in modern history.
  • Instant Sedation: In the live action film, Kato knocks out a chamber full of onmyoji using a spiderweb-like sedative spell.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Kagome, Kagome" is used in Doomed Megalopolis as Kato's way of marking his next target.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard/Magic Knight: Most onmyoji in the series are shown commonly using weapons from Japanese traditional martial arts.
  • Living Statue: In the film, Kato deploys a large, multi-armed statue to defend his house. In the anime, the ruined temple in which he retreats have some statues guarding it.
  • Making a Splash: The fukuchu-mushi inside of the nurse creates a water explosion as a last resort attack, flooding the Tsuchimikado temple. In fact, the liquid itself doesn't happen to be water, but some sort of non-lethal poison.
  • Market-Based Title: In Japan most of the adaptations are simply titled Teito Monogatari like their source material. But in the west, the OVA adaptation is called Doomed Megalopolis and the live-action adaptation is called Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis and both were marketed purely as horror titles. Evidently Tale of the Imperial Capital doesn't sound menacing enough.
  • Motifs: The rainbow in the live action film.
  • Mr. Exposition: The series is extremely guilty of this. Several of the characters are based on real life intellectuals or scientists and they've got a lot to say. This is partly because the author Hiroshi Aramata's profession was a non-fiction writer, scholar and translator before he wrote this work.
  • No Name Given:
    • Kyoka Izumi passes as this in the Western dubs of Doomed Megalopolis, as his name wasn't mentioned in the anime and the dubbers probably didn't have a clue about who he was. In the credits, he tend to appear as simply "The Fortuneteller" or something like it.
    • Same with Shin Mekata, Keiko's father.
    • Kato's servant from the film doesn't have a name, or at least, her name is not mentioned. In the original novel though, her name is Hong Feng.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Kato uses this in the anime after Hirai calls him a monster. He tells Hirai to stop acting so self-righteous, as they, being onmyoji, both inflict curses on people for a living.
  • Perky Female Minion: Kato's female servant from the film. Unlike him, she appears to be a regular human onmyoji.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Kato's plans often involve using a Tatsumiya girl's spiritual powers.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Hirai divines that Tokyo will be destroyed in the next Year of the Boar, which is 1923. Guess what happens to Tokyo in 1923?
  • Psychic Powers: Spiritual powers tend to manifest in this way.
  • Rape as Drama: Happens to poor Yukari in Doomed Megalopolis. She is raped by her brother once and also magically raped when Kato forces a curse up her crotch. She is eventually Driven to Madness, and becomes catatonic in the last two episodes.
  • Redshirt Army: Tsuchimikado cultists are pretty much Cannon Fodder to Kato and his shikigami, to the point Hirai does not even attempt to save two of them while pushing Kamo from a magic blast.
  • Religious Horror: Doomed Megalopolis is largely this.
  • Religion is Magic: Onmyodo and feng shui magic, to be exact.
  • Religion Is Right: Specifically, Japanese folklore and feng shui are both right. This becomes important to the city planners, so that they don't disturb the various Eldritch Abominations and locations.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the credits to Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis there is a tagline that says "Yasunori Kato will return". Also character dialogue at the end implies that the heroine Keiko Tatsumiya would also return. The resulting sequel Tokyo: The Last War only followed one of these promises and turned out to be a disappointment.
  • Stock Scream: For some reason, the English dub of Doomed Megalopolis adds in screams for the spirits as Yukari is being possessed by Masakado. In particular, the Howie scream and the shrill female scream are used.
  • Super Spit: The kodoku nurse can spit acid to blind Hirai's redshirts.
  • The Tokyo Fireball: Pretty much the whole series is about the citizens of Tokyo coming to terms with the historical disasters afflicting the city. Remember, it covers 90 years of the 20th century history of Tokyo... A lot of happened to the city during that period.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: The novel is called Tale of the IMPERIAL CAPITAL for crying out loud. What was the capital of the Japanese Empire in the 20th century?
  • Trope Maker: Many modern artistic representations of onmyoji in popular culture owe a lot to this series (including the idea of the Black vs. White Onmyoji clans). It also created the "demonic sorcerer wearing an Eastern style military outfit" archetype. M. Bison of Street Fighter fame is undoubtedly the most popular example of this.
  • Verbed Title: Doomed Megalopolis
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Kato's occult mishaps are always first noticed by politicians, scientists, or writers; all of whom are completely unprepared to deal with the supernatural. To compensate, they have to call in the real occult experts which include the official onmyoji (the Tsuchimikado Family) and a feng shui master named Shigemaru Kuroda.
  • Womb Level: The realm of the underground dragon in Doomed Megalopolis is a bizarre, organic living cavern.
  • Youkai: Not terribly prominent in this series, however the character of Kato is described as a "oni" as are the creatures he summons. Later on in the novel, Kato summons Water Tigers.