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Yokai Monsters:  Complete Collection
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Box Front Includes: Yokai Monsters:  100 Monsters, Yokai Monsters:  Spook Warfare, and Yokai Monsters:  Along with Ghosts
Japanese Titles: Yokai Hyaku Monogatari (“Story of 100 Monsters”), Yokai Daisenso (“Great Spirit War”), and Tokaido Obake Dochu (“Journey with Ghosts along Tokaido Road”)
Alternate Titles: One Hundred Ghost Stories, Spook Warfare, and Along with Ghosts (international titles)
Directors: Kimiyoshi Yasuda (100 Monsters & Along with Ghosts) and Yoshiyuki Kuroda (Spook Warfare & Along with Ghosts)
Original Release Year: 1968 - 1969
Running Time: 80 minutes, 80 minutes, and 79 minutes, respectively

DVD 3-Disc Set Released By: ADV Films
Video: Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 OAR)
Audio: Japanese 2.0 mono
Extras: Trailers, ADV previews
Subtitles: English
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 8 per film
Packaging: Keepcase
MSRP: $19.98
UPC #: 702727191220
Catalog #: DYM/BX1
Status: Available


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Reviewed by:
The Films: This 3-disc set includes a trilogy of films produced by Daiei in 1968 and 1969.  They include a menagerie of yokai:  The ghosts and goblins that populate Japanese folklore.  They also permeate the pop culture of Japan, but are still virtually unknown in the West.

Yokai Monsters:  100 Monsters: The peasants of Edo are honest and hard working, though poor.  When a greedy landlord orders their shrine demolished to make room for a brothel, the villagers are shocked.  The residents of the adjoining building then learn that their home is also going to be torn down.

The landlord and the Magistrate celebrate their impending windfall with the telling of one hundred ghost stories.  However, the arrogant nobles refuse to allow the curse-eliminating ritual that traditionally concludes such a gathering.

Now the villagers are no longer alone in their struggle.  A masterless samurai enters the fray, and neglecting the proper ritual has unleashed a curse on the corrupt officials.  Even these merciless men will prove helpless against the wrath of one hundred monsters.

100 Monsters is the first of Daiei’s three Showa yokai films.  Most of the film is devoted to the human drama, with the yokai appearing occasionally.  The concept of telling 100 stories is interesting, but only one story (involving Rokurokubi, the snake-necked woman) is shown in its entirety.  The monsters’ motivation is also not clear. Are they benevolently helping the villagers, or simply punishing the officials for neglecting the proper ritual?  100 Monsters does have some cool moments:  A drawing of Karakasa (the one-legged umbrella) comes to life; and workers are turned into faceless zombies after tearing down the shrine.  The scenes involving the storyteller are creepy and atmospheric.  The film moves somewhat slow and doesn’t show a lot of personality in most of its monsters.  Grade for 100 Monsters:  B

Yokai Monsters:  Spook Warfare: In the ruins of Babylonia, treasure hunters disturb the resting place of Daimon, a vampire demon with incredible magical powers and a taste for human blood!  After killing the tomb raiders, and capsizing a ship at sea, Daimon flies to Japan.

On a stormy night, Daimon kills a benevolent Lord and assumes his appearance.  His hostile new behavior shocks everyone!  When he grows tired of feeding on adults, Daimon begins abducting children from the village.  Two escape, and hide out at a shrine inhabited by friendly yokai.

With their pride and good reputations as Japanese spirits endangered by Daimon’s ruthlessness, the yokai decide to work together to rid their land of the bloodthirsty demon.  However, with supernatural strength and incredible black magic at his disposal, Daimon may be too much for any combination of Japanese spirits to handle!

Spook Warfare is a fun movie with more strange creatures than you can shake a stick at.  In addition to Daimon and the frog / turtle hybrid Kappa, there’s a woman with a long serpentine neck, a bear-like creature whose portly belly works like a crystal ball, a one-legged umbrella monster, a two-faced woman, a stubby little guy who looks like a stone fetish, and many more.  The period setting is reminiscent of the Daimajin series, though this film is more lighthearted and has more monster action.  All of the creatures are well portrayed by costumed actors, who create a good sense of camaraderie among the native Japanese spirits.  Highly recommended for all fans of Japanese fantasy films.  Grade for Spook Warfare:  A

Yokai Monsters:  Along with Ghosts: Near a country shrine, gangsters ambush two messengers carrying an incriminating document.  The shrine guardian warns the assassins that spilling blood there will bring a curse upon them.  Regardless, both the messengers and the old man are killed.

Miyo, the guardian’s seven-year-old granddaughter, witnesses the events and picks up the dropped document.  She makes her way home, where her dying grandfather tells her what to do.  She must journey to town and find her long-lost father.  When Miyo presents him with a special set of dice, he should recognize her as his daughter.

Miyo’s journey is a dangerous one.  The killers hunt her along the way.  Luckily, she runs into a good-natured swordsman who protects her.  Her pursuers are also dogged by the curse of the yokai, who don’t appreciate the earlier bloodletting on sacred ground.

When Miyo finally finds her father, they are both taken prisoner.  Using the cursed dice, a crime boss makes the child wager her father’s life.  Try as he might to rig the game, mere human treachery is no match for the power of the yokai!  Will the gangsters’ final downfall come by the sword, or by the wrath of the angry spirits?

Disappointingly, this film features the least amount of monsters and supernatural intrigue of the three.  It’s more like a samurai film than a ghost story or monster movie.  The chases, swordplay, and yakuza double-crossing are only occasionally interrupted by otherworldly events.  Not only do the yokai have the least amount of screen time in this film, those shown are generally less interesting.  Some of the apparitions are cool-looking (like the bloody, floating severed heads), but none of them displays much personality.  Young Miyo is appealing and very cute; the audience sympathizes with her plight and she’s never annoying.  This film is a good-looking period production that moves along at a good pace.  It just needs more monsters! 
Grade for Along with Ghosts:  B-

Video: All three films are presented in anamorphic widescreen.  The prints are in great shape with little damage, such as specks or lines, to belie their age.  The transfers are mostly clear and sharp, with good color and detail throughout, and no significant grain.  Very good!  Grade:  A-

Audio: The films’ original mono Japanese language tracks are presented in 2.0 (with optional English subtitles).  They sound good.  The music, dialogue, and sound effects are clear throughout, with only an occasional hiss or pop.  Grade:  B+

Extras / Menus: The extras are all trailers.  Each disc includes both the original Japanese theatrical trailer, and ADV’s U.S. trailer, for the featured film.  The Japanese trailers are presented in anamorphic widescreen, with optional English subtitles.  Quality is good, though they are darker and show more print damage than the films themselves.  The ADV trailers are in non-anamorphic widescreen.

Grouped separately under “Coming Attractions” are six ADV promo trailers on each disc.  The selection includes:  The Yokai Monsters trilogy,
The Complete Daimajin Trilogy, the Heisei Gamera trilogy, and Destroy All Monsters.  All are in non-anamorphic widescreen.

There is also a promo for
The Anime Network Online that plays when the discs first start up.  The main menus are animated; the chapter select and ADV previews screens show film clips in the selection windows.  All of the menus have background music, and are anamorphic.  Grade:  C

Final Analysis: These discs are almost identical to the stand-alone versions previously released by ADV.  Same transfers, same specs, same menus; the only differences are the disc art and the legal / promotional stuff that plays when the discs start up.  This is fine, as the discs were well done to begin with.  Though short on extra features, the films are presented in very good form.

Many studios are re-releasing their catalog titles as double-, triple-, and even quadruple-features, conveniently packaged and priced to move.  By applying this strategy to the Yokai Monsters titles, ADV has provided one of the best deals in classic tokusatsu on DVD.  Those who don’t already have them can get all three popular and influential (in Japan anyways) films on quality DVDs for less than a single title cost brand new a few years ago.  Very highly recommended. 
Final Grade:  A
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