Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide

4.0 out of 5 stars Night parade of 100 demons

Japan is a monster country. While other countries may have their vampires and wolfmen, their unseelie courts and ogres and giants, Japan is home to a traditional eight million different varieties of spooks and lurkers in the dark. Japanese children obsess on them and memorize them the way American children do dinosaurs, and you would be hard-pressed to find a child without at least one of the ubiquitous tomes detailing their haunting places and special attributes.

“Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” (subtitled “A survival guide for foreigners”, although this is only subtly written in Japanese), is one of the few books available on this traditional aspect of Japanese culture. Emulating such books as The Zombie Survival Guide, it takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the bizarre menagerie. It acts like a video game guide, giving statistics such as height, weight, favorite food, method of attack, surviving an encounter, etc…A total of forty-six yokai get the treatment, from the famous beasties like the kappa and tengu, to the lesser-knowns like the dorotabo and the hashi hime.

This is very much a “flipping book”, not to be read in one sitting but going through checking out the yokai who catch one’s eye. Every entry is accompanied by an illustration, by Morino Tatsuya. Morino was an assistant to the yokai-master Mizuki Shigeru, and while his ability is not at Mizuki’s level he does a good job with the style. All of the illustrations are in color, and are often accompanied by older artwork such as ukiyo-e prints and toys featuring the various yokai.

When reading this book, I was of two minds. One the one hand, it is pretty cool to have an English-language introduction to yokai in any form. One the other hand, I would have been so much better to simply translate any of Mizuki Shigeru’s numerous beautiful and authentic books dealing with the subject. The idea of a “survival guide” works great when dealing with a familiar topic like zombies, but seeing as how most Westerners would be unfamiliar with yokai a more straight forward book might have been better.

People just looking for a fun and casual book will find this a treasure, however. Yokai appear quite often in Japanese video games and anime, and this kind of book would be a perfect resource to those who want to learn a little bit more about what they are seeing. It would also be a great guide book for role playing gamers who want to introduce a Japanese flavor to their campaigns.

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