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Yokai Dai Senso (The Big Yokai War), by Shigeru Mizuki, written by Hiroshi Aramata: Grade: A
I'm a little confused as to the timeline involved with this manga. According to the wiki entry on the Great Yokai War movie, there seems to be 3 components at play. First is a book Aramata wrote, entitled Teito Monogatari (The Tale of the Imperial Capital), which began serialization in 1983. This apparently was part of the inspiration for the Great Yokai War live action movie that came out in 2005. Other inspiration included Mizuki's Gegege Kitaro manga. However, the "Yokai Dai Senso" manga (shown here) drawn by Mizuki also came out in 2005 and, while it follows the main plot of the movie, has several major differences (such as Katou's henchwoman being a yokai named Hanako in the manga, and Agi in the movie; the movie uses a lot more monster machines; and the hero's sword doesn't break in the manga.)
(Hanako is out in the woods vacuuming up stray yokai, but manages to miss the one that befriends Tadashi.)
The wiki entry describes the movie, and Aramata's book, as a retelling of the Tale of Momotaro, in which Momotaro (Peach Boy) drives demons out of an island. The problem is that in Mizuki's version, the main villain is a wizard named Katou, who creates a monster plant with the help of the yokai girl, Hanako; and Hanako uses a yokai vacuum cleaner to capture other yokai to cremate and sacrifice to the plant. The hero, a young cowardly boy named Tadashi, succeeds in defeating the plant, and probably killing Hanako, but Katou runs away with plans on returning again later. This storyline really isn't that similar to the Momotaro story in question, although there are a couple parallels. Anyway, if you read the wiki summary of the movie, you'll know most of the story for this manga.
(Tadashi and the remaining yokai go into a mountain cave to meet Dai Tengu, the oni that gives the hero sword to Tadashi.)
The artwork is typical Mizuki. If you like Kitaro, you'll like Senso. There are several cameos, including an appearance by Mizuki himself as a crazed yokai specialist, and part of the story takes place on Yokai Road, a tourist attraction in Tottori that features statues of many of Mizuki's manga characters. Later in the story, the statues come alive to join in the battle against Katou.
(The Yokai Road bronze statues come to life.)
It's a simple story with fairly simple Japanese. If you're a first or second year Japanese language student, you shouldn't have any trouble following the dialog. It's also a decent introduction to Japanese society, given that Tadashi's schoolmates, and his mother, all act in stereotypical ways (typical for a manga story, anyway.) Recommended.
(There are three splash pages in the gallery at the end of the book, implying that this story was originally serialized in a magazine somewhere, but there's no mention of serialization in the copyright section. Katou is in the top background on the left page, and Hanako is next to his right eye. There's no explanation for why she follows Katou, other than that she just likes causing problems. Katou just doesn't like humans.)
(The back cover has a lot of empty white space.)
Summary: Aramata is a fan of Mizuki's, and he wrote a story featuring Mizuki's yokai. A live action movie was based on the book, and Mizuki seems to have drawn a manga related to the movie, I guess. It's a fun manga, and recommended if you like Gegege Kitaro.