Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide By Hiroko Yoda And Matt Alt
A brainwavez.org Literary Review

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 30 October 2009
In: Books > Reviews
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The variety of monsters, called yokai, in Japan is astounding - and many of them are very bizarre. Should you find yourself face to face (or, erm, worse) with one, this fully illustrated, very handy guide will be indispensable: use it to learn how to spot yokai and how to survive the attack. Plus, it's filled with fascinating cultural observations that will astound and delight. You'll never leave home without it! (You may also never want to go to Japan after reading it....)

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide by Hiroko Yoda and Matt AltYokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide is a wonderful little book presented as an introductory field guide to yokai, the Japanese term (written with the characters that mean "other worldly" and "weird") that loosely translated means "monster" or "demon" (or "spectre" or "ghoul"...) but, as the authors say in the preface, that's like describing "samurai" as "Japanese warrior". If you've ever seen the movie Spirited Away / Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi (2001, by Hayao Miyazaki), you will already be familiar with yokai - you just may not know it.

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide by Hiroko Yoda and Matt AltIn Japan yokai are classified according to where they manifest (mountains, streams, or temples, for example) but, for clarity for those new to the topic, the selections in the book have been classified according to their personalities. Therefore we have "Ferocious Fiends", "Gruesome Gourmets", "Annoying Neighbors", "The Sexy And The Slimy", and "The Wimps" (not all yokai are dangerous). Each profile is divided into classification categories with information such as the pronunciation of the yokai's name; its name in English, Japanese, and kanji; and, where applicable, gender, height, weight, locomotion, distinctive features, favourite food, offensive weapon(s), weaknesses, abundance (prevalence), habitat, "claim to fame", how it attacks (if it does), and how you can avoid and/or survive and encounter with it informational entries, as well as a few fascinating cultural tidbits particularly pertinent to that specific yokai.

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide by Hiroko Yoda and Matt AltIt's hard to choose a "most fascinating" entry as the creatures are all so diverse and interesting but some that especially appealed to me included Tofu Kozu (Tofu Boy), whose offensive weapon is, ahem, a block of tofu, which can have no side effects for the individual unlucky enough to consume it (the tofu, I mean - don't eat the yokai!) or it could cause "a virulent fungus begin to grow within the victim's body, its fetid spores eventually draining it of all life". Yikes! (Survival advice? "Beware of children bearing tofu.") Another is the Nopperabo [or Noppera-bō] (Faceless One, No-Face, or Blank-Face), which has, on occasion, even appeared in Western culture, which takes the form of a well-dressed man or woman but, as the English name implies, has no face. It's unlikely to kill you (unless you have a heart attack from fright) and is more a mischievous entity that enjoys scaring people, often working in teams for maximum effect.

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide by Hiroko Yoda and Matt AltMost of the profiles comprise four pages (the exceptions are the chapter-ending profiles, which are three pages so that there's space for the next chapter index), alternating between colour pages for the opening spread (basic profile information on the left and a full-page illustration on the right) and black-and-white pages (more detailed information and cultural connections). This, however, changes at pages 146-147, which should be in colour but are in black and white, as is the rest of the book from this point on. Unsure as to whether I had received a copy with a rare printing mistake or if this was by (strange) design, I emailed Matt Alt to ask him, and he explained that it was a decision made (not by the authors) for budget reasons and that the entire book had actually been designed in colour so they would love to be able to print it that way in future, although there are currently no plans to do so.

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide by Hiroko Yoda and Matt AltThis minor issue aside, the actual presentation of the book is fantastic. It's a softcover book but it comes with a dust jacket and "end papers" (actually just printing on the inside covers and the outer sides of the first and last pages) with a pretty repeating pattern of monsters and ghouls in shades of mauve, which is the same pattern used on the dust jacket (behind the text and illustrations) that's in camouflage colours. The design of the profile pages incorporates elements such as "paperclips" that have attached a photograph to the page, "sticky notes" with captions and additional details or notes "stapled" to the page, guide text that has been marked with a "highlighter" to draw your attention to it, and "handwritten" notes next to some items that provide additional amusing commentary. The preface, which I previously mentioned, provides a good introduction to yokai and there's also a glossary of terms and a selection of recommended resources (books, web sites, and films), should you wish to continue your yokai education.

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide is absolutely endearing and a remarkable treasure trove of cultural information, as well as an exceptional, balanced mix of text, illustrations, and graphic design. You can see that an awful lot of love has been poured into its production and that makes it all the more special. It's an essential reference work for your bookshelf and is highly recommended as a gift purchase for people who mean a lot to you (it's too precious to give to people you only sort of like).

Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide!is available from leading book stores and online retailers, including Kalahari.net, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk.


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Rating: 9/10


Key Facts (Review Copy)
Title: Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
Authors: Hiroko Yoda, Matt Alt
Illustrator: Tatsuya Morino
ISBN/EAN: 9784770030702
Edition: First
Year: 2008 (Japan: June 2008; US: October 2008)
Format: Softcover, full colour and black and white, with illustrations and dust jacket
Pages: 192
Dimensions: 133x189x13mm (WxHxD)
Genre/Keywords: horror, humour, Japan, monsters, non fiction, yokai


On The Internet
Tatsuya Morino: GAINAX NET


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