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Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai [Paperback]

Michael Dylan Foster

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Book Description

Nov. 3 2008
Water sprites, mountain goblins, shape-shifting animals, and the monsters known as yôkai have long haunted the Japanese cultural landscape. This history of the strange and mysterious in Japan seeks out these creatures in folklore, encyclopedias, literature, art, science, games, manga, magazines, and movies, exploring their meanings in the Japanese cultural imagination and offering an abundance of valuable and, until now, understudied material. Michael Dylan Foster tracks yôkai over three centuries, from their appearance in seventeenth-century natural histories to their starring role in twentieth-century popular media. Focusing on the intertwining of belief and commodification, fear and pleasure, horror and humor, he illuminates different conceptions of the "natural" and the "ordinary" and sheds light on broader social and historical paradigms—and ultimately on the construction of Japan as a nation.

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From the Inside Flap

"At once playful and profound, scholarly and scintillating, Pandemonium and Parade not only records but also enacts the uncanny presence of yokai in Japanese history. Seen through the lens of yokai, this book richly considers how the passing of time evokes both awe and anxiety."—Anne Allison, author of Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination

About the Author

Michael Dylan Foster is Assistant Professor of Folklore and East Asian Cultures at Indiana University.

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Academic, erudite and immensely readable Oct. 7 2009
By Clayton E. Holden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If Michael Dylan Foster's book reads much like a Doctoral dissertation, it is because it is based on his 2003 Doctoral dissertation: "Morphologies of Mystery: Y˘kai and Discourses of the Supernatural in Japan, 1666-1999". That noted, "Pandemonium and Parade" is in no way a watered-down version of its parent text. It includes further research conducted over the following seven years, along with a generous sampling of illustrations, both historical and current.

In addition to being an erudite and meticulously researched history of the y˘kai phenomenon in Japan, Dr. Foster is an excellent and engaging writer, who successfully conveys a deep love for his subject matter, while exploring in depth the cultural, psychological and fantastical elements of both the historical and present-day fascination these outlandish supernatural but all too earthly spirits hold over the consciousness of both the Japanese and students of folklore worldwide.

Dr. Foster's original Doctoral thesis has accompanied me on two visits to Japan; since its release, "Pandemonium and Parade" has been my companion on yet another, and is a volume I keep at close hand here at home, both for reference and for enjoyment of his literary style.

Anyone with an interest in y˘kai will find this a richly rewarding addition to their library, I cannot think of a finer work in English on the subject.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Academic Yet Excellent July 6 2009
By R. M. Burns - Published on Amazon.com
Pandemonium and Parade is not an easy read. The author's highly academic approach to his subject matter makes this book often read like a dressed-up doctoral dissertation.

That said, there is a wealth of information regarding (for lack of a better term) the supernatural in Japanese culture, and the multi-disciplinary approach really expands the subject's overall context.

I can't help wishing, however, that the book had a somewhat more comprehensive index and perhaps a glossary of terms (I know the field of yokai fairly well and still found many new terms I had either not encountered before, or had found in very different context). I also wish Japanese terms were introduced with their kanji renderings, which can be so highly informative in understanding some of the nuance of the vocabulary.

If you are looking for a good introduction to yokia and the supernatural in Japan, you are probably better off with F. Hadland Davis or Royall Tyler. But, if you know the subject reasonably well, this book will really expand and deepen both your knowledge of Japanese monster-ology, and your appreciation.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for teaching Nov. 21 2009
By SK - Published on Amazon.com
While the language used in this book is "academic" (out of necessity for sure), this wonderful book is still readable, informative, and entertaining. Those students who enroll in Japanese history and culture courses are mostly interested in anime and manga. It is important to teach them how these monsters/ghosts in anime and manga can be situated in specific historical and cultural contexts. Professor Foster's book is very useful for teaching, especially undergraduate courses. I highly recommend it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Few Drawbacks, But Still Worthy July 12 2010
By Samuel Leiter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Yes, the book is academic and it can sometimes bog down in boring rhetoric. It is rarely engaging to the point of one's being unable to put it down, but, after the longwinded introductory chapter, it does provide a very interesting overview of the history and significance of yokai in Japanese culture, past and present (including manga and anime). Michael Dylan Foster not only explains some of the chief representatives of traditional and contemporary yokai, he provides an excellent history of how yokai evolved as a serious subject of inquiry and also discusses the place of yokai in the matrix of Japanese culture. Academics are likely to appreciate the book for its insights more than those mainly interested in light reading about the yokai phenomenon. The book shouldn't be compared to those that are chiefly collections of old myths and legends.

For me, a major drawback is the relative lack of space devoted to one major form of yokai, the yurei or ghost, which is so important in Japanese literature, theatre, and art. And, despite the author's expert analysis of the kuchi-sake-onna or Slit-Mouthed-Woman, I was surprised that he never alludes to the possibility of potential influence from the gabu head in the bunraku puppet theatre. The gabu shows the face of a pretty girl but when the puppeteer pulls a string the upper and lower parts of the face are split by a gruesome, ear-to-ear mouth of sharp gold teeth, the effect of which is heightened by eyes that widen to become large squares, and horns that sprout from the hair. The character is really a serpent spirit in disguise. Come to think of it, Japan's upbiquitous serpents also get short shrift in this book, which, admittedly, does not attempt to be an encyclopedia, like Yokai Attack!

Pandemonium and Parade isn't perfect but it's a very worthy contribution.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than bumps in the night June 14 2010
By YMJ - Published on Amazon.com
Many people interested in Yokai are probably just following a manga whim or other pop-ish fascination. Those readers especially will be stunned by Foster's deeper and more historical look at things. What this book offers is a compelling back story of Japan's centuries-long cultural infatuation with monsters, mythic creatures, and other "through the looking glass" creations. A formidable yet highly readable scholar (no purple prose here) Foster shows us that from a cultural standpoint, monsters matter.

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