Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide Paperback – Aug 10 2012
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About the Author
Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda are a husband and wife team who run a Tokyo-based translation company that specializes in producing the English versions of Japanese video games, comic books, and literature. They are the co-authors of Ninja Attack! and Yurei Attack!, both originally published by Kodansha International and with new expanded editions from Tuttle Publishing.
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Each of the more than 50 detailed descriptions provide everything you'll need when faced with one of these legendary Japanese monsters. The first page of each entry is the "Stats Sheet" page, containing vital information such as monster height, weight, mode of locomotion, and any special abilities, as well as a full page color image (by talented illustrator Tatsuya Morino) of the yokai in question. The pages following contain information on the type of threat each yokai represents (whether it be just a scare, or a definitely-to-be-avoided disembowelment), as well as any defensive measures that can be taken, origin stories, typical location where found, regional variants of the monster, in addition to stories, facts, and legends surrounding that creature and its habits. Truly, the amount of information contained for each yokai is substantial, and will undoubtedly prove crucial to the would-be yokai hunter (or as often as not, the "yokai hunted").
The authors have made on-the-go referencing easier as well (very important when you're not sure if you're facing a Kuchisaki Onna or a Futakuchi Onna!) by separating yokai into groupings by type, from the ferocious to the feeble. What's more, each grouping has its own tab for flip-through ease, very convenient when you're running away from a creature at close to a full-out sprint!
In my own time in Japan, I myself came across a number of the creatures described in this book, and can attest to the efficacy of at least a few of the defense techniques described therein. I can only say I wish I had had this handbook with me at the time, and that I will certainly be bringing it with me on any future excursions.
"Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide" (subtitled "A Survival Guide for Foreigners," although this is only written in Japanese), is one of the few English-language 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 Japan's bizarre menagerie. The book 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-nine 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 a re-issue of "Yokai Attack!" from a new publisher. There are a few new monsters added, and the book is finally in full-color. The previous edition from Kodansha USA switched to black-and-white illustrations for the final third of the book, almost as if they had run out of money for color printing (which they very may well have, considering Kodansha USA's final fate). Tuttle publishing corrects that, and it looks great. The authors have continued the series with Ninja Attack! and Yurei Attack! in a similar style.
"Yokai Attack!" is very much a "flipping book." You can read it cover-to-cover, but it's more fun going through and checking out whatever yokai that catches your 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. The illustrations are often accompanied by older artwork such as ukiyo-e prints and toys featuring the various yokai, or photos of famous places.
Even thought I am not a huge fan of the "survival guide" style, I give full props to Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt for writing "Yokai Attack!" Until recently, English-language books about yokai have been few and far between, and limited to academic books like Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai. There wasn't anything available for casual fans who wanted to learn a bit more about the various beasties that pop up so often in Japanese video games, comics, and animation. This book is fun and easy-to-read.
Since it was originally published, a few more English-language yokai books have popped up, like The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia and The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: a Field Guide to Japanese Yokai. Those books are less tongue-in-check, and edge slightly more towards the academic than the playful. They are good continuations for those who want to dive a little deeper into yoikai. In a perfect world, all of Mizuki Shigeru's beautiful and authentic yokai encyclopedias would be available in English translations. But they aren't. So until thin, "Yokai Attack!" is a great introduction for casual readers who want a window into Japan's monster culture.
Then when the second edition hit my local bookshop I popped it open saw that it had even more yokai and far more color illustrations than the first edition and bought it on the spot.
If you are interested in Japanese folklore or spooky things in general this is a candidate for your shelves.
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