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Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai Paperback – Nov 3 2008
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In addition to being an erudite and meticulously researched history of the yôkai 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 yôkai will find this a richly rewarding addition to their library, I cannot think of a finer work in English on the subject.
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.
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.
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