Friday, March 13, 2015

Review:: Yokai Attack!, by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt

Title: Yokai Attack!
Author: Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt
Illustrator: Tatsuya Morino
Format: eBook (epub)
Rating: ★★★☆☆

A nice, but not super in-depth bestiary, covering yokai, traditional Japanese monsters. Its worth it for Tatsuya Morino's illustrations, which are supplemented with older, more traditional pieces of art.

I haven't found a lot of bestiaries covering East-Asian folklore, so when I saw this on Overdrive, I just had to check it out. While it doesn't go super in-depth, I feel like bestiaries really aren't meant to. However, it did leave me wanting in parts. Occasionally, the writing felt like it was trying too hard, either to make a drab monster feel exciting or to make it palatable to a Western audience. Overall, though, it was quite enjoyable.

Generally, yokai are categorized by where they appear. However, in order to better serve a Western audience, the authors recategorized them into groups like "these ones will kill you dead," "gluttons," and "sexy beasts." While I feel that was a good idea in some ways, the way it was handled seemed off. Beyond the more dangerous category, many of the yokai didn't really feel like they belonged in their category. All things considered, though, that's a pretty minor quibble.

The illustrations were wonderful. Many of them depicted traditional yokai in a more modern setting, taking away a lot of the antiquity of the descriptions. Tatsuya Morino's art was supplemented with older pieces, which was great for giving more context.

Each of the yokai were given a "stats sheet," which like the categorization, I felt was a good idea in theory, but felt lacking. Most of the time it felt repetitive or like some of the information given was a stretch, just to have something in that category.

I also really appreciated the inclusion of newer, less "classic" yokai, such as kuchisake-onna. While most yokai are more traditional folktale monsters, it's not a stretch at all to say that some modern Japanese urban legends fit the bill.

Yokai Attack! is just one of a few bestiaries this couple has written. They've also done one on yurei, Japanese ghosts, and one on ninja. From my experience with this one, I'd definitely not pass those up, if opportunity presented.

Oh, pro tip: while this book isn't super, super scary, I don't suggest falling asleep in the middle of reading it. I tried that method, and it turned into a nightmare that persisted for some time upon waking. Poor life choices.

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