Yokai Attack! by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt

Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt (artwork by Tatsuya Morino)
Kodansha International
192 pages

Holy crap, but this is a fun book! Think of the monsters and other critters you’ve perhaps encountered in anime and manga, or video games out of Japan. (I’m especially thinking Okami here.) Yokai Attack! provides the background mythology on some of these beings, and numerous others–some of the scariest (and, in some cases, silliest) monsters in Japanese mythos.

While there are the usual suspects such as the Kitsune and various forms of Tengu, did you know about the Kara-Kasa and Bura-Bura, an umbrella and lantern respectively that have been animated into haunts? Or what about Konaki Jiji, who imitates a baby to gain contact with a human which it then crushes to death? These and dozens more Yokai may be found in the pages of this book (not literally, of course!).

The book is put together like a tongue-in-cheek field guide. Amid the suggestions for what to do if you meet up with one of these beings (such as keeping a leaky ladle in your boat in case of a meeting with the Funa-Yurei), there’s solid research about them. The authors are careful to note when a Yokai is of relatively recent origin, and what that origin likely is. For all its manga-ish appearance, it’s a decent resource.

Speaking of manga, the artwork is excellent. It’s not the typical manga-style, though it does mix traditional designs with modern aesthetics. And there are fun little additions to the layout, like little “Post-it notes” and other things with a bit of extra info here and there.

Overall, if you’d like an introduction to Japanese mythology, particularly as is pertains to things that go bump in the night, this is a good read.

Five pawprints out of five.

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