Yōkai are a form of traditional Japanese monster spirits, best known to cinephiles from a trilogy of fantasy films from the 1960s: Yokai daisenso [aka Big Ghost War; Spook Warfare] (Japan-, dir. Yoshiyuki Kuroda); Yokai Hyaku Monogatari [aka The Hundred Monsters] (Japan- , dir. Kimiyoshi Yasuda) and Tôkaidô obake dôchû [aka Along with Ghosts] (Japan-1969; dir. Yoshiyuki Kuroda and Kimiyoshi Yasuda) — and the recent big-budget remake Yokai daisenso (2005; dir. Takashi Miike) [aka The Great Yokai War].
Yōkai are weird and, in folklore, omnipresent, having a wide range of bizarre and hybrid forms. They can be friendly, mischievous, spooky or outright nasty. Check out Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s book Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide (Kodansha International) and you’ll see what I mean. Or go here for a more academic treatment. According to Komatsu Kazuhiko, a scholar of yōkai, the term means “an abnormal phenomenon, or a related thing or entity.” Think hobgoblins, ogres, gremlins and the like… but much weirder in a typically Japanese fashion.
One of the most well-known of the Yōkai is the Kappa, pictured here from the Yoda and Alt’s book:
The Kappa is a sort of river sprite. To quote the Wikipedia entry:
Kappa are usually seen as mischievous troublemakers. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as loudly passing gas or looking up women’s kimonos, to the more troublesome, such as stealing crops or kidnapping children. In fact, small children are one of the gluttonous kappa’s favorite meals, though they will eat adults as well. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages. Kappa are also said to be afraid of fire, and some villages hold fireworks festivals each year to scare the spirits away.
(See Gallery below for lots of images of Kappa, traditional and otherwise — courtesy of Kaiju Search-Engine Avery)
Tomoo Haraguchi — who worked on SFX for such films as Uzumaki (2000) and two of the 1990s Gamera trilogy by Shusuke Kaneko, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Advent of Legion, and directed the traditional monster epic Sakuya: Slayer of Demons (2000) as well as the more recent Werewolf Warrior (2004) — has announced the production of a new daikaiju eiga, Death Kappa, where the main giant monster is an oversized Kappa. Kappa are typically human-sized, but Haraguchi’s is intended to rival Godzilla.
Though it is currently early in production, Haragushi has made a promotional teaser in which he expresses his intention to create the film in a “traditional” way — with suitmation and model cities. Coming as it is from production company Fever Dreams, who were behind the analog gore of The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, the prospects for Death Kappa are looking good.
Source: Twitch Film via Kaiju Search-Robot Avery
Addendum: Gallery of Kappa images