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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2009
If Michael Dylan Foster's book reads much like a Doctoral dissertation, it is because it is based on his 2003 Doctoral dissertation: "Morphologies of Mystery: Yôkai and Discourses of the Supernatural in Japan, 1666-1999". That noted, "Pandemonium and Parade" is in no way a watered-down version of its parent text. It includes further research conducted over the following seven years, along with a generous sampling of illustrations, both historical and current.

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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Pandemonium and Parade is not an easy read. The author's highly academic approach to his subject matter makes this book often read like a dressed-up doctoral dissertation.

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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2010
Yes, the book is academic and it can sometimes bog down in boring rhetoric. It is rarely engaging to the point of one's being unable to put it down, but, after the longwinded introductory chapter, it does provide a very interesting overview of the history and significance of yokai in Japanese culture, past and present (including manga and anime). Michael Dylan Foster not only explains some of the chief representatives of traditional and contemporary yokai, he provides an excellent history of how yokai evolved as a serious subject of inquiry and also discusses the place of yokai in the matrix of Japanese culture. Academics are likely to appreciate the book for its insights more than those mainly interested in light reading about the yokai phenomenon. The book shouldn't be compared to those that are chiefly collections of old myths and legends.

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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2009
While the language used in this book is "academic" (out of necessity for sure), this wonderful book is still readable, informative, and entertaining. Those students who enroll in Japanese history and culture courses are mostly interested in anime and manga. It is important to teach them how these monsters/ghosts in anime and manga can be situated in specific historical and cultural contexts. Professor Foster's book is very useful for teaching, especially undergraduate courses. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2010
Many people interested in Yokai are probably just following a manga whim or other pop-ish fascination. Those readers especially will be stunned by Foster's deeper and more historical look at things. What this book offers is a compelling back story of Japan's centuries-long cultural infatuation with monsters, mythic creatures, and other "through the looking glass" creations. A formidable yet highly readable scholar (no purple prose here) Foster shows us that from a cultural standpoint, monsters matter.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2010
Nice diachronic look at youkai/fushigi. But like most books of this nature, cherry-picking is a little inevitable. Still, it is an engaging text that provides GREAT context. It pairs VERY well with Gerald Figal's more in-depth study of youkai in the Meiji era - "Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society)." In a pinch, I'd say I prefer Figal's, but I definitely recommend reading both.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2010
This is a fascinating, well-written history of monsters and the science of monsters, that appeals both to the Japan specialist and the general reader with an interest in the topic. The best work on the subject in English.
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on March 13, 2013
Interesting. This book takes a different approach as it mentions how different periods influence the yokai phenomenon. I would have like more information about the yokai. Totally not a demonology book, but fascinating.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2011
This is not very good if you want to learn about the actual Yokai. It mentions a couple of specific ones every once in a long while, but for the most part they aren't discussed. Its mainly about the people that found out about them, and how it affects Japanese society both modern and ancient, which is interesting, but I was under the impression they were going to have information about the beings themselves.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2010
A detailed record of yokai folklore and culture in japan, with various descriptions and information, but lacks a comprehensive list of creatures and pictorial archive (wich is bad, because it is so easy to find yokai images in the net, so why not pay more atention to it?)
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