Top critical review
21 people found this helpful
on November 2, 2010
A well researched book, densely populated with weird and interesting entries. I discovered more yokai than I had imagined existed. The essays on the more popular Japanese spirit folk--kappa, kitsune, tengu, &c.--are delightfully lengthy, but just as interesting are the more obscure yokai listed here, such as a monk made of ash, a microscopic viral boar, or a giant sea cucumber born from a girl's discarded underclothes. This book is dense with legendary creatures, the entries including any relevant folklore whenever possible.
Although the amount of text is admirable (if not sometimes a little glib), the design of the book is a little disappointing. It's illustrated throughout, but often the works shown (most of them Edo period prints) are pixelated, as if they had been lifted off the web from a Wikipedia article. The original illustrations by Anthony Wallis are reproduced well, but his pictures sometimes pale next to those of Kuniyoshi and other Japanese printmakers. (Also--and I realize this is a huge nitpick--the designers used a title font in the book that does not include all of the glyphs used in yokai names, so occasionally an special character appears in the middle of a heading in a different typeface than the rest of the word. It looks sloppy.)
Still, I purchased this book hoping to learn more about yokai, especially the obscure ones I could not find in other books or the internet, and in that sense, this book really delivers. A solid reference for those interested in the weird critters and beings that inhabit Japan's folk tales.