It's the second Yokai Watch movie... sort of. It's not really a film. It's a collection of five episodes, albeit with a clever bit at the end that ties them all together.
More importantly, though, it's also bonkers and I enjoyed it.
Yokai Watch is a series of computer games, a children's anime, lots of manga and lots more. It's the big gaming/anime/everything juggernaut in Japan right now. This film's opening weekend sold more tickets than Star Wars: The Force Awakens, although it made less money because the tickets were cheaper.
The show's hero is Keita, a small boy with a magic watch that lets him see insanely weird Japanese demons called yokai. Obviously those are less scary than the ones you'll see in other franchises, but they're still comedy troublemakers with magical powers and a knack for initiating surreal situations. Two of them are Keita's regular sidekicks: Whisper (dodgy creepy butler who looks like an ice cream cone with eyes) and Jibanyan (lazy cat demon with two tails that are always on fire).
This film's episodes, with very approximate timings, are:
EPISODE 1: KEITA TURNED INTO A YOKAI (20 min.)
Keita saves a sinister black-clad boy from a probably fatal accident in the street. (Let's call him "Enma".) Yay, good for Keita! Enma repays this kindness by sending a grim reaper demon to kill his rescuer.
What's really unexpected is that the assassin succeeds. Less than five minutes into the film, already the child hero's been murdered.
What next? Answer: the afterlife. Look at the episode's title. Yes, Keita gets turned into a yokai, with a hole in his tummy and the ability to make people boring and unremarkable. You might be thinking that sounds rubbish. You're not wrong. Keita's first supernatural job is to haunt a boy who until now has been getting perfect maths scores.
It's quite a nice story, with Keita helping this boy get over emotional issues. A real-world difficulty dissolves all by itself for plot convenience, but the effect of this is to make the story about mistaken assumptions and giving up prematurely.
EPISODE 2: JIBANYAN'S BRILLIANT STRATEGY (15 min.)
Next, we time-travel into the future. It's the year 2023 and a young lady called Emi is making a start in the fashion industry. She's currently a dogsbody and her superior treats her badly, but she's not going to give up!
She also has history with Jibanyan, who decides to help her. This can be either funny or cringemaking. What it never, ever manages to be is helpful.
This episode is fun, but it also has an admirable moral. Emi doesn't want to get ahead by cheating, whereas Jibanyan keeps trying to pull strings, nobble the competition and use ill-advised supernatural powers. It's also heartwarming. Emi was Jibanyan's owner when he died, back when he was a real cat.
(Enma's watching in the future too.)
EPISODE 3: KOMASAN RETURNS HOME (10 min.)
Two cute small animal yokai (Komasan and Komajiro) get guilt-tripped by their mother into returning home to the spirit realm. Their mother is a house-sized white blob who thinks she's the mother of a human baby. This can't be good.
This episode's fun too, but its ending is slightly weak. Well, it's only ten minutes long. Enma's watching here as well, by the way.
EPISODE 4: USAPYON'S MERRY CHRISTMAS (10 min.)
I particularly enjoyed this one, because of Inaho. Theoretically she's another Keita, being a human child with a yokai watch, but she's much more of a flawed comedy protagonist. She's an overconfident genki SF nerd who's capable of annoying her yokai sidekick (USApyon) so much that he enters Vader Mode. This is always funny.
Anyway, here USApyon and Inaho are Santa Claus. No, really. Fortunately catastrophe is somehow averted and they end up helping another boy with emotional problems... well, when they're not hitting people in the head with their own presents. We also meet the real Santa and he's, um, bigger than traditionally portrayed.
Enma gets his usual cameo, obviously.
EPISODE 5: LET'S GO TO THE YOKAI WORLD (40 min.)
It's a team-up episode! All the main characters so far (except future-Emi) find that Great King Enma has a cold and that his second-in-command has banned human-yokai contact! (Enma is the Japanese name for Yama, the Buddhist lord of the underworld.) This is a laugh. Inaho patronising Keita is a hoot, getting excited about how dull and unremarkable he is. (Keita doesn't see this as a compliment.)
This is the only episode with a proper villain. Ep.1 sort of counts, but here Nurarihyon's an antagonist rather than just a plot initiator. Enma turns out to be cool and I particularly like the kiddie-show thing of not mindlessly defeating the villain, but instead forgiving him and giving him another chance. It's great! Why don't more shows do that? What's so grown-up about being harsh and violent?
Unfortunately this film doesn't use The Music. Drat. However the end theme's still by King Cream Soda, so I'll forgive them.
I enjoyed this film. I can't see myself ever feeling the need to watch it again, but it entertained me and I'll definitely be watching the third Yokai Watch film. My favourite things about it were: (a) Inaho, (b) the lazy, irresponsible and/or useless comedy heroes, (c) the emotional heart, (d) the general level of extreme weirdness, such as killing the child hero, doing Santa's job for him or having your mother be the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on a really hot day. I'm still not planning to start on the TV show any time soon, but this franchise has a lot more personality than you might expect.