Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: Horror · Fantasy · Science Fiction
 Thomas Weisser and Yuko Mihara Weisser
Language: English Release: 1998
Publisher: Vital Books Pages: 327
Genre: Non-fiction ISBN: 1889288519

Preview: Order
Back Cover
Anthony Romero

Quite possibly one of the worst, yet most critically praised, books on Japanese Cinema to date. If this were another book, one that didn't have the praise: "The most authoritative... comprehensive book on Japanese films!" and "If there is anyone in the known universe who is a greater authority on Asian Cinema than Thomas Weisser and Yuko Mihara, they have not presented themselves... this series is a crowning achievement" along with an introduction by Oliver Stone (who praises the authors to no end), perhaps I would have been more civil and quick in tearing this book apart. However, after reading praise like that over a book that left me severally missing my $20, a "civil and quick" review is the last thing this publication deserves.

To the book's credit, it does cover a lot of ground... too much ground, in fact. First off, the book covers both theatrical and OV (Original Video) productions. That in itself isn't the problem, and wouldn't have been if the authors had shown some restraint in their selection... but sadly, no such luck. To put it bluntly, the book contains a lot (like 2/5 of the entire publication) of pinku eiga, or porn films. For a book that is credited as "Horror · Fantasy · Science Fiction" they sure dig deep into what Thomas Weisser describes as a "cross genre." One might even wonder if this was done to sell Thomas Weisser's other book, Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: Sex Films. What is most disturbing about this, though, is that the book was a family affair. Beyond being done by Thomas Weisser and his wife, Yuko Mihara, their daughter, Jessica, was also involved. This gets a little hard to stomach when reading the reviews and seeing Thomas Weisser going on and on, often gleefully, about women getting raped or tortured in some of the films; the thought of his daughter reading over this is just a little too much.

Building off of the "scope" of the book comes the questionable scores Thomas Weisser has given to the films. To be fair, he does say in the beginning of the book that the scores were derived more from the movies "impact within a intended market" than their merits as "pieces of art." What does this mean exactly? Well a film like Female Neo Ninjas can get extra stars (out of a total of four) for having "cute ninjas" and featuring a scene where one of them is whipped as a form of torture, placing it above Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990). This just begs the question: if some of these films were intended for a pinku eiga audience, why are they being included in this book? Beyond the porn films, though, Thomas Weisser gives Gunhed (1989) 3 1/2 stars, and Invasion of the Neptune Men (possibly thee worst Japanese movie ever made) 2 stars. These scores alone speak louder against his merits as a critic than anything I could say. However, I have one more pet peeve: his "pick your own rating" score for some of the movies, which is a pretty lazy cop-out answer.

As for the reviews themselves... skip 'em. There are so many errors as to ask if Thomas Weisser was even paying attention to the movies while watching them, or if even watched some of these films at all. To further discredit this awful book, I have included some errors (far from all) that I noticed while looking through the book:

Blood Thirsty Doll (pg. 39) "...when [Yuko] attempts to chow down on Keiko's boyfriend, the bloodsucker is destroyed by the ghost of her father."
- Points for trying, perhaps? She killed her father moments before, breaking the "trance" that kept her alive.

Daigoro vs. Goliath (pg. 56) "...they were also making Godzilla vs. Megalon, a supposedly dignified entry in their on going series. But remember that's the one that features Big G fighting an enormous chicken."
- Ha, ha, ha... yeah, no. It's almost a "bad critic" cliché to call Gigan a "giant chicken" at this point.

Destroy All Monsters (pg. 60) "...plus obscure one-shot wonders like Wenda (from Atragon)..."
- That's Manda.

Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster (pg. 94) "This is the sequel to Monster Zero (also 1965)..."
- The film is not a sequel to Invasion of Astro-Monster, nor was it made in 1965 either.

Godzilla 1985 (pg. 110) "FX work by Nobuyuski Yasumaru is state-of-the-arts..."
- Teruyoshi Nakano did the special effects, Nobuyuski Yasumaru designed the Godzilla suit.

Godzilla Raids Again (pg. 112) "...Warner Brothers, but they couldn't secure permission to use the Americanized "Godzilla" name..."
- Warner Brothers didn't use the Godzilla name because they thought a movie that was billed as "all new" would sell better; they could have used the Godzilla name if they wanted.

Godzilla vs. the Destroyer (pg. 113) "...Takuro Tatsumi, is a rogue agent who discovers the Destroyer's deadly secret too late."
- He is a doctor. What film are you watching there Thomas?

Godzilla vs. the Destroyer (pg. 113) "...which killed Godzilla in 1954, how come Godzilla's alive at all? "
- Because the '54 Godzilla is a different Godzilla than the Heisei one.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (pg. 115) "Mechagodzilla, manned by the Megaforce good guys..."
- That's G-Force not "Megaforce." Also to note, on this same page, they credit a shot from Godzilla vs. Hedorah as being from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster.

Godzilla vs. Megalon (pg. 116) "...and Borodan (an enormous chicken)..."
- Good old chicken cliché again, although this time with the wrong name as well.

Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (pg. 116) "But isn't it logical to assume that a monster who lives off raw pollution might not be a bad thing to have around?"
- If you are talking about a monster in general, sure. If you mean Hedorah, than god no. Come on Thomas, they even brought this up in the film...

Gorath (pg. 121) "...a monster (Gorath) generated from hybrid outer space cells."
- Gorath was the name of the collapsed star that was hurtling toward Earth. "Generated from hybrid outer space cells"? Now Thomas is just making stuff up.

Kwaidan (pg. 155) "The first one Kurokami (representing Fall) tells of a Samurai who returns from battle to find his home destroyed, yet his wife living unscathed among the ruins."
- No, no, no. The Samurai left his wife to marry rich, not go off to battle. He eventually comes back to find their home in shambles from his leave. Did you even watch this one Thomas? You missed the entire point of the story...

Kwaidan (pg. 156) "The fourth story, and easily the best one, is Miminashi Hoichi No Hanashi (Spring). "
- That's the third story, not the fourth.

Queen Mothra (pg. 184) "For this version the fairies are called the Nymphs..."
- No they aren't.

Rodan (pg. 206) "...Rodan, the creature, for being one of two Kaiju eiga monsters not played by actor in a rubber suit."
- But it was played by an actor in a "rubber suit"...

Sayonara Jupiter (pg. 212) "...and music by Godzilla composer, Akira Ifukube."
- Kentaro Haneda did the music for Bye-Bye Jupiter, not Akira Ifukube.

As a last general note, this book has some rather peculiar names for some of the films. It also continues the trend, started by Godzilla: King of the Movie Monsters, in calling the Heisei Mothra "Queen Mothra", which the book says Godzilla vs. Queen Mothra ('92) and Queen Mothra ('96).

Final note: avoid like the plague!