Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Clap for the Kappa

It's sort of surprising that Japan's Kappa... cute creeps that appear as half-turtle, half-hominid river spirits... aren't better known outside of their native haunt considering how hugely popular they are there. I mean, the Kappa is probably Japan's most famous monster. From the great Shigeru Mizuki's adorably weird Sanpei the Kappa to the classic brushy comic strip work of Kon Shimizu (Kappa Tengoku, Kowataro the Kappa, etc.) which became the spokesmonsters of Kizakura Sake for many decades, Kappa are a big part of Japanese pop culture. Not that these river-dwelling pranksters are a modern phenomenon, though... no, sir! Kappa are venerable Yokai, and have been a part of Japanese folklore for centuries. I was just re-watching Miike's The Great Yokai War again, and loving the depiction of Kawataro the Kappa (named for the Shimizu character? See responses...). Frankly, you can't have a Yokai movie (from the Yokai Monsters trilogy from the 1960's, to the recent monsterpiece Kibakichi) without a Kappa! This guy Kyoichi Shimazaki, AKA Ghostman, has some really wonderful effects makeup and behind the scenes images on his site, including the stunning Kappa creation pictured below. Wish I knew what it was created for, but I can't read Japanese.Follow the links and discover the Kappa, my friends. But don't get too close to the water!