Written by Jonathan Wojcik
31 Yo-kai Watch Spooks!
If you were alive and cognizant between the 1990's and early 2000's, you just might recall something or other to do with something called Poggle Men, or something. What was it, again?
Oh, right. Bigger than even Beanie Babies, it seemed like a good 99% of the human race had been gripped with pokemania for a solid three to five years, and our beloved pocket monsters would continue to enjoy steady success to this day, little else ever quite reaching the same levels of rabid enthusiasm the mere glimpse of a Bulbasaur once wrought upon civilization.
...Unless, of course, you're in Japan right now, in which case you're probably less then ten feet away from something emblazoned with the country's most adorable dead cat.
That dead cat is named Jibanyan, and he's one of several hundreds spooks populating Yo-kai Watch, a franchise that's been bulldozing its competition across Japan for a couple of years now. For the first time, kids are snubbing pikachu en mass for another pudgy, furry monster with a weird tail, and the series is poised to come stateside some time in the coming fall, though whether this uniquely Japanese monster-catcher will impress 2015's Western audiences remains to be seen.
Now, I'm assuming most people reading this are going to have at least a rough idea of what a youkai is. Most fans of anime, manga, video games, monsters, mythology, Japanese culture in general and any point at which any of those things cross over are probably familiar with Kitsune, Tanuki, Kappa and many other fantastical creatures falling under the youkai umbrella, some of which are umbrellas, but if you're expecting Yo-kai Watch to just rehash the same old mythological monsters, you're in for either a treat or a disappointment. Many classic youkai are certainly included in the series, yes, but the majority of its apparitions are entirely new creations, and many with a modernized twist. There are monsters that hide your remote control, monsters that direct bad movies, monsters that collect toys and monsters that just chat on the internet all night.
Fortunately, these all do an outstanding job carrying the torch of their forebearers, capturing the spirit of older folk tales so well that the line between the classic figures and original inventions can be quite difficult to draw. Most importantly, the creatures of Yo-kai Watch seldom lose sight of the eeriness so fundamental to youkai tradition, lending to a mons game much ghostlier, spookier and freakier in tone than most, even while looking cuter than a basket of chitons. That's a Bogleech.com joke and I'm not sorry for it.
Let's start with the single best reason to watch the anime series, the "youkai butler" Whisper. Not actually a monster you can train in the games, Whisper serves as your sidekick and guide to the youkai world, with a running gag that he actually keeps having to check a wiki site to identify other youkai. This is all tragically funny (well, mostly tragic) once we learn what "species" of youkai he actually is later in the anime, and I don't want to spoil that, exactly, but I can say that I believe Whisper to be an actual "whisp" type of specter, that is, the ghostly flames known for leading humans astray in both Eastern and Western lore.
The "human faced dog" is one of Japan's actual urban legends. The simple story has someone approach what they believe to be a normal canine, only for the creature to reveal its disturbing human head...and ask to be left alone. In Yo-kai Watch, Jinmenken looks about as creepy as the style and concept permit, but he'll quickly grow on you, since a running gag is made of how positively horrible his existence is. Most humans actually see him as only a slightly dog-like, filthy, creepy old man, and he spends much of his life in and out of prisons for rooting in people's garbage, begging young women to pet him, and of course public urination offenses. The saddest part? He was a human salaryman until he was merged with a dog...when both he and a stray poodle were crushed to death by falling boards. From his origin to his drunken-looking design, Jinmenken is heart-tuggingly pathetic. We even get to see him completely lose his grip on reality as he retreats into escapist fantasies. Hilarious!
DONYORINNE or "DISMERELDA:"
This was one of the first characters to really stand out to me, and one of the first with a known English name; one that couldn't be more perfect. Anyone familiar with Pokemon is probably thinking this design is almost nothing but Muk with a wig and makeup, and aesthetically, yeah, I can't really argue with that, but I like it. I think Girly Muk is a whole lot more fun looking than regular Muk, although sadly, she has nothing to do with toxic waste. Instead, Dismerelda's power lies in creating tension and stress, particularly between friends or lovers. This is our first example of a major running theme in the series, where youkai tend to hang around screwing with us humans in various ways.
Adorably, Donyorinne is in a healthy, happy marriage with almost her polar opposite, a happy, sunshiney, flying cloud-man who can completely undo her effects.
BAKUROBAA or "TATTLETELL:"
Adorable, but I suppose also a bit creepy, what with being a weirdly proportioned old woman the size of a bug. In fact, she almost acts like a flea, leaping around and using her long arms to latch on to her victims, though instead of feeding on them, she forces them to blab their darkest and most humiliating secrets. In the anime, the worst this results in is some toilet humor, but there are any number of ways this little cutie could completely ruin people's lives.
This is one of those Japanese monsters you should all know by now, though you may not necessarily know its history. Originally, these dream-eating beings were portrayed as lion-like, but when Japanese explorers first discovered tapirs, they thought the animals were so whimsical looking, like something out of a dream themselves, that they too were dubbed baku. Since then, the idea that Baku are tapir-like has been firmly cemented in Japan's subconscious, but I get the feeling this Baku's beautifully frightening collection of fangs is a nod to the legend's more beastly origins. That slavering maw, however, doesn't stop her from having the most precious little voice in the show.
You may know that "doki doki" is an onomatopoeia for a heart beating, but especially when you're in love. "Doki" on its own, however, refers to pottery, so Dokidoki here is a clay pot whose own thumping heart causes him to crack. He's in constant fear of shattering completely, and to prevent this from happening, he...makes humans feel lovestruck, so they'll stand in one place and he can rest assured nobody will knock him over. Yes, really. A lot of these youkai feel like something a little kid would make up on the spot, in the best way.
Unlike Baku, who puts humans to sleep and feeds on their dreams, this little purple cyclops woman loves to make humans stay up late or forego sleep completely. Every time you just stay up on the computer or play video games until sunrise, Fuumin may be to blame, and it's only because she thinks it's so much fun to never sleep, she wants to share that pleasure with anyone she can. Google image search also indicates she's a "fan favorite," if you catch my drift.
My drift is that people really like to draw her with an enormous rack. It's really only Fuumin, too, very rarely any of the other youkai.
What's she got that Donyorinne doesn't?!
This awful, beady-eyed little green goblin man constantly picks his nose, and of course, forces humans in his proximity to also pick their nose, one of a few things in this world that still grosses me out. His introduction was, however, fairly funny; just as Jibanyan was about to get a kiss from his favorite pop idol, he gets summoned away to do battle with a booger demon. It was only a one-off gag for the show, but kids loved Hanahojin enough for him to break into the game series.
The Kuchisake-onna is one of Japan's most famous and terrifying urban legends; a woman whose mouth was sliced open, ear to ear, and wanders the countryside mutilating strangers who show the slightest shock or disgust at her appearance. Kuchidake-onna here is a little less grisly, her name basically meaning she's "all mouth" rather than just slit-mouthed, constantly yakking on her cell phone and possessing no other apparent facial features. Her ability is to make humans tell a whole lot of boastful little lies, and she seems to favor humans running for important positions. At least as important as a class president, when we see her in the series, and we can probably assume real, actual presidents whenever she gets the chance, which might be why she dresses like a cute little businesswoman.
If you've watched enough anime, maybe you've noticed that cartoon elephants are used fairly often as euphimisms for penises, and I'm afraid Morezo is no exception. This little pachyderm is constantly doing the pee-pee dance, and until he finds a place to empty his bladder - through his nose, oh god - he makes anyone else with a dong also feel like they need to take a massive, massive leak. How are they even going to handle this one in the dub? I guess we've all seen worse in 90's cartoons, but I'll be curious to find out what they name him, at least. I can't think of any play on words that isn't terrible.
This is the little bastard who makes you buy things on impulse that you regret later. He loves to make humans spend their money, and he only grows more desperate as the economy takes a dive. Can you stay mad at him, though? He's a one-eyed clam monster that's also a living coin purse.
This is a boss monster in the second game, and I don't think you can actually capture or train it, but I could be wrong. I'd like to be wrong, because he looks like a bunch of dead people assembled into an awkward prototype of Pac-man. He's also tied in with another boss monster, one of the last things we'll be looking at! Part of his name is apparently a play on hospitality.
ONARAZUMONO or "CHEEKSQUEEK:"
We've got a nose-picking monster, a pissing monster, and now, you've guessed it, a farting monster. With an ass for a face. And not only does he break wind out of his butthole mouth, but he wants nothing more than for you to cut the cheese at inopportune moments. You might say it's juvenile, but you can't say it's a youkai they would have never dreamed up centuries ago.
We all love skeletons, but how much more do you love a skeleton with a bow on its head? Is it a lot more? It's probably a lot more. She's also a very small skeleton, if she wasn't darling enough, and all she cares about in this world or the next is fashion. Her only affect on humans is that she makes "old" people (in a kid's series, anyone past their 20's I guess) dress outrageously and garishly for mundane outings, embarrassing themselves in an attempt to be cool and hip, which is why she takes the form of a skeleton, though I don't really see any downside to old people going out in neon wigs and sequined pants.
I don't completely know the story here, but this liquid dribble comes in both a blue form representing water and a red form representing, yes, human blood, as indicated by official artwork of it gushing even more blood from its nostrils, and you may or may not know what nosebleeds signify in the context of anime. Me, I just like the idea of having a giant blood droplet for a monster pal, especially with glowing green eyes in its haunting little ghost-face!
TOHOHOGISU or "BUHU:"
This was one of the first monsters I ever saw from these games, and it's still cemented in my mind as one of the most iconic. I love that absolutely miserable ghoul-face in its chest feathers, which seems to be as "real" a face as that of its gloomy, drooping bird head. Wherever this sullen creature goes, misfortune follows, and not just any kind of misfortune, either - humans affected by "Buhu" always end up in horribly embarrassing situations, one way or another.
This adorable bat monster evolves - because yeah, this series also has evolutions - from a slightly different bat who represents "social withdrawal," actually living in a closet perpetually browsing the internet in the anime. Once it evolves, it gains a protective little house around its body, so it can be fully mobile shut-in, leaving home without ever actually leaving home. It's especially cute how its tail becomes a pendulum, like the whole thing is a cuckoo clock.
AAAAHHGGGG. After piss-face and fart-face, you probably didn't think they'd go worse, but they did. They so did. This scholarly looking bear obsesses over useless trivia, but there's a joke here where amassing unimportant knowledge is kind of like eating shit, so oh yeah, this monster literally also eats shit.
"Uso" means "lie," so you can guess the pun. This youkai pretends to be a space alien, wearing a laughably fake spaceship and even sporting a zipper on his back, his true form unknown. Naturally, he also makes other people tell lies, and I know we've already got one monster that causes lying, but U.S.O. is different, it has sunglasses.
This youkai takes the form of a moray eel living in a clay pot, which is wonderful, but I'm not sure why they decided to make a portmanteau of "moray eel" and the act of laughing, which is of course its power, specializing in awkward, inappropriate laughter when nothing funny is actually happening, or even when someone should be miserable. It's a weird, moderately unsettling, and delightfully unexpected thing for an invisible eel to be doing.
ZEKKOCHO or "ENEFLY:"
This butterfly has a very cool design, with the prominent proboscis and menacing eyes in its thick, veiny, fleshy looking wings. More interestingly, it comes in two color variants, which have the same exact name in the Japanese version. One is green-winged, and causes good luck in those it haunts. The other is purple-winged, and has been translated as "Enefly" because it...gives people BAD luck, right? No. You would think that, but what Enefly does is just make everybody hate you. It isn't even enough to just be the opposite of the helpful one. Enefly just wants to be a complete and utter bastard.
Another gross-out youkai, at least in concept. Designwise, it's easy to believe this bird just has elaborate ornamentation growing from its beak, but no, those are indeed giant ropes of snot hanging out of its nostrils. Kazekamo's specialty? Making you think you're coming down with a cold or flu, an experience I feel like I go through almost every other week. I wish I could blame it on something as fun as a hideous duck.
One of my favorites, this youkai is named after chestnuts, but modeled a lot more like a sea urchin, with a single grumpy eye inside its jagged mouth, and what does it do? Introduced in the same episode as Zuruzuruzuru, this nasty little guy just makes you actually sick, with a sore throat and a cough, which is awesome, because designing a monster like a chestnut-sea-urchin-eyeball pretty much comes out looking exactly like a big germ and is exactly what I'd have assigned to the design. If you're wondering what I can blame for my paranoia of sickliness, this is basically it. I come down with a throat infection sometimes up to four times a year, always severe enough to warrant medical attention, leaving me to wonder if the slightest tickle in my throat is going to unleash hell or prove to be a merciful false alarm. I feel like this little shit would just be my obligatory "main" youkai. Nothing but an embodiment of strep throat could ever rightfully be my "Pikachu" in this setting.
MITSUMATA-NO-ZUCHI or "SLIMAMANDER:"
Maybe my favorite? It's kind of hard to pick, really. This boss monster doesn't curse humans to do anything weird - not that I know of, anyway - but it does have a gorgeous design I'm downright jealous of, its central head actually more of a giant eye-stalk, its other heads possessing only the false eye-like markings, while its body terminates in a fleshy ring like a slime-filled kiddie pool. Or does it? Is that actually a tail wrapped around its body? Does it continue underground? It's difficult to tell. In folklore, Nozuchi is a sort of huge, gaping worm sometimes associated with the Tsuchinoko, which you may best know as the basis for Dunsparce or one of its myriad other video game appearances.
NEGATIVOON or "NEGATIBUZZ:"
Truly one of the cutest things in the franchise, Negativoon is a robed moquito with giant Garfield eyes whose presence makes humans feel hopeless, purposeless and generally dour about life. There's not much else to say, except that Pokemon has had nearly 800 monsters come out over the course of almost twenty years and Yo-kai watch still beat them to having a damn mosquito?! THIS is why you're falling behind, Gamefreak, OBVIOUSLY.
The great thing about this series is how it manages to make all these things so cute and innocent looking, even though they'd be the stuff of pure horror and revulsion in real-world detail. Even in this style, however, this scrambled-up little lady is a bit distressing, even before you know what she can do. Her ability is to switch people's faces with one another, and since these monsters hide their existence from most humans, her victims can basically just wake up with the wrong face and never find out why.
In the anime, things get weirder still as her presence allows the main character's face, angry at not being washed enough, to peel itself off and run away, leaving the kid with a smooth, blank surface where his face belongs. You could make a whole surreal horror movie out of just Tsuragawari, but she's played for laughs and she's willing to be your best friend. That, right there, is why monster catching is the greatest of all gaming and anime genres. No contest.
In mythology, the Gashadokuro is a towering, ghostly skeleton formed from the collected souls of famine victims, eternally hungering but never satiated. It can pass through the ground as if it were water, and the only warning before it chews you into pieces is the sound of a ringing bell.
It's easily one of the most terrifying creatures in Japanese lore, but in this series? Gashadokuro is obsessed with gashapon, as in collectible vending machine toys.
I guess that's certainly a kind of insatiable hunger.
WASURENBO or "WAZZAT:"
A magnificent concept and design with an equally magnificent English name, WAZZAT is a floating, living hat that consumes people's memories. That's basically it, but what more do you need? I love its swirly stalk-eyes, the way the ribbon forms a sort of nose, and as another reviewer has noted, its lips and teeth are mighty reminiscent of Aaahh!! Real Monsters!
This is another fairly modern urban legend around Japan: Hanako of the Toilet, or just Toilet Hanako. An equivalent to our own "Bloody Mary," she's said to be the spirit of a girl who died during World War II, though whether the war was responsible for her death is unknown. To summon her, you must enter a girl's bathroom on the third floor of a school, knock three times on the third stall door, and call her name. What happens next varies from one tale to the next; she may simply appear in the stall when you open the door, or maybe she bursts out and drags you to hell. Some even say she just manifests as a giant hand. Of everything in Yo-kai Watch, this might be the most frightening being they didn't really change...and she gets worse.
This appears to be an evolution for Hanako-san or a counterpart monster, and she's a rather more ominous enity. Her long, unkempt black hair is a famous characteristic of many Japanese ghosts, dating back to classical depictions but more recently popularized by films like Ju-on and Ringu. "Noroino" is even derived from "CURSE," and there seems to be no comedic twist to this one; just an old fashioned vengeful, malevolent little dead girl.
One that you can enlist to help you beat up flying hats and fart monsters.
DAMN, did I design this guy? I wish I had. I don't think I could have come up with a better design than this for a monstrous medical practitioner, though you all know I've tried innumerable times. The mirror as a cyclops eye is so simple, so obvious, so perfect, and then there's the fact that his real face doesn't have any other eyes, and his external heart hooked up to a blood bag, and that bizarrely designed doctor's coat of his. This might be one of my favorite designs for a monster doctor I've ever seen, and yes, he's responsible for assembling that "hospitality" monster earlier. Only problem is...he's another one limited to boss-only status, at least in his first appearance.
If he could be, of course, he'd be one of my first picks for my team, followed by his multi-armed creation, the blood droplet, the lobotomy hat and the sore throat chestnut. If only one more monster fit a dreadful health institution theme, I'd be set, but I really really wouldn't want to touch or generally be near the snot duck. Sorry, snot duck.
So that's the last of our 31-monster list, but it undoubtedly won't be the last you ever hear of this franchise on Bogleech. Not only are there still more youkai to be had in the first two games, but a whole slew of them are set to be unleashed upon Japan by a third entry, and hilariously, Yo-kai Watch 3 is supposed to be set in America, populated by "American-style" youkai.
Yes, there is a hamburger monster.
There's also a piece of corn that makes people stupider.
They've really got our number!
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