Earlier this week, I sat down to watch the new film, Yo-Kai Watch: The Movie with Alexia and Talia. I was given a screening link ahead of the film’s one-day theatrical release that’s happening today, a special event put on by Fathom Events.
Mind you, until very recently, I had NO IDEA what Yo-Kai Watch was. I received a vinyl figure/medals set while at San Diego Comic Con, and wondered what it was. I take great pride in being well-read in current pop culture, and even if I haven’t seen or read something, chances are I’ve heard of most movies, TV series & comics. But this one … no clue.
I gave the Yo-Kai Watch set to Alexia, and thought nothing of it. A few weeks go by, and I receive the invite to screen the film. Since it’s family friendly, I ask Alexia if she’s interested in seeing the movie with me. I start to explain to her that it’s connected to the card set i had given her, and then she cuts me off.
“Daddy, I know what Yo-Kai Watch is. I love Yo-Kai Watch! When can we see the movie? When When WHEN??”
OK, that was settled. So we sat down to watch the movie — Talia is only 3, so she’s just there for the pretty anime — and then I realized, I hadn’t done any research. I literally knew NOTHING about this franchise. Hadn’t played the video game, hadn’t read the manga. I hadn’t even looked at the figure I had picked up at SDCC and gifted to Alexia.
I did know that Yo-Kai are demons, spirits and monsters steeped in Japanese folklore — but only because I googled it.
Once the film starts, pretty quickly, a giant blue ghost cat shows up, and I wonder out loud, ‘what the heck is that?’
Alexia immediately answered, “Daddy, that’s Jibanyan. he’s a Yo-Kai.”
“How do you know that?”
“Everyone knows that, Daddy.”
Sass. So much sass. Clearly, this child has been watching much more Disney XD than she’s been letting on.
The movie played on. Its absurdly cute and charming and surprisingly funny, by the way. I’m used to more mature and heavy-themed anime. Think Ghost in the Shell or Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Nate, the kid who’s the hero of the film, figures out he has to travel back in time to invent the watch that will help him defeat the evil Yo-Kai. And that is the engine that drives this story. The girls, even Talia, who couldn’t possibly be expected to follow much of the story, really enjoyed it. And I could see why. It’s as charming a story about saving the world from ill-intentioned evil supernatural spirits as you’re likely to find.
Afterward, I asked Alexia, how in the world she knew so much about Yo-Kai Watch from one figure and a handful of medals. She told me other kids at her school were into it and she asked them about it. Huh.
And just like that, it hit me that my daughter had made her first true franchise discovery without any nudging from her Geek dad. This was hers, she found it. It’s her thing. And it’s something that all kids do at some point…discover something that belongs to them. I may have had that screening link to see the movie, but she was the one sharing it with me.
I didn’t know whether to beam with pride, or to get a little teary-eyed that I’m not her be-all, end-all source for her pop culture leanings.
So I did both (sniff, sniff).
It was a good day.