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All The Horror References You Missed In The Rick And Morty Halloween Special

While "Rick and Morty" fans are impatiently waiting for a new season to arrive — especially following Season 5's dramatic finale — Adult Swim's recent Halloween special is one way to fill the void. Entitled "The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara," the short sees the titular characters causing mayhem in Japan. Of course, it doesn't take long for to realize that patented "Rick and Morty" twisted turn; this one involves demons, robots, and giant monsters. On the flip side, however, Morty (voiced by Justin Roiland) stumbles upon a maid café and learns all about the wonders of cosplay.

Directed by Masaru Matsumoto ("Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars"), "The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara" is a love letter to anime and Japanese pop culture. As such, most of the references in the special pay tribute to anime, manga, and even some Japanese folklore. Still, what's a Halloween special without some good old-fashioned spookiness? "The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara" delivers the goods in that department as well. With that in mind, here are some of the most notable nods to horror fare that appear in the episode.

The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara references Hellraiser ... again

The "Rick and Morty" creators have turned to Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" for inspiration on more than one occasion. For example, in Season 5's "Amortycan Grickfitti," Rick (also Roiland) and Jerry (Chris Parnell) find a demonic puzzle box which summons Cenobite-esque monsters to join them at a karaoke club. The creatures love suffering, which makes them want to witness Jerry's onstage embarrassment.

The "Hellraiser" influence in "The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara" is much more subtle than the aforementioned Season 5 episode, but it's there. In order to get to their destination, Rick and Morty must travel through a dimensional tunnel that's eerily reminiscent of the demonic labyrinth in the "Hellraiser" franchise. So much so, Morty even describes it as "Hell" in the Halloween special. There aren't any Cenobites in sight, but the tunnel is home to the yokai demons of Japanese folklore, who are equally as terrifying as Pinhead and his crew.

The title is a clear nod to a Takashi Miike movie

In Japanese folklore and pop culture, the yokai are essentially demons, spirits, and entities that inhabit the world. Their behavior can range from mischievous to malevolent, though some are known for being quite friendly and helpful to humans. In the "Rick and Morty" Halloween special, the creatures aren't exactly good-natured, but that's only because Akihabara is a "den of evil" in this universe.

Stories about the yokai are very entertaining, though, and the "Rick and Morty" creators seem very fond of Japanese cinema's tributes to the mysterious beings. The episode's title appears to be a nod to "The Great Yokai War," a fantasy movie from the ultra-prolific director Takashi Miike ("Audition," "Ichi the Killer"). The film, which is a loose remake of 1968's "Yokai Monsters: Spirit Warfare," tells the story of a young boy who joins forces with Japan's ancient spirits to defeat the forces of evil. 

The similarities with Miike's movie don't end there, either. Q-Saku from the "Rick and Morty" special looks similar to Yasunori Kato (Etsushi Toyokawa) from "The Great Yokai War." The Kato character actually originates from "Teito Monogatari," a series of novels that look at Tokyo from an occult perspective.

The Halloween special pays homage to Guillermo del Toro

"The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara” sees Rick and Morty trying to operate a mind-controlled giant robot to ward off a giant monster, only for the task to be delegated to a toaster. The inclusion of the kitchen appliance is quite a unique addition to stories of this ilk, but "Rick and Morty" always finds a way to put its own spin on whatever type of story it's trying to ape at the time.

That being said, the general mecha-versus-monster madness is clearly a nod to Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim," which is itself a love letter to various Japanese kaiju films. In the movie, Charlie Hunnam plays a washed-up Jaegar pilot who must team with a rookie and save the world from destruction. Rick and Morty are a veteran-rookie pairing in their own right, so there are parallels to the protagonists in del Toro's film. At the same time, the cartoon duo can't control mecha machines quite as well as their "Pacific Rim" counterparts.

The Langoliers influence is apparent in The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara

"The Langoliers” isn't the most celebrated Stephen King adaptation in the world, but that's only because it's overshadowed by more popular movies and TV shows. Then again, its underdog status is probably why the "Rick and Morty" creators are so fond of it. "The Great Yokai Battle of Akihabara" references ABC's 1995 miniseries, and it isn't the first time this deep King cut has cropped up on the animated series.

King's story is a spooky tale about plane passengers who encounter hungry creatures that consume everything in sight — including time itself. In the Halloween special's big climactic moment, a similar type of creature appears to chew the scenery.

In the short, Rick turns to the Quick Reaction Force for help, which causes a toothy blob to appear and swallow up their enemies. The monster just so happens to resemble the Time Cops from Season 2's "A Rickle In Time," albeit on a larger scale. Those creatures were an obvious parody of the monsters in "The Langoliers," and it's great to see that the "Rick and Morty" creators haven't forgotten about them.