Yatterman β movie review
Posted on July 13, 2010 by Chris Nelson
For the record, I’ve never watched an episode of Yatterman before. I’ve only had a brief glimpse of its world through the Wii’s Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, via my favorite tag team-up of Morrigan and Doronjo. I was aware that Yatterman was originally intended for a younger audience, but I was a bit unsure of how Miike Yatterman would turn out to be, even after having seen The Great Yokai War.
Before we go too far in, we might as well discuss what Yatterman’s all about. The Yatterman of the title is actually a duo comprised of a boyfriend/girlfriend team, Gan-Chan (Yatterman no. 1, played by Sho Sakurai) and Ai-Chan (Yatterman no. 2, played by Saki Fukuda). The two are the son and daughter of toy and electronic shop owners, respectively, and thereby possess ample materials to create the various gadgets and giant robots that aid them in their vigilante missions. The two fly around in a giant robo-dog called Yatter-woof, all the while doing battle with the Dorombo gang, lead by the sultry female Doronjo (Kyoko Fukada, Kamikaze Girls), and her incompetent henchmen, Boyaki (Katsuhisa Namase) and Tonzura (Kendo Kobayashi). At the film’s start, the Doronbo gang has discovered an ancient set of skull-stones that, once assembled, will cause terrible crazy things to happen. The Yatterman duo set about doing their best to foil their plans, and thereby save the world.
Straight up, Yatterman is one of the most enjoyable superhero movies I’ve seen in a while far more so than this Summer’s Iron Man 2. The film’s fun-factor is due in large part to its adherence to old-school, pre-Burton Batman sensibilities. First off, Yatterman doesn’t take itself anything close to seriously. It never tries to establish its world as being anything other than a quirky alternate-universe of scrambled parody locales (Ogypt instead of Egypt), and super powered citizens. The action is all completely tongue-in-cheek comic book excess, and the jokes come fast and furious. Additionally, Yatterman skips the whole origin story formula adopted by every first-entry superhero film since the 90′s and plops you right in the middle of the action. Our heroes have their nemeses, they fly around in mechas, and they’re looking for skull parts. That’s all you need to know. Who cares if there’s little in the way of character development? Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I mean, it even has a musical number!
But remember that mention of Miike above. I said I was a little apprehensive about him being able to make an authentically Miike experience from a children’s anime. While Yatterman is fairly family friendly, it turns out, it’s still pretty darn Miike. There are a number of things in Yatterman that you just won’t believe you’d ever see, even with Miike at the helm. And many of them are quite adult in nature. The vast majority of them will go over an average-child’s head (unless that child has broadband internet). There are strange leg fetishes, awkward gropings, fire-ant nipple twists, an army of robo-fish undergoing puberty, and much much more.
Yatterman is also probably Miike’s most expensive film to date, and the increased funding shows in near every frame. The costumes are top notch (Doronjo is probably the sexiest supervillian since Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman), and the CG work is some of the best I’ve seen in a contemporary Japanese film. After suffering the dreadful cg of Kamui Gaiden, I was a bit worried about the state of J-CG, but everything in Yatterman proves to be top shelf work: human-stunt doubles, robot-transformations, explosive deconstructions all look convincingly awesome. Furthermore, they’re all exquisitely detailed. If you’re in SF, and you’re able to attend Hole in the Head 2010, you really must see this on the big screen in order to truly appreciate how much work has gone into the effects. And as I told a friend at work, you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen two mecha-robots doing it.
So, to wrap this up without blabbering on too much more, I’ll just say that Yatterman is a total blast from start to finish. Don’t go in expecting your usual droll superheroic morality tale. What you get is far more interesting than that. We’re supposed to get one more Yatterman film in the future. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to it.