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Ridiculous fun: Takashi Miike's Yatterman.


Year: 2009
Director: Takashi Miike  

Yoshinori Chiba


Sho Sakurai, Saki Fukuda, Kyoko Fukada, Anri Okamoto, Katsuhisa Namase, Kendo Kobayashi, Sadao Abe

The Skinny: Takashi Miike's Yatterman is ridiculous, juvenile and sometimes tiresome, but it's all in the service of sending up a particularly beloved genre of anime. Good, guilty fun if you're in the right frame of mind.
by Kozo:

Based on the seventies Tatsunoko television anime, director Takashi Miike's Yatterman tells the completely ridiculous story of Yatterman No. 1 and Yatterman No. 2, a couple of teen superheroes who battle the same completely moronic bad guys on a weekly basis. Their tools: marketable toys/weapons and a large and sometimes horny mechanical dog. Called Yatterwoof, the big metal canine will save the day after he eats an energy bone and releases miniature mechas designed to attack the weak point of the bad guys' large mecha, which come in varieties ranging from a pile of Japanese cooking items to a big breasted iron maiden in a wedding dress. At one point, Yatterwoof 's tiny mechas tease her metal nipples and she, uh, experiences pleasure. Obviously, you should totally take the kids and grandma to see this movie.

Gan-chan (Sho Sakurai of boy group Arashi) and Ai-chan (Saki Fukuda) are a teen couple who fight evil as the jumpsuit-clad Yatterman No. 1 and Yatterman No. 2. Opposing them is the Doronbo Gang, consisting of the sexy, somewhat vapid Lady Doronjo (an alluring Kyoko Fukada) and her two henchmen Boyacky (Katsuhisa Namase) and Tonzra (Kendo Kobayashi). The Doronbo Gang are after a bunch of "Skull Stones", and it's Gan-Chan and Ai-Chan's job to stop them with the help of Yatterwoof and their flying robot sidekick Omotchama. Also in the mix are adventurer Dr. Kaieda (comedian Sadao Abe), whose discovery of a Skull Stone kicks off the movie, and his daughter Shoko (Anri Okamoto), who gets into a mini love triangle with Gan-chan and Ai-chan. That love triangle becomes a pentagon when Doronjo gets the hots for Gan-chan, with the rat-like Boyacky qualifying as the fifth participant in this mildly disturbing romantic subplot. There's also action and CGI, though it's a step below ILM and looks incredibly fake. That may be the point, however.

With childish protagonists, a variety of cute robot sidekicks, juvenile gags, and those famously unique Japanese cultural mores regarding sex, the original Yatterman anime was meant for the young and young-of-mind. Similarly, Tatsunoko's Robot Hunter Casshan was targeted at tykes-to-teens with a combo of an apocalyptic setting, a white jumpsuit-wearing cyborg hero and a kickass robot dog. In 2004, Casshan was adapted to film as Casshern, and came tricked out with awesome CGI graphics and a dense storyline that was as existential and overwrought as it was confusing. Casshern director Kazuaki Kiriya went the super-serious route to make his Tatsunoko adaptation, and he should be lauded for his willingness to explore the darkest recesses of his original property. However, he was never able to get the robot dog to the big screen.

Takashi Miike is not one to drop the dog, though. The infamous director brings over Yatterwoof and also manages to snag the flying robot sidekick, the flying robot squid, and the robot pig. The purpose of the pig? Who the hell knows, but everyone who saw the anime probably understands. Miike has chosen to serve grown-up Yatterman fans with constant shout-outs to the original television show. Miike even does his hopefully matured audience one better and sends up the anime's gleefully silly tone, meaning he points out just how ridiculous the whole thing was. Characters behave in an overtly bizarre manner, engage in odd musical numbers, and talk about how they love to pose righteously or fight the bad guys once a week at a certain time slot. When riding on Yatterwoof's exterior, our heroes even maintain their ridiculous poses for the entire trip because that's what they did on TV back in the seventies. They may be hit by rain, snow, newspapers or a sudden nap attack, but they'll keep posing even if the journey takes sixteen or seventeen hours. Yes, this is an incredibly bizarre movie.

Yatterman is also a bit more adult than some parents may be comfortable with. The original anime took delight in gags involving partial nudity from the voluptuous Doronjo, and the film reflects that sexual content and even amps it up with randy innuendo. It's not titillating stuff, however; the juvenile sex jokes are merely more postmodern commentary on the silliness of the original Yatterman and similar anime. Since Miike is so obviously sending up a whole genre, one can get a sense of what the jokes are about even if they haven't seen the original show. Ultimately, Yatterman can manage some fun for the uninitiated - though it's clear that actual knowledge of the source material would help. Basically, if you know what's going on before you see the film, you're in a win-win situation.

Despite the giddy fun of it all, Yatterman can't sustain its pace, and frequently lags when the jokes get too esoteric or involved. For example, the cameos from the original series' voice actors are hardly effective for non-fans, and the robot pig appearances still won't make any sense unless you watched the Yatterman anime. Also, the crazy characters, tangled romances and bizarre musical numbers are only funny initially, and struggle to remain amusing during the course of a two-hour film. Yatterman is basically Takashi Miike sending a love letter to the ardent Yatterman fan base, while also winking in the direction of anyone who enjoys laughing with and at this sort of silly SFX movie. If you're not an initiated Yatterman fan, you might still enjoy yourself, but you'll require a tolerance for the weird and the tiresome. The payoff to that tolerance? A large robot dog making out with a large robot bride. If that sounds interesting to you, then Yatterman is your kind of movie. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2009)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Udine Far East Film Festival Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen