Today’s selection: Yatterman (2009, dir. Takashi Miike)
Subgenre: Henshin Hero, Mecha
Available from: Discotek
Many have called Miike’s Yatterman a zany, self-aware parody of the classic Tatsunoko children’s anime of the same name, but let’s face it, both the original show from 1977 and its more recent remake were just as madcap. The fourth-wall-breaking, puerile humor is par for the course, but the faithfulness is what’s great about the film. In an era when every superhero flick is supposed to be a dark, realistic origin story, Yatterman defiantly shouts “Nope, we’re a cartoon!” and then makes a dick joke. It’s full of nonsensical, harebrained schemes, and even attempting to make the film any other way would be foolish.
Since I guess a lot of people only know the characters from Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, the plot revolves around Gan and Ai, who work out of a toy shop as the super heroes Yatterman 1 and Yatterman 2 (Japan doesn’t do the Yatterwoman or Yattergirl naming thing). Their job is to build giant cartoony robots and thwart the machinations of the Dorombo gang, a trio of thugs iconic enough to arguably count as the real protagonists of the series. This film has them fighting over a magic stone, but in a way that it could simply be used as any episode of the show (perhaps a bit longer). Along the way, there’s hi-jinks, gags, love triangles, cameos, and machine gun breasts.
I personally love the employment of cartoon logic, cartoon physics, and cartoon aesthetics into a live-action piece, but it will certainly polarize a lot of audiences, especially those that go into every Miike picture expecting Audition or Ichi the Killer.