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Yatterman: live-action movie (2009) December 6, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.
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Yatterman poster

I’ve been waiting a long time to see this live-action version of Yatterman, if only to find out what on earth the show is about. It’s one of those anime we overseas otaku hear about quite a lot but will never in a million years get to see through official means.

Here’s what I knew beforehand (mostly from playing Tatsunoko vs Capcom on the Wii ^^;). Yatterman is an extremely popular masked superhero anime from that factory of franchises, Tatsunoko Productions. There are two ‘Yatterman’ heroes: No.1, the boy, and No.2 the girl. There’s some kind of giant robot dog mecha (Yattarwan) they can call on.

They fight against the Doronbo gang, three idiotic villains in the shape of the scantily clad beauty Doronjo and her two ugly henchmen, one fat, one skinny. So far, so Pokemon (or indeed Nadia).

Curious then that Japan’s king of the extreme, Takeshi Miike, would choose to make a live-action version of such a generic series. There’s obviously something about it that’s weird to attract him, and very soon it becomes clear what that is — sex.

Now, we all know Japanese culture has this strange symbiosis between sexual imagery and mainstream (particularly children’s) media. It’s like if Benny Hill was an accepted Saturday morning TV show.

Miike’s Yatterman takes that to extremes. Doronjo is dressed to titilate, as much a Go Nagai-style S&M (anti)heroine as any of the cast of Cutie Honey. When Yatterman foils their plans she often ends up on the wrong side of an explosion, her clothes blown off, leaving her smitten henchman Boyacky leering on. The innuendo (if you can call it that) is taken further with Doronbo’s second mecha, ‘Virgin Roader’, which moans as it shoots off projectiles from its boob guns (I kid you not), accompanied by squeals of ‘OH YEAH!’. Later,Yattarwan, unable to control himself and complete with nosebleed, proceeds to make out with Virgin Roader, with unfortunate consequences…

It makes no sense, but it’s a lot of fun. The actual plot of is besides the point: this is a franchise designed to sell toys and merchandise. Pay attention and you’re likely to be bored to death. Instead, Miike takes the funnest concepts of the show — cool hero transformations, giant robot fights, slapstick comedy and sexual innuendo — and makes them look as damn good as possible. Even if you’ve no idea what on earth is happening, there’s no denying that Sho Sakurai (Nno.1) looks damn cool and the lovely Saki Fukuda (Nno.2) soooo cute. And Kyoko Fukuda (Doronjo) in tight-bound leather is just pure fanboy win :P

There are moments that remind you that you are undoubtedly watching a kid’s film — the random insert songs are particularly grating. But Miike has a lot of fun with this, taking pains to include every element to make the movie as faithful as possible to the source material while adding a knowing wink to it all. So, when Yatterwan takes off toward Ogypt, the true silliness of the team travelling while hanging off the sides — still in pose — is revealed. And we can all laugh at the imaginative ‘surprise mecha of the week’ and the tongue-in-cheek ‘coming up next time on Yatterman’ trailer that follows the credits.

It’s quite a ride, often exciting, at times disturbing, sometimes sweet, occasionally dull. It’s like eating Haribo, ultimately pointless, but you really enjoy the sugar rush.

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