Yoru no Yatterman – 02

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This week’s Yoru no Yatterman follows the course set in the first episode but the result is significantly less satisfying. I could go so far as to call it dull.

The retro costumes and revenge structure is still there, and it’s still juxtaposed with bleak environments and a population that is obviously starving. So what isn’t working?

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Leopard has renamed herself Miss Doronjo, and her henchmen Boyaki and Tonzra after their ancestors. Each member of Doronbo experiments with his or her new identity a bit — Doronjo acts a bit reckless, Boyaki tries to add double-entendres to his repertoire, Tonzra …smashes stuff, and Honorable Oda the pig becomes the group’s problem solver.

They quickly find an alternate rout into Yatter Kingdom via a book called “The Secret of Seikan Tunnel,” which is about a train tunnel and probably significant if I knew anything about the Japanese rail system, but I don’t so if it was a gag it flew over my head.

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After clearing the rubble at the mouth of the tunnel, Boyaki, who also calls himself Boyayan sometimes which is also probably a joke that I don’t understand, builds a wacky mine-car and they zip through.

Along the way they pass several lighted placards that the show clearly wants us to notice: The first is a station or destination sign, which probably identifies where YnY takes place in modern day Japan. The second features an angel girl, who is referenced at the end of the episode.

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The last placard features a dopey Basset hound… which I also don’t understand the significance to. However, I vaguely remember Ghost in the Shell’s director Mamoru Oshii having a thing for Basset Hounds, which comes up more in his terrible live action eastern European anime-inspired cyberpunk movie Avalon but I have no idea what that has to do with anything?

You may have noticed that, only a few minutes in, I’m don’t generally know what YnY is making jokes about or, if they even are jokes, why they would be funny. Considering how sparse the visuals are (the tunnel is basically empty except for our heroes and the mine cart) I felt no connection to anything.

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When Doronbo reaches Yatter Kingdom, they build a head-flicking robot and fight the Yattermen. Well, not actually the real Yattermen. Rather, a near infinite stream of robot Yattermen who chant “Yatter Yatter” and eventually overwhelm them.

While still painted in the dreary cold, wet aesthetic elsewhere in the show, and slightly weirdified by a shadow filter that frames many of the scenes, this is the best part of the episode. All the contrasts work well, the villains are interesting, and the mecha is delightfully silly/old school.

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Fleeing for their lives, Doronbo is turned away by the various Yatter-citizens they meet. In a call back to the maple-leaf-eating of their own poverty, the Yatter-citizens are doing the same thing, living in the same poor wooden houses, on a muddy, plant less earth.

If it weren’t so slow and directionless feeling, these scenes would be interesting too. Obviously, if the Grand Yatterlands are as destitute as the Doronbo lands, we must wonder what the world is like or, guessing based on the art from the original series in the 70s, what has happened to make the Yatter-lands so terrible since then?

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Unfortunately, these scenes are slow and the Yatter-bots’ chase sequence is very long and it watching it just feels so hopeless.

What also felt hopeless was the attempt to pump slapstick humor into the mix. Take Honorable Oda’s gigantic fart scene, where he’s just been saved by Tonzra as he falls from a tree. Huge, well animated gas attack ensues, which re-alerts the Yatter-bots and resumes the chase.

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The episode ends with Doronbo drying off at an empty house’s fire when a blind girl walks in and decides Miss Doronjo is the Angel she’s been waiting for all this time.

It’s all a big…Whaaaa?, and in the same way that any ‘plot twist’ annoys us when it comes completely out of left field, the entire story felt like a confused, random, mess that was written for an audience that does not include me.

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So what worked? Watching the characters review a children’s book for how they should act, and not be able to capture those identities (or even want to) was clever and lent a playfulness to the central trio…that feels totally out of place with everything else.

I loved the vehicle design too. This is definitely subjective, but the “hand shaped battle mech designed to flick” struck me as charming. The Yatter-bird vehicle was less so, but still matched the retro vibe and when it ‘spits’ a missile at Doronbo, I really did get a “Haha that’s so stupid” laugh out of it.

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Nothing else worked. More specifically, the flow of action and the movement of the narrative were constantly coming to a halt. Shots of Doronbo standing around. Shots of Miss Doronjo looking and thinking and feeling… stuff. Stills with added ‘brush’ effects. It’s actually impressive how little actual animation happened in this episode and how a jerky pacing can crush any enjoyment you may get from wacky antics.

I’m confident there’s an intelligent reason for all of this and I just don’t have the cultural awareness to ‘get it’ but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

I must admit, I was completely surprised by this turn of events. I think it’s very likely that Yatterman will be a more interesting show than Binan Koukou over the long run but, even with its silly premise, I had a lot more fun with Binan’s second outing than this.

I guess Yatterman is lucky it’s getting a third week. Otherwise, I’d be very tempted to drop it.

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4 thoughts on “Yoru no Yatterman – 02”

  1. I’ll try and add what context I can.

    1. Seikan Tunnel is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. It links Honshu to Hokkaido. Imagine you saw three people in post-apocalyptic America reading a book about “The Legend of Lincoln Tunnel.”

    2. The original Yatterman, like most children’s shows in Japan, followed a strict format. The trio would try to pull off a scam, often being surprisingly successful. The Yatterman duo would confront them, leading to a mecha fight. And, of course, the Yatterman always won. This episode’s structure was basically playing that out.

    3. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but Leopard’s counterpart in the original series had her clothes destroyed every episode. In the 2008 revival, they covered her breasts the one time this happened, leading to the woman breaking the fourth wall and going, “If this was back then, they’d just show it.” What happens at the end of this episode? She loses her clothes, but the gag is played for drama.

    4. The basset hound was the Yatterman mecha. It would spit out a random robot designed to defeat the villain of the week.

    5. The bird is based off of a robot from another anime in the Time Bokan franchise.

    6. The Boyayan thing might be a reference to the fact that Tonzura had a verbal tic, but I’m just guessing. I’ve heard –yan added to names as a nickname before, though. I could ask one of my Japanese friends, but this series will probably be dropped by the time I get an answer.

    7. The girl at the end is more significant if you know who she looks like. People who have seen Yatterman will recognize her instantly (and if not, the credits with the boy seal it).

    8. Alongside the structure homage I mentioned, this episode’s other main goal was probably to grind down the trio’s enthusiasm to make The Girl’s arrival seem more impactful. The best way to explain it is this: You’re reading comics in the 1980s and all of the heroes are grim, miserable, and maybe evil. Then, all of a sudden, Silver Age Captain America lands and says, “Nope, everything is going to be okay.” It’s not a perfect comparison, but I think you get the idea.

    I think that’s everything. Hope this helps.

    1. Interesting enough and, as I said in the review, I just assumed it all had meaning and I didn’t get it.

      But man was that hard to get into!

  2. My main problem with the episode was with the pacing – it was totally off, with the climax happening halfway through the episode. It was intentional, I think, to show the futility of Leopard’s plans. But still not a good way to direct the episode. The end also threw me for a loop. Based off the ending, it seems the show’s going to be more about, or at least equally about Gan and Ai, the original Yattermen, or at least their descendants. Kind of disappointing in that I expected this show to be a straight-subversion, where the Yattermen were actually evil. It appears we’re going to see the original characters come back in a heroic capacity. Probably a good thing for the plot, as I can’t see a mech-of-the-week show surviving in 2015.

    The chase scene, while way too long, was interesting because it sort of deconstructed the “blasting off again” narrative that comes with these kinds of villains. In the original Yatterman, the villains get defeated, and end up riding away battered and clothesless on their three-person bike. The Yattermen, of course, do not pursue. But in this dark-n-edgy version, they do pursue, showing their cruelty by subverting the expectation that the villains ride away comically into the sunset mostly unharmed.

    The above commenter answered most of your questions, but to clarify “Boyayan” is just a diminutive nickname he gets called throughout the original series.

    Also, in the original Yatterman, the hero’s mech spits out a unique mini-mech, usually based on animals, every week. Their thing is to just repeat a diminutive form of their name repeatedly. A squid mech would go “geso geso” or whatever. It’s an intentional subversion to have the Yattermen instead be the mini-mechs here.

    You don’t have to sit and watch every episode of the 70’s series or even the 2008 remake to get the jokes (I don’t think either are even fully subbed, unless you speak Italian). But just even finding one episode on Youtube and watching it will help you get a sense of the formula and how this show intentionally deconstructs it. You could also watch the incredibly strange and hilarious 2009 Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer’s director, that Takashi Miike) film, which I’d recommend doing anyway.

    1. I got the deconstruction of the Yattermen not giving up the chase but it just dragged on and wasn’t very enjoyable to watch. Actually, as you say, I was expecting a straight subversion of the original series based on the first episode and not this kind of academically intelligent (but not entirely entertaining) show.

      Zane and Preston can testify, if there is one thing that always brutally turns me off to a program, it’s pacing. Yatterman has another episode before I have to will officially decide its fate, and legitimately, it may well be a brilliant show I just don’t get and have to drop, but for now, it’s got another week.

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