Yoru no Yatterman – 05

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Yoru no Yatterman took some interesting turns this week but, ultimately, has become the Gundam G of the deconstructionist, post-apocalyptic, retro-theme genre. The story lurches incoherently between formulaicly crazy and weirdly mysterious but flat.

It’s all over the place and, because I’m not invested in the original franchise, the simple fight-of-the-week formula isn’t gripping me and I just don’t enjoy watching it anymore.

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This week introduces Takeshi, who’s super strong, fighting to win comforts for his sick mom, and has a bladder infection or something because he’s constantly peeing everywhere.

I’m sure his peeing ties into earlier Yatterman shows or is a cultural joke or… something, but it felt totally random to me and, after the first time it’s used as a joke, it wasn’t very funny.

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Yes Yatterbot soldiers. It was just some snowmen peeing on that Yatterking statue…

This was actually the funniest moment in the episode.

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Beyond Takeshi, the first half of the episode is dedicated to Gatchan trying to show strength and get ready for a prize match (against Takeshi). I enjoyed watching Gatchan get all riled up over beating Miss Doronjo into the ground and then losing his confidence immediately because he can’t even defeat Boyaki but… Gatchan is such a dull character to begin with.

Rather, any character development he gains from this is cliche at best.

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As far as visuals, this week presents another mixed bag. On the up side, we got a decent amount of action in the animation, plenty of characters and mechs designs, and some occasional uses of color.

On the down side, even at 1080p the snowy background washed out many of the opening scenes. Worse, the ‘flash back’ scenes with Doronjo and her mom may as well have been on blank white fields, they were so high contrast. Even if I liked Yatterman’s aesthetic, and I don’t, this wasn’t the show’s best week.

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So Yatterman obviously cheats and sends mega-mecha to the fighting tournament and destroys all 3 of the champions instead of giving out a goat each and some pocket money. Nothing new or surprising, given how purely villainous Yatterman has been presented up to now.

Then Doronbo shows up and beats the Yattermen completely for once. They also leave the winnings with Takeshi, who is unconscious but wakes up soon to pee…

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The mechs fights were especially quirky, especially because they were narrated by ‘the whispering reporter’ who may or may not be a new character or a call back to original Yatterman. He added a level of pun humor that was… weirder than funny.

That all aside, we see another parallel between Ally and Doronjo’s mom (Ally repeats a scene of building snow men from Doronjo’s memory) and I have to wonder where that season long plot arc is going. It was given so little attention though, and it was so blatant a ‘this is an important long-arc’ scene that I didn’t really care.

All these ‘what a twists’ just don’t feel earned.

6_ogk

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Yoru no Yatterman – 04

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Yoru no Yatterman is all about fake outs and call backs this week. There’s a functional story that further emphasizes how terrible it is to live in Yatter Kingdom, and how broken the citizens are too, but bait, swap, then call back was most of what it was doing.

There’s no other way to say this but Yatterman Nights isn’t compelling… and it really should be. While the treatment is unique and the academic structure has my attention, the methodical pass, rough visuals, and total bleakness makes it unenjoyable to watch.

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Bait and Swaps: The episode opens with an un-origin story for Honorable Oda, but then leaves Oda out of the rest of the episode. Sure, the unexplained reason why the party doesn’t eat him and his spoiled nature are ‘called back’ early on… but he has no impact on this week’s story. He’s not even visible for most of the episode.

Similarly, Boyaki and Tonzra attempt to snake-oil people with ‘magic walking sticks’ after the opening credits because they are broke. The walking sticks themselves may get a call back (Tonzra uses two like swords during the fight sequence) and ‘money’ is called back via wanted posters for the team, but Doronbo’s need for money never does.

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In fact, it’s hard to see why money would have value in the Yatter Kingdom in the first place. The Yattermen ‘tax’ the citizens, but there doesn’t seem to be anything for the citizens to buy — and the Yattermen just take what they want (including the citizens themselves) whenever they want it.

This makes the entire plot thread come off as superfluous — arbitrary — and if there’s one thing a slow-moving show built around the intellectual deconstruction of a genre and nostalgia for retro-brands doesn’t need, it’s that.

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And then this episode is also a hot springs episode. At least for a few moments. Thankfully there’s no fan service (which would be super creepy since it would feature a little girl, a helpless blind girl and a pregnant woman and three gender non-specific monkeys) but this scene too feels unsupported.

Perhaps it’s here to poke fun at the peeking scenes? Perhaps it’s here only to give a call-forward hook for Doronbo’s Monkey Mech in the final fight sequence? Maybe it’s just here to make us ask why it is here?

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The meat and potatoes of the episode revolves around a couple facing separation at the hands of the Yattermen, and everyone including the pregnant wife force themselves to be happy about it.

It drives home the point that this society is truly broken, that nice people are traitorous through fear and all the normal reasons the good will bow before the bad. It’s so over the top that it works (happy song and dance for the condemned anyone?) even if it isn’t especially interesting or unique a concept in dystopian dramas.

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Then there’s a stylish fight between General Goro and Doronbo, Doronbo loses, and Doronjo finally realizes that Yatter Kingdom is not heaven but a literal hell.

The fight is stylish, albeit goofy. Perhaps I felt it was drawn out a bit but Tonzra x Goro’s sword fight more or less makes up for it. Additionally, it’s implied that Goro even mistreats the Yatter robots, as he’s seen tazering the Yatterpup mech for not finishing the Doronbo monkey mech quickly enough.

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But it really was no fun to watch. Doronbo’s betrayal at the hands of the good couple was obvious. The Battle (sword fight excluded) was more weird and understated than exciting. The unending bleakness just sucks the life out of it.

Given how strong Death Parade was this week, it’s easy to see how much a richer (more expensive) art style can pull a show through the weaker gaps in its setup period. More importantly, it shows how a show can spend its money effectively. Death Parade is barely animated, after all, but the style sucks us in regardless.

By comparison, Yatterman is struggling to even make me sigh in disappointment…

6_ogk

Oigakkosan’s Winter 2015 Bracket (Third Round)

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The current crop is pretty good and, despite rough patches, actually turning into something memorable. That may not sound like much but, as my fellow reviewers will testify, memorable is a high bar to reach in my book.

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Binan Koukou (8+7+8/10) vs Yatterman Nights (8+6+8/10)

By far the hardest pair to resolve, Yatterman’s stronger third episode and greater potential for an interesting story ultimately won out. I know! I know! This isn’t super surprising in the grand scheme of things. Binan is just a gender-swap twist on the Sailor Scouts genre but it delivers really really really good dialog each week.

Add Yatterman’s difficult-to-understand-without-significant-background second episode, drab color pallete, and slow pace and I truly considered siding with the simpler of the two shows.

If you enjoyed Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun and other tightly written school comedies, you owe it to yourself to give Binan at least three episodes. So far it’s shown no intention of becoming a BL show, nor has it stuck strictly to the safety of it’s formula.

Still, there’s a formula at its core and there’s not much at stake. Certainly, not much that I can see writing about each week?

Oigakkosan’s Winter 2015 Bracket (Second Round)

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Winter’s second week was obviously less busy than the first. However, due to World Break – 02’s late arrival in my stream, the decision took longer to make than anticipated.

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Seiken World Break (6+6/10) vs Junketsu no Maria (7+8/10)

Junketsu no Maria is a deeply sincere show, with rich characters and setting, and a quality art style. So it’s hardly a surprise that World Break won a lot less of my interest with it’s typical super protagonist enters magic school and wins all the harems formula.

That said, you may still enjoy World Break because it takes its deeply flawed scenario to heart. The magic system, which sometimes involves lengthy poetry narration and in-air finger writing is so dumb and impractical you just have to laugh at it all.

If nothing else, it’s well meaning but dumb characters are likable and, even though it’s only used to justify “protagonist wins” and the ecchi love triangle, the concept that students have multiple lives with multiple family and romantic partners around and knowing each other even though they’ve never met has tons of potential.

Sadly, just not enough for me to write about each week.

Yoru no Yatterman – 03

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It’s make or break for Yoru no Yatterman this week and, for the most part, it succeeded. However, “Yatterman Nights” remains a deeply strange show to watch, as again there were details I didn’t understand, it has a slow pace, and even at 1080p it has a certain… ugliness to its beauty.

I can excuse all of that though, because this week’s nods to the past were either less esoteric or less complicated to surmise. In a nutshell, I understood more of what is going on and, thusly, it held my attention all the way through.

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To sum up: team Doronbo meets Alouette, an immensely kind girl who is nearly blind and has a nagging resemblance to Leopard’s mother. While uncomfortable lying to her, Miss Doronjo agrees with Boyaki that not correcting Allouette about being angels is acceptably grey for her ethics and probably necessary to survive the night.

The situation becomes more complex when Galina, Allouette’s friend and of-so-blind protector shows up. However, he quickly shows that he has no love for Yattermen, and is willing to let the roll of a D6 determine if he will reveal their presence or not.

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As luck would have it, he keeps quiet and a showdown is avoided. This scene is especially quirky, as it reveals the Yatterman’s dance-like salute (which is adorably weird) and makes it very unclear if the ‘Robots’ that Doronbo blew up last week were actually people in masks… which is a little disconcerting.

It also results in Doronbo’s costumes being destroyed to keep them hidden but, in a fairly obvious twist, Galina sews them new (and far superior costumes in thanks.

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See ‘Gatchan’ and ‘Ally’ have a beef with Yatterman too. It’s a big one, and it involved the death of their parents and family dog. Owing to the fact that Ally is older than Leopard, I’m not entirely sold on Gatchan’s story.

Rather, I’m sold on his story but confident the show will throw a sisters-twist in there eventually. Regardless, it’s compelling and ties the group together so that, when Yattermen return the following day, the battle goes in Doronbo’s favor this time.

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What worked really well: the reto-nods were more natural, Gatchan’s development with room for future betrayals, and the focus on Yatterman’s capital as a destination all gave the show a stronger focus and a better core for the weirdness to orbit around.

I especially enjoyed the robot-or-not Yattermen banter, which presents a deeply twisted take on the ‘filler’ baddies common to these shows. ‘Why don’t you try shooting it first’ paints them as more then mindless minions. At least, until they are all destroyed (or killed?) in Doronbo’s massive explosion.

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What still doesn’t work: This is, of course, subjective and a bit technical but Yatterman Nights is rather ugly. The color is intentionally desaturated, which makes everything muddy, and lack visual impact but, on top of that, a post-process filter has been applied to the line art, which results in ‘unclean’ edge to color fields and outlines, even when viewed at full 1080p.

It is obviously intentional but, when a show like Rolling Girls is playing with similar themes but is so much more vibrant and ‘fun’ to watch, it’s hard not to feel that YnY is missing something.

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Verdict: I maintain that Yatterman Nights goes a bit too far for art’s sake — Academic / High Art — and that results in a less exciting, less stunning show for us to watch. However, now that it has a near-term goal to focus on, I’m finding it much more satisfying to watch.

This definitely was the push it needed to edge past Binan Koukou for next week’s elimination round but, only time will tell if it can maintain that focus (or if I can survive such a drably colored show) for the remained of the season

8_ogk

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.

6_ogk

Oigakkosan’s Winter 2015 Bracket – Semifinalist Poll

Some of you have expressed a desire for the semi-finalists to get more chances to prove their worth and, now that I’ve cut my review list down to 6 shows, I’m not against this.

Yoru no Yatterman – 01 (First Impressions)

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Yoru no Yatterman is the grimmest ‘happy show’ I’ve ever seen. It’s a post-apocalyptic fighter with a fantastic sense of style, bleak colors, death and sadness, and a spunky nine-year-old protagonist.

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Leopard, who wee see grow in bursts from birth to her ninth birthday, lives in a bizarre world where a great towering wall seems to rise over the mountains in the distance and fog obscures the mythical Yatter Kingdom across the sea. It’s a cold, and eternally dark world, but her mother and two bonded servants fill her life with joy.

Her mother dies soon after her birthday.

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Like Zvezda, Kill La Kill and even this season’s Rolling Girls, Yoru no Yatterman does a great job of breaking out of the typical anime character design mold. Elephantus (the family’s giant) has a unusual body shape, and the wonderfully retro fighting costumes are hand made, planting them firmly in our understanding of time and space.

Also like those shows, YnY sports elastic gestures, grand explosions, and beautifully rendered vapor as it swooshes around in the air. Dull colors or not, it is a treat for the eyes to see.

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It will be interesting to watch this in tandem with Rolling Girls, since they both have a similar setting to them. However, I already like both shows for very different reasons. Where RG sports vibrant colors and a grand open world, YnY is bleak, timid, yet so confident in the strength of it’s characters as individuals that it only introduces five of them. (of which one is already dead and two are leering villains)

It’s worth nothing that, unlike RG, YnY’s premiere feels more rounded as a starting episode. The infodump is restrained and spread across the episode—and some of that info even twists as more is revealed. However, the biggest difference is in the shows’ endings: Where RG ends like any mid-season episode, YnY’s Leopard belts out her mission and then they depart on it, to spawn episodes afterwards.

Neither is yet superior. Just different.

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If you liked Gurren Laggen for it’s masterful blend of aesthetics and tones, this may be a show for you. It is unquestionably dark but Leopard brings so much hope to it, so much optimism that you may find it hard not to smile all the way through.

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You may not be interested in Yoru no Yatterman if…I’m not sure why, actually? It isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but I’m finding it hard to identify any glaring faults.

Perhaps it will develop them in the future but for now, you have no reason not to watch it!

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My first impression was obviously a good one. Not only did I know little about this show before reviewing it, what I did know was categorically inaccurate. That surprise, added to YnY’s surprising level of restraint that keeps all of the over the top wacky elements in check, made for a wonderful viewing experience.

I’ve heard that this may have a distant relation to an old franchise but I know nothing about that. If you do, or have any thoughts, drop ’em in the comments below!

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