To say Japanese director Takashi Miike has had a varied career is a gross understatement. Incredibly prolific, Miike has dozens of features to his credit and they run a wide gamut in subject matter and style. His international reputation has been founded on the bizarre, the extreme and the unpredictable. As such, his adaptation of the 70s childrens’ anime Yatterman was always going to be something a bit out of the ordinary.
The anime series was based around the adventures of the boyfriend/girlfriend team of Yatterman 1 and Yatterman 2, respectively. They and their giant dog-shaped mecha Yatterwoof battled the Doronbow Gang each episode, which comprised femme fatale Lady Dorongo and her henchmen Boyacky and Tonzura. Invariably, it was a victory for the side of good…until they did it all again the following week.
The live-action version does have a bit of a nod to the repetitive nature of the original. Indeed, it opens in a fight between the two sides with a familiarity already apparent. The plot, involving the Doronbow’s trying to find the four skull stones for the mysterious ‘God of Thieves’ named Skullobey, is threadbare to say the least. It exists solely to hang a variety of madcap concepts and frenetic visuals on. And this is where the film shines.
Yatterman is not Miike’s first foray into the world of kids’ films. His 2005 effort Great Yokai War was released to a mixed critical reception, but the profile of the Yatterman property represents a significant step up in terms of mainstream appeal. With Sho Sakura from hugely popular boy band Arashi on board as Yatterman 1, the film was a big box office hit in Japan, but Miike’s fingerprints are still writ large on the finished product.
The original anime series raised a few eyebrows for being somewhat risque for children and Miike keeps that spirit intact with giant robots making out, robot fish going through puberty as a method of attack and weaponry such as ‘titty missiles’. Above and beyond all of these, however, is Kyoko Fukada as Lady Dorongo. Ridiculously sexy, her curvaceous figure is poured into a leather ‘n’ fishnets fetishwear costume out of many a male imagination. Amidst a plethora of CG, she remains the most eye-catching special effect on display.
She certainly has competition. Barely a second goes by in Yatterman before another candy-coloured set design is unveiled or another bizarre robot or weapon is unleashed. The saturated colour palette crams every frame to bursting with everything from oversized sushi to pink balloons to giant mecha squid. Throw in the odd musical number and cameos from the anime’s original voice actors and you’ve got a film that always has something worthy of your attention.
At its heart, though, Yatterman is a simple kids’ film. The characters regularly cross the line into irritating, the humour rarely rises above sophomoric and the story is a bit of a chore to get through. Underneath the shiny surface, there is very little else going on here.
Yatterman is visually inventive and often hugely enjoyable eye candy, but that is the only level it operates on and there is not much to sustain lasting interest here. A diversion, but that’s about it.
- Behind The Scenes
- Cast & Crew Interviews
Yatterman is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.