Blu-ray Review: Yatterman – A Film By Takashi Miike
A live-action adaptation of the classic wacky 1970s anime!
With Yatterman, director Takashi Miike does a Robert Rodriguez and moves from action/thriller to high-energy kids adventure… sort of. Yatterman (2009) is a live-action adaptation of an anime with the same name from 1977-79 (the second instalment of Tatsunoko Productions’ ‘Time Bokan’ series). The film apes the series’ weekly format by presenting the plot as just one week’s adventure. Takashi Miike drops us slap bang in the middle of the Yatterman universe with no guide, and no explanations. A brave move when considering the international audience for this film, most of whom will not know the original anime, and may not have yet seen the remake anime which aired on NTV between 2008 and 2009. However, for the Japanese audience, this ‘weekly adventure’ style may just make some sense. Without prior knowledge of the anime, Yatterman proves to be one of the most baffling, energetic, outrageously hyper movie experiences ever.
The plot revolves around toy-shop owner Gan (Yatterman 1) and his girlfriend Ai (Yatterman 2) who are in a continual battle with the evil (well, naughty) Doronbo gang (led by the beautiful Lady Doronjo and un-ably assisted by pig-nosed Tonzra and rat-faced inventor Boyacky). In ‘this week’s adventure’ the mysterious Skull Stone has been scattered across the world and the Doronbo gang are trying to get all four pieces on behalf of a creature they believe to be their god. Yatterman are pulled in to locate a missing scientist and help his daughter protect a piece of the Skull Stone. In doing so they face off against the Doronbo gang in increasingly bizarre and over-the-top set pieces, all of which involve a dastardly scheme, giant mechas and, for some reason, sexual references. Throughout the film Lady Doronjo (played by the superb and sexy Kyoko Fukada) is plagued by love interests – a love-smitten Boyacky who will do anything to win her love; the disturbing attentions of her Skull-god; and her own shocking and sudden first-love pangs for Yatterman 1. By the close of the film we have experienced mecha-love (an alarming moment of mecha-on-mecha lovemaking which is both shocking and hilarious), numerous song and dance routines, a plethora of insane genius inventions and much tongue-in-cheek breaking of the fourth wall.
As far as live-action adaptations of anime go, you aren’t going to find anything quite like this elsewhere. It is the closest thing to an anime yet made, brilliantly encompassing the weird, wonderful and outright wacky. It is vibrant, colourful and only too willing to recognise the inherent ridiculousness of its plot. The actors (led by Miike favourite Fukada) throw themselves in to the roles with wild abandon, relishing the opportunity to play in this high-tech CGI lurid Haribo-coloured world. As with recent Western hyper-real films, Yatterman does not try to blend the CGI and physical perfectly, but instead builds a playground universe in which the larger-than-life creations can play. Once you accept this stylistic choice (and the OTT performances) you are able to allow the insanity to flow over you and enjoy the wild ride.
However, while Yatterman is certainly an intensely strange and often surreal movie experience, it is also a confused one (at least from a Western viewer’s perspective). Putting aside the issue of whether the viewer is up to speed on the Yatterman storyline and format, the film itself is a manic mish-mash of styles and genres. One moment it is kid-friendly cartoon adventuring, the next it is bordering on soft-porn. The sudden and unexpected introduction of mecha-sex, whilst hilarious, is also disturbing and may not be what some are expecting. Add in the constant sexualisation of Fukada and the near-constant penis-references from Boyacky and you have a movie that may be considered family friendly in Japan, but certainly deserves its 15 rating in the UK. This is one film that hits all the fan-service hotspots, but can’t make up its mind as to whether it is aiming at an adolescent boy audience or as a ‘knowing wink’ to the more mature anime fanbase. That said, none of it is particularly offensive, and may well just pass many by as ‘what the heck?’ moments of further oddness.
Takashi Miike has created a unique film in Yatterman; fun, madcap and outrageously silly. We get the characters, locations, songs and mechas from the anime, all brought to garish life by actors clearly having the time of their life. This is a perfect film for those seeking an evening of laughs and exclamation marks… it really is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
The Blue-Ray presentation is top class, making great use of the vivid colours and movement, with no sign of bleeding or blurring. A beautiful looking film, it is complemented with some behind the scenes features, a Japanese teaser trailer, stills, cast & crew interviews and a feature from the Cannes film festival.
Label: Eureka! Entertainment
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Release date: 21 May 2012
Running time: 119 mins
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Kyoko Fukada, Sho Sakurai, Sadao Abe, Saki Fukuda
Review written by Neil Gardner