Director Takashi Miike (Audition, Visitor Q) kicked off his stint at New York Comic Con this year with a panel for his latest movie, Yatterman, which is also his highest budget film to date. One could almost see the towering weight of expectation on his shoulders, but any doubts were blasted away in a swirl of technicolor light once the folks at Subway cinema cued the first nine minutes of the film. As good an impression as anyone could ask for, the opening of Yatterman previews everything there is to look forward to in the full feature. As Miike said himself after the clip concluded, that level of action and excitement basically continues for the next hour and fifteen minutes.
The heroes in this living cartoon world aren’t reworked or reimagined, either. They haven’t shed their colorful garb for identical dark leather, and the villains still cackle and scheme with the competence and intelligence of a horny dog. Yatterman doesn’t hide its origins, it embraces the weekly formula, often referencing the fact through both traditional narration and mid-battle exclamation that they do this “every Saturday.”
This time, just like the show, the Doronbo gang is up to no good, searching for the missing fragments of the Skull Stone at the behest of the God of Thieves, Skullobey (Dokurobei). At the foot of the gang, turning all the screws and doing all the dirty work, are the ever-loyal Boyacky and Tonzra. They’ll do anything for their boss, the stunning Doronjo, played to sultry perfection by Kyoko Fukada. The only thing that stands in their way is Yatterman, an evil-vanquishing duo comprised of the doltish Gan Takada and his girlfriend, Ai. They constantly bat away the Doronbo gang with the help of their tiny robot, Botty, and their massive howling mech, Yatterwoof. It’s one of these battles that kicks off the film, as Doronjo and her lackeys storm the city in a giant robot wielding a frying pan and a mean set of burners. Naturally, this doesn’t end well for the villains, but they swear to return next week and do it all again.
Each confrontation in Yatterman plays out like a circus act with a healthy dose of CG, and the closest comparison to the way it brings the cel-born action to life would be the Wachowski brothers’ energetic take on Speed Racer. Still, compared to Yatterman, Speed seems downright morose, and this flick’s stride is rarely broken in any way. Gan and Ai flip and spin at impossible angles, slinging their weapons acrobatically while Yatterwoof takes on whatever mechanical menace threatens world peace this time. Even a glimpse into Gan and Ai’s battle preparations-all seen from the eye of an outsider with a tight connection to the Skull Stone-is full of laughs and a genuine sense of adulation for the source material.
Premieres: March 7th, 2009 (Japan)