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Yatterman (Yattâman)

Takashi Miike's Blockbuster Anime Adaptation Premieres at New York Comic Con

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Yatterman (Yattâman)

The Danabrow Gang

On Friday night, an odd confluence of two very different fan bases occurred at the Director's Guild Theater in Manhattan, where cult director Takashi Miike and superstar Sho Sakurai presented the world premiere of Yatterman, a live-action spectacle based on a Japanese TV show. Presented by New York Comic Con, the event was kicked off by Subway Cinema's Grady Hendrix in a stunning pink suit, shrieking girls who seemed ready to lay down their lives for Sakurai-san, and deafening shouts of "Yatta! Yatta! Yatta!"
Yatterman was a hugely popular anime series in the late seventies that was revived last year in Japan, and the live-action adaption has been a long-standing ambition for Miike. I'll confess that I'd never heard of either, but a quick tour of YouTube gave me the general idea: Yatterman is a goofy, candy-bright comedy about Gan (Sakurai) and Ai (Saki Fukuda), two youngsters who work in a toyshop and, "every Saturday at 6:30," transform into a crime fighting team.

Their enemies are the Doronbow gang, which consists of sexy Lady Doronjo (Kyôko Fukada) and her groveling helpers Boyacky (Katsuhisa Namase) and Tonzra (Kendo Kobayashi). They construct a new giant robot every week, themed after whatever inventive scam they used to finance it. A sale of wedding dresses leads to a Bridesmaid-robot that shoots machine gun fire from its breasts; over sized sushi pays for a flying squid, and so forth.

By orders of mysterious "God of Thiefs" Skullobey (whose logo shows up everywhere from self-destruct buttons to the shapes of mushroom clouds), the Doronbow gang searches for parts of an all-powerful skull, a conceit that leads them across the world to places such as "Narway," "Ogypt," and the "Northern Halps" -- colorful and strangely warped settings for giant mecha fights with the Yatterman team and their dog-shaped giant robot, Yatterwoof.

If this all sounds completely ridiculous to you, let me assure you: it's even sillier than that. This being Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition), the film never misses an opportunity at sexual innuendo, cartoonish violence, or flashy visuals. The CGI isn't quite as slick as last year's underrated Speed Racer, but the super-bright color schemes and relentless goofiness make Yatterman feel like a distant cousin of the Wachowski Brothers' hyperreal fever dream -- which should come as no surprise, since both are based on anime by the same creator, Tatsuo Yoshida.

I'm sure many of the winking references to the original series sailed right over my head, and the euphoric fans in the premiere audience added an extra dimension to the excitement, but anybody with a sweet tooth for over-the-top spectacle might well enjoy Yatterman, even without prior knowledge of the show. Miike was right when he promised, by way of introduction, that everybody would be much happier after the film: I grinned like an "imbefool" all the way through.

Yatterman (2009)

Starring: Sho Sakurai, Kyoko Fukada, Katsuhisa Namase
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Produced by: Yoshinori Chiba
Release Date: TBA
Production Co.: Nikkatsu Corporation, Tatsunoko Production Co.
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