Miike Takashi's live action adaptation of Tatsunoko Pro's landmark "Yatterman" cartoon of the 70s is a lovingly faithful and fun tribute that will have fans of the original series giddy but gets too overly silly and goofy at times. "Yatterman" (a Japanese wordplay for "yatta" (we did it) and the English word "Man") was the 2nd in Tatsunoko Pro's long running comical adventure series which started with the first series called "Time Bokan" and included various yearly sequels including "Zenda Man" (1979), "Otasuke Man" (198), "Yattadetta Man" (1981) and "Ippatsu Man" (1982). Unlike Tatsunoko Po's more dramatic and straightforward action anime like "Gatchaman" and "Casshern", the "Time Bokan" series of anime were more comical and focused more on madcap humor, visual sight gags and ridiculously warped characters. While each of the "Time Bokan" anime were visually different from each other, they all shared the same story elements and included a very similar trio of goofy villains. While the heroes of "Yatterman" (Yatter Ichi Go and Yatter Ni Go) and their incredible mecha "Yatter Wan/One") were the main characters, it was the "Doronbou Ichimi/Clan" - Doronbou being a Japanese perversion of Dokuro (Skull) and Dorobou (Robber)- that were the most interesting characters. Doronjou, Boyacky and Tonzuraa were indeed the stars (the closest American equivalent would be Dick Dastardly and Muttley from Hanna Barbera's "Wacky Races" and "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines"). Each week these incompetent criminals would strive to create the ultimate mecha to defeat their rivals and get the legendary "Dokuro Stone" that would make all their dreams come true. Miike Takashi wisely decides to keep this simple premise and set it firmly in place in his film. J-Pop boy band member Sakurai Sho of the group Arashi and Fukuda Saki from the J-Dorama series "Life" are cute as the heroic "Yatterman" duo of Gan and Ai respectfully but it is again the casting of the Doronbo Ichimi that is truly inspired - The tall and lanky Namase Katsuhisa (20th Century Boys, Gokusen) is dead-on perfect as the big-nosed Boyacky whose twisted inventions and mecha are as brilliantly flawed as their inventor. The stout and dimwitted henchmen, Tonzuraa is perfectly captured by chubby comic Kendo Kobayashi (the J-Dorama Boss)and he does a good job of playing the character as less a third wheel and more a contributing player in the madness. And of course not enough can be said of Fukada Kyoko's gorgeous and busty "Doronjou". Fukada (Kamikaze Girls, Inugami Ke No Ichizoku, Dolls) is clearly having fun playing the sexy villainess and she easily steals the movie. Even with the outrageous costume, Fukada still manages to illicit sympathy and emotion from the audience in her candid scenes. Her Doronjou is not really an evil character but just a woman longing for love and the means to lead a normal life. Not just another pretty face, Fukada continually surprises with her comic/dramatic range and unconventional roles.
Th SFX effects are a mixed bag. Like the Wachowski Brothers' recent "Speed Racer" (another Tatsunoko Pro property), Miike's "Yatterman" does seem a bit too involved and reliant on CGI to tell the story. While the mecha and other robot effects are truly impressive and eye catching, scenes in which the mecha inhabit the real world seem fake and contrived.
While Miike kept most of his darker sensibilities in check for this family oriented film, he did manage to sneak in some truly hilarious adult humored sight gags in the film (the scene in which the Yatter Wan robot mecha and the Doronbou Gang's "Virgin" robot making out whilst the Virgin robot screams "I'm cuuuming" is truly a must be seen to be believed...).
"Yatterman" is definitely enjoyable and while those unfamiliar with the original cartoon will find it a fun film, those who have seen the original series will find "Yatterman" to be a nice, nostalgic trip down memory lane (fans should have fun finding all the nice visual references to the original anime and other Tatsunoko Pro anime). "Yatterman" is not a perfect film but Miike definitely succeeds in making a worthy tribute/adaptation. Yatta, Yatta, Yattaman (you did it man)!