Tuesday 20 January 2015

First Impressions: Yatterman Night

Besides being a ridiculously fun fighting game, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom for the Nintendo Wii opened my eyes to a whole load of classic anime franchises from the legendary studio Tatsunoko. And in recent years, a lot of them have had new lives breathed into them with brand new interpretations - in 2008 there was the utterly fantastic Casshern Sins, and then in 2013 came the more mixed Gatchaman Crowds. In 2015, it's Yatterman's turn. Created in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Time Bokan franchise (of which Yatterman was the second instalment of), Yatterman Night (or Yoru no Yatterman as its known in Japan) looks to equally turn the classic 1970s series completely on its head.

In the distant past, the heroes Yatterman-1 and Yatterman-2 fought against the evil Doronbow Gang - eventually defeating them and exiling them to a distant land as they brought peace to the Yatter Kingdom. As generations passed the kingdom continued to thrive, but the descendants of the Doronbow still lived in poverty as they paid for their ancestors' mistakes. When the mother of nine-year old Leopard falls ill, the girl ventures toward to the Yatter Kingdom in the hopes that the great heroes will save her mother's life. But as Doronbow descendants, Leopard is met with gunfire and a warning that getting any closer to the kingdom will result in death.

As her mother passes away, Leopard realises that if the Yatterman won't save a dying woman then they can't be heroes at all. Taking the mantle of her descendant Doronjo along with her mother's friends Voltkatze (Boyacky) and Elephantus (Tonzra), Leopard reforms the Doronbow Gang and vows to bring down the Yatterman once and for all.

With the likes of Durarara!!x2 Shou and the second half of Aldnoah.Zero starting up this month, there doesn't seem to be a whole long of English-speaking buzz for Yatterman Night. But the truth is that everyone should be talking about this series, because damn this was an incredible premiere. In a mere 20 minutes, it turned the entire story of Yatterman completely on its head with an emotional self-contained opening that's succinctly laid out the main plot for the rest of the series. While I've never watched the original Yatterman series in its entirety, I know enough about it to know it was a colourful affair full of comedy and parody. Episode one of Yatterman Night on the other hand was completely gut-wrenching, as we see a nine-year old girl learn that she's descended from the enemies of the heroes she idolises, to losing her mother because said heroes won't give her the medical attention she needs/deserves. But even with such an emotional opening, a Yatterman series probably couldn't get away with being so damn gloomy all the time. As the heroes take up the mantles of their ancestors, there's a certain campy charm which hopefully suggests this is a show that can strike the right balance between light and dark content.

Stories about villains being heroes or seeing villains in a different light is a concept that's currently being revisited time and time again, something I touched upon a bit in my review of similar-style show World Conquest Zvezda Plot. But what I really like about this show is that it isn't fundamentally changing things to tell it's alternate perspective or slowly turning its villains into heroes. Here it's pretty black and white - the former villains are now the heroes and the former heroes are undoubtedly villains. And none of the original characters have changed to allow this to happen - the story has perfectly presented it as a product of generations of abuse toward the former villains. The Doronbow descendants have been forced to live with their ancestors' misdeeds for years, with the Yatterman ancestors becoming so contempt in their wealth that they've never once stopped to realise it's time to forgive and forget. This the kind of series where the change not only makes you more interested in the plot, but actually makes total sense at the same time. There are a lot of villain-centric shows and movies out there that could learn a lot here.

While I've only picked up three new shows this season (because I'm already juggling enough carry over from last year), Yatterman Night was hands down the strongest opening I watched. First impressions suggest this is going to be less Gatchaman Crowds and more Casshern Sins levels of quality, and I can't wait to see more.

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