(This has been adapted from my blog/reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)
I love my mom. She’s the woman who not only raised me from child to adult but also provided me with the guidance necessary to look at life in a good way. “Something nice always follows something bad,” “what goes around, comes around,” and “karma works in mysterious ways” are some of the phrases she normally uses. Goodness is something that is always around no matter how bad something might be. It’s a simple idea that makes living life that much more enjoyable. Knowing that doing good deeds brings about good, and even if a bump in the road is encountered, said good is just around the corner. Yoru no Yatterman tries to focus on this motif, but is largely distracted by other venues, generating an anime that isn’t good but instead contains lots of wasted potential.
Yatterman starts off in a rather strange way. Leopard is the daughter of a woman named Dorothy. When Dorothy gets sick, Leopard and her two guardians, Voltkatze and Elephantus, attempt to contact the Yatterman Kingdom. But their refusal to help causes her mother to sadly pass away. Vowing to follow her ancestors’ footsteps and become the vigilante group known as “Doronbow,” the three attempt to “bring a new dawn” to the kingdom that wronged her.
The synopsis there is somewhat lengthier than usual, but that’s because the actual premise has an interesting origin. The show is based on an anime known as “Yatterman,” where the good guys here, “Doronbow,” are actually the bad guys. This inversion of roles immediately connects with the theme already presented, the idea that there is niceness in unexpected places. And as the anime unfurls, we are constantly given this notion. Whether it be a robotic father whose memories were wiped or a monkey who loans his master’s car to the crazy ensemble, the group is always given the chance to witness that goodness takes on forms that are, by and large, unexplainable. But this theme isn’t something that is immediately evident – it only becomes apparent near the anime’s end – and is in fact one of Yatterman’s many problems. The initial focus was on Leopard’s mother and her guardians, therefore giving the show a more familial direction. How families work together, what it means to love and be loved in a relationship, the power of “good parenting;” family was the name of the game, but it quickly devolved into something unwieldy.
What the show morphed into was an amalgamation of stories that made it less and less about family and more and more about showcasing “fun.” The anime is completely dreary: people are despondent, conditions are borderline poverty, and nothing is peppy. Despite this, the show contrasts itself on a near constant basis by having comedic moments interlaced throughout its run. In other words, the show (at first) tries to be this mature and insightful anime, but quickly transitions into funny references and mistimed offerings that only serve to distract the audience from the themes it was attempting to work with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there, because the show has a very bad habit of ignoring the characters, scenes, or events that it presents. People such as the “Whispering Reporter” are interesting, given the context, but he’s used around two times. The “Twelve Yatter Gods” don’t do much of anything besides stand around having different hair. And worst of all is Leopard’s mother, Dorothy; by the show’s end, it seemed to have completely forgotten her and her importance to the narrative, with lazy remembrance of her given in the form of them visiting her grave for all of three seconds. This last example firmly proves how lost the anime became in the focus it normally had to begin with.
Yatterman does do something clever, even with all of the holes and hills it made for itself to climb out of and over. The anime isn’t a story about Doronjo, Boyacky, and Tonzra exacting their revenge, for that wouldn’t align well with the ideas of goodness let alone their newfound sense of justice. Rather, it’s a story about the two people that tag along near the beginning: Gatchan and Alouette. As the anime progresses, and as is without a doubt confirmed by its conclusion, what we are given isn’t just a rethinking of the older work but a reimagining of what it’s done. It’s an origin tale within an origin tale, with the show depicting just how the Yatterman Kingdom rose, fell, and rose again. Sadly, such a plot point does come rather swiftly – the ending is incredibly rushed in order to make its previous scenarios relevant thematically – making it less impactful than it could have been. So while the development is interesting, it’s ultimately lacking the execution necessary to make it worthwhile.
Perhaps Yatterman’s strongest facet is in the art and animation that it provides.
As has already been discussed, the show is mired in dread. And to heighten this effect, the anime employs the use of very melancholic colors: lots of greys, browns, and blacks. At the same time, the anime is capable of bringing about rather diverse environments even with the “same” color schemes and general barrenness of the country. A mountain village, a villa by the lake, an industrial city; Yatterman’s coloring and style lends itself well to giving the show the distinct feeling of “something isn’t right” at every turn.
The designs for the characters flip-flop between realistic and unrealistic, much like the anime and its tendency to switch between dramatic and comedic. The members of “Doronbow” each have their signature attire that their known for, Gatchan and Alouette wear their hand-me-down clothes, and the Yatter soldiers and generals are always found in their mish-mash of patterns and black garb with capes. They often contrast with the environment in which they find themselves, making them, intentionally or not, stand-out no matter the situation.
As for the anime’s actual animation, it’s around above average. The show is filled with more action than at first perceived; the machine fighting, the running, and the overall shenanigans have Doronjo and crew always doing something on-screen. While they do have fireside chats from time to time, even those contain a hefty amount of animation, breathing life into the world that seemingly has none. However, there is a blemish: the final episode is comprised of many continuity issues and reused scenes, so much so to the point that it leaves one questioning what went wrong rather than allowing the audience to enjoy the ending.
Yatterman sits at a distinct crossroads when it comes to the characters that it contains.
Many cast members don’t see much in the way of development, or at the minimum, meaningful development. The biggest offender of this process is Alouette. She is at first perceived to be Dorothy incarnate – besides just her looks, her unending caring and kindness paint her as a motherly figure. But it quickly becomes apparent how much more of a child she is when compared to Leopard. She’s wholly ditzy, unaware of the gravity of her situation, and overly optimistic in a place designed to quash one’s dreams. In essence, she’s the last remaining bastion of light that hasn’t been snuffed out by the darkness. She acts this way for the entirety of the anime, barring the ending. There, a figurative switch flips within her, moving her from dependent child to leader of the free world without any kind of pretext. They try to make it seem as if her experiences didn’t go unnoticed by her, that she was “turning a blind eye” to everything going on. Her actions, though, were always consistent and never made her out to be someone who was worrying about the calamity surrounding her. Even then, if that is true, then it undermines her very character and the light she represents.
Leopard is someone still deciding on the path she should take. On the one hand, her characteristics make her out to be anything but a leader. She’s a child, both in mind and in body, so her being the head of anything, let alone a rogue group destined to fight a bunch of robots, is weird. But it works, because the setting she finds herself in is even weirder. And what’s interesting is that, while she is the leader, she never seems to do anything. Tonzra fights and Boyacky constructs, whereas Doronjo just yells a lot at everybody. She’s the leader, though, not because she was Dorothy’s daughter or because she wears the main outfit, but because her personality is commanding. She’s loud, stalwart in her convictions, and always pushing forward without ever giving up hope. On the other hand, she doesn’t grow as a person despite being a kid. She’s stunted in terms of development in favor of focusing on the other characters antics and the disjointed storytelling, causing her to stagnate quite early on. Unlike Alouette, she actually remains “in character,” yet doesn’t seem to gain anything from the journey she embarked on.
The strongest character of the anime is easily Gatchan. He’s the only person to actually develop over the course of the show. When he is first introduced, he’s afraid of the world around him and extremely protective of Alouette. Worse still, he leaves everything up to chance, rolling die in order to make his life decisions for him. But as he says, his time with “Doronbow” gave him the chance to improve. Tonzra toughened him up physically, Boyacky did the same but mentally, and Doronjo motivated and encouraged him every step of the way. The three of them were like family, each providing their own slice of wisdom for him to ingest, to make him into the kind of person capable of not only keeping Alouette from harm but also the Yatter Kingdom, too. No longer does he gamble at life’s crossroads; rather, he forges his own path.
The opening theme has some pretty impressive vocal work, matching the more orchestral tone of the piece itself. The track is oddly fast and slow simultaneously, coinciding nicely with the mix of comedy and drama that permeates much of the series. The halfway point seems to pick up the tempo, but it, oddly once more, recedes back to its normal beat. It’s off-putting, reducing the piece from something interesting to simply fun to hear. The ending theme is all speed; it starts off jumpy, and continues this trend until the very end. It mirrors the anime: Yatterman is pretty quick, moving from one scenario to the next, with the ending bringing about the only sense of calm. The quickness can be catchy during certain segments, but the singing can’t “keep up” with the instruments, making the piece largely forgettable.
Yatterman does find strength in its soundtrack, despite the OP and ED being lackluster in what they give. “Doronbow ga Irukagiri Yatterman ha Sakaenai” is the perfect theme song, capturing “Doronbow’s” grandiose undertakings and their larger-than-life way of dealing with anything thrown their way. “Dorothy no Yume” is a memorable piece, filled with a soft piano that is both peaceful for the mind yet sad on the heart, which applies to the other tracks that sound similar. “Tabi ha Tsudukuyo Dokomademo” reflects the countryside environment nicely. And they even pay homage to Yatterman’s original opening. It’s a nice soundtrack that finds itself hidden among the other sub-par material of the anime.
Voice-acting, like the soundtrack, tends to be above average. A special shout-out is deserved for Eri Kitamura as Leopard, for portraying quite well the young child’s spunky, happy, and girly voice and attitude.
I think part of the allure of this one is being able to connect, or at least understand, a lot of the references that it throws at you. Having never seen the original or anything else related to this long-running series, I probably missed more jokes than I would like to admit. Regardless, the first episode is what hooked me. The presentation, the themes, the emotions; it was very well done, and seeing it steadily dwindle the further it went on was an unfortunate circumstance. Besides the first few episodes – where they provided some focus on Leopard as a baby or young kid alongside Dorothy and the idea of family – I was never impressed by what it was doing, be it the jokes or the action. It got repetitive early on, and watching it remove itself from such a powerful beginning and set-up into something lesser wasn’t fun to see.
Yoru no Yatterman could have been something good. While the nice art, animation, and original soundtrack do what they can to alleviate some of its problems, the narrative, characters, and other minor issues keep this one from being fully cured. It isn’t going to see a new dawn, but instead a slowly falling sunset.
Story: Bad, wishy-washy themes, plot point ignoring, sometimes clever, but often falls flat
Animation: Good, nice art style, interesting character designs, and above average actual animation with the exception of the final episode
Characters: Bad, Gatchan develops, Leopard is interesting, but the rest are either bad or incredibly weak
Sound: Fine, okay OP, bad ED, nice soundtrack, above average VA work
Enjoyment: Bad, besides the first few episodes, it was repetitive and not endearing
Final Score: 4/10