Yadda Yadda Yadda
Nineteen-fifties humor had disgruntled beachgoers mumbling that Japan’s victory and vengeance was the transistor radio. That triumph was soon solidified by its interchangeable, large-eyed, sexy but androgynous cartoon kids who conquered the global small screen. Now the process is cemented by Yatterman, derived from a popular 1970s TV anime and offering up two-hours-less-one-minute in which every blessed cacophonous frame bulges with action of one sort or another.
Like Longfellow’s forehead-curl little girl, Takashi Miike can be very, very good -- Audition and Gozu -- though the cult filmmaker’s work is more often good bits immersed in nonsense like Ichi the Killer or else just direct-to-DVD horrid. Opening offering at Lincoln Center’s first participation in the New York Asian Film Festival (co-presented over a shared weekend with Japan Society), Yatterman technically world premièred last year before three hundred people downtown.
Laughter and applause would seem to indicate that Miike scores again, but common sense says audiences have been brainwashed downwards and weaned on video-game pap. Fun to those who demand nothing, such fare masquerades as hip kitsch but is so mindless that it cannot boggle that organ. Everything and the kitchen sink is thrown in scattershot, in hopes that some shticks will strike fire; few do. Its “Operation Mecha Puberty” does, however, nail the tween and grown-up-tween level targeted by such entertainment, not the advertised “hilariously stupid” but just stupid.
Dad away on business, Gan (Sho Sakuray) runs the Takada Toy Shop-Factory with Ai-Chan Kaminari (Saki Fukuda), but together they are Yatterman, he No. 1 and she 2. Helpers in their crime fighting are the canine siege machine Yatterwoof subsequently reincarnated as Yatterking and small Star Wars-y robot Toybotty, who end-tags sentences with “botty” just as villain Skullobey does with “obey.”
Said false God of Thieves head bad guy is out to get nefarious hands on the scattered pieces of Skull Stone, which when united do some miracle or other, stopping time or reversing it or whatever. Duster-dressed archaeologist Dr. Kaieda (Sadao Abe) has already been bested, leading his orphan daughter Shoko (Anri Okamoto) to seek the heroes’ assistance.
Eye-masked, and with a whiff of feminine jealousy in the wind, Yatterman 1 and 2 do their Bollywood routine and set out, aided by utility-belt gizmos like the Super Stringball. The toothless duo-plus-one are dogged every step of the way by the slapstick, also song-and-dance Doronjo Gang, captained by Catwoman-out-of-Lady-Gaga Lady Doronjo (Kyoko Fukada). Seconded by false-long- and -pig-nosed “imbefools” Wee Boya and Boyacky (Ratshisa and Katsuhisa Namase), who lust after her or “every single schoolgirl in the country,” she herself is untouched so far by love despite daydreams of middle-class marital bliss.
In far-flung Narway, Ogypt and the Southern Halps, justice and filial fidelity battle it out with the never-say-die forces of evil. Costly digital enhancements generally favor the latter, although any exact tally is impossible. The derring-do and laff-getters are infantile, including the smarmy sexual innuendoes and body-function one-liners of the type adults foist on children in depriving them of real childhoods.
When prolific Miike too rarely manages to keep his screen cool and distance from his yakuza, samurai, robot, monster, inmate or sex world, the straight-faced kooky inventiveness hits on all cylinders; when he gets a little involved and self-conscious, the results are watchable mediocre, e.g., One Missed Call and Sukiyaki Western Django. Yatterman sucks him into the anime translated straight to live action, so he loses ironic distance from, and control of, the manga mentality. Only staunch fans can love this 9th NYAFF catalogue cover-promo poster cotton candy which asks for no thought, feeling or empathy on their part.
(Released by Shochiku Company; not rated by MPAA.)