I don’t think I’ve seen a show from this year go as far south from what I initially wanted from it more than Yatterman Night.
For those of you who don’t know about this series, it’s basically yet another retooling of those old Japanese kids show franchises no one cares about in a similar vein as something like Casshern Sins or Gatchaman Crowds. Yatterman Night is a far-flung sequel to the Yatterman franchise (meant to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original series) in which the roles of the original heroes and villains have been reversed in a huge way. The legacy of the original heroes, the crime-fighting duo Yatterman lives on in the form of a large kingdom known as the Yatter Kingdom. The series stars a young loli named Leopard who, when believing in the Yatter Kingdom as a beacon of hope and kindness, is disillusioned when she is harshly refused entry into the country to obtain medicine for her ailing mother by the very heroes she looked up to. Having been red-pilled on the true nature of Yatterman, Leopard and her two reliable family friends Boyacky and Tonzra set off on a journey to take down the false heroes and the Yatter Kingdom whilst donning the masks of the villainous gang of thieves (the enemies of the original Yatterman) known as”Dorombow”.
Whilst I’ll admit to not being wholly enthused by the 1st episode as much of the people saw it were, but Yatterman Night seemed like it would be on to something, that it would be more than the boring kids show it was based on. It turns out however that the show didn’t have the grand ambition I was hoping for. Given the set-up practically screams, “original take” Yatterman Night opted for anything other than being original. Unfortunately, the 1st episode is the only one that gives off the promise of potential theme exploration. The idea of symbols slowly warped to betray original intentions, or how happiness can be sought from the most unexpected of places are cool ideas to build a show around. Where Yatterman Night fucked up royally 1st and foremost was with its handling of tone. We have this extremely morose, impoverished setting, with people being overworked for the sake of a monolithic governing body from overseas. Basically, no one in Yatterman Night has any reason to feel the slightest bit chipper at all. However based on how the script carries itself, its hard to see how I’m supposed to take this all in I’m not really sure of, since most of the episodes are interlaced with tons of lame, childish and badly timed humor. The script seems like the unfortunate result of throwing the entire tonal spectrum from Texhnolyze all the way down to The Teletubbies into a blender. Aren’t the fans of the original too old for the childish gags? Aren’t the kids too young to appreciate anything that sets it apart from other titles aimed at younger demographic? What Yatterman Night does not seem to get is that the most enduring kid shows should be able to appeal to adults and children at all times. This is the reason why the Animaniacs and the earlier seasons of Spongebob are things I can appreciate as an adult or as a kid. Same goes for less comedic examples like season 3 of Digimon and Princess Tutu (both, of course, being popular examples shows that manage to be “mature” without being inaccessible to younger audiences).
The real cost of the show’s ridiculous approach to having wide-spread appeal goes beyond the fact that the humor sucks. It also becomes impossible to take the serious bits, well, seriously. What I mean by this is how no one would bat an eye at how the Dorombow gang conveniently pulls robots out of nowhere when being pursued by Yatterman’s goons if the series had made it clear from the get-go that show was leaning solely towards being a goofy action comedy. But, as we’ve gone over already, it’s not. Yatterman Night wants to be more than just “fun” without making any of the requisite sacrifices. The scriptwriters sort of wanted to have their cake and eat it so to speak. I was never convinced that Leopard’s childish idealism was actually putting her and her friends at risk for nothing since all the conflicts play out as cartoonishly as possible (to the point where explosions have about as much effect on them on them as they do on Team Rocket). Don’t expect anything from the character development department. The closest the series came to having poignant character development is one episode within the 1st half in which the Tonzra and Boyacky begin to question whether or not to keep up with this silly attempt at a rebellion. This welcome dosage of realistic thinking is nowhere to be found in future episodes however since the series continues to let the childish idealism it called into question briefly go unchecked for the rest of the series. There was one attempted character arc between an amnesiac father turned villain and his mentally handicapped daughter, but the way it was executed was laughable with hardly a few tacked on minutes devoted to it.
Coming off the boring comedy-centered episodes in the middle of the series, the last arc did nothing to restore enthusiasm for the show so much as it went ahead and backpedalled on its promise even further. The final conflict itself, on top of being rushed, the lame cartoony tropes finish off eating away at the harsh realism. The mystery behind why the Yatter Kingdom ended up the way it did turned out to be disappointingly simple (not that that was enough to keep the show from explaining it for half an episode). All the goofing around the series did earlier would have made it impossible for the overall net-sum to qualify as good in any case, but the only thing worth remembering from the final stretch was the hilariously unfinished animation for episode 12.
Such a shame to see a potential dark horse break both its legs the moment it leaves the gate. I wouldn’t recommend watching the poor thing drag its way to the finish line.