First Impressions – Yoru no Yatterman

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This one is a throwback in every sense of the word.

Every so often a series comes along that generates a ton of buzz, the reason for which is largely a mystery for me.  Such a show is the “Yatterman” 40th Anniversary project Yoru no Yatterman, which isn’t at all bad, don’t get me wrong – but I’ve seen some people say it’s the best premiere of the season.  And truth be told, I just don’t get that at all.

What I liked about the premiere was the visual style and the narrative structure.  If there was ever any doubt that Gainax continues to be a huge influence (and nowhere more than at Tatsunoko), shows like YnY and Rolling Girls certainly dispel it – the quest to capture that Gainax look and vibe (often with ex-Gainax talent on staff) is never-ending.  Yoru no Yatterman certainly looks like a Gainax show, from the character designs to the color palette to the background style.  But there’s more to it than that, which is why very few series ever end up truly capturing the essence of what might those old shows work.

This premiere works very well as a premiere, which not all that many first episodes do.  It offers an introduction to a strange new world, with enough hints about what’s really going on but not so many as to give away all the secrets.  It’s a true prologue, seemingly, a self-contained story that sets the stage for what’s to follow.  I don’t know too much about the Yatterman franchise, so I can’t say how closely this series ties into the existing mythology.  But the first ep does a nice job of painting a picture of what this world is like, especially for the four lonely protagonists, living a life in exile.  According to Dorothy (Itou Shizuka) this is a punishment for the sins of the ancestors of she and her servants Voltkatze (Hirata Hiroaki) and Elephantus (Miyake Kenta), levied by the heroic founders of the Yatter Kingdom.  

The problem for me is that I don’t find this premise all that interesting, and I’m not especially feeling any of the characters.  Dorothy’s daughter and seeming protagonist Leopard is hampered by an insufferable performance by Kitamura Eri, but the character as written is a pretty shameless bit of moe pandering – I sincerely hope she’s aged up in the weeks ahead.  Dorothy, Voltkatze and Elephantus are pretty much stock figures from central casting and none of them makes much of an impression. 

What gives me hope for Yoru no Yatterman is that the show’s creators obviously have talent for the craft of telling a story and the art of bringing it to life, even if the story they’re working with isn’t very interesting yet.  Because this is a prologue, my hope is that the writing will rise to the level of the production and narrative structure once the real story begins next week.  There’s plainly potential in this premiere, obviously more than in most, but for now that’s all it is to me – and as such, I don’t quite get what all the fuss is about.

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5 comments

  1. b

    http://www.fanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/toshiba03.jpg
    Going from Yatterman pictures I've found online, it looks like the main cast in this is descended from the main villain and her henchmen from the older series, making the basic plot similar to something like Sekai Seifuku. Now that I think about it, the main groups in both series are headed by little girls, which will likely make me compare the two even more… Nothing's really hooked me on this series so far though.

  2. I've seen this show compared to Sekai Seifuku by others, too, and that was another premiere that some folks were raving over in a way that just didn't compute for me. I know this much – if we're getting Leopard as she is now as the MC, I'm out.

  3. S

    I dunno, I really loved the opening episode. But it seems like this one's just gonna be subjective until we get more episodes. Checking on the internet, it seems pretty evenly split- half are super enthusiastic, half are kinda meh. I personally really love the premise, and the fairy-tale tone really won me over. Though a wee bit clumsy, I thought the combination of outward silliness and underlying sadness worked really well for it. I can see what you're saying with the characters, and if it's only the three of them, I can see the dynamic getting stale. However, the ANN cast list seems to show some new characters that will join the group and spice things up a bit. I think the only thing to do is just wait and see what direction the writers take it. Because there's certainly room to go both ways here. Imma put my money on its success, since getting the little things right usually speak to how well the creators can handle the big things. And there were a lot of little things done right. The depiction of poverty was subtle, but far more convincing than the stereotypical anime slum. The looking symbol in the horizon showed that what looked to be the sky was actually a giant wall. Or the way the outfits were sloppy and makeshift since the characters were poor and kind of clumsy. To me, all these things really made the experience. Well, I'm not gonna shed any tears over dissenting opinions. After all, first episodes are just first episodes. Here's hoping the new anime season surpasses our expectations (however low they may be) 😉

  4. A

    I thought it was quite a good premiere too. It was a well directed episode of anime, and for most part I found the characters quite likeable. The little girl did not bother me very much, though this may change down the road if she keeps up with her antics. I like the art style and the sense of mystique that the first episode achieved and the storytelling is quite good. However I feel that how the show's clear-cut distinctions between good and evil is abit of a wasted potential especially given what the Yoru no Yatterman is trying to achieve as a retelling of the original story.

  5. w

    I honestly think I would have thought it a great premiere, if not for Kitamura Eris performance. Very, very difficult to take and did a pretty excellent job of breaking my immersion. Like that scene where she and her mother were looking at the stars, that did not call for shouting out her lines in that voice. They really dropped the ball on this one, and I'm surprised you're the only other person I've seen mention this yet.

    I will say this though; she was much better in the second half. I don't think she'll age by much, but I'd say that aspect of the series will only improve from here.

    I'm not expecting excellence but this should be a pretty good B-tier affair from here on, which I'll happily take.

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