The bad guys are back in town.
Due to some scheduling delays, I never posted a premiere review for this series, so let’s go ahead and roll this Rule of Three in with my standard meet ‘n’ green information.
Studio: Tatsunoko Productions
Original Anime: Directed by Yoshihara Tatsuya (Dragon Collector, Muromi-san) and written by Fudeyasu Kazuyuki (Claymore, NANA); inspired by the 1970s anime series, Yatterman
Streaming On: Funimation (US/Canada)
In a Sentence: Exiled for crimes committed generations ago, nine-year-old Leopard decides to take on the mantle of her infamous, thieving ancestor, Doronjo, in order to take revenge on the “Yatter Kingdom” who abandoned her family.
How was it? A curiously winning blend of Saturday Morning Cartoon and modern, grim dystopia.
Yatterman Night is, sorta-kinda-technically, a sequel to the 1970s Yatterman series, which followed a trio of bumbling thieves as they tried to hunt down the shards of the legendary Skull Stone and were constantly thwarted by the teenaged Yatterman crime-fighting duo. I haven’t seen so much as a frame of the original, but aside from a few obvious nods to the franchise, I don’t feel like I’m missing much—basically, just take your favorite bumbling “villains” from your favorite childhood TV series and map them on to the backstory, and you’re pretty much good to go. (For me, that’s been Team Rocket, which may be why it was so easy for me to immediately sympathize with our main trio and their ancestors.)
I was intrigued by the premiere, a little put off by the second episode, and absolutely fell in love with the third. It’s hard to properly describe what Yatterman Night is doing in terms of combining old-school cartoon goofiness with a melancholy, dystopic setting and dark, semi-tragic undertones, and harder still to explain why it works. But I think its charms (for me, anyway) come from a strange sense of having your cake and eating it too: Of feeling the nostalgia of those exuberant, silly shows from childhood while simultaneously chewing on the more serious, complicated implications of the “mature” world and story lines. It’s hopeful and goofy and sad all at once, and for whatever reason, it’s really struck a chord with me.
Past that, the art is distinctive and stylized, the animation generally dynamic in a stretched and distorted Gainax kind of way, and while Kitamura Eri is pretty hit-and-miss as Leopard (she reaches eardrum-bursting range at times, especially in the first episode, but she settles down a bit and you get used to it as you go), the rest of the cast has been pretty likable and memorable right out of the gate. There’s solid groundwork for a good story here, too, particularly in how the “good” and “bad” guy roles seemed to have flipped over time, and exploring how that came about (and what it says about those cartoons of our childhood) could lead to some legitimately intriguing story lines.
Because of it’s odd history and strange tonal blend, I could see Yatterman Night not working for everyone. But if the pilot catches your fancy at all, I recommend sticking through the end of the third episode at least. There’s something intensely appealing about this series, particularly if you’ve ever found yourself cheering for the villains louder than the heroes, and if the show can keep building on this strong foundation, I see no reason why this couldn’t be a surprisingly enjoyable winter series.
Did it make the watchlist? Yeah, there’s something about this one that’s hitting all the right buttons for me. I’m in it for the long haul.