by Rose Bridges,
I'm not someone who easily cries watching anime. I made it all the way through Wolf's Rain and several other infamous tearjerkers with dry eyes, but this week's Yatterman Night just about brought me to the brink. There are few things that destroy me like characters dying for their loved ones, especially if they weren't recognized for it. Alouette didn't realize who Goro was until it was far too late, if at all.
It takes us some time to get there though. Yatterman Night this week has two distinct halves, and the epic battle only comes in the second one. Before that, you must listen to Dokurobey ramble on about his origin and purpose. Apparently, the dystopian future still uses VHS, and Dokurobey has a tape just for explaining his new government and what happened to "Yatterman." He killed them, used their absence and mythology to create a new dynasty for himself, and now Dokurobey lives off the work humans do for him. Frustratingly, much of the info about Dokurobey's backstory and abilities is familiar for fans of 1970s Yatterman. Yatterman Night has a lot of newcomers and this info is crucial for them, but if you know enough about Yatterman to recognize the old show's episodes on the VHS tape, you may find yourself nodding in tiresome agreement a lot here.
Regardless, these scenes frame Dokurobey as a towering, all-powerful giant to everyone else, as does his final act of the episode, shooting Doronbow's Yatterseagull down as the camera follows them underwater. It was full of despair, cranking up the bawling and pathos. However, I came away from these scenes full of hope, because Goro's story shows the potential for resistance. He was engineered to be the perfect soldier to Lord Yatterman, with all memories and personality that could cause conflict wiped away. That's on top of the Yatter Generals' bonus, specialized brainwashing, and yet Goro still had his memories, somewhere deep inside. By awakening them at the right moment, he could still defy his evil government. They could suppress it, but they could never fully squash the things that make us human. (Or dog, in the case of his German shepherd who suffers the same fate.) Goro's story isn't just about him, but the potential in all of us. It's hard not to wonder what the other eleven Generals' backstories might be after seeing Goro's.
If there's a lesson to be taken out of this show, it's the perseverance of the human spirit in spite of all odds. Leopard's childlike enthusiasm and drive inspired so many people along their journey. She's a leader less out of experience and more out of sheer spirit. It's that intrinsic humanness that keeps us going, and keeps citizens standing up in the face of oppression. Goro's humanness could only be suppressed for so long. Of course, the question at this point is: Where does our non-human villain fall into this?
It's interesting that for as evil as Dokurobey is, his backstory was not evil. He only wanted to go back to his home planet, but on the way, he became so filled with rage and vengefulness that he wanted to punish humanity. Granted, even in the original Yatterman series, his methods for achieving his ends are questionable. He's the Head Bad Guy for a reason. That doesn't make his perspective unreasonable, though. Regret and revenge can tear anyone up. It's just that if you're a superpowered genocidal alien, the stakes are usually worse than average.
Yatterman Night isn't a deep reflection on the complexities of the world and heroism after all. It's a fight between black-and-white heroes and villains all over again, but it changes enough of the variables to make it feel fresh and exciting. In the end, it's still about Leopard learning that her books didn't tell her the whole truth: Yatter Kingdom and her scheming villain ancestors can both be bad. For viewers, the appeal is the gorgeous animation and music, and watching these characters grow through a coming-of-age story. Leopard isn't the same character she was in episode 1. She's still spunky, adventurous and determined though, and she pushes other people to be that, too, even if they've become brainwashed empty shells. Whether you're inspired, moved to tears or otherwise, Leopard and friends' story is never boring.
Yatterman Night is currently streaming on Funimation.
Rose is a musicologist who studies film music. She writes about anime and many other topics on Autostraddle.com, her blog and her Twitter.
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