by Rose Bridges,
In its final episode, Yatterman Night pulled off a wholly predictable and yet strange conclusion. Plot-wise, nothing that happened in the final episode was surprising. Tonally though, it's a different ballgame. I'm not sure how to feel about where we ended up, or even what I'm supposed to feel, which also sums up a lot of my confusion about this series throughout its run.
This episode begins with Team Doronbow plotting their final stand. Gatchan, in his role as the group planner, realizes they'll never win if they can't gain the support of the Yatter populace. So he hatches the idea for him and Alouette to become Lord and Lady Yatterman—something that's been foreshadowed since early in the show. After all, Gatchan does look a lot like the guy, right? Before that, Leopard gives Alouette permission to do this even though it will separate her from them. This causes Alouette to finally recover from her selective blindness. She's accepted that her parents are dead, but she's found new hope in "her angel" and the rest of the team. This is exactly what she needs to pilot their new Yatterwan, launching an awesome two-for-one battle climax. Gatchan and Alouette take down a giant Dokurobey, and Doronbow take down his lieutenants. The whole sequence was so blood-pumpingly cool that I felt like a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons again. That was the good part.
Not so good was the thematic focus of quieter moments. This episode spends a lot of time on how Gatchan and Alouette can't be the Doronbow gang's friends anymore. They're the new Lord and Lady Yatterman, Doronbow were the villains they fought, and never the twain shall meet, or so Leopard thinks. It's clear from Gatchan and Alouette's reactions to this that they don't agree with her. So why emphasize this so heavily if the resolution doesn't deliver on it? I expected the show to prove her wrong at the end. After all, the message of the series is that these distinctions between "heroes" and "villains" are fuzzy and mutable. Leopard realizes that her ancestors probably revered Yatterman in the end. After all, they passed down Yatterman's song to her. They wouldn't have done that if they hated him, right?
So then why does it end with both groups still separated? We see each of them visit the graves of their fallen parents, which are necessarily far apart, but there's no reunion, and it almost seems like their entire journey together was pointless. Doronbow may have been the stars of the show, but they were ultimately just there to boost the new Lord and Lady Yatterman into their roles. It was inspiring to see Gatchan and Alouette, once passive victims, take on more heroic roles as the series stretched on, but to suggest that they were the final point of a series that was all about redeeming the fan-favorite villains seems a little unfair.
After all, the great last battle was a collaborative effort. Both Team Yatterman and Team Doronbow were needed to take down Dokurobey and his many underlings. Doronbow blasted away the robots, mechas, and Twelve Generals. (There's another missed opportunity; the other generals likely have similar backstories to poor Goro. It would've been cool to learn more about them!) This scene involves some gorgeous animation. I especially loved the fluidity of Elephantus' punches during his battle. His fists swelled in size as they attacked, like big white blobs. Yatterman Night has excelled in its fluid and creative animation.
Actually, all the technical details of this story were great. The art style is storybook-like, full of gentle pastels, but not afraid to get bright and poppy when it's fighting time or drab and monochromatic to emphasize the Yatter Kingdom's dystopian features. The music shows a wide variety of styles and moods, always masterfully pitched to whatever is on screen. I really enjoyed the use of the full Yatterman theme this episode, in the style it was sung in the original show. It made Gatchan and Alouette's fight that much more triumphant. It's not just the presentation that works here, either. The character writing throughout the show is strong. Leopard is a great child character who's grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the series, and it's been thrilling to watch, but all the major characters were memorable and fun in their own ways. Gatchan and Alouette grew just as much and were just as developed, and Goro was richly tragic.
All that doesn't do justice to how the series slipped with its plot and especially its themes. It set itself up to do more than it ever could in twelve episodes, and when those reveals finally came, it felt like too little too late. Dokurobey was a good villain with a sympathetic backstory, but he could have been a great one. His final fight could have been just as insurmountable as it felt coming out of episode 11, and thus the victory much more heartening. What's more, its message would have sunk in more if Yatterman Night had more time after the battle was over. The show just ran out of steam.
Yatterman Night was this season's version of Rage of Bahamut Genesis. It started incredibly strong, but lost momentum as it fell into more well-worn plots and ideas. Its "filler" helped it emotionally, but held it back thematically. In essence, Yatterman Night would have been a better show with an extra cour of episodes. As it stands, it was a pretty good one, though. It kept me entertained through all 12 episodes, so I can't complain too much.
Yatterman Night is currently streaming on Funimation.
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