Yatterman Night
Episode 9

by Rose Bridges,

Last week, Yatterman Night was meandering around with dinosaurs and filler episodes. It was fun and cute, but seemed too unfocused for a show nearly two thirds of the way through its run. Well, it's reached that milestone now, with an episode that set up a lot for the finale. There was foreshadowing aplenty, but also direct plot movement toward a climactic last stand. They even reached their destination at the end!

Still, doesn't it seem like it's a little too soon to be there? Yatterman Night has a lot going for it, but a huge strike against it is that brevity. It reminds me of Rage of Bahamut Genesis, from last season. Bahamut had a lot to offer in both its self-contained episodes and its larger plot. Some of its strongest moments came from just letting characters bounce off each other, but it never built on that potential as much as it could, because it just didn't have time. Yatterman Night at least is a simpler story than Bahamut, so it didn't give itself as tall of an order. It's still hard to see what it could do with that though, and how unlikely it is to fulfill its potential within three episodes. I doubt it will have much to say about how we construct heroes and villains as I predicted in my earlier reviews, for instance.

So what has it set up at this point? Well, there was a time when Goro being related in some way to Gatchan, Alouette or both sounded like a far-fetched theory. Last week's episode increased those odds with Alouette's flashbacks, and with Goro hesitating on saying her name. This episode makes the truth clear, as Goro verges on a breakdown upon seeing Alouette. It's also a nugget of worldbuilding about the Yatter Kingdom: someone has suppressed Goro's memories. Maybe he did it to himself in response to trauma, but more likely it was forced. We know the Yatter soldiers dragged the duo's parents off to work in the city. Is that how the government controls its citizens: through memory suppression? Is that what was in store for Team Doronbow had Gatchan not leapt to their rescue? I thought the driver telling them about "how to escape" was too obvious, like a mockery of the "villains revealing their secrets" we see in other action shows. I guess that was intentional, since that's probably not the real reason nobody escapes. (Especially considering how easily the Yatterelephant destroyed that core.) It's more likely that once they you're captured, they destroy your reason for wanting to leave. Then you can rise through the ranks and become a general without realizing you never wanted that.

That's a pretty chilling idea, and cements Yatterman Night as dystopian fiction. That designation is probably why I expected so much for it, because dystopias are a genre associated with cultural and social commentary. I'm still not sure what Yatterman Night has to say specifically, which isn't a good sign at episode 9, but I'm hoping there will at least be a reveal for how the Yatter Kingdom got so bad in the first place. After all, Yatterman Night's predecessors in this vein, like Gatchaman Crowds, did use their "gritty kids' show reboot" premise to say something.

At least Yatterman Night is still great as a fun and occasionally heart-warming half hour of TV that's still full of surprises. Who knew we'd get to see Gatchan in the role of rescuer, especially so soon? That aspect made this episode worth watching alone, from the frenetic animation in the car chases to the masterful scoring. The addition of Sanpee meant not only more references to old anime (Speed Racer,) but allowed the Gatchan-Alouette duo to prove their effortless charm again. (Alouette really has a way with animals!) Gatchan is probably related to Lord Yatterman in some way, or destined to replace him. That resemblance is too uncanny at this point, especially with the mask.

I doubt Yatterman Night will be quite as thinky as I expected it to be. It's hard to fault such an excellent show for not fitting differing lofty expectations though, especially when it's great at what it is doing. For example, the "risqué performance" at the top of this episode did a lot to assuage my fears about sexualizing Leopard. It doesn't strip her down with the boys, but treats her participation as innocent curiosity, and even delivers a joke about "denying access to the adult material" that serves as a larger metaphor for her character. She wants to be taken seriously as an adult, but she lacks the adult outlook that allows for that. Leopard still sees the world like a child, for better and for worse. Yatterman Night is a coming-of-age story that doesn't abandon the values of childhood.

Unlike some of its brethren, you could show Yatterman Night to actual kids. It has enough brains to intrigue stuffy adults like me, but plenty of heart, humor and spectacle to entertain Yatterman's original audience too. (I mean, the Yatterelephant POOPED BOMBS.) Anime is so often dismissed as either being mindless kids' fare, or fetish material for weird adults. Rarely do people acknowledge its power to transcend the age divide. If Yatterman Night goes down in anime history for anything, it should be for that.

Rating: A

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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