aka ヤッターマン aka Yattāman

Screenplay by Masashi Sogo
Story by Tatsuo Yoshida
Directed by Takashi Miike

It’s posin’ time!

Yatterman is a big pile of dumb fun. Based on a cartoon show from back in the day (back in the Japan day) of 1977. Smart people (or people who know how to quickly Google things) will know that Yatterman was the second show in the Time Bokan Series, which is a group of cartoons from Tatsunoko Productions. The cartoons evolve and feature similar groups of heroes and villains. Yatterman was the longest running series, and has even sported a revival cartoon in 2008.

Yatterman is about two super-heroes who fight a variety of monsters/giant robots that are the work of the Doronbo Gang, baddies attempting to get the pieces of the Skull Stone together to awful things will happen…and also the Doronbo Gang gets rich. The hero is the teenage son of a toy store owner who has modified his dad’s toys into weapons to fight evil, and does so with his girlfriend. Yes, the concept is nuts, and that’s why we love it.

Subtext? What’s that?

Genre fans of Takashi Miike might be disappointed that there is no slicing of nipples, piano wire, or transexuals firing darts from their vaginas. But then, if that’s still all you expect from Miike by now, you really need to get out more. This isn’t 2001, people. Miike brings his usual over-the-top exuberance to Yatterman, this time translating it into the cartoony style that fits perfectly with the universe.

The Yatterman world is a ridiculous one, but also full of whimsy and wonder. Evil villains scheme and build giant robot machines, but are easily defeated. Characters are both stereotypical archetypes but also complex and developed personalities underneath.

The extra Ds are for a double dose of Doronbo!

Like all the best films, the villains are a thousand times more interesting than the heroes. Lady Doronjo is the hot girl who is evil, yet also hopelessly in love with her biggest nemesis. Tonzura aspires to be a wrestling champion and barely seems evil, while Boyacky is that guy who’s leering at you the entire bus ride. He’s also a mechanical genius and hopelessly in love with Lady Doronjo.

The entire film is packed with sexual innuendo. By innuendo, I mean totally blatant. Giant robots have breasts or what looks suspiciously like a giant wang (and all of these things fire things out of them) and there is a disturbing scene involving robot ants. Yatterman is one big pervert’s paradise.

Throughout the film, The Doronbo Gang embarks in a series of scams to acquire a large amount of money to build their mechanical creations in order to battle the Yatterman squad. Their methods are often genius, and all three of them could easily find legitimate employment and make buckets full of money, but they love the freedom of being able to do whatever they want, and also the dream of getting even richer and more powerful.

This is the best movie ever.

Because this film is weirdtacular and strange, it must be thoroughly examined and gets a full scale breakdown. Yatterman style!

Takada Gan/Gan-chan/Yatterman No. 1 (Sho Sakurai) – Takada Gan is the son of a toy store owner who builds his own mecha out of his father’s toys. Dresses up as Yatterman No. 1 to battle evil, and ropes his girlfriend along with him. Sho Sakurai is part of the male singing group Arashi
Kaminari Ai/Ai-chan/Yatterman No. 2 (Saki Fukuda) – Gan-chan’s girlfriend who goes and plays Yatterman with him as Yatterman No. 2. Becomes rather jealous of Takada Gan as other women begin to show interest in him.
Lady Doronjo (Kyoko Fukada) – Leader of the Doronbo Gang and sexy woman of desire of more than one main character. Wants to be rich, but also wants to settle down and get married. Leads her group’s search of the Skull Stones.
Boyacky (Katsuhisa Namase) – Doronbo Gang member who wears a big nose with big rabbit teeth. He builds all the mecha for the group. Is also a gigantic perv, probably the biggest pervert on the planet. Katsuhisa Namase specializes in playing characters who wear comical wigs, which I didn’t know was a thing.
Tonzura (Kendo Kobayashi) – Tough guy of the Doronbo Gang who wears a pig nose, because wearing animal noses are where it’s at these days. Dreams of becoming an amazing wrestler.
If you count all the skulls in this movie, you will unlock the secret number from the movie Pi!

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Zebraman 2 (Review)

Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City

aka Zeburaman: Zebura Shiti no gyakushu aka ゼブラーマン ゼブラシティの逆襲

Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Kankuro Kudo

Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City is Miike’s followup to the 2004 film Zebraman, and like Zebraman before it, the sequel takes what could have been a straight story about a guy dressing up as a tokusatsu hero to find himself and takes it in unexpected directions. Zebraman 2 goes far beyond its predecessor, and has so many things going on it that you will be blown away by the result. Miike takes inspiration from the black and white stripes of the zebra and spins it into a yarn about the duality of man, good and evil, but sets it in a futuristic dystopia with fascist imagery and an MTV sensibility. The film is just frakking crazy. And brilliant. Brilliantly crazy.

Miike has a lot of fun inverting color schemes while still keeping up the black and white dichotomy. Governor Aihara Kouzo dresses in an all-black version of Alex the droog’s costume from A Clockwork Orange, his footsoldiers wear mostly black (with a stylized white zebra face on their masks – both showing their zebra origins and showing where George Lucas got the design for General Grievous!) as they stomp their way through town. In contrast, the hospital that serves the victims of the Zebra Police is the White Horse at white horse, all white, everyone dresses in white. Zebraman becomes whiter and whiter, beginning with his hair, while ZebraQueen becomes increasingly blacker in costume as the film commences, even commenting on how she wants more black. As their powers develop and they become more of a threat to each other, the characters are threatened with becoming more striped, a sign of weakness as they strive for their more purified forms.

The video direction is great, the pop star videos of ZebraQueen are indistinguishable from the stuff that should be playing on MTV (if garbage like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom wasn’t polluting the airwaves and forcing us to retreat to YouTube to watch actual videos!) Zebraman 2 is like a hyperactive music video at times. The songs aide you in throwing you right into the crazy world of the future, making you just as disoriented as Ichikawa as he wakes up in a world he doesn’t know. The violent imagery of the video matches the violence he encounters in the street.

Shinichi Ichikawa (Show Aikawa) – Our hero awakens years later with no memory of being Zebraman nor any idea of where he is. Can he find the power to become Zebraman again?
Zebraman (Show Aikawa) – I guess so because Zebraman is in the Roll Call. Now he’s more white, and ready to fight crime and stop AIDS. Seriously.
Yui Aihara/ZebraQueen (Riisa Naka) – ZebraQueen, also known as Zebra Q, is the daughter of the governor of Zebra City and a Christina Aguilera-ish pop superstar. Just imagine if Lady Gaga bought a bunch of zebra items and Nazi costumes on sale at Ross that weekend and turned it into a music video. ZebraQueen is the evil version of Zebraman, and because the duality of man is a plot point, she’s a woman.
Kohei Asano (Masahiro Inoue) – Why, Asano from the previous film is all grown up as a Japanese Idol guy and changed his family name! And he runs the White Horse hospital to take care of victims of Zebra Time. And he’s just a nurse, not a real doctor. Masahiro Inoue has the lead role in the series Kamen Rider Decade
Junpei Ichiba (Naoki Tanaka) – A resistance guy who also played Zebraman in the revival tv series that happened and came up for the idea in the final episode. Wants to lead an army against the Zebra Time troopers, but the injured people he’s training couldn’t defeat a stuffed zebra.
Aihara Kouzo (Guadalcanal Taka) – governor Aihara Kouzo was in charge of cleaing up the school from the last film, and also responsible for treating Ichikawa over his stress that lead to Ichikawa awakening in 2025 Zebra City
Sumire (Mei Nagano) – She’s an Alien Girl who is the last batch of alien goo left in Zebra City. Thus, she’s been a target for years by the Governor. She’s 25, by the way.

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Zebraman (Review)


aka Zeburaman aka ゼブラーマン

Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Kankuro Kudo

If you know anything about cult cinema, you know Takashi Miike is awesome. Miike is always firing with all cylinders, and even on his weaker efforts he never does a half-assed job or sleepwalks through a film. Miike hops genres like Q*bert down a pyramid, able to make the most disgustingly violent film you’ve ever seen and follow that up with a kiddie flick. Zebraman is a love letter to tokusatsu heroes, particularly those from the 70s and 80s on Japanese television. Miike takes a fictitious hero and series and turn it into much more than just a simple tokusatsu film. It becomes a tale of finding yourself, of destiny, of belief, and about doing what’s right because you’re a hero. And it also has a guy riding a flying zebra while battling a giant goo monster. Zebraman takes these conventions and has fun with them, turning some deadly serious and others into more ridiculous fare than they’re treated by the real tokusatsu shows.

The fun with Zebraman is how all these different conventions and story bits add up to create a good story, despite the difference in tone and style. It’s a testament to Miike’s talent that he can take so many differently shaped parts and put together the puzzle with no missing pieces. My biggest fault with Zebraman is that the sequel outshines it at every turn. But I’ll worry about that when the review of the sequel goes up. For now, let’s learn about the man, the myth, the hero, Zebraman!

Shinichi Ichikawa (Show Aikawa) – Mild-mannered teacher who lets his wife and children walk all over him. Has no respect at home, so he retreats into his costume of Zebraman.
Zebraman (Show Aikawa) – Old 1970’s tokusatsu hero that Ichikawa was a fan of, tothe point where he made a Zebraman costume when he was grown and wears it to feel good about himself. Ichikawa then starts getting involved in incidents that match aspects of the old show as things develop.
Shinpei Asano (Naoki Yasukochi) – New student in a wheelchair that becomes Ichikawa’s new friend due to their common love of Zebraman. Becomes a surrogate son to Ichikawa.
Kana Asano (Kyoka Suzuki) – A nurse who is Shinpei’s mother and becomes a surrogate partner to Shinichi Ichikawa, and also becomes Zebra Nurse in his fantasies. Kyoka Suzuki is somewhere in Godzilla vs. Biollante
Kazuki (Yoshimasa Mishima) – Shinichi Ichikawa’s son who has no respect for his father. But once dad starts showing some heroics and saves him from alien goo possession, things will change between father and son.
Goo aliens (Yoshimasa Mishima) – Crazy aliens that are using the plot of the original Zebraman tv show to take over the planet. Their goo gets into people and corrupts them. They also can form the goo into monsters of increasing size.

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13 Assassins (Review)

13 Assassins

aka Jusan-nin no shikaku aka 十三人の刺客

Directed by Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike can make any type of film imaginable. He loves cinema, he loves to work, and his output is legendary. Miike crosses genres like they’re T’s, smearing the lines and creating unique works. His pattern of excesses give his films a tone that cannot be matched by other directors, even as the tones differ based on which excesses he is exercising for the film. From family-friendly fare to ultra-violent yakuza film, Miike puts his heart into everything he does. He pushes limits, test boundaries, and kicks butt.

Due to Miike’s initial popularity in cult movie circles in the West due to movies like Ichi The Killer, Audition, Fudoh, and Dead or Alive, people naturally assumed that he only made ridiculously violent films. I’m sure watching The Great Yokai War, Zebraman, or Yatterman blew their minds to smithereens. 13 Assassins has returned Miike to notice in the international scene, but again it is for a film that features a lot of violence. Most of the violence waits until the end of the film, and instead we go through samurai life, political drama, honor, and journey and preparation. I could say that I was one of those people who like to watch samurai films and am totally into the whole samurai code blah blah blah thing, but I actually don’t like samurai films (nor other period dramas known as jidaigeki.) Frankly, I don’t really care to watch stodgy guys sit around worrying about their honor for 90 minutes until a brief swordfight happens. This probably makes me a bad nerd and bad movie reviewer, but, whatever. I’ve avoided other recent samurai films, and only saw this one as Miike is attached to it. Miike manages to keep things interesting better than I hoped, preventing what could have been a dry and slow buildup with good characterization, planning, and the fallout when things don’t go according to plan and you end up wandering around the woods. There are even supernatural elements hinted throughout the film, the more you pay attention the more you realize where they are.

13 Assassins is a remake of 1963’s Jusan-nin no shikaku (The Thirteen Assassins), a film many (including myself) haven’t seen. In fact, my favorite part of the reviews for this is everyone bringing up Seven Samurai (including this review) while hardly anyone mentions the original version of 13 Assassins. It actually took a while to find a good site comparing the two films, and from what I can see Miike follows the original’s story fairly faithfully, but brings it down to a more human level.

Shimada Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) – The leader of the group. A war weary, former decorated Shogun’s Samurai who is hired to carry out the mission. probably best known in the West before this for roles in Memoirs of a Geisha and Babel
Kurnaga Saheita (Hiroki Matsukata) – A veteren samurai who is second in command. He brings in many of his students to the group. Hiroki Matsukata starred in The Magic Serpent
Shimada Shinrokuro (Takayuki Yamada) – Shinzaemon’s nephew, who has lost his way as a samurai, but joins up to redeem himself and his honor. Takayuki Yamada was in Battle League Horumo
Kiga Koyata (Iseya Yusuke) – A wild hunter who guides the samurai when they get lost in the forest and joins as the 13th assassin. His character is awesome, but I liked Sahara Heizo (Arata Furuta) better. Obviously referencing Kikuchiyo from Seven Samurai, here are hints throughout the film as to what Kiga actually is, including his beloved Upashi being seen eating raw meat, and his fate in the final battle.
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki) – This cruel heir to the Shogun’s throne rapes and kills at will, and no one stands in his way because of his power. So a plot is hatched to save the people and honor.
Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura) – Lord Naritsugu’s chief guard and samurai, who is also a rival of Shimada Shinzaemon. It is painfully obvious that Hanbei Kitou is dead meat. In fact, the same character dies in the original as well.

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Takashi Miike news – Ace Attorney and Ninja Kids

Another video game becomes a film as Takashi Miike has confirmed his statements about making Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban) into a feature film. Narimiya Hiroki will play Naruhodo Ryuichi/Phoenix Wright, Kiritani Mirei is Ayasato Mayoi/Maya Fey, and Saito Takumi is Mitsurugi Reiji/Miles Edgeworth. Plot: The plot of the movie takes place in an alternate universe, where an increase in heinous crimes has forced Japanese attorneys and prosecutors to confront each other in a new court system that gives the accused only three days to prove their innocence. In this system, speed is favored over hard evidence and forensic science, forcing both the defense and the prosecution to do much of their own hurried investigation before time runs out.

I’ve not played these games, so I won’t have my childhood raped. Take that, NintendoDS havers!

Ace Attorney

Expect 90 minutes of this

In other Miike news, here is the trailer for Ninja Kids, a movie about Ninja Kids. Looks goofy.

via NipponCinema

Trailer – Yatterman

Takashi Miike‘s Yatterman gets a new trailer. Sadao Abe is Yatterman, with Kyoko Fukada as Doronjo and Saki Fukuda as Ai-chan. I have never seen the cartoon this is based on, but it is like Indiana Jones with giant robots. The world premier will be at the New York Comic Convention (Feb. 6 – 8, 2009)
Here is an interesting article about Miike’s weird bondage thing in kids films.

2nd Trailer located here
Yatterman Official site