Yatterman (2009, Takashi Miike)

A “live-action” children’s hyperactive candy cartoon full of dick and boob jokes. When you consider the American alternative (poop jokes) you stop minding so much. Ultra-energetic bright super-CG-assisted silliness, and mostly quite watchable (altogether better than Zombieland, or Miike’s own Sukiyaki Western Django).

Good guys standing in front of their underpants-looking symbol:

Baddies in disguise:

Based on a 70’s TV show, and flaunting it (a short TV-style credit open, dialogue referencing weekly occurrences). The titular team is #1 (pop star Sho Sakurai), his girlfriend #2 (Saki Fukuda) and their crew of robots, including a giant dog that gets beaten up more than it helps out. The baddies (more interesting than the bland heroes, as usual) are dazzling dominatrix leader Mistress Doronjo (Kyoko Fukuda of Kamikaze Girls, Dolls, Ring 2), pudgy pig-nosed Tonzra (Kendo Kobayashi), and carrot-nosed Boyacky (Katsuhisa Namase of the Japanese remake of Sideways) who is in love with his boss. It seems there’s a magic skull, and the two teams are scrambling to collect its pieces – team Yatterman by request of a sad girl, and team Doronjo by orders from “the god of thieves,” a skull-totem spirit which has possessed the girl’s father.

Spirit-possessed father: Sadao Abe, a Great Yokai War veteran:

Saki Fukuda busts up a split-screen:

Seems like a cross between Miike’s Great Yokai War, Pokemon, the Gundam/Robotech giant-robot series and all the other Japanese cartoons I don’t watch (plus rip-offs of Indiana Jones and who knows what else)… nothing too original, but it’s all so winningly performed, keeping a light tone despite the overpacked story, that originality hardly matters. There are musical numbers, dream sequences and increasingly absurd robots. Defeat comes accompanied by giant mushroom clouds. Not knowing the show, I have no idea how much of this pre-existed and how much is Miike’s contribution. The whole thing was well-shot and edited to make sense, which is not a given when it comes to hyper kids shows – would be interesting to see how it stacks up to the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer.

Pigman dream sequence:

Kitty sphinx head a’splode: