Yatterman -- Film Review

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HONG KONG -- Kids lick lollipops for their trippy colors and sugar boost, and not for nutritional value. Likewise, "Yatterman" indulges one's occasional need for mindless popcorn entertainment. Cult-meister Takashi Miike has conjured up a CGI playground to stage the wildly wonky robotic wars between space villainess Lady Doronjo (Kyoko Fukuda) and Yatterman, a boy-and-girl duo of teenage superheroes.

Based on a long-running Japanese children's TV series in the '70s, this proudly trashy retro universe of '70s mechanical toy regalia and deliberately nonsensical vocabulary of kiddie-babble is designed first and foremost to please Japanese "mecha-otakus" -- geeks who love robots and all things mechanical. Judging from the $17 million earned since it opened domestically three weeks ago, and overseas sales offers to producer-distributor Nikkatsu from more than 30 countries, the film also is set to convert new fans.

Running at supersonic speed, "Yatterman's" stock storyline -- about the race to four far-flung lands to find parts of a magical Skull Stone that can meddle with time and space -- is as good as lost in a spectacular arms race that brings to life the most delightfully silly robots.

A seafood motif emerges as Doronjo's cronies invent a giant metal squid that is later complemented by metallic mutations of other killer sashimi in various stages of growth.

While characters are self-consciously infantile, their costumes and images are drawn from fetish fashion of the "Barbarella" or "Austin Powers" variety. Miike also injects fiendishly obscene innuendoes into scenes, such as two robotic animals that make out like dogs in heat, and the hero Gan's (pop idol Sho Sakurai) enthusiastic efforts at curing a female character's scorpion bite by sucking between her thighs.

Technically top-notch production design and visual effects are loud to the point of eye-hurting. Chirpy songs and music in the style of '70s Japanese children's programs and commercial tunes exaggerate the mood.

Production companies: A Shochiku/Nikkatsu presentation of a Shochiku/Nikkatsu/Tatsunoko production

Cast: Sho Sakurai, Kyoko Fukuda, Saki Fukuda, Anri Okamoto
Director: Takashi Miike.
Screenwriter: Masahi Sogo
Producers: Yoshinori Chiba, Akira Yamamoto, Takahiro Sato
Director of Photography: Hideo Yamamoto
Production Designer: Yuji Hayashida
Music: Masayuki Yamamoto, Masaaki Jinbo, Ikuro Fujiwara
Costume designer: Katsuhiro Sawadishi
Editor: Kenji Yamashita
Sales: Nikkatsu Corp
No rating, 111 minutes