It destroyed me. I think it's wonderful. It's clearly uneven, but the whole thing speaks to me in a way it clearly hasn't for all reviewers. Its last episode got to me in a way that something this silly had no right doing. I was crying at the end at a last line that wasn't even sad.
In other words, this is my personal reaction and you'll almost certainly love it less than I did. However I did love it.
The original Yatterman was a kiddie show from the late 1970s, in which two children made giant robots and fought baddies. It ran for 108 episodes, plus another 60 when the show got revived thirty years later. There's also a rather uninteresting Takashi Miike live-action movie. The important thing you need to know here is that every week they'd beat the Doronbou Gang:
1. Doronjo (a hot but vain blonde in an "I'm The Villain" leotard)
2. Boyacky (ugly skinny mecha-builder with bad teeth)
3. Tonzura (muscleman)
Yatterman Night is set in the same world, but generations later when everything's gone to hell. Our main characters are a nine-year-old girl called Leopard, her mother Dorothy and their friends Voltkatze and Elephantus. They've been exiled from the Yatter Kingdom and they live in grinding poverty. However Leopard knows that Yatterman is a hero and that Yatter Kingdom must be heaven. She hasn't thought very deeply about why she and her friends aren't allowed to go there.
Dorothy gets ill. Leopard and her friends try to go to the city to ask for medicine for her, but robot Yattermen attack and drive them off.
Dorothy dies. This is a bit harsh for her nine-year-old daughter.
There's a detail I've omitted, though. Leopard, Voltkatze and Elephantus are the descendants of Doronjo, Boyacky and Tonzura. They're the bad guys. This isn't their fault, but they are. They're being punished for the crimes of their ancestors. However they're living in what's practically a post-apocalypse world, in which the last remains of civilisation appear to be a police state under the iron heel of robot Yattermen.
Leopard isn't willing to stand for this. Ergo this nine-year-old declares herself the new Doronjo and sets off with her two henchmen to fight a totalitarian dictatorship. She plans to punish them with a forehead-flicking.
That's ep.1. I went berserk for it and absolutely had to see the rest of the series, which is a stronger reaction than most people. After all, it's pretty silly. It's deliberately following in the footsteps of a childish cartoon. The new Doronbou gang will ride away on a three-man bicycle, for instance, after being defeated at the end of an episode. (This is traditional.) The tone's liable to go all over the place. There's comedy, stupidity (especially in ep.7) and lots of Voltkatze and Elephantus nudity. (Seriously, those two blokes seem allergic to clothes. Unusually and refreshingly, by far the majority of this show's fanservice is for fangirls.) Ep.7 guest-stars an omnipervert and ep9 a car-driving monkey. In ep.5, our heroes enter a sports festival. This show has a dark setting, but the tone isn't actually that dark most of the time. It's entertaining.
However the darkness is never far away. Yatter Kingdom is a police state where even sympathetic people will have to be secretive about helping you, then afterwards disown you if anyone comes asking. A man can be dragged off to 35 years' hard labour at the drop of a hat and his heavily pregnant wife will have to smile, dance and celebrate this good fortune, because otherwise she might get dragged off too. "Take delight in labour!" What's more, people die. Dorothy died. I got the impression that that grumpy persimmon seller who reluctantly helped Doronjo also died, although I might be wrong about that. The robot Yattermen arrange executions, while deliberately keeping the people in poverty and grinding misery. When Alouette claims that her late parents are waiting for her to join them, from her point of view this is optimism. She doesn't believe that they're dead. To us, though, it's sinister.
That's what Doronjo's going up against. What's more, she's not just doing it for herself. She's doing it for all the Doronjos who went before her, all the way back to the original. That includes her mother, of course. She's trying to become something greater than herself, even though she's not even remotely up to the job. It's about the weight of symbols and heroes. The fact that they're childish symbols makes it all the more affecting, oddly.
If you're going to watch this show, obviously it'll help to know something of the original Yatterman. It'll still work for newbies, to some extent, but the finale in particular is making big decisions purely because of the mythology. From that point of view, it's exactly right. Judging this show's story on its own merits, it's pretty odd. Some prominent story elements get forgotten (most of the Yatter Kingdom Guardian Gods) and the show looks as if it's sidelining itself.
This show isn't quite what the majority of its audience had wanted. As an "underdogs overthrow the evil empire" story, it's badly paced and has a whiplashing plot. As a 40th anniversary celebration of the Time Bokan franchise, it's short on nods to other Time Bokan series. It's an oppressive futuristic dystopia that's often light and silly. Personally, though, for me it worked like gangbusters. I happened to connect very strongly with what it was saying. It's the opposite of grim and gritty deconstruction, but it's not conventional reconstruction either. It's something different from both of those. I admire the characters, especially Doronjo. The last episode annihilated me. This show is uneven, but genuinely remarkable.