doronbo gang

alright, y'all need to know why Yoru no Yatterman is so exciting

see, back in the late seventies, a new installment of the “Time Bokan” anime franchise came out, called “Yatterman”.

Yatterman was significant in large part for establishing or codifying a lot of tropes of anime, with its 108 episode run being the foundation of a lot of people’s fond childhood memories. It was very much what you might expect of the time, and as a foreigner my best guess for a comparison in mood and impact might be Adam West’s Batman. 

A creation of Tatsunoko Productions, Yatterman has continued to make appearances over the years, including remakes, and crossovers with other franchises like Gatchaman. Its biggest showing in the English-speaking world was the appearance of the characters in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.

But, here’s the thing: Yatterman’s two heroes and their ridiculous cartoonish mecha are memorable… but their villains were even more so. 

The Doronbo Gang, led by the scantily-clad Doronjo and her hapless comrades Tonzura and Boyacky. Every team of bumbling idiot villains you can think of in anime and video games owes something to this bunch, especially Team RocketThe Doronbo Gang are the reason anime villains so often get blown to the horizon in a massive explosion, only to return again with some absurd new scheme. They’re the reason Jesse and James use so many ludicrous giant robots. The heroes beat them over and over, the kids cheered, and they showed up episode after episode, movie after movie, video game after video game to be about half as menacing as Gargamel.

Now, here’s where the new anime Yoru no Yatterman (Yatterman of the Night) is interesting: the entire story of Yatterman as we know it forms the distant backstory. Generations ago, the Doronbo Gang (spelled “Doronbow” in Funimation’s subtitles for this series) were defeated by the Yatterman duo, and banished to live in squalor as punishment. A “Yatterman Kingdom” was established, and renowned as a heaven on Earth…

…but if there’s heaven, there must be hell, and that’s what life is like for the descendants of the Doronbow Gang. Living meager but contented lives in rural poverty, Dorothy (descended from Doronjo) is tended to by Voltkaze (far more bishonen than his ancestor Boyacky) and strongman Elephantus (taking after Tonzura). When Dorothy takes ill, her daughter Leopard heads to the Yatterman Kingdom to seek a cure that doesn’t exist in their impoverished lands, only to be attacked by “Yatterman” with fucking laser beams after an immense wall rises out of the sea to block her way. Blaming Yatterman for her mother’s death and rationalizing that her ancestors may have actually been heroes fighting against the secret evil of Yatterman, she makes Elephantus and Voltkaze join her in assuming the identities of their ancestors to hunt down Yatterman and punish them.

Turns out that there’s an endless army of Yatterman robots, though. Uh-oh.

To continue the Team Rocket comparisons, this anime is as if the great-great-grandkids of Jesse, James, and Meowth grew up in a totalitarian regime, hunted by Terminator-esque Twerpbots, while revering the old Team Rocket motto as being a declaration of heroism. It’s a magnificent twist on the concept of Yatterman, and while it’s only two episodes in, I’ve got to recommend it if only for the concept alone.