Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune
"Aliens" from the Trade Federation (the quotation marks I'll explain shortly) have annexed the Earth, and reduced humans to menial status; but the lowest of the low are the Yakitori, human footsoldiers who are used as "decoys" by the Trade Federation forces. But our featured little quintet of humans objects to being just cannon fodder, and wants to show that humans can actually WIN battles.
"This does seem like a ridiculous sci-fi film" - Akira Ihotsu
WORD, Akira! You're the MAN!
To appreciate how correct Akira's assessment is, let's start with the peculiar fact that all the "aliens" here LOOK EXACTLY LIKE EARTH ANIMALS. Among some of the "aliens" that seem based on domestic animals (e.g., the "dogs"), even specific BREEDS are recognizable. (The Sergeant in charge of one unit of dog soldiers (I'm tempted to say "dogfaces", you know) is, of course, a bulldog.) Face it, none of this looks like an "alien" invasion; it looks more like Gaia's Revenge.
It's all CGI animated here, and comes with the jerky, stiff movement typical with lower-grade versions of that. There are two major types of music in the show. One is the sort of droning, repetitive synth-based score we might expect in, say, a Halo ripoff. The other is classical- specifically, Mozart's Eine Klein Nachtmusik.
The show is a pretty blatant ripoff of Starship Troopers, from the gear of the soldiers, to the fact that the soldiers are basically fighting what humans consider vermin. ("Bugs" in Heinlein's story, rodents here- even though some of the opposition are, frankly, hamster-level cute.) The portrayal of the rodents' spoken communication ("Ratlish", maybe?) is just lazy; they all say exactly the same thing, with exactly the same inflection, and yet it's supposed to mean different things. Even the Terraformars' "speech" had more variety than this. Or perhaps it's a joke? Hard to tell, here.
Oh, that hard-to-tell-if-something's-a-joke/parody/satire brings me back to Starship Troopers, again. Robert Heinlein tried out more than one political ideology in his works (though I believe he was mostly of the Libertarian persuasion), but Starship Troopers (Heinlein’s original, but to me also the film version) seems pretty much straight-up fascist. I KNOW that people tell me that the filmed version of Starship Troopers is really a satire of fascism (the film’s director says this as well); but in my opinion, if your work is indistinguishable from the product of a True Believer (at least on casual viewing), then it fails as satire. (Of course, confounding the whole issue is that there's stuff created by those True Believers that LOOKS like satire; John Travolta's "loving" tribute to L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth, for example; or, in anime, ANYTHING made by the Happy Science bunch.)
Yakitori, at least, doesn't seem to embrace fascist politics. Our heroes mostly seem to be dealing with (and sometimes getting blamed for) blunders made by parties further up the food chain (which, for the Yakitori, is pretty much EVERYONE else.) So let's meet our international team of lowest-of-the-low:
-Akira Ihotsu is, of course, our Japanese homeboy. He has a strong work ethic, but is hot-headed. He's also the bravest of our bunch. While they might all be regarded as decoys by the Trade Federation, he occasionally acts as decoy for his fellow Yakitoris. (So, I guess he's a decoy's decoy.)
-Zihan Yang (Chinese) mainly serves as strategist/tactician for our group. She's best described as an icy pragmatist.
-Tyrone Baxter (U.S.) is an amiable guy who's maybe just a little careless with the operation of his weapon.
-Amalia Schulz (British) has a tsundere attitude toward Akira, but is otherwise not that notable. Ditto for:
-Erland Martonen (Swedish). Erland wears what seem to be either mil-spec eyeglasses, or possibly snow goggles. (Well, he IS from a Northern European country, after all.)
The show often flashes back to our cast's military training. Apparently the Yakitori trainees before our group were "trained" in a way that common sense would predict to be an absolute failure, and so they absolutely failed. (The show DOES try to explain why the term "yakitori"- which is a Japanese grilled chicken dish- was applied to these cannon-fodder human conscripts; I thought the explanation was a bit contrived.)
No description of this show would be complete without one of its mascot. That would be the "Admin A.I.", a holographic anthropomorphic rabbit that relays communications between the Yakitori and the "top dogs". (Sorry, but literally true here.) It's constantly dancing (which would seem an unwanted distraction for soldiers in combat), and ends all its little speeches with a trilling flourish. This character is usually VERY annoying, but I have to admit that, in the closing credits, there's this weirdly intriguing confluence of Mozart, our ceaselessly dancing "bunny" A.I., and images of soldiers advancing across the screen in combat formation. It gave me a feeling I've never had before. Though it's not necessarily a feeling I'd like to have AGAIN.
As I said, mainly geared toward Starship Troopers fans, but at least without that show's polemics. You do WANT to root for our little cast here- or at least you WOULD want to, if they were a bit more substantial as characters. Not really bad- but not really GOOD, either. That "Admin A.I." does need to be consigned to the scrap heap of technology, though. Perhaps we should bury it under the floppy disks. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: A Riot of Rodentia Results in a River of Red. Netflix goes TV-MA, obviously for the graphic violence.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune © 2023 ARecT
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