It’s been a while since I looked at a series for kids. Usually the anime I get requests for are for a more teenage audience, if not older. Enter Kyattou Ninden Teyandee, an anime from the early 90s. It was brought to us by Tatsunoko Production. You may remember them from my review of C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control. You may also know them from that game they partnered with Capcom to make. It was written by Sekijima Mayori & Akahori Satoru, the man behind Bakuretsu Hunters. If the pink cat girl strips into bondage gear to fight I’m going to be very unhappy but not surprised.
In the great city of Edoropolis, a bunch of animaloids go about their everyday lives. Unfortunately for them, part of that life is mecha attacks from the crow ninja faction in their ceaseless efforts to overthrow the shogun and install the economic Minister Korn as the new shogun. Fortunately, they have the secret Nyanki ninja trio on their side. The Nyanki trio, comprised of Yattarou, Pururun and Skashee, shows up to wipe out the darkness and ensure another fine day in Edoropolis. The episodes generally follow the basic pattern of Korn and his right-hand crow, Gennari, sending their crow ninja and some variety of mecha under the command of Karamaru to execute some plan to overthrow the government only to have the Nyanki show up to foil their plan. The episodes do have an order to them, but it’s largely unimportant since most of them are pretty self-contained.
Let’s start by discussing one of the odd things about the series. It’s not really bad, it’s just strange. Mainly, Edoropolis would probably be better off if the villain won. Here’s the thing, Korn is transparently evil but the shogun is a blithering fool and Princess Usa sends people away to prison island because they mildly annoy her. If Korn knew how to use PR he could probably get the public on his side pretty easily, even while still being obviously evil. Something like: “Hello, Citizens. Our fair city has the potential to be one of the greatest in the world. Are you tired of being held back by an incompetent shogun? Are you tired of having to be on guard so that you don’t get arbitrarily sent to prison island by his daughter? Edoropolis deserves better. We deserve a leader with a strong intellect. A leader who can’t be bothered to send people to prison island unless they actually commit a crime. Support Ktulu in overthrowing the government. He may be an evil, eldritch genius, but he’s also mentally stable and a genius. Ktulu, because evil is better at leading than stupid.” The point her is, it wouldn’t be difficult to make yourself look like a better choice than the brat who sends people away on a whim and the village idiot. Plus, acknowledging that you’re evil would be refreshingly honest for a politician.
Let’s talk about the things that the series doesn’t do well. I’m not going to criticise it for being simple or even formulaic, given the target audience, however, there are still problems with it. First we have the narrator. Basically, he chimes in almost every episode to explain the obvious and repeat the same titbit about Yattaro’s special attack. Hate to break it to you, but kids are not that stupid. They don’t need this character. Admittedly, there are some funny fourth wall breaking scenes with him, but they’re few and really not worth his dragging things out. Moving into the subject of humour, there are two reoccurring “gags” in this that really don’t work. The first is that Korn cross-dresses. There are circumstances in which cross-dressing can be amusing. The “Some Like it Red” episode from Due South, and the whole Bob scenario from Blackadder but if you look at those you’ll notice that there’s more to the scenario than just a guy in women’s clothing and that’s the entire joke in this. Maybe they were trying to dumb it down for children, but in doing so they also lost the potential for humour. Let the dude wear a lady’s kimono, it’s not a big deal. The second is the dirty old man joke. After a while, the Nyanki go to enlist the aid of a “great scientist” named Nekomata and, it turns out, he’s just a dirty old man. It’s funny because he… gropes women and makes them uncomfortable? There are also way too many recap episodes in this. Why do they even need recap episodes in a series where there’s no over-arcing story?
On a positive note, the comedic aspects of the series do mostly work pretty effectively. I also like that they can make fun of themselves and that they try variations for most of their reoccurring jokes in order to keep them fresh. The series is pretty entertaining too. If I were watching this as a kid I’d definitely like it more, but even as an adult they have some clever and entertaining parts. I appreciate that every single member of the Nyanki group, including their non-combatant support, Otama, gets their own chance to shine and act as the hero for at least an episode.
There’s not much to most of the characters. They follow basic tropes or, if they’re a side character, they might be used for a running joke or two. To be fair, that’s adequate given the target audience. The major exception is Karamaru who, surprisingly, gets a story arc where he legitimately develops and grows as a character. Even the main heroes don’t have that. When they need to power up they just go a place and acquire a thing. Their characters stay the same. I also like that Karamaru shows hesitation over what he’s ordered to do and questions whether or not it’s for the best. Honestly, it makes him the most compelling character in the series.
Let me start by acknowledging that the art is really dated by today’s standards. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s try to look at it more from the perspective of its time. The biggest flaw is just that the studio is kind of lazy. There are a lot of recycled scenes in this series, and not just the transformation and special attack sequences. Maybe they just thought that kids wouldn’t notice. In spite of that, however, there is a charm to the art style and a lot of the enemy mecha designs are pretty creative. The character designs are pretty interesting too, although this is one of those series where the characters don’t bother hiding their secret identities except by slightly changing their clothes and that works, somehow. I’ll still give them credit on those counts.
They got a pretty decent cast in this. Yamaguchi Kappei, Orikasa Ai and Kosugi Juurouta take on the roles of our main trio and they all do well. The best performance comes from Yamadera Kouichi as Karamaru. He gives quite a splendid performance, but that’s balanced out by Sawaki Ikuya’s performance as Korn. It sounds like he swallowed something and its kind of stuck in his throat. I’m sure he was told to sound like that, but it’s still pretty grating. The music is decent enough.
There’s a little bit. It’s implied that Korn has romantic feelings for Gennari. Especially towards the end of the series. This is largely treated as humorous, for some odd reason.
Kyattou Ninden Teyandee is a pretty decent series. There are certainly parts that don’t work and are kind of problematic but it’s still a fairly enjoyable series overall. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. Next week I’ll look at something a bit darker and more adult, Gankutsuou.