I’ve noticed sort of a trend when writing my reiew posts. Quite a few of them can be summed up as: I know this is a bad show but I kinda liked it… And you have to figure that after watching anime for so many years, I should’ve started to pick up on a thing or two. I can tell when a show isn’t likely to be that great from the first few episodes, sometimes form a pic and a summary, yet I still watch them. Why do I do this to myself? Is there a drug out there that could help me? Is it prescription only? In an attempt to answer at least one of these questions, I rolled my sleeves up and really meditated on why I (and possibly some other people too) seem to enjoy “bad” anime.

I also meditate while watching tv…

First a note on “bad”. This is a subjective term and I can fully appreciate that you might genuinely think a show is great when others find it awful. Moreover, we anime fans (at least the non-Japanese speaking ones) tend to be very protective of our beloved entertainment and very passionate. Half of us try to avoid admitting anything anime-related is downright bad for fear of having availability to the medium reduced, while the other half declares all-new shows complete garbage on the very day they are announced. I’m exaggerating but you get it.

As such any sort of general consensus on the quality of anime is tough to find. What I would like to concentrate on here, is the entirely personal experience of watching a show, realizing for yourself that it’s lacking in many ways and then watching the next episode…and the next. Or even, impatiently looking forward to going home and catching up on the latest episodes of a show you would never recommend to anybody.

wait – it gets better, I promise

After some difficult soul searching and demon facing I’ve come up with a few reasons that apply to me:

Earnestness

There are shows that fail to live up to expectations, there are generally good shows that have some tragically flawed elements that ruin the whole, there are shows that think so highly of themselves and devolve into unwatchable pretentious torture, then there are those shows that gawd bless ‘em are just trying so hard… You know those shows. The ones that were obviously made with some middle school kid’s allowance. They lack resources, and maturity and possibly even some talent on the part of the creative and technical teams but they got pluck. You can feel the love for the craft, taste the effort, smell the dedication, see the absolutely horrible mess left behind on the screen. Those shows that are a bit like a 3-year-old eagerly offering you a cookie they made themselves (obviously with mud and what might be one of the cat’s hairballs?) and looking at you with expectation and love, waiting for you to eat it. I just want to pat those shows on the head. No, they aren’t good and no you shouldn’t watch them but man if they aren’t lovable. And I’m going to watch them!

yeah!!!

Accidentally hilarious

The magic of camp is well known across many mediums. There are people who build their entire careers trying to capture it. But real honest camp can only come about spontaneously. I love when a show takes itself so obviously seriously while having a script that is such utter nonsense that you doubt the translation. It’s those shows that I watch while talking back at my tv. Those shows you enjoy on a completely different basis but you still do enjoy. We’ve probably all had a Mystery Anime Theater 3000 party. It’s the best. In fact, I would argue that it’s a great way to introduce new people to anime. Not only will they laugh their little behinds off making fun of some poor, albeit deserving, little shows, but they’re likely to be super impressed by whatever they watch next!

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I’ll be honest, I have not watched this show but Google told me it fit the description

Easy

Who doesn’t love easy? Bad shows are undemanding. You won’t need to use your brain much. It’s ok if you wander away from the tv, you won’t miss a thing. They won’t make your eyes hurt because you forgot to blink for 10 minutes. They’re just kinda there. You can put them on and go on with your life. These shows will keep you company without ever asking anything of you in exchange. You got a bit of a headache? No problem, you can close your eyes for a few minutes. You’re tired? It’s all good, you can sleep through half an episode. Heck everyone just seems to be behaving at random anyways. You can watch 13 episodes in a single setting and never feel overwhelmed. Although it might explain the headache.

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less filling

No responsibilities

Maybe it’s just me but I have honest attachments to series and characters. Fictional events happening to imaginary people have a very real emotional impact on me. As great as this is, and certainly one of the big reasons for my continuing love of anime, it can be draining and in the worst-case scenario, depressing. Not when it’s bad though! If the narrative suddenly goes dark, I’m not going to feel bad about it. If the character I liked is mistreated by the writers and ends up a shell of their former selves or a no longer likable, incoherent homunculus, it’s all good I’ll just pick another character to like. It’s not like they’re that different or developed anyway. Heck, it might even be funny.

are there any other anime homunculi?

On a related note. Because I’m a fragile flower and all, I really feel the need to defend my favourite titles. I get hurt or a little insulted when someone thinks my favourite show isn’t the best thing in the universe. This blog is teaching me to let go of that! Still, it can be exhausting. There’s something very liberating about having someone tell you: that show sucks and being able to sweetly and honestly respond: I know! There’s even a confused little defiant rebel in me somewhere that takes twisted pride in wearing my poor taste like a badge of honour.

Image result for anime proud
Now I will explain why DRAMATical murder is underrated

Morbid curiosity

I’ll admit that sometimes bad shows are just plain bad. They’re not enjoyable at all no matter how high your endurance for trash may be. But tell me: when you keep hearing that something is THE WORST SHOW EVER, doesn’t some part of you want to see it. Maybe you want to really appreciate what that means so you can calibrate the scale in your mind. Maybe you’re a contrarian and you just want to find something, anything to latch onto so you can say it’s not that bad. Maybe it’s the same dark impulse that makes us desperate to see car accidents. Whatever the case, there is an undeniable appeal to the exceptional. And the fact that it’s bad means it probably won’t go over your head so…

Appreciation

To create a work of art that can be considered good on any level is a feat. Anime is a layering of dozens of different art forms that somehow have to work together as a cohesive whole. This is nothing short of magic. A bad anime once in a while is a good way to jolt us out of our complacency and remind us that creating animes is really really hard. Watch a couple of dubs from the 80s, you will never be able to ignore a good voice actor again. I get a real honest thrill from watching great anime. I can even get a lot of pleasure out of watching ok anime with some masterful elements. But I only recognize those elements because I’ve seen the alternative.  It’s a “you don’t really miss it till it’s gone” sort of thing.

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but once it’s gone…

 The hidden gems

No, I’m not talking about discovering an actually good show, that would go against the central thesis of this…essay(that sounds way too fancy). What I mean is that once in a blue moon, some absolutely dreadful schlock will put forward an interesting idea, usually underdeveloped and realized in the worst way possible but somewhere under all the trash, there may be a jewel. And since people don’t usually bother stealing from the worse and these shows will never get a second season, it can be your one and only chance to get exposed to some of those concepts. It’s a bit like winning the lottery but without getting any money. It’s nothing like winning the lottery.

Image result for anime winning the lottery
so close…

So did I convince you to go watch some rubbish? If so, you might want a drink first:

Suggested drink: Smoker’s cough – It’s Jagermeister and warm mayonnaise…

  • Every time the art is so inconsistent you don’t recognize a character – take a shot 
  • Every time a fight must be discussed in detail before the fighting can begin – take a shot
  • Every time a storyline is dropped without warning – take a shot
  • Every time you can only describe a character as “nice” – take a shot
  • Every time a plot resolves through deus ex machina – take a shot
  • Every time the animation defies physics – take a shot
  • Every time your description of a show includes the expression “it’s stupid but…” – take a shot 
  • Every time horrible behaviour is given a freudian excuse – take a shot
  • Every time you took a shot of Smoker’s Cough – brush your teeth
Image result for anime losers

29 thoughts

  1. I can’t really…… “decipher” what’s trash and what’s not. Like; this show “Oni-Ai” that I watched a long time ago- felt kind of trashy. It was this harem Light novel adaptation with attempted incest in it, and……I remember liking the opening’s visuals, and like 1 scene. But I don’t think i liked the show much.
    There’s some shows that I only watched to episode 1 and then stopped. But for a show like “So I’m A Spider? So What?” I really tried to stick with that series- made it all the way to episode 10. But…..it was just getting a little too boring and repetitive for my taste. But I think a vast majority of people liked that show. Then again; an overwhelming majority like “Neon Genesis” while I didn’t, so- maybe I’m just a weirdo.
    I even watched “School Days” just because i like the way it looked. Story wise- HATED IT. Art and animation wise- Fine show.

  2. When you explained the feel when you tell someone yes this show is trash but I still like it; I felt that in my soul. Not every anime is going to be a 10/10 masterpiece. Sometimes you stumble upon a series that’s a combo of all the factors you mentioned and it just resonates with you. After all there’s a saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure~ and that applies to anime.

  3. I love good pop-corn viewing. Whether it is movies or anime, sometimes ones that are technically bad just hit the spot for being entertainment that can just be enjoyed for what it is and it asks nothing more from you. That said, sometimes bad is just bad and you sometimes have to watch quite a few episodes before you can figure out if something is going to be entertainingly bad or just bad.

      1. I know. Usually it is around the ep 7 or 8 point but at that stage I feel kind of committed to finishing it even though it has become clear it is just not goid and it won’t even end up entertainingly bad.

  4. Honestly, for me it just boils down to morbid curiosity, eagerness. Accidental hilarity may be a consequence.

    1. I’m a skeptic when it comes to what people say. Unless I see it for myself and confirm it then I am highly likelier to dismiss it for the time being.
    2. There are times however when the premise of a show is genuinely interesting and catches my attention, so I’m kinda bound to check it out for myself for want of satisfaction.

    Case in point is Guilty Crown. A show that I had high expectations for, and then wrecked my mind as to how terrible it was, in such a way that I had no words but to express my feelings for it in comedic fashion. Or Evangelion even, which many people say is good but confusing, but turns out the lore and characters caught my heart and rocketed it to #1 on my list.

    1. Oh man, I quite enjoyed Guilty Crown. The ostentatious phallic symbols… The derivative storylines, stripped of their normal beats to maximize their silliness… The show’s super serious tone, juxtaposed with said silliness… Shu’s ridiculously sudden swings from Wimpy Shinji to Douchey Hitler to Christ our Lord & Savior… Our hero gallantly riding his puny Segway to battle with fuckin’ mechas… Last but not least, All-American legend DAN EAGLEMAN… I viewed the whole show as a glorious shitpost, a love letter to absurd action anime. Wonder if I’d find it funny today.

  5. I’ve always made the justification for liking “trash” anime as the fast food analogy. While having a Michelin Star restaurant-grade meal is the ideal scenario at any time of the day, sometimes you’re perfectly satisfied with the Taco Bell dollar menu.

  6. I love me an accidentally hilarious show! I recently introduced some of my friends to Dance with Devils, one of my guilty pleasure anime series, and they sadly didn’t appreciate it’s ridiculousness as much as I did. I laugh every time I watch that show and the boys burst into song.

      1. You should definitely watch Dance with Devils. I mean it’s got the iconic evil pomeranian choir, chanting “the grimoir, the grimoir, the forbidden grimoir”. It’s no Kamigami ni Asobi, but it’s still good, stupid fun (or so I thought).

  7. Lol… Personally, I think I fall under this category. However, by imagining the efforts of creators from an anime industry, I naturally have to respect them. This thereby lowers my overall expectations on any anime.

    1. I get what you mean although it sort of sounds like you think anime is not as good as other forms of media…

  8. Heheh- I am sneaking away from an assignment for a minute to take a break. I LOVE reading your posts!
    And yassss- you defend your right to liking a bad anime!
    Clamp’s Blood C is one that seems to be mostly hated, yet I love that one. Annnnnnd, I love the film Battlefield Earth, so there you go. XD
    Lastly, you are right about the morbid curiousity bit too. There is a reason why The Room has such a cult following.
    Thanks for this!

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