Just about every anime fan goes through a similar progression as they get into the fandom. They’re lured in by the promise of the best and brightest. Shows like Cowboy Bebop, Sword Art Online, and One-Punch Man pull fans into the bubble with experiences that are tight, polished, and pure joy to watch. In that light, anime becomes the precious cinnamon roll: warm, welcoming, and utterly flawless in a world gone mad.
After all, anime couldn’t possibly be bad… can it?
For the past seven years, Brian T. Price has made it a personal mission to show these bright-eyed fans just how wrong they are. Each year, Price pulls a selection of shows from the digital morgue and places their remains on display in a parade of horribles. It’s half presentation, and half stand-up act, as Price skewers each work with verbal barbs and a healthy dose of snark.
Whether it’s a love of the grotesque, the early stages of Stockholm Syndrome, or straight-up masochism, fans line up year after year to catch the spectacle, often dragging their friends along for the ride. The crowds seem to grow in orders of magnitude. What began as a humble panel has become a headlining act, taking up nearly two hours and filling the Hynes Convention Center’s cavernous Hall D. This year proved to be no different as, in the lead-up to the event, a line snaked around the entire perimeter of the Hynes’s second floor.
Fans were here to watch as the train screamed off the rails in a fiery, inescapable blaze of awful. And, for better or worse, Price was more than happy to deliver.
This year, Price took the stage to a thunderous roar of applause from the crowd. Once the noise settled, he explained the events, its origins, and the “season” approach to producing Bad Anime, Bad!, which sees selective revivals of classic content that may be new for first-timers. He continued, explaining that a bad dub isn’t enough for inclusion, nor is the fact that he simply didn’t enjoy it. These were grade-A, bona-fide garbage.
He continued, explaining that, while this year’s convention had a Undokai (Sports Day) theme, he couldn’t find anything actually produced that would be a fitting addition to the lineup. Instead, he took a trip to the well of pitched content to find a series called Doozy Bots. At first blush, this seems like a typical Saturday morning cartoon: a random scientist aims to keep those damn kids off his lawn by ridding the world of fun. To combat them, the kids need to transform into a bunch of sports-loving robots.
Then the horror sets in, as the shocking truth comes to life.
I’ll let that image burn into your mind for a moment.
Doozy Bots was an ill-conceived attempt by Sunrise to introduce SD Gundam to the North American audience. Though it didn’t get past the planning phases, the show proved more than enough to inspire several loud cries of “What?!” from the audience.
With the audience warmed up, Price turned to the main event. Tonight’s feature was a little-known OVA, based on a successful novel series by Kiyoshi Kasai. It featured espionage, international intrigue, and vampires.
Some cheered, others were puzzled as the opening moments of Vampire Wars began to roll.
For the uninitiated, Vampire Wars is a 50-minute dumpster fire. On paper, the premise shows promise. Hired gun Kuki Kosaburo is dragged into a growing incident between the United States and France. Beneath the surface, though, a much more sinister force looms. Mysterious murders, in which victims are drained of their blood, are on the rise, and the killers’ next target is a key figure in Kosaburo’s mission. Now, he must protect the person of interest while somehow stopping the killers that are terrorizing Paris.
Again. On paper, there’s potential for a good time. In practice, though, Vampire Wars is a beautiful train wreck. Wooden characters clash against possibly the second worst vampire in anime history as they stumble through a plot that manages to be over-complicated, yet entirely shallow at the same time. It’s a wonderfully dire blend of violence, sex, and extreme anti-American sentiment that goes so far to the realms of excess that it becomes a self-parody.
And then there’s Muraki: the unsung hero of Vampire Wars, whom the major cast members continually take advantage of. He’s a battle-ready badass who, in his two appearances, manages to be more intriguing than the rest of the cast, even though his official designation is “doormat.”
For Price, Vampire Wars was a rarity. it was only the second feature that he was able to show in its entirety (minus a short segment that is, as he called it, “intense sexual violence”), without the need to cut. The film is so absurd, so awfully executed that it writes its own jokes.
Granted, Price helped. In his typical fashion, Price paused and offered his delightfully snarky insights, and rewound to highlight particularly awful moments. Well-timed jabs combined his hilarious boosting of Muraki through the film, as laughter echoed through the hall.
On that note, never again will I be able to look at the main antagonist as anything more than Lucius Malfoy gone goth.
With Vampire Wars over, it was prize time! Price threw a ball out into the crowd, which sent dozens of attendees diving to grab at the chance for a humorous prize. The winner this time received something that fit the theme: a Twilight board game.
With the excitement over and time to burn, Price looked out upon the crowd, and took tally of the new victims this year.
The poor bastards.
The next victim in the lineup was a perennial favorite. It was a pilot for a series that could only be described as an animated ego trip, funded by an actor who was on the outs.
That’s right, readers, he showed Governator.
This was followed quickly by a brief recap of Garzey’s Wing, showcasing some of the OVA’s greatest sins. The awful dubbing, the nonsensical dialogue, the offensively stupid leaps of logic, Wandering Perspective Man… everything was crystallized into a five-minute synopsis, and it was beautiful.
The final showcase in this year’s freak show was Attack of the Super Monsters: a 1982 joint project by Tsuburaya Productions, which blended traditional animation with live-action rubber suited monsters. It’s set in the year 2000, and dinosaurs found refuge near the center of the Earth. There, they gained hyper intelligence, with the evil Lord Tyrannosaurus taking the role of their leader. With his army of slaves, Tyrannosaurus pushes forward to try to take over the surface. Some things happen, dogs turn red and evil, and it’s just a mess.
It’s as nonsensical as it sounds, I assure you. Still, Price made it work with perfectly timed snark that elevated the feature and kept the room abuzz with laughter.
For a seventh year running, Price was able to spin crap into gold. Price’s animated presence on-stage, whether he’s face-palming, groaning, or taking a hard swigs of his Natural Brew Outrageous Ginger Ale, were a mirror for the emotions that fans held deep within. He paused, rewound, and inserted commentary as he highlighted the extra cringe-worthy points of each title, making sure that no degree of nuance escaped the crowd.
It was another unforgettable experience, which wouldn’t be easily forgotten. As the audience filed into the halls of the Hynes, discussions on how awful Vampire Wars could get, or whether Doozy Bots was an abomination against mankind could be heard among the excited chatter. Though they came for the bad anime, fans stayed for an entertainment experience that was truly offbeat and fun.
By the end of the event, an excited murmur could be heard through the crowd, as people filed toward the doors. Discussions of which title took the crown of “worst in show”, and chatter about favorite moments could be heard from attendees as they headed toward the doors. Fans looking for a fun evening were certainly rewarded, in the most offbeat way possible.