Host: Brian T. Price (Tinfoil Pyramid Hats)
You know, when we stop to think about it, things are pretty good for anime fans these days. We have immediate access to the biggest and best shows from Japan, even as they’re airing. Moreover, with the help of social media and a fandom press that’s eagerly analyzing shows as they hit the various streaming platforms.
It’s hard to believe that just twenty years ago, our biggest source for anime was the local Suncoast Video… and a few years before that, the local video store. The shows would months old at their newest and, unless you had another friend in the hobby, your only indicator of a show’s quality came from the boxart and back-of-case blurb.
Every time you picked up a new title, you rolled the dice. Would you find a gem like The Slayers, or would you find something that was so bad that simply watching it would constitute a war crime?
You think I’m exaggerating, but it really was that bad. For every Fushigi Yugi or Gunsmith Cats, you had a dozen pieces of dreck like The Humanoid, Angel Cop, or Geneshaft.
Every so often, though, you find a rare, despoiled jewel. These are the experiences that are irredeemably awful, but somehow amazing in that awful “car crash at rush hour” way. I’m talking about those shows like Mad Bull, Magnos, and Garzey’s Wing. These horrors of the anime world, these befouled beauties, are a fascination in and of themselves.
For the past eighteen years, Brian T. Price has taken on the role of a truth-teller. Every year, he makes his way to the proverbial dumpster fire that’s been burning for generations, and presents his findings to the world. The experienced fans are faced with flashbacks, as they remembe the fear of God that came with those weekend Blockbuster runs. The doe-eyed newcomers, meanwhile, are given a harsh lesson that anime can bring as much pain as it does enjoyment. Innocence is lost, and regret becomes an immediate senstation for many in the room.
All the while, Price remains onstage, delivering a presentation that’s part stand-up act, part parade of horribles. He needles and skewers these terrible titles with a dry sense of humor and an ever-present snark, sometimes barely hiding the glee he has as he ruins these titles that he had worked so hard to unearth.
I’m not sure if it’s a love of the grotesque, Stockholm Syndrome, or the fact that people are as warped as I am, but thousands line up to catch Bad Anime, Bad! every year. Some go it alone, while others, who I’ll refer to as “les fans terribles“, drag their buddies and loved ones into the room like lambs to the slaughter. Over the years, the event’s grown steadily, from a humble one-room panel, to a defining headline act for Anime Boston.
I talked with Price ahead of this year’s convention, and he offered just one hint to the headlining act: it would be informed heavily by this year’s theme of “To The Stars…”.
Needless to say, this allowed a lot of room for speculation.
This year, Price had a full three hours to work with. As I settled into the room, I could hear people murmuring about what they were hoping to see. After all, there was plenty of time to break the audience’s spirits!
As the room packed with people, a timer ticked down to the start of the event. As the clock began its ceaseless count, a simple synth and drum riff joined sounds of Mission Control over the PA system. Within moments, a familiar series of chords could be heard, slowly amping up before Geddy Lee’s unmistakable vocals kicked in.
It was Countdown, by influential Canadian rock group Rush.
From there, the room grew quiet, as the timer continued its cruel march down to zero. Amid the chatter, David Bowie’s iconic opening to Space Oddity could be heard. It was hard not to hear folks in the crowd starting to sing along as the late legend’s voice rang out through the room.
As silence settled in again, it became clear that the time for despair and schadenfreude was nigh. Still, one last track kicked on as the final minutes ticked away: Starship Trooper by Yes. Specifically, the final, spacey Würm portion of the ten-minute epic was used.
As the clock hit zero, the lights dimmed, and the Crowd Safety video kicked on. This time, though, things were different. The intro, which had been drilled into fans’ heads by now, included new in-jokes about Wandering Perspective Man and other portions, before breaking into the normal spiel.
There was no time to really think about it, though, as the lights onstage kicked on, and Price made his way onstage to thunderous applause and cheering. Clad in a “Le Corbeau Noir” shirt and dark sunglasses, he was ready for a night of action.
This was the start of Bad Anime, Bad!’s 18th season, and he was ready to bring the pain. “I want to see paint peeling off the walks back there,” he bellowed as he gestured to the back of the room.
For his first act, Price would bring out the big guns: a 100% new entry to the roster of the rotten: Defenders of Space. For the uninitiated, this was a second feature from the folks who created the infamous Protectors of Universe. And, like its sibling show, the title is irredeemably awful. Likewise, the title was a staple at dollar stores for longer than any of us feel comfortable admitting.
From the very beginning, Defenders of Space did not disappoint. Poorly animated footage showed the birth of a planet, cutting from lava flows, to badly-done rain and lightning. As lightning struck, a massive (and clearly ripped off) phoenix spread its wings, before fading into a bird-shaped rock formation.
It was here that Price paused for the first time, exclaiming “Behold! Turkey Hill! …anybody want some ice cream?” Without skipping a beat, he added that the phoenix was ripped directly from Tezuka’s classic Phoenix.
This would become a hallmark through Defenders of Space, in which Price would pause the action to deliver snark, or just marvel at how screwed up the on-screen action had been. Those who could wrench their eyes away from the carnage could spy Price fiddling with his camera, as he captured the crowd’s reactions.
The first of these “camera moments” came shortly after the Turkey Hill incident, when one of the film’s villains (they have to be villains! They’re blue!) stormed into the room and performed a perfect Nazi salute, to the shrieks and cackles of the crowd.
Shortly afterwards, the film jumped ahead, to a game of space baseball. Yes, space baseball. Laced with idiotic animation choices and enough casual sexism to make even the mansplainers of the world take a moment to rethink their life choices.
The scene quickly escalates as the unnamed heroine literally stumbles upon a bird necklace, and the evil army goes on the offensive. As they were unmatched in might and numbers, these plucky kids obviously found a way to strike back… with clearly-cel-animated rubble (“Yay, murder”!)
But, anyway, the kids find their way to the friendly scientist’s secret base (which the enemy clearly knew about in advance, as they were dropping bombs on it), where the audience would witness some of the absolute worst sci-fi schlock known to man. Seriously, the writing in this makes Honey I Shrunk the Kids look like a master’s dissertation in comparison.
To this point, everyone was watching an expert’s class in sci-fi schlocked, laced with crap science, casual sexism, and a plot that would make even the most starry-eyed viewers roll their eyes in disbelief. The animation was awful, and numerous characters looked, as Price put it “as if [the artist] tried to draw [them] on quaaludes.” It didn’t seem like things could possibly get worse.
How wrong this supposition was.
Things just continued down the path to disaster. Somehow, the obvious-plot-device necklace summoned a phoenix, which in-turn summoned a giant robot that could only be described as “Mech-a-Jagger.” The grand sequence where the robot began its counterattack was poorly animated, with skipped tweens and a presentation that could only be described as… wait… what’s the opposite of sakuga again?
With the enemies nearly beaten, the and the evil empire’s robots and destroyers crushed, the big bad had just one option left. It wasn’t a secret weapon or an experimental craft. It was… The Midget Ships.
Yes, The Midget Ships. Against an unstoppable giant robot. Victory came quickly, and the evil overlord was defeated, leaving a blaze on the human city.
The room erupted in applause and laughter as the film reached peak stupidity, when the magical phoenix robot transformed a fire truck, because “why not”? The laughter roared louder in the final scene, when a random character declared “well, we’ve been able to solve our illegal immigrant problem,” when discussing the invading forces. This was so absurd that Price had to rewind the segment twice, to let the sheer idiocy of the moment set in.
As the end credits began to roll, Price quickly switched to a chaser: “Defenders of Copyright,” which he put together. It was a detailed rundown that listed several of the many blatant examples of copyright infringement found within the feature.
With the film finished, there was still nearly two hours to fill, which meant that it was audience choice time. It was a chance to let the veterans really crush the spirits of the newcomers, with some of the worst that the anime world has to offer.
While there were some calls from the cult of Xerxes “Tire Iron” Dada for a Magnos run, Protectors of Universe won out by a wide margin. In the abbreviated showing, Price ran through the elements that have come to define the show, highlighting the stolen mechs and awful sound effects, as well as the ongoing exploits of “Worst James Bond Ever,” General Larry.
He paused and snarked at the signature moments, which included giant robot Bazinga 7’s first sortie, the second sortie (the one where the space train full of children inserted itself firmly in the robot’s butt. God, I never thought I’d write that in an article. What am I doing with my life?), and a scene a scene where General Blackman faces his superior… in which said ruler cries “Jump, Blackman, JUMP!” with incredible enthusiasm.
Throughout, the room could be heard laughing along, as Price’s sarcasm and wisecracking elevated this travesty into a must-see once again.
Following the Joseph Lai double feature, Price would run through what could be argued as a “greatest hits” from previous years. Doozy Bots and Rambo, and The Governator served as palette cleansers from the awful, before Price dove straight into a shortened showing of Magnos The Robot.
Fans had little to fear, though, as the most absurd elements were all given their time in the spotlight. This includes the implausible flying aircraft carrier base, the overly long and complicated transformation sequence, and the idiotic monsters (Seriously… Octopud IV? What happened to I – III?). Price even included a supercut of every single time a character uttered “Xerxes ‘Tire Iron’ Dada” with a straight face!
The room roared with laughter as Price struggled to explain the sheer stupidity of Magnos in general, a giant robot who can’t even fly because he has to use the two ships the heroes launched in as handheld rockets. Ultimately, it led to the comedic revelation, as he bellowed “You suck, Magnos!”
From the mecha madness of Magnos, Price dove into supercuts of classic schlock shows Vampire Wars and Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned. In both cases, the audience howled and giggled along, as Price pointed out the sheer stupidity of both shows (and believe me, there is a lot of stupidity to go around).
From Vampire Wars’ psychopath who suddenly wants to save the world, to Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned’s now-legendary “wheelchair swordfighting” scene, Price didn’t hesitate to amp up the absurdity with a wisecrack.
As the credits rolled on Dracula, Price noted that there wasn’t enough death and destruction… and it was time to fix that. He loaded up the 1981 classic, The Monster of Frankenstein. Well… the last moments, which saw the climactic death of The Monster, followed by an ending that can only be described as “going out with a bang.”
For his final feature, Price went back to what is arguably the most popular part of the show, Garzey’s Wing. He loaded a digest that he first prepared in 2013, which showcased the most absurd moments. Throughout the feature, giggles turned to delighted laughter, mixed with the occasional cry of “what is this?!” from those who weren’t properly warned.
As the screen went dark, the room broke out in cheers once again. Price took to the state to give a “preview” for next year, putting up a slide that read “BAB 10.0: The show must (not) go on,” in a cheeky nod to the Evangelion films. And, with that, the night was over. Thousands began to file out into the Hynes, partly scarred, but mostly amused by the three hours of insanity that had ensued that evening. It was another year of bad (and bad for you) anime, elevated by hilariously sarcastic commentary, that would go on to be the stuff of legends and infamy.