#1 Constant Discomfort
Chargeman Ken is a now-infamous anime that first aired in 1974. It chronicles the adventures of Ken Izumi; a young boy who lives in a futuristic era where Earth has become a utopia. Unfortunately, shapeshifting aliens called Juralians have decided that mankind is in need of a hefty pruning. Week after week they hatch crafty plans to eradicate mankind, which Ken has to foil with his superpowers.
It’s all very silly and simple. A pleasant little superhero show for children. Or that was the intention at least.
What Chargeman Ken lacks in complexity, it makes up for with sheer incompetence. It is such a strange series, in large part because it has such an uncanny atmosphere. No matter how simple the story, they always find a way to make it feel weird. The strange style of writing, the mismatched voice acting, and bizarre animation choices all come together to make Chargeman Ken feel uncomfortable.
We were constantly pointing out issues that made this anime feel strange, which is a fun exercise actually. If you want to learn how to critique anime, then picking apart a show like Chargeman Ken is very educational. One of our favorite talking points was how characters seemed weirdly psychotic at times. Even Ken—intended to be understood as a selfless hero—often came off as menacing. There are awkward pauses in animation and dialogue all over, which leave the screen centered on Ken, frozen in time, glaring intently at the audience or off into the distance. It’s like a creepypasta edit of an anime for kids.
#2 Impeccable Animation
Production of Chargeman Ken was notoriously turbulent. Much outsourcing was required to get this show made on less than a shoestring budget. Quality control was the first expense to go on the chopping block.
The level of jank on display here is unlike anything else in anime. Nothing ever looks right. Motion is either stilted or absent entirely. Static images will linger on screen for seconds and entire scenes are blatantly recycled over and over again. Little to no attempt was made to disguise any of this with creative directing work. It’s all on full display and occasionally it may even be colored in correctly.
This jank adds to my first point, in that it makes the show even more uncomfortable. Even at their best, characters animate like animatronics and their emotions look completely off. It is hilarious in a way that you have to see to believe. I can’t do justice to just how bad this show looks with my writing alone. I have failed you all.
#3 Sporadic Sound-Effects
If that wasn’t enough, Chargeman Ken also has issues with its audio. At least in the few instances where it has any audio whatsoever. A significant portion of the show takes place in dead silence. You get fight scenes where aliens get blasted with lasers and ships explode, with no sound-effects whatsoever. Not even a generic soundbyte; just nothing. Even when they do have sound-effects for those very same actions in other scenes.
As for background sound, Chargeman Ken mostly relies on its trusty theme song. An absolute crime against music and good taste, which will nevertheless worm its way into your brain. Days after watching it, you’ll find yourself humming this song, unsure of what it was again. Then you realize it’s the Chargeman Ken theme and a wave of dread washes over you. How deep has it ingrained itself into your psyche? How often have you hummed it without even realizing? Will Chargeman Ken be the last music to pass through your mind before you breathe your final gasp of air?