Bad anime are good, actually

How’s that for a contrarian title, eh? With so much anime out there, it’s inevitable that some of it is going to be rubbish. I am not going to argue that such series are misunderstood or underappreciated or anything. Chargeman Ken is just objectively bad. What I will argue is that bad anime have a lot to offer, particularly to those looking to get into reviewing anime.

A challenge for many budding reviewers is to develop confidence in their own authority. When do you have enough experience with anime that your opinions are “worth reading.” Most anyone can tell you whether they like or dislike a piece of media, but the job of a reviewer is to also articulate the why. Why is this anime good or bad? And from there, you want to get increasingly granular. Why does this anime’s story work or not? What makes its sound-effects impactful or not? Etc. Etc.

The only way to achieve this is by experiencing a wide variety of different anime. There’s no exact metric for this. No magic threshold like “watch 100 hours of anime” before you can become a reviewer. This is an ongoing process where you continuously expand your frame of reference. I am still doing this today. Every new anime I watch is yet another experience I can draw on in future reviews.

What makes this challenging in the field of anime is that few series are ever truly abysmal. Anime production is expensive and complicated, but due to a wealth of factors it rarely goes truly wrong. Even the bottom feeders of any new season will generally be at least presentable. While nice for the handful of people who will root for such series, this presents us with a limitation. If even bad anime are at least decent, then the actual worst they could be is only hypothetical.

This is what makes anime like Chargeman Ken, Mars of Destruction, Cleopatra, Twinkle Nora, Bobby’s Girl, and Condition Green so valuable. These are anime that are terrible on a scale that is otherwise incomprehensible to us. These are the “as bad as it can get” scenarios that we could otherwise only imagine. So by watching them, you get to broaden your frame of reference into new extremes.

There is so much to learn in anime like Chargeman Ken by studying their failures. For example, the importance of sound-effects and how they are mixed into the rest of an anime’s soundscape. You don’t quite appreciate how important the subtle nuances of sound-design are until you watch a show where half the effects are just missing entirely. Even the worst seasonal failures don’t let you experience that deep awkwardness when on-screen actions aren’t paired with any sound at all.

So to fellow and future reviewers alike, I recommend looking up these legendarily terrible anime. Not to enjoy them for their actual contents, but to experience just how bad anime could really be.

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