Ranking the Terribad
The almighty symbol of terribad.
For at least the next two days, I’ll be caught up with everything the SCCSAV terribad watch group has completed. (They’ve seen scattered episodes of Musashi Gundoh and Reign: The Conqueror, but as of this writing, they’re not finished with either.) Now that I’ve completed this utterly useless task, I figured why not put my newfound knowledge of awful anime to good use?
So here I present a (highly biased) guide to terribad — from the ones I enjoy most to the ones I enjoy least, because that is obviously how such a list should progress. Enjoy!
(P.S. There are multiple pages to this for you folks on Google Reader. Haha, you have to come here to finish the post!)
1. Popee the Performer
What is it?: Popee, a clown in a bunny suit, spends his days at a circus with Kedamono, a wolf who wears masks to express emotions. They do lovely things like magic, juggling and slicing into each other with chainsaws. And sticking swords through their bodies. And chucking bombs at each other.
What?!: The fun doesn’t really begin until Papi, the owner of the circus, is introduced. Then they graduate to hypnosis, mirror worlds and bringing darkness upon half the world by cleaving the sun in two.
Your fear: Popee and friends feed on it. It is what keeps them young.
Popee the Performer is twisted in the most wonderful way. If the shorts (each episode is four minutes long) consisted merely of Popee and friends destroying each other in horrible ways, then the show would eventually grow stale. Cartoonishly gruesome violence is fun for only so long. What keeps Popee fresh, however, is the sheer lunatic imagination poured lovingly into every scenario. This series has some of the most inspired Looney Tunes-esque logic I’ve seen in any piece of fiction, much less anime. It’s something I love dearly: creators taking an already bizarre scenario and exploring it to its logical conclusion. Every time I thought I had Popee figured out, it would surprise me with something both terrifying and hilarious.
I am not joking when I say I legitimately love Popee the Performer with all my heart. I want more Popee. I need more Popee. I must have more Popee.
2. Kenya Boy
What is it?: The inspiring journey of a young Japanese boy who teams up with a Masai warrior to battle Nazis, giant animals, and African tribesman who inexplicably become white at one point.
What?!: There are also dinosaurs.
Number of drugs the director took before making it: Just one, but it was really strong.
Kenya Boy is magnificent. I honestly hope that one day someone like Mike Toole will write a massive article detailing how this crazy movie ever got made. Even during the 1980s when anime studios were dropping dollars everywhere, the fact that this movie was actually created and released is inexplicable. But boy am I glad it was made. In the three times I’ve written about this movie here, I’ve never written about the craziest parts, even just now when I casually dropped the fact that there are dinosaurs in this movie. Just drop everything and watch it now.
3. Mad Bull 34
What is it?: Daizaburo “Eddie” Ban (whose name is probably Daizaburo Edi-Ban, or something similar, but the other way is funnier) is a rookie cop in New York’s most dangerous precinct. He is teamed up with John “Sleepy” Estes aka Mad Bull, who is the most infamous cop on the force, a renegade, someone who doesn’t play by the rules. And by “doesn’t play by the rules,” I mean “he blows the brains out of petty thieves.”
What?!: And he never gets punished for it even once.
Number of awkward sex scenes: Three that I remember, but there might be more.
Mad Bull 34, if taken seriously, is utterly reprehensible. It’s an early ’90s OVA, so there’s a ton of violence, rape, and general nastiness toward women, and if they had figured out a way to get some tentacles up in this joint, they probably would have made a token appearance, as well. However, I can’t truly be offended by this OVA because it’s just so god damn goofy. Marriage is used not once, but twice (!!!) to resolve storylines. Daizaburo and Sleepy crossdress frequently. The Manga UK dub adds another layer of hilarity — goofy New York accents, and a gloriously offensive episode involving a Chinese gang, where every member has a racist Chinese accent despite some members clearly being black and white. The whole thing is basically the dumbest, most violent and racist sitcom ever.
4. Garzey’s Wing
What is it?: Chris is your average whiny anime lead who suddenly gets whisked a way by a ghostly duck into a medieval world where an intense war is going on. Also, there are dinosaurs! And his sword is incredibly dull! Somehow only Chris’ soul is whisked away to this world, but it’s solid, and he can communicate with his body back on Earth, and did I mention there are dinosaurs?
What?!: Yoshiyuki Tomino actually wanted this world — which also features in Aura Battler Dunbine — to be his legacy over Gundam.
Yamato Takeru no Mikoto: Damn you!
Yep, this crazy mess of nonsense is the brainchild of Gundam‘s creator. This is perhaps the most “famous” terribad anime — it was my gateway into this craziness. Part of its terribad appeal is Tomino crunching at least a single cours of storylines into three half-hour long OVAs. Absolutely nothing makes sense because every plotline is sped through before it has a chance to make sense. The other part of its appeal is, of course, the English dub. It is maybe the worst English anime dub ever recorded. Not a single correct inflection is used, nor are any emotions expressed that any human being would understand. The first episode in particular is a whirlwind of hilariously awful acting and writing. Garzey’s Wing is truly an experience.
5. Angel Cop
What is it?: At an undefined point in the future, Japan has become swarmed with terrorism. Angel is a cop who fights for justice through ultraviolence. Her bloodlust sees her squared off first against a communist organization, and then a band of psychics . . . and a conspiracy that goes straight to the top. And there are cyborgs.
What?!: It turns out that The Jews Did It, but not in the English dub.
Number of early ’90s rock icons: One. Slash is totally one of the psychics. Prove me wrong.
Angel Cop has much of the same appeal as Mad Bull 34, except its goofiness is born through stone-faced seriousness. Everything has so much gravity and direness in Angel Cop. It’s so morose that it turns around and becomes pleasing to watch. Once again, part of that is the hilarious English dub, helpfully provided by Manga UK’s wonderful practice of punching dialogue up with as much swearing as humanly possible. There are many infamous lines — “FUCK AND PISS!!!!!!!” is perhaps the funniest use of gratuitous swearing ever — but my favorite bit is when the Other Lady Cop on the Force flips out at Angel and ends her conversation with, “Anyway, see you tomorrow, Ice Bitch.” She’s so mild-mannered before then!
6. Legend of Duo
What is it?: So there’s this stuff called prana, and humans are losing their prana, and are dying as a result. However, a vampire called Duo tells humans the secret of prana so that they may live. But this ain’t cool, so a vampire named Zieg — who was turned into a vampire by Duo — is going to punish Duo because Prana Is Bad. Or something.
What?!: Look, I don’t remember any of this shit.
Number of episodes spent flashbacking by a brick wall: Four.
Legend of Duo was once the cheapest anime I’d ever seen, but it has since been topped by other anime to come. However, take whatever you believe to be the cheapest-animated show this season, and Duo beats it handily. There is no action in Duo; hell, there isn’t even act. It’s more like ac. It has a story that you need to be Landon to understand. And flashbacks . . . mountains of flashbacks. There’s also puppy kicking. And I think the dog turns into a vampire at some point? And the Shiki Owl. Fear the Shiki Owl. This would be ranked higher if it had the awful English dub it deserves.
7. Vampire Wars
What is it?: Kuki Koshaburo is a KGB-trained Japanese badass who is wrangled into a mission by the French: He’s to track an actress who is being watched by the CIA . . . and by vampires. So he does what any KGB-trained secret agent would do, and he totally bones her. And he also blows up vampires.
What?!: The vampires are also from space. They are space vampires.
Cocksucking: It’s now an adjective. Vampire Wars has spoken.
This is basically an ’80s action movie with space vampires. If that doesn’t make you want to watch it, then I don’t know what will. And yet again, we have ourselves a hilarious Manga UK dub. It doesn’t have one line that is funnier than anything you’d hear in Mad Bull 34 or Angel Cop, but the totality and ridiculousness of the swearing makes it a worthy successor to the throne. It really is beautiful.
8. The Prince of Tennis: The Two Samurai, The First Game
What is it?: A group of middle schoolers who look and sound much older than they are go onto a cruise ship for high-stakes tennis matches. And by “high stakes” I mean that people actually gamble on middle schoolers playing tennis.
What?!: They also killed the dinosaurs, as seen in the above video.
Most obvious adult on the team: This guy. There’s no fucking way he’s actually in middle school.
Um, it’s a ridiculous shonen movie about middle schoolers who play tennis with ridiculous shonen moves. There’s not much more to it than that. I remember it fondly because it was the first anime I watched with the terribad group.
9. Mars of Destruction
What is it?: Monsters called “Ancients” are popping up all over Tokyo, and a crack group of teenage fighters must destroy them. Then there’s a shocking twist.
What?!: And when you decapitate people, blood flows out of their necks like steam escaping a pipe.
It turns out it’s man: Yes.
Mars of Destruction is . . . something. Bless the creators for wanting to tell this story with all their heart, but it makes Ed Wood look like Martin Scorsese. There’s so much story woefully crammed into 19 minutes that even early ’90s OVAs are like, “WHOA SHIT, SON, SLOW DOWN.” There’s absolutely no reason to care, and that’s why I care so much. The creators hope beyond hope that the simple existence of this story is enough to get people to buy into it, and doggone it, I can’t shit on such earnestness.
10. The Laws of Eternity
What is it?: A bland goof, his bland love interest and two other bland goofs invent a spirit phone based on work by Thomas Edison (that he probably stole from Nikola Tesla). Somehow this works, and they are whisked away on a three-day, two-night stay in the luxurious world of Heaven, where they receive a wonderful tour courtesy of a flying Native American spirit. Unfortunately, this is just not good enough for the less important bland goofs, and they are sent to Hell, from where they must be rescued.
What?!: Guess whom they fight in Hell? If you said the Devil, you’re wrong. It’s Nietzsche and Hitler!
The greatest battle in history: Angelic mecha vs. Hellephant commanded by Hitler.
The Laws of Eternity is the most Happy Sciencey of the Happy Science movies I have seen (the others are to come shortly). It has the requisite beyond strange set-up, loads of dull talking, and then out of nowhere it smacks the viewer with some insane scenario that likely came about because the creators were bored. Nobody could ever be drawn to the loving embrace of Happy Science via the ham-handed, clumsily moralistic writing their movies consistently employ. On the other hand, seeing Hitler stomp around angrily because an angel mecha beat the shit out of his Hellephant has made me want to join a cult more than ever before. Maybe these cultists are on to something.