12 Days of Meditations #9: Terribad

Terribad. It’s a special breed of anime that is “so bad that it’s good”. How does this work? Surely something full of bad writing, bad art, or bad animation shouldn’t be entertaining, right? Are some people really just masochists, trying to judge which is the worst anime ever made with their own eyes?

(While “trainwreck” anime could fall into this label, I’d rather not consider them, as the trainwreck label is more a result of a bandwagon. And please, please, stop using the word “trainwreck”.)

Anyone who isn’t a snob can tell you that even bad movies or shows could be fun. The brain isn’t entirely an aesthete–sometimes it feasts upon more primal, visual urges, like explosions or skin. Sometimes it revels in the weird and the ugly, of which only an accident of gross incompetence could bring.

The secret of terribad lies in others, in the magic of discussion (and perhaps some mind-altering substances). These works inspire us to sharpen our mocking wits, to pool them with fellow pilgrims, walking barefoot over the show’s coals. Our shared experience turns the agony into ecstasy, as long as we maintain our sense of humor. For we would not throw ourselves upon these works alone, our thoughts unsounded–that would be sheer masochism! Who would take on Tomino’s magnum opus alone, without telling anyone the tale?

Is this ironic? No! I shudder to call this a guilty pleasure. Take no shame in enjoying such works! There’s more than enough shame in the fandom already.

What I appreciate about terribad anime is that it turns a mostly solitary endeavor (watching a cartoon) into a community effort. When someone unearths a particularly bad and obscure show, a gold rush happens. We congregate in the sofa, in Skype, or keep in touch at the very least, as the hammy dub acting turns our brain into soup, and imaginative gore melts our faces off. It reminds us that this, in the end, is entertainment, and the most important thing is to be entertained.

Unless you are paid to do all this. My sympathies, then.

PS: Bad translations are also a thing. If you think certain fansub groups are bad, wait until you watch HK subs

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9 Responses to 12 Days of Meditations #9: Terribad

  1. Shinmaru says:

    “For we would not throw ourselves upon these works alone, our thoughts unsounded–that would be sheer masochism!”

    Twitter is the only thing that keeps me from being a masochist. 😦

  2. Be straightforward here and say that I’m not sure you’re responding to my post, jumping off an idea, or completely doing your own thing. Happy to be thought of no matter what.

    Religious imagery is a good way to tease out the nuances. You make a interesting point about reverence. That’s the idea behind camp, after all—you relish bits of text that stick out to you. The idea, I suspect, applies to anything—anything that can be considered not so much “bad” as, “bad?”—in other words, “inviting response.” Whether you share with a given community or not.

    You suggest that Garzey’s Wing does come down to that, and I agree that it can and should. Why waste a bad work when you can do something with it?

    Ironic appropriation, I would say, has many forms. “Irony vs.”, as opposed to, for lack of a better expression, “irony and” or “swirled up in”. The second is what camp is about. Doing away with the brackets for a moment. Changing people within changing society.

    FWIW, I didn’t often find the Japanese sub of Garzey’s Wing worse than bad. I had become relatively acclimated to its chaotic feel, it wasn’t *that* incoherent to me, though it certainly was incoherent. I found it watchable, dubbed and/or subbed, largely because I was not hit with its incoherence in any way that surprised me past the first ep.

    At the moment, to me, pointing out the blissful is usefully different from pointing out the “bad,” though the distinction is eluding me at the moment. In the same way, pointing out the blissful is usefully different from pointing out the “good.” Bliss slips away from these sorts of categories, and I want to figure that out.

    I’ve really liked these posts so far. 4 days to go, right?

    • schneider says:

      I’ve never visited your blog (until you commented here), so I’ve been doing this on my own.

      Terribad is terribad, because parts of it redeem it as entertainment. That we can laugh, either with it or at it (usually the latter).

      And yeah, the sub doesn’t really work that much. Like in Baoh, too.

      I’ll keep on writing these posts until I reach the quota, lol

      • Oops! Faux pas. Gotta keep pushing myself to remember that folks I read probably don’t read me. Doesn’t work that way.

        I’ve always been confused about the word, actually. Is it “terrible” + “bad”? Or “terrifically bad?” The etymology eludes me. And I agree: something in the work has to seem open to the possibility of entertainment. At, with, mixed together.

  3. What is the most terribad thing you watched this year?

  4. rockmanshii says:

    I have a few shows like that. First one I can think of is Jinki Extend. It thought it was sooo baaaad. And yet I like it so much. I even rewatched it some time ago. It actually got a few good points too, like having a cool female lead. Or having a OBARI op.
    (Totally not inciting you to watch it)

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