Continuing World

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