Toei’s 1975 anime adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid has gotten a surprising amount of attention in the last handful of days. First, Rifftrax — the movie-riffing group made up of three MST3K stars — added it to their catalogue. A scant couple of days later, Discotek announced a Blu-ray release, complete with a remaster and dual language tracks. It’s a big week for this little retro release; but more than that, it would seem that Mike, Kevin, and Bill have ventured into new territory. They’ve broken the seal, as it were: anime is on the Traxian menu.
While we’re aware that the gang doesn’t limit themselves to bad films (their catalogue includes “Rifftrax Challenges” — riffs of objectively good movies like Casablanca), cheesy movies are kind of the bread and butter of the genre. And there’s no shortage of “so bad it’s good” anime out there. So if you’re listening, team, here are a few we’d love to see you square up against:
It’s pure happenstance that our first choice is another Discotek release. Chargeman Ken is such a mess, it was forgotten for a long time even in Japan. The cheaply-produced short episodes follow the super-powerful future boy Ken, who transforms into his Chargeman Ken persona to fight the lanky-armed aliens known as Juralians. His weaknesses are darkness, math, and tomato juice. And honestly, that’s about all the plot you’re going to get.
This surreal show flew under the radar until it received a DVD release in 2007, eventually making its way to Japan’s Niconico and 2chan for meme purposes. Since then, it’s received a (largely ironic) fan following, and even got a stage adaptation. We could definitely see Rifftrax taking on an episode or two of these in a batch of its artisanal shorts — preferably including the one where Ken’s sister gets hypnotized by a piano teacher and turns into a knife-wielding murderer.
Anime or not, Dog Soldier: Shadows of the Past just feels like a Rifftrax joint. Not to be confused with the 2002 action/horror flick Dog Soldiers, this 1989 OVA follows a Rambo-alike named John (or Kyosuke, depending on the scene) as he comes out of retirement for one last job. The job? A lovely female scientist has been kidnapped by an arms dealer. And she may just be transporting the cure for AIDS. Yes, really.
With ridiculous pacing and script, scenes ripped straight out of other better action movies, and one of the weirdest knife fights ever animated, Dog Soldier is a mainstay of hilariously bad 80s anime. But we can still go worse.
Tales of Byston Well: Garzey’s Wing
Would you like to watch a series by the creator of Gundam? Set in the same cool fantasy world as Aura Battler Dunbine? Good, now add a magic goose and remove any sense of coherence, and you’ve got Garzey’s Wing. This three-part anime was produced in 1996, and has since gained the same sort of following among anime fans as The Room has among moviegoers in general. The only difference is, it comes from Yoshiyuki Tomino, a respected master anime director.
For viewers in the know, Garzey’s Wing feels like a shoe-in for the Rifftrax treatment. And this goes double for its infamously wild dub, which is (for some reason) primarily shouted.
Need something a little better to watch? Try these new anime on Netflix and Hulu!