“If we’re looking for something entertaining, why don’t we show something like Valvrave?”
“Uh…” “Well…” “Ehhhhhhh”
I have this particular issue with the anime club about a construction called “So bad, it’s good”. As it affects our selection of anime, this is considered serious business. I believe it to be a legitimate label, while my colleagues do not. No one in my circle of management is even close to interested in watching terrible anime. They view it, quite simply, as a waste of time. There is some merit to their stance, I admit. For example, there is not much to be learned or appreciated from a bad anime if you’re interested in watching good anime. While I value that my staff would love to watch only “good” anime, their approach towards choosing anime to watch with other people is misguided. I believe that there is value, meaning, and most of all entertainment to watching series like Valvrave S1.
But sooner or later I get these kind of responses:
“There will be people who will like it unironically and we’d be hurting their feelings.”
“We could be using our time better.”
But most of all:
“All the entertaining parts are too far in between and too few.”
This is by far the most prevalent excuse I’ve heard, both from the internet and from people in the club, and it highlights a discrepancy towards how we as viewers approach media regarded as “so bad, it’s good”. It shows that we have very different ideas of how to be entertained by media. Think of Kanye West’s recent and terrible music video with Kim Kardashian. Take Freddie Wong’s impression of Sharknado (he thought it was too long) and his response to it: Bear Force One. I thought both of those productions were funny. A good chunk of people, and these are the people who contribute to the video’s huge dislike bar, did not find it funny. I understand why they would think that.
For some people, an entertaining story must include a degree of emotional investment. To be attached to characters, to immerse oneself into the narrative, the world, the concepts. Terrible anime take turn this idea upside its head, but for people like me this is where the entertainment lies. Sure, when you are not emotionally attached to the anime, the story seems trivial, perhaps juvenile, and find the whole experience to be unenjoyable. Yet these same things can be found enjoyable by others. It’s all about what you are willing to take from the production, and how much you care about authorial intent.
Remember that cute girl in Valrave that died for absolutely no reason? Remember how Haruto convinced L. Elf to join his alliance using a lame metaphor about the bitterness of coffee? Or how trained assassins still feel the need to repeatedly shoot an already dead body? Do you think the writers honestly thought that any of these things would have emotional impact? I say that this doesn’t matter. It’s more fun to assume that the writers did it for shits and giggles. To fuck with us. I’m saying it’s okay for a story to fuck with us because we shouldn’t give a shit about what the creators may or may not have intended. Their end result is just bad. That should be okay to laugh at. That experience, above all else, should be enjoyable.
So for me, an entertaining story is allowed to have a significant amount of emotional deterrent, so long as you supply your own enjoyment in its place. Terrible anime are not enjoyable, and that’s precisely what makes them enjoyable. That is an entertainment value that is completely separate from how I end up rating anime, yes, but there is a name for this phenomenon. There is a way to identify the feeling when you know a show is just fucking with you for its own metaphorical amusement. When you enjoy something despite it taking everything bad and mediocre about anime and making an anime about it.
That phrase is “So bad, it’s good”.