Save for rare cases of parody, no studio sets out to make an unappealing anime series. Yet, stringing together complicated plot threads and adding enough flourish and style to keep viewers engaged can be tough, and some series simply can’t balance all of the components necessary in a successful anime.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with flops, and they can make for a worthwhile reprieve from other tense, tragic, or over-the-top outings. From comical translation errors to hilariously low-budget animation, these series failed so hard that they became classics.
King’s Game (2017)
Produced by Studio Seven, an outfit best known for adult animation, 2017’s King’s Game began with a solid premise, though it flounder fantastically in terms of execution. Essentially Squid Game with an anime high school twist, this saga of a group of teens struggling to overcome long odds in a battle royale just wasn’t as compelling as it should have been.
The most significant problem with King’s Game is that the characters are extremely unlikeable; from a protagonist with whom it is hard to connect to a detestable-in-all-the-wrong-ways villain, this series had a lot of potential that was ultimately squandered. That said, it makes for some excellent hate-watching material.
Chargeman Ken! (1974)
It’s almost unfair to critique Chargeman Ken! based on its shoddy quality; produced in 1974, it was an early shounen anime forerunner that deserves credit for helping to shape both the genre and the medium as a whole.
That said, by today’s standards, the production values of Chargeman Ken! are beyond awful. The animation is jagged and jarring, the characters are warped and weird, and, most infamously, many of the scenes are tainted by bits of actual human hair that fell on the animation cels when they were being created. Chargeman Ken! may be important to anime history, but it also serves as a template for how not to produce an anime series.
A 2021 Crunchyroll original, Ex-Arm holds the distinction of being one of the lowest-rated series on MyAnimeList. Helmed by Visual Flight, a studio with no previous experience in the medium, Ex-Arm was completely panned by viewers because of its poorly-done 3D aesthetic reminiscent of amateur Source Film Engine renderings.
In actuality, the series uses a very bizarre blend of 2D and 3D animations which only serve to make things seem more out of sync. Plus, apparent errors in the animation process lead to literal glitches in the anime, an issue once totally relegated to video gaming.
The Fruit of Evolution (2021)
Another frequently-panned anime from 2021, The Fruit of Evolution sees high school social outcast Seiichi Hiiragi teleported along with the rest of his class to a fantastical new realm. Replete with shape-shifting gorillas, magic and sorcery, and requisite harem groupings, The Fruit of Evolution is the sort of thing an AI might come up with when asked to generate an isekai anime series.
The Fruit of Evolution fell from the tropey isekai anime tree and hit every branch of the way down; overwrought with fanservice and innuendo and lacking in just about anything else, it’s insubstantial, though fans may get a kick out of it should they view it as a sort of on-the-nose deconstruction of the genre.
Inferno Cop (2012 – 2013)
Produced in part by Studio Trigger, Inferno Cop is a sarcastic crime series that sees the titular lawman embark on a series of wild misadventures to bring down a criminal organization known as Southern Cross. Inferno Cop doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest and should be regarded as a sort of anime version of Sharknado it’s almost every bit as ridiculous as that famed horror film.
Unfortunately, while fitting, the animation is almost nonexistent; characters are essentially cutouts placed on static backgrounds that never do much more than warble in place. Yet, as comical as it is curt, Inferno Cop is supposed to be bad, and that shouldn’t spoil the fun.
Intended as a sort of body horror series, Pupa fails at delivering scares and instead comes off as just upsetting. The plot is tough to piece together, but it mostly revolves around a young girl and her brother. The girl was either born as or possessed by some kind of demon, and she now must sate an eternal craving for flesh.
She’s often seen eating directly from her brother’s body, and the sexual innuendo in these scenes is almost too much to bear. An interesting premise mishandled, Pupa is for audiences who prefer to be disturbed for all the wrong reasons.
Mad Bull 34 (1990 – 1992)
A collection of four OVAs from the early-90s, Mad Bull 34 is an excellent example of why fans of newer anime series shouldn’t skip out on retro classics. Essentially an anime version of Rush Hour, Mad Bull 34 follows two New York police officers as they solve all manner of violent crimes in the city’s thirty-fourth precinct.
Mad Bull 34 isn’t objectively terrible, but it is almost offensively over-the-top by today’s standards, and the English dub likely helped to contribute to the lasting stigma surrounding the localization of anime for Western audiences. Those with strong stomachs ought to give this one a watch, odd though it is.
Devilman (1972 – 1973)
A tribe of demons invades the human world, claiming Akira Fudo and his father among their first victims. Akira is resurrected and possessed by a demon, and he then travels to Japan, intent on furthering his mayhem. However, when he falls in love with a woman named Miki Makimura, he has a change of heart and opts to defect from the demon legions.
A seminal, relatively well-done anime series that was popular in Japan, Devilman was mangled by English transcribers. Characters are unnecessarily vile and vulgar to the point of hilarity. The anime was remade in 2018, though the original is still something that must be seen to be believed.
Angel Cop (1989 – 1994)
“If this is justice, then I’m a banana.” Perhaps the most outlandish anime of all time, Angel Cop, a collection of six OVAs that debuted through the late 80s and early 90s, almost goes beyond the bounds of good taste. Excessively gore-soaked and vulgar, it’s like a bad cop comedy-drama with clips from the horror franchise Saw spliced in.
Centered around the audacious idea that a woman could be a police officer, Angel Cop is a product of its time, but that shouldn’t stop those searching for anime trashterpieces from giving it a go.
Ghost Stories (2000 – 2001)
Easily the most notorious English anime dub of all time, Ghost Stories was a late 90s series that performed terribly in Japan. As a result, when it was picked up for localization in Western territories, the studio opted to abscond from the original script, instead offering up one of the silliest translation efforts of all time.
Though some of the jokes are steeped in turn-of-the-century current events, Ghost Stories remains a hilarious take on the typically self-serious genre of paranormal anime. Rude, risque, and ridiculous, it’s a must-see for anyone, and it’s easily the creme-de-la-creme of so-bad-its-good anime.
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