Chargin’ My Disgust

Beating Other Bad Anime Out
by Bolt Vanderhuge

In the world of infamous anime, there are a lot of names that tend to get brought up, at least among us older otaku. This isn’t one of them. Instead, this one has a personal connection to me, from back when I first started really watching anime. I probably heard about this one thanks to TV Tropes on one of my reading binges, and since it’s an ecchi anime that really walks the line of just being straight up porn (and occasionally just hops right over it in my opinion), it was probably something that caught my interest for pervy reasons.

I am not above enjoying the occasional tentacle hentai, after all.

Essentially, this is just another ecchi with a gimmick, that gimmick being that there is a parallel dimension inhabited by a business that utilizes magical girls who use a kind of electro-shock therapy to make depressed humans feel happy and revitalized again – to “charge them up” to put it another way. They are thus called “charger girls” (at least in the localization), and the moé-blob protagonist we end up following is called Plug, with many of the other characters using this electrically-based naming scheme as something of a joke. These characters are able to fly and remain completely invisible and intangible to humanity, along with the tools they have hidden in human technology to accomplish their mission of charging up depressed humans. I’m not entirely sure how a business is built around this “service,” but the writers probably had no idea either, as its only real function is to fit into the typical trope of the perpetually poor screw-up fan service girl because Plug so often manages to fail at her job and destroy equipment in the process, and this is supposed to be funny.

And really, that’s the problem with the series as a whole. It just tries constantly to be funny, but fails basically every time at it. Which makes for a parallel with its protagonist, now that I think about it. In any case, I just feel like the humor completely misses, in part because of just how horrible so many aspects of this show are.

I hope that my earlier admission makes it perfectly clear that I am not some prudish snob who just hates fan service, and with that a given that you’ll also believe me when I say that I don’t use the M-word lightly. That word tends to be thrown around a lot these days, so I tend to reserve it for something I feel obviously deserves it, and this one does – like a baseball bat to the brain pan.

I bring this up, because so much of the “humor” of this show is based entirely around the fact that the male lead, a rather ill-tempered restaurant worker named Sento, is actually able to see these charger girls, and his default reaction is to grab an aluminum baseball bat (or whatever else is handy), and hit them in the head as hard as he can. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this is usually accompanied by the charger girl peeing herself. This is also occasionally conflated with orgasm (such as during their magical girl transformation sequence), especially in the case of an especially uptight, asshole charger girl who reveals that she actually enjoys being beamed in the head so hard that she loses consciousness and pees herself, and even develops romantic feelings for Sento because of it. And this is all played as humor.

I really just don’t have anything to say beyond that, other than maybe “shit’s pretty fucked.” I guess the only real faint praise I can give this series is that, at least it’s completely up front about what it is, right from the opening scene. Needless to say, this is not something I would recommend anyone to watch. This is also probably about the only time that I’m kind of happy that a show has actually stayed pretty obscure (which is admittedly not helped by me writing an article about it), but if you are a glutton for punishment, you can actually legitimately stream a subtitled version of this on Crunchyroll, completely for free, albeit somewhat censored. Surprisingly, this anime actually did get a dub, as it was one of the many sleazy animes licensed by Media Blasters, and there are probably used DVDs of it still floating around out there. This is actually kind of anger-inducing in its own right, not because it got a dub exactly, but because there are so many other animes out there which still haven’t been dubbed but would deserve one way more than something like this does. In any case, I really hope that if you insist on watching this frankly insulting anime, that you don’t waste any money to do so.

Fuck No! Don’t Check it Out:
Charger Girl Juden-chan (Faito ippatsu! Juden-chan!!)
based on the manga by Bow Ditama
Produced by Studio Hibari, Licenced by Media Blasters

Binary Stars and other BS

Infinite Ryvius and Twin Spica both serve to bother space otaku
by Bob Johnson

I’m a huge space nerd. But I need to say something about space anime. So many of my favourite anime are set in space: Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, just to name a few. For obvious reasons, Space continues to be a common setting for SF anime. That also means that there’s plenty of disappointing space anime out there (cough Glass Fleet cough). Here, I give half a chance each to two space-themed shows on the wobbly soft end of the space-opera scale, Twin Spica and Infinite Ryvius.

Twin Spica

Kei-chan agrees: Twin Spica kind of stinks.

Twin Spica is an uncommon fusion of soap opera and supernatural mystery, all overdosed on space science trivia. It is also thoroughly Shojo and Slice of Life, and that means it is SLOOoooOOW. It’s about Asumi, a disaster-affected moéblob whose aspiration is to become a “rocket driver” for her dad and her ghost friend. And since this is future-Japan, sure enough, there’s a high school in Tokyo for that!

Shu-kun knows where he’s going.

I think the real height of the show was episodes 4 and 6 (a two-parter split by E05, a filler episode). 4/6 showed the real essence of spaceflight, disguised as an entrance exam. The rest of the show — mostly boredom punctuated by frenzied moments of excitement — is also very on the nose for the flight experience in general.

While there are a fair number of active moments, even borderline awesomeness in this show, it’s important to note how wabi-sabi this all is. Asumi’s quest is not simply a trip to space camp, but a heart-wrenching tale of loss, loneliness, and quiet desperation.

Asumi-chan spills a bunch of CGI on the floor.

Though Twin Spica was crafted to be an edutainment show for younger kids, Japanese sensibilities intrude to prevent me from calling it kid-friendly everywhere. I don’t think a dubbed version was ever officially released in North America, but there is one of those Animax english dubs floating around. Thus, my occasional quest to find chibi-compatible shows continues to strike out. I may personally finish it, though.

Infinite Ryvius

Infinite Ryvius is boring! How do you make space boring? Mainly… have people fight for no reason! Shout and scream all the time and don’t actually do anything! Infinite Ryvius reminds me a bit of Stargate: Universe in this respect. Instead of sending professionals out there, just send a bunch of untrained cadets and chaos agents on your important space mission. That’ll work, right?

Infiinte Ryvius in a nutshell: it’s all there ready for you — but why am I not hungry anymore?

Essentially, generic anime protagonist and too many of his classmates are stuck on a sinking space station. Sinking into what? Good question! Not a gravity well or planetary atmosphere though, that would be too obvious. Infinite Ryvius aspires to be a tokusatsu disaster epic, but there is just so much trouble establishing the suspension of disbelief. I despise half of the cast from the get-go, I don’t care for the all-too-obvious mystery elements, but probably its worst offence is that it doesn’t even use real science — much like Space Battleship Yamato 2199’s space-submarine episode, they invented a new form of reality to allow their space station to sink into a space-ocean. I have no doubt there are new discoveries to be made in physics, but I strongly doubt there is any kind of dimensional rift within the solar system that makes this show even remotely plausible.

What’s good about this show? Uhm, well, It’s vaguely actiony and has a hip-hop soundtrack. The dub – tastefully cheesy – may be enough to put this show on a “so bad it’s good” groupwatch. But I just cannot get past the third episode on my own without falling asleep.


Maybe look it up:
Twin Spica (Futatsu no Spica) 20 episode anime
based on the manga by Kou Yaginuma
Produced by Group TAC


Don’t look it up:
Infinite Ryvius 26 episode anime
Written by Yosuke Kuroda, Directed by Goro Taniguchi
Produced by Sunrise, Licenced by Sentai

Blander than Maruchan

Dear Naruto, “more” doesn’t mean “better”. Believe it!
by Bob Johnson

Team Kakashi is always high on morale.

Sometimes you don’t want to eat anything special, just a big bowl of ramen. Maybe you pop in an extra pack because you have dozens laying around. Maybe one of those generic microwave pot stickers today, too. Maybe you bought a few too many and now you feel stuck eating the same thing every day. Welcome to Naruto, the endless soup and dumplings of anime. It’s not over (nor do I think it ever will be), but I can tell you my thoughts on the entire first series.

I don’t begrudge the folks who loved this show because it aired at just the right time in their lives. But I do see this for what it is, a middle-of-the-road long-running shonen. The gag comedy has been done before. The strategy and fighting has been done before. And it’s just so … generic and all-pervasive that it became its era’s definition of stereotypical anime, much like Pokémon or DBZ had been just a few years before. I might never have watched it without 2019’s avalanche of Yang Gang memes making me feel left out. Fortunately enough, Naruto seems to be at least a cut above its progenitors on the list of “I don’t really watch anime” anime.

When it comes to the show itself – well, there’s a big difference between wanting to be the strongest and actually being the strongest. For the entire series, the character of Naruto straddles the line between these two categories. Plainly irresponsible and inexperienced, his discipline level keeps him in the first bin. Yet if he had full control of his raw power, he could very well be in the second and achieve his dream of being village chief.

Even among ninja who walk on water and run-fly spread-armed through forest canopies as an animation cost-saving measure a basic chakra ability, Naruto is special. The power of the Nine Tailed Fox deep within him can grant him supercharged powers, which he uses almost as much for pranks as for training and fights.

Along for the ride is Sakura, his perpetual un-girlfriend who expresses herself primarily through skyward right hooks, and Sasuke, a too-cool-for-you ninja at the top of the class, who has little but contempt for Naruto’s silliness, or anyone else for that matter. They are assigned to a fighting team lead by Kakashi, a teacher and senior ninja.

Bound together in more of a rivalry than friendship, they take on jobs that need a surprising amount of strategy (and civil engineering!) until sinister agents upend the safety of their hometown, succinctly called “The Village Hidden In The Leaves”. Conveniently, this is exactly at the time of their final exams for ninja school. So naturally, as the protagonists in a kids’ anime show, they wipe the floor with the invaders and send them packing in a comedy gag?

You’d think so … except, no. This is when the kids get to grow up and deal with the real world. As much as it is about the title character’s antics, the show is also about an untold history, and from this point, as the tale unfolds we see the tapestry of prior generations unravel as Naruto learns their secrets.

Naruto aims to be Fire Lord. Problem, Prince Zuko?

But even as I admit that there’s more to this show than meets the Sharingan, I still have to take it down a peg. Older folks who remember the show fondly may find it’s not exactly small-tyke stuff when Naruto’s Sexy Jutsu or Jiraiya’s penchant for hotsprings pops up. All of that is baked into the modern streaming editions; the old TV edit isn’t particularly easy to find anymore.

And of course, this show is many things but it is not in a hurry. Naruto takes 40 episodes to “get good” – in that same amount of time, you could have watched 3 whole shows instead! The full run of 220 is positively languid, many of them just filling time. I’m not even complaining about the anime-original stuff versus the manga (a topic I’ll leave to the true believers), but how it pads things out with inner dialogue, fight windups, pointless gags, and recaps. Even today when you can click ahead and watch at accelerated speed, it can get annoying to deal with.

All this filler is starting to bug me. (No offense, Shino)

If you’ve already seen it, you know what’s up, and you know the parts that deserve a skip or a rewatch. But why would you ever watch this monstrosity if you hadn’t already? First, its cultural bigness can be considered a feature rather than a bug. Wearing a Naruto shirt can get you easy street cred far and wide, even on a hiking trail in the wilds of South Dakota. Fans of better anime need much better luck sporting their colours in the wild.

But perhaps more importantly, Naruto teaches life skills. This is a place where our heroes are always digging deep for that last bit of energy and doing their best to grow and improve. There’s immeasurable value in holding to that same stick-to-it-ive attitude in one’s own life.

Maybe Look It Up:
Naruto (2002) 220 episode series
based on the manga by Masashi Kishimoto
Produced by Pierrot, Licenced by Viz

Taisho Baseball Girls is SAFE!

Mostly harmless but with an otaku bonus
by Bob Johnson

I first heard about Taisho Baseball Girls as I was working on my Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei review, and for whatever reason, it’s a show that continued to stick in the back of my mind. Finally, a wave of ‘not much better to do’ collided with an upcoming edition, and I figured this would be a pop fly. It was going to be awesome. I was going to crush someone’s soul with a +2 frying pan of rejection. And if someone dared to complain about me beating up a defenceless pile of moéblobs, I’d just say “We publish most Aprils! It’s Baseball Season! It was going to happen eventually!”

So imagine my shock to discover that I actually enjoyed watching this show.

Why hello Koume… Want to star in a seinen with me?

What?!

What is up with that Akiko leer? What is up with everything down to the baseball methods and stats being spot on? As it turns out, despite the name, despite the PG rating, Taisho Baseball Girls is not a glittery-saccharine, ‘let’s do our hair’ shojo. It’s a grit-and-determination, ‘let’s not tell mom and dad’ seinen.

Sure, there is yuri subtext just waiting to burst all over a fanfic writer’s keyboard. But if this was *just* about fanservice, why bother going to all the trouble of a historical piece? In 2009, the heyday of ‘X but with cute girls’ shows, you could just roll up a batch of waifus, coat them in pearl sugar, and bake them in the oven into some kind of The Sandlot ripoff (or nothing in particular) and just cash in. If that was the only goal, why even bother setting it in the 1920s?

Because this show needs ~Drama~! All-too-real drama about how “girls can’t play baseball.” Maybe you can still hear that false and mean-spirited taunt going around in more recent years, but a century ago, it was just about how Japanese society really would have reacted.

Japan’s Taisho era (1912-1926) is often remembered fondly as a time when Westernization was ongoing but hadn’t reached its endpoint, and national politics seriously flirted with actual democracy. Individuals in Japan were perhaps freer to choose their paths in the Taisho era than in the years immediately before or after, so it’s a great setting for historical fiction. (see also: Gosick)

Yet through the eyes of these aspiring young women, we can clearly see that within these rose-coloured lenses lays a paradox: though it was an age that was better for *some* people in *some* ways, it was not better for *all* – and the events of TBG clearly demonstrate how things were not always rosy. This was a time when a woman *picking her own husband* was a science fiction concept from the distant future year of 1947.

Koume and Akiko

So, perhaps counterintuitively, if you’re going to have a show about cute girls doing cute things in this era, they’re probably all going to be rebels. That leads me to the heroine of this story, Akiko. Though technically second banana, Akiko is the driving force of the show from the start. She’s from a wealthy family, but was married off and lives essentially in a gilded cage. But she does still have some friends at school, and a defiant dream to stand up for herself and the role of women outside the home. But she’s rather isolated, so she turns to her BFF to help get a band together.

Koume, though nominally the protagonist, is not all that interesting. She’s a waitress at her parents’ restaurant, serving period-accurate fusion cuisine. The only things that she truly wants are a new set of clothes, and to not to disappoint her friends. Mainly we see her reacting with alarm or stubbornness to the events around her. Only rarely does she drive things forward personally.

The remaining characters add more fun and flavour, though apart from Noe’s quest for management-quality information on the Asaka baseball team, most of the antics aren’t necessarily plot-essential.

Go Oukakai! Beat Asaka!

If you think that anything from the 2000s that moés up a clutch of anime girls is asinine, or that most forms of the training montage are mind-numbingly boring, then you’ve probably already zoned out. This is not a show for everyone, indeed, this is a show for some very specific kinds of weebs.

You’ll probably appreciate TBG if you like Japanese history, or if you’ve been known to join Hana Oshiroi in the art of keyboard-bending, and also if you enjoy the Great American Pastime. If you are a Sub purist, your fancy might also be tickled by the fact there’s no English dub at all!

Are you looking for a samurai tale with challenge letters and duels? A bittersweet tale about about how love is shortchanged by the institution of arranged marriage? A gag comedy slice of life? Something yurilicious? It’s all in the tin here – Taisho Baseball Girls provides a bit more than you’d guess at first glance.

Maybe look it up:

Taisho Baseball Girls (2009) 12 episode anime
Based on the light novels by Atsushi Kagurazaka and Sadaji Koike
Produced by J.C. Staff, Licenced by Sentai

French anime for the MaximumOuiaboo

Get your hon-ホン-hon on
by Bob Johnson

Ranma ½ episode 105 serves rich French flavour!

It’s 2021! Valentine’s Day, Louis Riel Day, and Mardi Gras are all in the same week! I can’t think of a better excuse to revisit la langue d’amour. Now, if you want anime merely *about* France, two headliners are Rose of Versailles (which is fantastic) and Le Chevalier d’Eon (which is mostly okay). But from here on out, we’re going to learn how cunning linguists can watch shows *in* French!

It’s up to you to say if you’re better served by listening or reading, but odds are good you will be stuck with one or the other instead of both at once. When searching the Internet, the magic keywords are “VF” meaning ‘dub’ and “VOSTFR” meaning ‘sub’.

What do you mean we’re “not” anime?

Though hardly perfect, Netflix has decent odds of having both a dub and a sub in any given language. While still better than nothing, I would note that there are some consistency issues with the French subs for Netflix Originals, and puzzling omissions. Netflix, for example, has Wakfu, France’s answer to Avatar or RWBY, and a decent effort to make a shonen adventure show. You can watch in the original French audio, but there’s no French subs.

Valerian and Laureline having a peaceful everyday discussion.

As for the Big Two-and-a-Half US anime distributors, they are mostly stuck in the past as far as multi-language support goes. Funimation only has English and Japanese, though sister site Crunchyroll features about 18 titles dubbed in French. On HiDive, the only French dub is Elfen Lied, which is decent enough, but may not be your cup of tea. However, that’s not the *most* French show on HiDive. That honour has to go to Valerian & Laureline, the long-overdue animated series for the most influential French sci-fi comic of all time, made in collaboration with anime studio Satelight. Though HiDive only has it in English, you can easily get a taste of the VF through 9 episodes officially posted to YouTube.

In a classic case of “I never knew this was an anime”, check out 1983’s Inspecteur Gadget, produced by DIC in France but animated by TMS in Japan. Fun to see in a fresh light! Various video search engines can usually find a few scattered VF episodes.

Finally, here’s two websites you might find useful to connect with franco-fandom: Geekbecois and (though it’s not long for this world) RadioKawa.

Subs vs. Dub: Remastered

Or, How I Found a New Hill to Die On
by Bolt Vanderhuge


Arguing about whether it’s better to watch anime in a language you can’t understand with subtitles you hope are accurate, or to watch it in a language you can understand and hope is accurate and well-acted is an argument that’s as old as the practice of localization itself. There are a lot of good arguments when it comes to artistic intent and some good horror stories about re-edits and script changes thanks to the likes of 4Kids Media and Fox Kids, but there is also one to be made about accessibility and watchability. Of course it doesn’t help that a lot of the people making the pro-subs argument can be real elitist assholes about it.

I actually started out as an ardent dub-watcher, with my main argument being that I wanted to watch anime rather than read it. I honestly didn’t care about bad readings or poor acting, much in the same way I am forgiving of the bad animation that comes from low budgets, as long as the story was interesting. If anything, bad dubs were all part of the fun, especially when it came to janky old anime (like say Angel Cop) anyway. I also have never been very fast at reading, and actually had a hard time keeping up with dialog if the characters were just standing next to each other having a rapid-fire conversation, let alone if there was any kind of action going on. Also, if it was just a conversation going on, I could go into the other room and get something from the fridge and not actually miss anything as far as the story if it has an English dub. So I am understanding of people who are intimidated by the thought of watching subtitled anime, and of the argument that not having dubs will limit the amount of people who get into anime.

The upshot of pretty much any pro-dub argument.

On the other hand, there is the issue of changing the intent of the artwork, and censorship in general. This is not a new phenomenon, as a lot of the first anime to be brought to the United States through localization had this issue from the get-go. Usually this had to do with someone’s sensibilities being offended, like a couple of the Sailor Scouts being a couple, or Ghost in the Shell’s Major making a period joke, or “you got me,” which is pretty much everything 4Kids ever did with their “by the time we get through with it, the kids won’t even know it’s from Japan” mentality. There has thus always been a lot of back and forth on the issue, with the justification for changes made when creating a dub amounting to “it’s localization, therefore any changes are justified.” This is a simplification, but I don’t have the word count to get into it. This has gotten to be more of an issue for me because more recently there has been something of a shift in politics, which is making its ways into dubs. Whether this amounts to making fun of acceptable targets or just being prudish, it all goes back to artistic intent being changed, whether one considers seeing an awkward male protagonist accidentally groping his female coworker to have artistic merit or not. This goes hand-in-hand with the revelations that a considerable portion of the localization industry frankly hates its customer base, so the question then becomes, do you really want to give people who hate you what little money you earned while getting yelled at by Karens for an inferior product? Do you really want to keep hearing the voices of scummy people over and over in everything?

Eventually I got over my own reluctance to watch anything that didn’t have a dub, and I got better at reading subtitles. Further, I’ve come to appreciate the voice acting done by the Japanese voice actors, because even if I can’t understand the words, the tone, delivery, and emotion still come across. I still have a love for certain dubs which will never go away, whether they were actually good or just funny, it’s just that I find myself not really able to watch new dubs anymore with some of the knowledge I’ve gained. I suppose it’s kind of like going back and watching the Naked Gun movies with what we know about O.J. Simpson now – some people are just fine doing it, but for others it can be pretty awkward. So I can’t help but hope that some Japanese studios will do their own translations so they can create products they can sell directly to fans on this side of the pond.

Begging for Mjølnir

…to bring swift justice to UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie
by Bob Johnson

I like Viking Legends. I like Space Travel. And believe it or not, I like Anime! Now how exactly can you combine all those and mess it up?

This is one way to mess things up.

I cannot emphasize this enough: UGH. In ten years of writing about anime, I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the terrible shit out there. But UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is a next-level floater. I have rarely encountered anything that so shamelessly refuses to maintain even a modicum of good taste.

The plot: Space woman crashes to Earth, space woman is forced to perform emergency medicine on dying generic anime protagonist guy, space woman loses psychic energy and de-ages into an annoying moéblob. More space women crash to Earth, regress into moéblobs, and fight each other. Rinse and repeat until you have all that, plus a busload of catgirl maids.

You don’t want to know how this happened.

So the usual thing for this type of show, is that all the seemingly young main characters do everything of interest while powered up into their mature fighting forms, becoming wise beyond their years due to magic or shinto or computer code downloaded into their brains. Valkyrie occasionally does this, but far more often decides that it will turn this convention on its head by leaving its leading ladies de-aged.

There’s no avoiding it, we do need to talk about the worst part of this show. Because on top of everything else, there’s the fact that the entire show is set at a hot spring. Now, most fanservice anime would find some reason for these women to be in their full-grown battle forms while they’re in the hot tub, so that the viewer would be caught ogling something defensible. But Valkyrie departs even from this convention. And for this well-past-borderline activity, you will need to avert your eyes and blame this bogosity on the pair of kinkos behind this work (also infamous for the notorious Kannazuki no Miko) or truck with them in a pack of flimsy excuses.

Broken Wreckage

This is why we can’t have nice things, anime industry. Anime fandom is no monolith, and no single work should ever be held against every fan, but I have seen Internet trolls point to less egregious offences in order to paint every honest anime fan as a lesser lifeform.

Spending any more time considering the existence of this show would afford it some innate merit that it does not possess. This show is bad. It’s not funny-bad, it’s not edgy-bad. It’s just bad-bad. It was troublesome even in its own time, and now it’s the broken wreckage of a bygone era, best placed straight in the bin. Don’t watch it.

This is a show that makes the dull, morose Loki: Ragnarok seem like five-star entertainment. If you’re into Vikings, watch Vinland Saga. If you’re into Space and Fanservice, watch Space Dandy. If you want a kids’ show ADV somehow managed to turn into an adult comedy, watch Ghost Stories. If you want a battle anime, watch literally anything else!!! UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is an unredeemable case that energetically ticks every box on the FBI watchlist.

Don’t Look It Up:

UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie anime (2002)
Based on the manga by Kaishaku
Destined to be an Dateline NBC special starring Chris Hansen
Produced by TNK, Licenced by Funimation