About a year ago I made a post about the apparent lack of camp in anime. Most anime fans don’t seem to get into that sort of thing, either looking at it as “so bad it’s good” outright disregarding such things as just plain bad. I’m not a fan of the “so bad it’s good” mentality. If it’s good, it’s good. Whether that quality comes from being smart or from being ridiculous it doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned, and it’s that latter extreme that seems to get little non-ironic love.
When I’m digging on something like California Crisis, that love is genuine. I seriously love this sort of stuff. I like the awkward pacing and flawed logic that most people see as the mark of crappiness. I guess you could call it my fatal flaw as an anime fan. We all got one– that brand of so-called shit that other fans mock yet we love– so this may as well be mine.
So yeah, I wrote that post proclaiming some grand quest to find that elusive Ed Woodian anime of my dreams– and I promptly forgot about about it. That’s just a generic, human-centric flaw, not an anime-centric one. But over the past week or so I’ve been intentionally watching a bunch of stuff I’ve been meaning to watch, and as I went down that mental list I came to Mars of Destruction. It was then that I remembered someone suggesting it as that camp classic I’d mentioned in that post.
Yeah, man, it’s totally what I’ve been looking for. This is exactly what an anime would look like if Ed Wood was in charge. And by that I mean it’s a genuinely inept piece of animation that seems to have a genuine sense of love for the medium behind it.
That vibe may be purely in my head– a sort of emotional reaction to something totally of my own creation born out of some irrational love for this shit– but Mars of Destruction’s insanity perfectly mirrors that of Ed Wood’s movies. The flow of logic shifts at a moment’s notice, as if the script is being written each product was being made (Something totally plausible for Wood’s stuff, but something most likely born out of a rushed production schedule and what I assume is an insanely low budget.). Where Wood’s movies shift location and plot from scene to scene, cutting away to seemingly unrelated characters (Really, who in the hell is Bela Lugosi’s character in Glen or Glenda?), Mars of Destruction’s story jumps chronologically for no damn good reason. We see the scene after the shit is delivered to America and the resulting analysis before we see the final death throws of the main villain, who died hours or even days before the preceding scene. Sure, said villain tosses out a revelation that makes more sense after said infodump scene, but it doesn’t really make sense logically. But that’s what makes the whole thing so fascinating for me– for whatever reason, these dudes truly threw logic to the curb, rather than using that as a metaphor for “powering up.”
And yeah, the animation was made on the cheap, but they could have easily used that as an excuse to have the anime be a bunch of talking heads explaining everything. Instead, they go out of their way to animate decapitations and blood spurts and the like. It comes off pretty clumsily, but it has the same sort of charm that shit like the rubber octopus that eats the villain from Bride of the Monster. They’re actually trying rather than looking at their meager budget and giving up. And the sheer fact that they go for the gore adds to Mars of Destruction’s trashiness quotient.
Also, wasn’t it totally obvious that the one chick that died in the first few minutes was gonna be the one to bite it? She didn’t have a flashy hairstyle. All the easier to cut off her head. That’s smart thinking!
And I loved the way they seemed to have the main dude put his hand over his mouth when doing his in-the-powersuit lines. Yeah, it’s damn cheap, but it’s damn charming as well. Little things like that go a long way.
As for the big revelation in the end, it’s the sort of crazed speculative shit that I dig. HUMANS ARE FROM MARS! BUT THEY’RE THE BAD MARS PEOPLE! OOO! WE WANT TO KILL YOU BAD EARTHMARTIANS WITH OUR DEATH LASERS! It’s a bit more 90′s Direct-to-Video than the “aliens make zombies that look like Elvira” insanity of Plan 9, but it’s on the same level of inspired weirdness. This is the sort of crazy “ineptitude” that can only come out of people genuinely trying to make something worthwhile. Well, maybe “worthwhile” is a strong word, but this shit only gets made organically and unintentionally. Kinda like diamonds. Except cooler and with less human exploitation.
Now if only we could get some cosplay kids to re-enact this shit during live showings at anime cons.