Have you ever watched an anime that had a completely ridiculous premise, but somehow drew you in more than you thought was possible? Maybe it got you to feel for the characters, ponder about the world it created, or think deeply about the themes it explored. And then, of course, you take a step back and realize that you’re obsessing over a show whose plot sounds like it was conjured from a drunken bender.
This is the kind of anime that we like to call “so stupid, they’re brilliant”, and they’re some of our favorite shows to watch because they represent how bonkers – and yet genius – anime can be. We’d like to highlight some of our favorites for you today, so come join us on this wild ride!
5. Zombieland Saga
Starting off with one of the most well-known anime of this very specific subgenre, Zombieland Saga sounds absurd on paper. We mean... zombie idols saving the Saga prefecture with song? Who’s even the target audience for a show like that? But contrary to everyone’s expectations, the members of Franchouchou captured the hearts of all who saw them, even those who didn’t think they’d ever watch an idol anime.
And you can thank the passionate vocal performances and superb writing for that, because as it turns out, seeing these girls grapple with how to fit in to this new environment that they’ve been thrust into decades after their deaths is fascinating. Everyone has their own struggles and worldviews, even ones who initially seem like joke characters (Kotaro, Tae, etc.), and there’s even a healthy amount of lore that fans are still trying to piece together with the clues we have so far. Go ahead – become a Franchouchou fan and join the fun!
The strangeness of Sarazanmai’s premise is drastically increased if you’re not familiar with Japanese mythology, but even if you already knew that the kappa is a turtle-like being who loves cucumbers, keeps rainwater in a dish on its head, and tries to steal people’s souls through their butts, Sarazanmai is still weird. Coming from the bizarre mind of Kunihiko Ikuhara (best known for creating Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum), it’s got singing, surreal set design, a hurricane of puns, and more sexual innuendos than you can shake a cucumber at.
But this anime also has a lot to say about the connections between people and how secrets can affect relationships. Our three protagonists, as well as the evil (?) police officers who conjure up the zombies they have to fight every episode, are forced to confront their greatest fears and lay their feelings bare to survive. It even has one of most nuanced portrayals of gay relationships that we’ve ever seen in anime. If you’re looking for a show that will tug at your heartstrings and also assault you with butt jokes, Sarazanmai is for you.
3. Ishuzoku Reviewers (Interspecies Reviewers)
Speaking of butts, let’s talk about Interspecies Reviewers. It’s not anywhere near as profound as Zombieland Saga or Sarazanmai, but the fact that a raunchy comedy about reviewing fantasy-world brothels got us to actually care about its plot is astounding. Perhaps this anime’s most enduring legacy is that it skirted the line between ecchi and hentai so closely that its dub was cancelled and it even got pulled from multiple Japanese TV stations. Still, the exploits of Stunk, Zel, Crim, and their menagerie of brothel-hopping buddies actually go deeper than just censor-enraging shenanigans.
Surprisingly enough, Interspecies Reviewers has some truly top-notch worldbuilding. It touches on everything from what different species find attractive (such as a cyclops being shy about her small eye size) to the political and ethical ramifications of the red-light district. There’s even a moment in a spooky-themed episode where Zel, an elf, laments to a vampire about how he’ll inevitably outlive most of his friends. It’s so interesting that, whenever the boys visit a new establishment, we can’t be sure whether the lore or the succu-girls are the bigger draw!
2. Paripi Koumei (Ya Boy Kongming!)
Here’s an anime that combines two disparate concepts – medieval Chinese war tactician Kongming and the present-day Shibuya music scene – to create a genuinely moving story about working hard to achieve your dreams. At the end of his life, Kongming hopes that he can be reincarnated into a world at peace, and gets his wish when he wakes up in Shibuya on Halloween night! He soon meets a talented young singer named Eiko and promises to use his tactical genius to rocket her to stardom.
Ya Boy Kongming gets a lot of mileage out of Kongming’s adjustment to modern society (such as adding rhinestone sunglasses to his traditional robes or asking, “What, pray tell, is a blockchain?”), but the meat of the story is really about him using his knowledge of war to guide Eiko toward becoming the artist he knows she can be. They have an adorable father-daughter dynamic, and we like how Kongming mixes humor with seriousness to give off the aura of a mysterious and mercurial mentor. We need a season 2 so we can see more of this dynamic duo!
1. Akiba Meido Sensou (Akiba Maid War)
The champion of our list of “stupid, yet brilliant” anime is none other than last season’s Akiba Maid War, a show that illustrates what would happen if you set a Tarantino film in a maid café. It’s 1999 in Akihabara, and bright-eyed ingenue Nagomi is psyched to start her new job at Oinky Doink Café. But she soon discovers that being a maid involves more than just serving omurice and singing karaoke – you have to defend your turf with hot lead if you want to live!
We adore Akiba Maid War because it takes its absurd premise so seriously that you can’t help but get invested in its dramatic twists and turns. From poignant sacrifices to sobering commentaries on Japanese work culture, you’ll find yourself wondering along with Nagomi what it truly means to be “moe moe kyun”. Despite its ridiculousness, this anime stayed in our minds long after the credits rolled.
What did you think of our list? Do you know of any other anime that manage to be brilliant despite their stupidity? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!