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How Kill Me Baby Became a Cult Anime Hit in Japan

10178714aRemember Kill Me Baby? No? That would be understandable seeing as it was an obscure J.C. Staff anime from 2012 and has an average MAL rating of 6.96.

In Japan, though, Kill Me Baby has become something of an internet meme. Its popularity has only increased over time. This is particularly interesting because at first, Japanese viewers watched the show and thought, “Baby, please kill me.” That is to say, it was not a popular show when it first aired. The first BD volume sold a grand total of 686 units in the first week.

And yet somehow Japanese viewers changed their mind. When the Bluray boxset was released a year later, it sold over 4000 units despite costing some 16,800 yen. It outsold Toaru Majutsu no Index II (3830) and Infinite Stratos (2577). How did this miraculous turnabout happen?

The short answer: memes.

Wonderful, glorious, fantastic memes.

If you’ve seen the anime, you will doubtless be aware that despite the typical 4koma setup, Kill Me Baby has its memetastic elements. I’m talking about the OP and ED here. The OP song is, let’s say, musically unorthodox. By that I mean it’s pure turd, but somehow the “KILL ME BABY” part sticks in one’s head.

The song ended up catching on in a similar way the Lucky Star OP did, though. Whole threads on 2ch were dedicated to dissecting the lyrics. No one could mention the show without some other internet person responding with “WASA WASA” out of context. The OP single sold over 10k units, which suggests that even though the anime itself was considered too expensive at the time to buy as a joke, viewers were willing to fork over at least 999 yen for kicks and giggles.

The ED, however, rose on to even greater internet fame. The ED features a dance that can only be described as satanic. Anime fans love their dance EDs, but this one seems like an anti-dance routine, featuring Sonya and Yasuna performing gym exercises that no real human being should ever attempt.

Naturally, the dance spawned a great deal of parodies, including a routine performed by Gundams and multiple real-life attempts, one of which is shown below:

Hilariously, the creators caught on to the fan jokes and started incorporating them into their press releases and official merchandise. Here’s one of the figurines, ripped straight out of the dance routine:

kill_me_dance12_052

Source: Myanimeshelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more hilariously, the creators themselves made jokes about how hard the anime had bombed. The whole “we sold 686 units” thing went viral after the official website released 686 icons to celebrate getting 10,000 followers on Twitter.

The other thing that kept Kill Me Baby alive in the audience’s mind after the anime aired was the official Twitter account. Usually, official anime Twitter feeds stop tweeting regularly after the anime finishes airing, except to announce the occasional tie-in product. In Kill Me Baby’s case, however, the official Twitter account wouldn’t stop tweeting, and most of the tweets feature the kind of quality insights that would make dril proud.

The Kill Me Baby feed is still active in 2015, though it has admittedly slowed down since its glory days in 2012.

What made the KMB account engaging to follow was its willingness to retweet fan art and jokes. On top of that, the people behind the account personally thanked anyone who said they bought the BDs (all 686 of them amirite). When the anime was rebroadcast on Nico Nico Douga in March 2013, the number of Twitter followers shot up to 15,000.

Today, the follower count sits at a respectable 27.6k. Semi-regular tie-in products and events are still announced to this day. My favourite piece of merchandise to come out of the franchise is this military-style parka, which really doesn’t look like something that would come out of a cute girl anime.

killmebaby01

Source: Ami Ami

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kill Me Baby cult is still going strong. Kyou kara WASA WASA!

Source: Mantan Web.


There is a moral to this story. An anime with bad initial sales can redeem itself over time, and you shouldn’t take BD sales as the definitive measure of an anime’s popularity. Sometimes, a series can become an underground hit after the fact, as was the case here.

The other thing you can take away from the Kill Me Baby case is that it pays off when creators personally engage with fans. One of the single biggest differences between Japanese and English-speaking anime fandoms is that Japanese fans get many more opportunities to engage with the anime staff. Here is a clear case of an anime widely seen as poorly made that became popular because of ongoing interactions between creators and anime viewers. Those stiffly translated interviews on Anime News Network really aren’t the same.

Perhaps something should also be said about Kill Me Baby itself. Despite its inane and oft repetitive style of humour, it does have a weird way of growing on you. I can easily imagine it as the kind of oddball show that would alienate most casual viewers while also appealing to a niche (though not necessarily otaku) audience.

While Kill Me Baby never really caught on outside Japan, there are plenty of cult anime titles in the English-speaking fandom, including Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Gankutsuou. 

What do you think makes a cult anime hit?

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Posted on July 28, 2015, in Funny Anime Stuff and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. People think KMB is poorly made? What the heck’s up with that? Sure, it’s not filled with top tier sakuga or anything, but it’s very well directed, has nice backgrounds and consistent production, and generally succeeds at being a decent adaptation of a comedy manga.

    In any case, thanks for writing this post! I hope it brings at least a few more fans into the KMB fold.

  2. Okay, this is really freaky. Yesterday uncreativecat linked the 10 your version of the ED dance on twitter, and literally the only music I’ve listened to since then has been that song over and over and over and over. I even added the show to my download queue.

    Also, I remember the manga being moderately popular on scanlation sites? If only because the name is so bizarre (I was almost certain that it was a Brittney Spears reference initially)

    • I even added the show to my download queue.

      The fantastic memes strike again!

      What’s even more bizarre about Kill Me Baby’s title is that the official English translation of it is “Baby, Please Kill Me”. So it’s basically a translation of English… into English?

  3. arbitrary_greay

    It’s hard to figure out which anime should be considered cult hits, since most of the obvious meme sources seem to be just regular popular. Maybe Love Live? Garzey’s Wing? Eiken?

    • I’m gonna guess it’s not Eiken.

    • Well yeah, that’s an interesting question. What would be considered a cult hit in the anime fandom, which is already a niche hobby to begin with?

      I’d say out of your list, Garzey’s Wing (or at least the dub of it) is probably a cult hit, in the sense that it has something of a name for itself in certain corners of the fandom but barely anyone has actually seen it.

      • arbitrary_greay

        That’s another aspect that needs to be considered: niche popularity vs. cult popularity.
        In that sense, it seems like cult hit generally means popularity after a show’s original broadcast and usual time of relevance, and popularity that comes from outside its original target demographic? (Consider that Donnie Darko and Princess Bride are commonly cited as cult hits. Hrm. Does this make MLP a cult hit of sorts?)

        So things like Girls Und Panzer and Love Live are surprise hits outside of their normal audience. Symphogear seems to have a cult hit style of consumption amongst most people. Inferno Cop is nothing but memes, but I’m not sure how to judge its popularity.

        It’s also weird to figure out how to categorize Monogatari and Zetsubou-Sensei’s popularity. Niche? Otaku? Surprise hit? WJT? (And did SZS pick up more hindsight viewers after Monogatari or Madoka?)

  4. I remember reading the manga and enjoying it in a similar campy sense, so the anime’s cult status doesn’t surprise me too much. Good to hear though!

    And I’d want to argue that LOGH isn’t a “cult” hit, but the episode count does tend to leave it un-watched ( I’m currently halfway through the main OVA series).

    • LoGH is an interesting case. It certainly began as a cult, and thanks to its good reputation in the fandom it’s gotten more and more attention. Now both the OVAs and the original LNs have been licensed, two things I thought would NEVER happen. SO maybe it’s well on its way to becoming the new black.

  5. Dark Lord Wendt

    Wow……. Teekyu’s got nothin on this show

  6. Had never heard of the series before until I listened to the ED on a Kayokyoku Plus post back in February. So, so annoyingly catchy! Tried the first episode then, but it didn’t seem like it was that great. Maybe I should try again sometime.

    • Well, the show isn’t for everyone, but that ED is pretty damn catchy.

      It’s interesting how most of the memes around the anime revolve around the OP and ED, as if the show itself wasn’t worth mentioning :P

  7. Ha ha, I love Kill Me Baby, and it’s easy to see how well it would work in the form of a “meme” in Japan. It’s just such a dumb show, but it took pride in how dumb it was–and the final product was something I couldn’t help but laugh at. It’s great. I wouldn’t even really call it “so bad it’s good,” since the series always seemed so earnest in its blend of strange humor.

    Surprised to see it was ranked #1 boring anime for that season! I can readily accept people calling it bad, poor quality, or even entirely not funny… but boring?? T_T Baby, please kill me!!

    • I agree. The earnest sense of humour is what makes KMB distinctive as a comedy. I don’t think the Japanese fans liked the show ironically, either.

      As for finding the show boring… Well, I have to admit that some of the less funny segments tended to lose my attention, so I can kinda understand the criticism. However, there were also parts that didn’t make me laugh but also somehow made me want to keep watching because of how bizarre it was. On balance, the show cut both ways for me!

  8. This might be related.

    http://www.theawl.com/2015/06/screaming-cornpops-who-are-tearing-apart-society

    Incidentally, I got in a huge argument on facebook with another person when I said that modern anime doesn’t focus on plot and character development, and that it doesn’t make it any “worse” than older anime. Oh, western fans…stay the hell away from Japan.

  9. I actually like the OP song. I like the its frantic pace and the crazy key changes. As for the series itself, I thought it wasn’t terribly good but somehow I watched every episode. Besides, one episode had Kugimiya Rie on helium.

    • You know, despite calling it a turd, I don’t think the OP song was THAT bad either, but the “KILL ME BABY” part repeated at the end four times in a row is just… terrible.

  10. Speaking of cult anime in English fandom, it’s pretty interesting to see Legend of Galactic Heroes’s continuous rise in fame. Nobody heard of it in the early 2000s, but now it’s mentioned far more on reddit and MAL compare to other popular stuff like Wolf Rain, Last Exile, or even Gankutsuou and Full metal Panic. Honestly though, I’m not even sure about the popularity of these series, since I only interact with very small potion of anime fandom back in the day. Still, LoGH’s popularity is shocking, since it’s very different from basically every anime in existence.

    I find it fascinating how fast English anime fandom changed. It’s impossible to predict which show will be remembered in the future. Where’s all the flame war about whether Rahxephon is a Evangelion rip off? Anybody remembered Record of Loddoss War or Slayers? No one gave a shit about Tenchi Muyo or Love Hina anymore ( Seinfeld Is Unfunny?). The hype backlash of Kill la kill and Attack on Titan are insane too. If anything, Scamp’s FAL reminded me of how unpredictable anime fans are.

    • Yeah, it’s pretty interesting to see which anime stand the test of time in the English-speaking fandom. Not many anime seem to manage it, tbh, possibly because we’re now in an era of simulcasting? Unless an anime keeps getting new updates and releases, it’s hard for it to stay relevant. That’s probably one of the single biggest reasons why Evangelion stood the test of time, imo.

  11. The MW Tsukkomer

    Ahhh….. Finally something good for distract yourself from Modern Warfare: Operation NISEKOI….

    For a while. -_-

  12. Surprisingly enough, it has a dub that actually makes it funnier to watch. It’s something about the awkwardness in Hilary Haag’s delivery of Yasuna’s lines and the sheer coldness that Luci Christian says Sonya’s responses. It made more of an impact to me than the Japanese version

    • I haven’t seen the KMB dub, but somehow the idea of those two voice actors taking those roles really amuses me. It’s like Kaname was tsukkomi-ing Tessa from FMP (same voice actors). lol.

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