“So bad so good.” The idea that an artist who creates something hilarious is not aware of the joke. It stems from a feeling of perhaps intellectual superiority, a relationship between the audience and creator where the audience comes out on top; everyone loves some “so bad so good” shows. I don’t believe Mayoiga is one of them.
Over-the-top dialogue and characters, occasionally erratic framing and shot composition, nonsensical plot developments, and all make for a surprisingly cohesive experience. Everything in this show is wrong but just in the right way…
Camp and melodrama.
The condensed version is that camp goes to go against preconceived or generally accepted notions of aesthetic and beauty, a wink wink nudge nudge that points out how bad or ugly something is and maybe ironically is found to be beautiful, artistically valuable, for that very reason.
The most obvious example in anime is likely Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, elegant it is not, it lacks some of the most basic elements of what is these days seen as “high art”. Yet it is influential and has managed to stand the test of time, the characters are not inline with the standards of beauty as it is conceived nowadays but most still finds it quite fabulous. Fabulous in very similar ways a cursory google image search of kitsch(often associated with camp) would look like.
There’s now something that may seem pretty obvious on such cursory google search, that would be how much Mayoiga doesn’t look like camp, not only that but many might feel that calling Jojo “ugly” is not fair because Jojo is stylish and looks good, and I would somewhat agree with the later statement.
So to better understand this and for the argument of Mayoiga as camp we may have to look at camp beyond the surface.
For the sake of expediency it could be explained like this.
In psychology there is an idea that humans have two different modes of thought, addressed in-depth in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow.
System 1: Fast, intuitive, and emotional.
System 2: Slower, more deliberative, and more logical.
Camp might be defined in some way as possessing a beauty that appeals more to System 2 than it does to System 1 while still having a strong impact on System 1, Mayoiga makes more sense as camp if thought of in that way.
That alone of course does not fully explain why it’s not a bad show. That comes from the interplay between the dialogue and narrative, the tone and directing.
This is also where the melodrama comes in, something writer Mari Okada is very good(or bad, depending on your preferences) at, melodrama is a very effective way of getting character’s motivations and afflictions out in an easily digestible way, often seen as bad but it has a place. With a huge cast and no fear of shame: “Oh husband will you protect me?” “Yes, even if it kills me!” is perfect to make characters instantly recognizable.
While it has plenty of ridiculous and out of place dialogue that doesn’t mean we are not supposed to be invested, it is merely to ease us into the idea that this characters will do terrible things and make terrible decisions, by treating the characters with such ridiculous condescension it is easier to accept their bad decision making. And thus easier to invest in the drama and tension that comes from it, yes, the ridiculousness is meant to accentuate the drama.
The audience knows the consequences of the actions of the characters, by making many of them walking tropes(at least when taken at face value) we know how their arcs may develop and how they will play off of each other. For example when we see Glasses-kun pretentious act, acting as the voice of reason despite the ridiculous act of traveling to a secret village tainting anything of value he has to say, we are able to anticipate he will fail, it is both laughable and tragic.
The characters are stereotypical, loud and dumb, the show makes sure you know it so when the time comes that they must face the consequences of their actions, all of which are questionable, we understand and accept why. They deserve it after all right? A free get out of jail card to justify all the stupid things the characters will inevitably do, like it is often the case in horror. This show wants to have its cake and eat it, and it gets away with it, just look how entertaining of a ride it is. If nothing else I’m sure we all feel bad for the bus driver.
Of course it only works if the viewer is able to at least somewhat care about the characters, if Lovepon makes one slightly uncomfortable, or if not her, then the idea that noone seems to put her in her place, how accepting everyone seems to be of her; at the same time we are not meant to be pissed at that. The atmosphere has been shaped to allow us to accept it and only slight uneasiness filters through, because otherwise one would just be pissed at how stupid everyone is, that would be terribly unenjoyable.
This was all mostly aimed at people already enjoying the show but don’t consider the writing to be good or even intentionally fun, it is not coincidence that you do have fun but a deliberately and carefully concentrated effort at crafting just the right atmosphere through comedy in a serious setting.