(this article was originally written in the late 90s. Many dramatic changes have taken place in the anime parody world since then but I haven't been paying attention.)
One of the craziest things Japanese anime fans do - besides spend thousands of dollars on cartoons that are in a language they don't understand - is parody dubbing. Like making your own music videos, dubbing your own voice over somebody else's video is an idea that sort of comes naturally to the hard-core anime person. You've got two VCRs, you're pretty well versed in the process of hooking them up to make copies, and sooner or later you're going to look at that "audio input" jack and start thinking to yourself, "Hey, that could be my voice coming out of that little TV speaker, making Rick Hunter say silly things!"
In fact, if you get two or three overstimulated teenagers and make them watch some untranslated anime, it won't be ten minutes before the quips and gags start flying. It's only a matter of time before somebody digs up a microphone, somebody else cannibalizes their stereo, and there you are making your own parody dub. This is nothing new - none less than Woody Allen employed the exact same technique for the re-dubbed feature film "What's Up Tiger Lily?" - but it took anime fandom and A/V nerd know-how to take it from the pro studios and put it in our own living rooms.
Who started this wacky sub-sub-subculture? Well, the earliest evidence of parody dubbing is a legendary treasure known as "You Say Yamato". It's an episode of Star Blazers dubbed wacky, and while it undoubtedly is the granddaddy of them all, whether or not it can be called 'influential' is debatable because nobody had a copy of the damn thing, and if you didn't live in New England you didn't even get to SEE it. I myself was bugging one of the creators for a copy as early as 1985, and even my desperate pleas went ignored, because, you know, if they copied it they might get in trouble with the copyright holders. Well, that was their excuse, anyway. Having since obtained a copy, I find the legend of "You Say Yamato" looms large because of its early entry into the field and its relative obscurity, rather than because of its comedy value.
Anyway, the one that was both very early and very influential was a little thing that really had no title, but became known as "Dirty Pair Does Dishes," by a Southern California group known as Pinesalad Productions. Pinesalad had dubbed some Robotech episodes ("How Drugs Won The War" and "Why Don't You Come Over For A Sip Of Sherry, Slut."), but it was their Dirty Pair that really brought down the house. The voices were goofy, yet fitting - Kei sounds like Der Arnold and Yuri's voice is strictly Valley Girl. The soundtrack was pure 80's New Wave, and the dialog was silly and suggestive enough to make even the most sour-faced anime fan laugh.
What's more, this one showed up just as anime tape trading was getting into high gear. DPDD was copied and re-copied and re-copied to such an extent that just about everybody involved in anime fandom from 1988-1992 had seen the darn thing so many times that it wasn't even funny. Pinesalad would go on to dub three more Dirty Pair episodes before extricating themselves from the anime parody community.
Around the same time Pinesalad was mangling the Dirty Pair, two guys in Atlanta were doing the same thing to Star Blazers, AKA Space Cruiser Yamato. They called themselves Corn Pone Flicks, and their film would be re-christened Star Dipwads. Corn Pone wasn't content to just take an episode -they took the entire film Arrivederci Space Cruiser Yamato and re-dubbed it. What set CPF's approach apart from the others was the simple yet effective tactic of editing. While other parody film producers were content to just let the video run unmolested, Star Dipwads would use the magic of editing to make the Star Force destroy their own headquarters, warp whenever the heck they felt like it, and shoot themselves in the main bridge. The Comet Empire was explained away as a giant orbiting swarm of copulating sheep, and Prince Zordar was clearly insane, asking his subordinates repeatedly to explain the existence of goats.
The non-sequitur comedy of "Star Dipwads" entertained con audiences for years until CPF got tired of showing it all the damn time. CPF would later produce the live-action mockumentary "Making Of Star Dipwads", the half-live, half-parody prequel "A Star Dipwads Christmas", the parody subtitled "Grandizer VS Great Mazinger" and "Mazinger Z VS Devilman", and lots of straight fan subtitled videos, not to mention many short comedic films including "Corn Dog Seven" and "The Phone." The last installment in the Dipwads saga -1997's "The Return Of Star Dipwads II -The Metal Years" - continued the "mockumentary" theme as an intro to one wild thirty minutes of parody dubbing in which the Star Force spends three years fiddling with the thermostat and Captain Avatar's psychic powers are growing stronger by the minute. There was even a Star Dipwads comic!
As the 90s bloomed so did fan dubbing. Sherbert Productions produced their own Dirty Pair parody and moved on to Ranma 1/2 and Gatchaman. Some guy down in Florida did an episode of Tekkaman where the plot concerned hair care products. Seishun Shitamasu dubbed Gunbuster into a fake Robotech. Magnum Opus Productions did their own version of "1982- Grafitti of Otaku Generation" and turned it into "Fanboy Generation", complete with fake "interviews." They just completed a smutty version of Speed Racer. A Great Lakes outfit known as "G.R.A.A.C." released their own take on Evangelion, only this one has a pronounced Hibernian accent. Yes, it's "Bad Scottish Dubbing," complete with a fair Sean Connery impression. And Birmingham's Video Mare Jigoku produced not one, not two, but three in the live-action-clips-versus-animated-clips "X-23" series. The second installment (produced in conjunction with Corn Pone Flicks) is 150 minutes long and violates literally hundreds of copyrights and 'fair-use' agreements. Guess what? Nobody cares.
Video Mare Jigoku also did a video in which the Enterprise battles Captain Harlock, inspired by seeing CPFs video where Captain Harlock battles Han Solo, which was inspired by seeing a very very early homemade video possibly by Texas fan Jeff Blend, in which the Enterprise battled the Yamato (the Yamato won). CPF later did a video where Captain Harlock single-handedly destroyed the Empire from Star Wars. Did Lucas sue? Not yet.
Some of these parodies are funny - some are tedious - some are downright abusive. But the important thing is, the kids aren't just sitting back and couch-potatoing like zombies. They're taking what they see and using it as fodder for their own creativity, and that can't help but be cool.
The technology has come a long way, too - gone are the days when you had to record your dialog onto an audio cassette (the same cassette deck that was providing many of your sound effects!) and play it back into the video. Even back then some VCRs had "audio-dub" switches - keep the video, but record new audio - that music video creators were already using to good advantage. These days the kids can mix the audio on their desktop super computers, combine it with video either out to a S-VHS or again, right on the desktop, and there you go. Titles are child's play.
The best of the parody-dubbed films these days rival even professional TV shows, at least in appearance. Seamless edits and fancy titles abound. The actual writing is still sometimes stuck in the goofy-sit-around-and-make-fun-of-the-cartoons league, but even that has its own DIY charm. This is comedy without focus groups, editorial boards, sponsors or producers - this is total artistic freedom. So what if dick jokes abound? It's FREEDOM, man. Go out there and get some!