- B: The Beginning (2018: Production I.G) 12/12 eps.
This is almost certainly the most recent anime I’ve covered in this blog and it is an interesting peak into the future of anime, at least I hope it is. B: The Beginning is a collaboration between Netflix and Production I.G that was announced way back in 2016 under the title ‘Perfect Bones’. Things went dark for a while until it suddenly came back as B: The Beginning and a release date in early 2018. It is interesting because it is part of Netflix’s massive push into the anime scene with a ton of exclusives and original productions. Being on Netflix means that there aren’t content restrictions, unlike on Japanese TV. As seen with Devilman Crybaby, this means that Netflix exclusive shows can get away with stuff not seen since the OAV era. I for one welcome this as it provides variety but it doesn’t necessarily mean every show is a masterpiece, though Devilman was a very strong start. B: The Beginning was directed by two men. The first is Kazuto Nakazawa who is a visual guy having done character designs and animation work on a ton of stuff. He did episode directing on Samurai Champloo and Kids on the Slope; but in terms of chief director the only real thing of any note is Parasite Dolls, a spinoff of the shitty Bubblegum Crisis reboot. The second director Yoshiki Yamakawa, who is another visual guy having done animation work on the Digimon Movie, Psycho Diver, and Shin Tenchi Muyo. He has only directed two anime of any note: DanMachi (no I am not typing out the full title) and Little Busters.
When one finds out that B: The Beginning had two directors one has to wonder what effect that had on the show as it is a show of two halves. Half the show is a fairly serious and tense police thriller in the style of Sherlock or The Mentalist, featuring a goofball crew and a wannabe Sherlock. The other half of the show is a fight over destiny by super powered beings… The two halves are actually connected to a decent degree but it still ends up feeling like these were originally two separate shows that were smushed together.
The crime thriller portion of the show is what takes priority with our protagonist, Keith Flick, coming out of semi-retirement to help the police in a fictional European country to track down the mysterious Killer B, a mass murder who only seems to kill bad people and with whom Keith seems to have history. He is mostly paired up with Lily and together, along with the rest of the team, they unravel a mystery full of twists and turns. The two work quite well with each other as characters with Keith being the stereotypical wizard detective and Lily being the spunky sidekick type who is a tad dense. The rest of the team is also pretty fun though underutilised and a bit too archetypal to be super memorable. I actually really like the structure of this half of the show as (spoilers) they reveal who the killer is quite a few episodes before the end and they let you know that the characters know too. This isn’t the Agatha Christie school of detective story that ends with everyone being called into the drawing room where the detective explains how the murders were carried out before pointing the finger at someone. No, instead the show morphs into a cat and mouse game in the vein of Death Note. I really like this structural decision as it stops that age old problem of detective stories whereby you are either shouting at the screen that it is obvious who did it or they pull some absolute bullshit out of their hat to find the killer. There were, however, a number of plot points that were brought up and then seemingly abandoned with no resolution, (spoilers) the whole surveillance thing and the corruption of the Royal police was kind of abandoned after a few episodes without any resolution, which is annoying. I must also make mention of the antagonists, they were pretty cool and seriously threatening at times. I especially liked the ending and their resolution, it isn’t the sort of thing many shows would have the balls to pull off. Overall, this half of the show is pretty solid and could have easily just been its own thing.
Then we have the supernatural side of thing. It follows Koku who has wings, a sword arm, and a magic chunni eye. He is trying to find lost loved one whilst being thwarted in his efforts by a group who are really into face paint for some reason, having said that I do really like their wacky designs. It seems clear to me that a lot of the development of this side was sacrificed in favour of the detective side, especially of the antagonist, but the base story is still fairly strong.
The show looks great with nice character designs and lots of smooth animation throughout. The super powered fights were a highlight as the animators flexed their muscles. One thing that was a weakness of the show was the tendency to throw in a cartoony visual gag every now and again, things like the car flip in episode 1 or Keith perving on butts in the hotel episode. They just felt super out of place and undercut the tone of the show, they were only a couple of seconds each and so could easily have been removed. I thought the music, while not particularly special, was well suited for the show and well utilised within it. I did, however, really like the ending theme, it definitely fits the show as it ramps up in a similar way. Both the dub and the sub where really solid, with Keith and the main villain really impressing me in the dub.
Overall B: The Beginning is alright. It has definite weaknesses in the dual structure of the show, the visual gags, and the archetypal nature of the characters. But it nails the tone most of the time, is fairly compelling, and looks awesome. It isn’t a masterpiece but it is decent and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Final rating: 6B