It’s about time Bem started airing! It was one of the first summer 2019 anime I heard of and put on my watch list. I like shows with intelligent youkai in them; I like fantasy, action, and some crime solving. So it sounds right up my alley. I really do wonder if it will be a “horror” or dark action anime, though. We’ll see. Let’s Rant!
Sound: 8/10 Great
Bem has a wonderful opening song, and I recognized Maaya Sakamoto as the singer almost right away. It’s called “Uchuu no Kioku.” The outro song, “Iru Imi,” is nice too, but I prefer the OP. Most of the music throughout is sort of jazzy with a noir sort of feeling. There’s also some good music with chanting vocals (that starts around 14:18). The music that plays during and right after Bem’s transformation is “dope.” Do people still say that?
Story: 6/10 Fine
In this setting, there’s a city with two parts that are so different they are like separate countries. One area is called The Upper and the other is known as The Outside. The latter has a lot more crime, corruption, and youkai, while the Upper is more of an orderly, low-crime society. Strange cases of drowning are going on in The Outside as a girl named Sonia joins the police. There’s a gang/mafia called Helmsman that the police cooperate with. That’s one of several things that piss off Sonia, who is a stickler for what she believes is right.
Sonia has an encounter with Bem the youkai, and is fascinated. Bem hunts down the water demon responsible for drowning people, and fights it in a warehouse. At 18 minutes in, the water demon changes to a different form and can suddenly produce waves of water that slice people in half. Sonia’s police teammates are killed as she rushes onto the scene. Then finally, Bem decides to assume his youkai form and get this shit taken care of. His monster form is a little creepy, but nothing worthy of being called horror.
So, Bem beats the water demon and then faces Sonia, hoping that she would accept him instead of treating him as an enemy. Now, this would definitely be horrifying in Sonia’s shoes, but as a viewer… the scene where she shoots Bem… and keeps shooting him and screaming… it wasn’t scary. That’s ok, right? Because it’s so bad it’s funny, right? Wrong. The scene is just awkward, failing to be funny or scary. An odd mix of both perhaps?
Characters: 5/10 Average
We have three youkai who want to be humans, and good humans at that. They are Bem, Bela, and Belo. If they save enough humans, these youkai believe they’ll become humans. The three act all cool and grim and whatnot, but they just seem… kind of lame. I guess Bem is sorta cool, but he comes across as not to bright. Bela and Belo just apathetically offer commentary on what Bem says and does. They don’t do anything in this episode. That seems like poor planning to me. Why even introduce them yet if they do nothing but make annoying comments on the side?
Sonia seems like an interesting (if slightly obnoxious) character. Based on her pushing aside the smoking leaf offered to her at the end, she’s still sticking to her guns. I want to keep watching to see if she’ll encounter Bem again and accept him. After all, he saved her life at least twice.
Visuals: 7/10 Good
Sometimes backgrounds and scenery look good, and other times not so well-integrated. The colors and lighting are kind of dark and boring compared to most anime, but I think that’s done on purpose to set the mood of the show. The same thing was true of Fairy Gone and I didn’t mind it. As long as I can adjust brightness and contrast on my screen, I’m a happy camper. The action scene toward the middle/end of the episode was too slow and not very exciting. However, the brief fight after Bem transforms was pretty well-done.
Enjoyment: 5/10 Average
My enjoyment was a bit low, because I don’t yet know what to make of Bem. There’s apparently a lot of history to it, since there were two other anime adaptations in the past, but isn’t this show taking itself too seriously? What exactly is this story anyway? Crime drama? Fantasy? Comedy? Horror? Maybe a little of each. But Bem episode 1 completely fails at the “Horror” part. I couldn’t take the water monster seriously; he just made me laugh. He looks like a Scooby-Doo villain, and laughs like one, too. The sound effects of people screaming and drowning are not scary, but oddly funny.
I could treat this show as dark comedy, but that’s not what the show is going for.
Bem Episode 1 Score: 6.2/10.0
I feel compelled to keep watching because Bem still has a lot of potential to improve. Sometimes a first episode is a swing and a miss, and I have to tolerate it and hope for something better to come. If the show doesn’t improve, at least I can practice being more of a critic by finding and pointing out exactly what I think is wrong with it. Thank you for reading today’s episode review on Anime Rants! Here’s wishing you a great day! 😀
(Images from: Bem. Dir. Y Odaka. Production I.G. and LandQ Studios. 2019.)