The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
As Miss Beelzebub likes.
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As Miss Beelzebub Likes ?
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How was the first episode?
As Miss Beelzebub Likes is a well-animated, colorful slice-of-life romance that is founded upon a single joke: What if one of the Demon Lords of Hell was a dorky anime girl who loves fluffy things? If that one joke were funny enough to warrant being repeated over and over for an entire half-hour, then this premiere may have worked better – personally, this whole concept was such a non-starter for me that I couldn't get into As Ms. Beelzebub likes at all.
I'm all for experimentation and subversion of expectations, but this series takes the notion of an unexpectedly chill version of Hell and ends up stripping its setting and characters of any personality whatsoever. Everything from the well-organized and stylish personnel to the opulent décor of Pandemonium feels so starkly divorced from any depiction of the underworld that I can hardly see why the show bothered to revolve around Beelzebub at all. The one joke about Mullin being disappointed in Beelzebub's ditzy and carefree nature wears thin only a couple minutes into the premiere, and the show continues to waste its setting and premise at every turn, failing to justify the choice of making this story of Satan's minions so sanitized and boring.
I could forgive the bowlderization of Hell if the characters themselves were interesting, but there's no such luck in that department either. Beelzebub's one defining characteristic is that she's the least threatening creature in existence, and Mullin's only job is to be constantly exasperated by his boss' antics and occasionally intervene when thugs attack so Beelzebub can develop a crush on him. Their back-and-forth may have worked for a short-form series, but when stretched out to a half-hour, the show's formula feels interminable.
In the end, As Miss Beelzebub Likes is simply not for me; it's two-hundred percent sugar, without even an ounce of spice to balance out the saccharine overload. It's a pretty show, so if you're in the mood for the most cotton-candy of confectionary time-fillers, then you might want to give this show a chance. Otherwise, you'd be better off sticking with this year's other Satanic slice-of-life romcom: DEVILMAN crybaby. It's much better.
At around the halfway point of As Miss Beelzebub Likes' first episode, our protagonist Mullin thinks to himself that “there's something cute about a woman being obsessed with something soft.” That line describes nearly the entirety of this show's first episode, which is predominantly preoccupied with Beelzebub, the Ruler of Hell Who Is Also a Cute Girl, attempting to pet or lie down on soft things. As Miss Beelzebub Likes is as fuwa fuwa as they come, offering the mildest of drama and the silliest of premises. If you're interest in twenty minutes of women being obsessed with soft things, here's your show.
As Miss Beelzebub Likes' premise is so silly and clumsily executed on that it actually feels like an afterthought. In spite of our air-brained heroine theoretically being the ruler of hell, you could basically transpose this story to any fluffy 4koma castle or mansion and the song would remain the same. Beelzebub acts lazy or obsesses over cute things, Mullin acts either exasperated or enraptured in response, and one scene jumps clumsily to the next, the show overall possessing that resolute non-pacing you often get from 4koma adaptations. Beelzebub doesn't really possess any personality beyond being airheaded and having big boobs (something the show is pretty sure counts as characterization), and Mullin is just there to act flustered or fawning, so the show's appeal essentially just rests in its mild tone and even milder jokes.
In aesthetic terms, As Miss Beelzebub Likes is middling all around, but succeeds in its own goals. The show is clearly aiming for comfiness above all else, so its superdeformed expression work and frequent visual fantasies work well, and the fact that its backgrounds are so inconsistent isn't too debilitating. There's also not much fluid animation, but again, this show is only aiming to clear a very low bar.
On the whole, As Miss Beelzebub Likes just feels too flavorless to recommend, even within its genre. You'd think a premise like this would offer unique hooks, but Beelzebub treats its characters as such default templates that the premise actually becomes a downside, because it only makes its world feel that much less real. When you couple those genre-default characters with the show's lukewarm comedy and general aesthetic mediocrity, you end up with a slice of life that possesses no grounding. Even in a show dedicated to comfiness, there must be some element that secures you to its world, characters, and emotions, and Beelzebub lacks that element. Perhaps worth a glance if you're looking for a somewhat fanservice-heavy slice of life romance, but a safe skip on the whole.
So the basic idea for this sexy comedy series is that the great demon Beelzebub is actually a cute girl who's obsessed with fluffy things. Further, the premise postulates that Hell is virtually identical in appearance to the human world, even down to the fact that its inhabitants don't sport wings, horns, or any of the other normal features associated with creatures from the lower realms. So why is this series specifically set in Hell then? Why not just do the same concept with Beelzebub being the princess of some monarchical country in the regular world?
I'm sure the answer to that question is that the stupefying sharp contrast between expectations and reality is part of the joke, but I think this is taking things too far. Hell simply has no distinctive identity here, nor do any of its denizens. Further, Beelzebub shows not a shred of qualification for the position she holds – no hint of awe-inspiring power, no sharp attitude, nothing. Basically, the first episode ignores a big chunk of the underlying premise in favor of playing out a cutesy romantic comedy, where the male assistant is the tsundere type that the central character might be gradually falling for. Maybe that won't bother others, but these world-building issues got in the way of me appreciating anything else the first episode was trying to do.
Not that the first episode was accomplishing much anyway. The vapidity of its titular character is one of the running jokes, but only on a couple of occasions did the lead couple's antics elicit even a chuckle. The episode works better on the fanservice front, as it does at least succeed at being both cute and sexy in the scenes where Beelzebub is naked save for strategically-placed furball critters, and Beelzebub's seeming lack of concern about being exposed assures that this kind of fare should be a regular element. Sexy depictions of her with two other young ladies make up most of the closer, so she probably won't be the only one showing off some skin. All of that is mixed with a pastel-driven art style that's not especially sharp.
Overall, the first episode has just enough going for it to avoid a bottom-of-the-barrel rating, but it's not a title that I can recommend on any basis other than its fanservice potential.
As Miss Beelzebub Likes is an odd one. It's using ideas and elements that I've enjoyed in other shows, and yet this premiere didn't really do much for me. There's a warm and fuzzy slice of life vibe and art style mixed with an unusual take on the notion of Hell and demons, almost as though parts of Gabriel DropOut were processed through a pastel-colored filter and presented at a leisurely pace. That all seems like it should fall comfortably into my wheelhouse, but something about the way these bits and pieces are combined doesn't quite work.
The setting here is immediately interesting on a thematic level, and it presents a lot of potentially intriguing questions about how Beelzebub turned Hell into such a friendly and inviting place. Unfortunately, that backstory is largely ignored outside of a few offhand references to Beelzebub's apparent strength, and details on how this world works are hard to come by. As much as Mullin rattles off endless lists of all the work Beelzebub needs to do, we're never shown much of how all those documents and meetings affect the denizens of the underworld. Are all the people in town demons, or are they humans who've been sent to Hell after dying? What's up with the briefly mentioned collaboration with Heaven? There's plenty of neat world-building to be done here, and yet the writing seems to breeze past it without a second thought.
What we get instead is a narrow focus on the quasi-romantic relationship between Mullin and Beelzebub. Their interactions are admittedly cute at times, and it's somewhat encouraging to see Mullin's view of Beelzebub evolve from crushing disappointment to a kind of exasperated affection. Still, it's hardly the world's most original relationship, and there's not really enough tension or depth here for these two to carry the series on their own. A cast of supporting characters is presumably waiting in the wings, so perhaps this show will improve once it starts building out that ensemble.
Another question mark here is the tonal clash between the cutesy art style and the surprisingly high level of fanservice in this episode. The visual direction seems keen to emphasize the cleavage presented by Beelzebub's work uniform, and she has a habit of wearing far less when she's not on the clock. That wouldn't be as big of a deal if As Miss Beelzebub Likes were more obviously a fanservice series, but something about the soft focus and fuzzy color palette feels directly at odds with the image of Beelzebub lounging around in her birthday suit. If this show can decide on whether it wants to be cute or sexy, and if it can develop its world and characters a bit, it might be worth watching. At the moment, however, it feels more like a scattered collection of ideas than a unified whole.
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