When B: The Beginning landed on Netflix, no one really knew what to expect from the supernatural mystery thriller. This week in anime, Michelle and Steve get way more than they bargained for out of this over-the-top serial-killing adventure.
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You can read our full review of B: The Beginning here!
Micchy, it's time for MARCH MADNESS. And no, I'm not talking about college basketball. I'm talking about the fact that Netflix is dropping four freaking full-length anime series this month, and I don't know what human on this temporal plane has the time to keep up with that.
Most humans don't deign to watch literally every anime, but alas, such is the life of a cartoon commentator. I just
, fer chrissakes.
No rest for the wicked! First up, we have B: The Beginning
. From the mind of Kazuto Nakazawa
, it's an edge-of-your-seat crime and conspiracy thriller, starring a bunch of clowns.
Figuratively and quite literally.
The Jared Leto fanclub really has no room to be throwing shade. Anyway, B: The Beginning is pretty incredible. I'm not gonna mince words; it's simultaneously wonderful and terrible and I both love and hate it with all my heart.
It sucks so bad at so many basic parts of crafting a coherent story. BUT it's also off-the-wall bonkers and over-the-top and I can't help but be charmed by how desperately edgy it wants to be.
It's equal parts Sherlock and the most chuuni anime bullshit imaginable, and I don't know how you can get much sillier than that. Like, how do you even explain what happens in the show?
Even the characters themselves can't do it.
One half of the show is a crime procedural centered around Keith Flick, a grumpy disheveled genius detective hunting down his sister's killer. The other half is Batman.
I mean, the first episode starts pretty much like your average police procedural. There's a murder, and it fits the profile of a known serial killer known as Killer B. (Hence the name of the show.) We meet a genius outcast detective who's dedicated his life to solving these cases. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff.
And then a clown hijacks a tank, a boy turns into a bird, and all bets are off.
It's a hell of a first impression to make! The show is utter chaos all the way through, mostly of the fun variety, and the half that isn't a dry crime drama is about your average anime protagonist, Koku.
You know he's the protagonist because he has blue hair and heterochromia.
He's pretty cute when he's not some creepy black owl demon.
He's a demigod who's sworn to kill everyone who betrayed him and his gf when they were kids, so he's been going around exacting justice on serial killers, leaving his signature B sign at the scene. Thus, the police have taken to calling him Killer B.
This mystery persists for about an episode and a half before everyone kind of forgets about it to focus on more pressing issues, like dead sisters and evil clown cults. From then on, the show becomes two wholly distinct stories stuck together with scotch tape and chewing gum. On one hand, who killed Keith's sister? On the other, who is Koku and why do the circus rejects all want to kill him so bad?
It's two shows at war with each other. One is a cat-and-mouse police thriller a la Sherlock/Hannibal/etc. The other is an anime-as-heck supernatural conspiracy about resurrecting god and cool fight scenes. They never really gel together, and the result is disorienting, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. It's a mess but a weirdly compelling mess.
It's unusual, that's for sure! The Sherlock half of the show is extremely Sherlock, for better or worse, while the anime bullshit half is full of big emotions and grand speeches—y'know, the usual anime fare when it comes to killing gods and stuff.
like, it even does the Sherlock text-on-screen thing
At one point, there's so much text on screen that Netflix gives up on translating it, and I can't blame them. Though I will say that while B: The Beginning is more anime than Sherlock, it's still not as anime as Hannibal.
I can't argue with you there. Thankfully, despite all the convoluted plot twists and protracted gambits, Keith's story works for me, largely thanks to the lovable cast.
Keith is very moe
for a dysfunctional TV detective.
He's good, but a lot of what makes him so likable stems from his rapport with the actual best character in the show, Lily.
Yes, the rookie sidekick Lily is an absolute ray of sunshine.
It's really too bad she gets sidelined so hard toward the end of the show. It's not the only time a supposedly important female character gets damseled either. :( But when she is around, she absolutely steals the show by ruthlessly dunking on Keith's general disaster-ness.
What, you weren't a fan of Yuna getting killed like half a dozen times and then getting chained to a wall like a full dozen times?
When her entire role in the story is to get saved by the teenage boy? Yeah no.
I'd be crying too.
Yeah, the other half of the show, i.e. the one without Lily's charm, is uh...oh boy is it a mess.
I still can't answer this question, sorry buddy.
Stop me if you've heard this before: there's a government conspiracy producing inhuman supersoldiers with fragile senses of identity, and then shit hits the fan when one of them decides "fuck it, I'm better than this".
Yeah, but on those other shows, are they called REGGIEs? I think not.
REGGIE of course stands for...uh...
B: The Beginning is very silly, if you couldn't tell already.
To its credit, the chuuni half of the show does have some great-looking fight scenes.
Oh, it looks great! The action setpieces are really spectacular, with snappy direction and a lot of flair.
I mean, is there any other anime where an androgynous Rimbaud-quoting murder clown skateboards down a skyscraper pursued by a black-winged demigod vigilante?
Also, did I mention: SWORD LEGS
GOD that scene ruled. CHEKHOV'S SWORD LEGS weren't the most subtle device, but the payoff is worth it.
Ah yes, the sword leg comes back after Koku spends two whole episodes standing at the top of a cliff dramatically braving a blizzard, because that's what kind of show this is.
the kind of show where THIS is the bad guy's office
"Don't mind me, just gonna have a wall full of creepy skeletons in my office that also doubles as the entrance to a secret chamber where I keep my mummy collection, while I operate undetected at the police headquarters for a decade."
At the end of the day, B's final attempt to tie its two storylines together is just making one guy responsible for everything. Which is fucking hilarious. Some highlights: "How many times in the last eight years has the doctor worked past midnight?" "37." "How many unresolved missing person cases involving left-handed Asian women under 5'3 are there?" "Also 37."
whatever you do, DO NOT make him listen to techno
He sets up a years-long plan to drive Keith to kill him because one time in college Keith said murder was dumb.
I legit burst out laughing at that scene.
tfw you're so invested in the girl you murdered eight years ago that you decide to kill someone solely because their musical taste doesn't align with hers
He's obviously B's take on the Moriarty/Hannibal archetype of the genius villain who's obsessed with the protagonist, but he's just so EXTRA about everything.
he's even extra about being bored
Like, he kills time waiting for Keith to show up by watching old reel-to-reel films that he still has lying around in 2018. All so he can set this creepy ambiance for the final confrontation. And it's legit a cool-looking scene! It's just hilariously over-the-top.
After being shot point-blank in the head, he spends his final moments waxing poetic about the satisfaction he gets from forcing Keith's hand. It's just So Much. I can't take how much this man is. It turns out that he's also responsible for enabling the attack on Koku's childhood school and supplying the clown cult with their sanity drugs, because of course that was the only way to tie all this together. This show's plotting is so, so dumb. I can't decide if I love or hate it.
I wouldn't mind the messy plotting so much if it had a stronger thematic focus. On anything. Anything at all.
Yeah, that's the thing. The whole show's a string of "wouldn't it be cool if...?" ideas thrown out without any themes tying them together. Koku's arc vaguely resembles a coming-of-age narrative, while Keith's is a pretty transparent detective with a vendetta and not much more. It's a lotta
good spectacle, but that's kind of it?
Like, I've seen a lot of people compare B to Terror in Resonance
(with good reason, since Nakazawa was Terror in Resonance
's character designer among other things). And Terror in Resonance
had some similarly messy and distracting plot issues. But at least it was trying to say something, with an emotional core and visual direction to back that up. (And the Yoko Kanno
soundtrack didn't hurt either.)
B is what you'd get if you took the Five arc from Terror in Resonance and made that like, the whole show.
I enjoyed B, and I want people to watch it because it's pretty darn entertaining. But I also want people to watch B so that maybe they'll appreciate how good Terror in Resonance actually was by comparison. That's right, I proudly stan Terror in Resonance.
Hey, I also like Terror in Resonance a lot, haters to the left. But when it comes down to it, I'm not sure if I can recommend B to many people. If for some reason you do decide to watch it, you'll have a great time marathoning it with a group of friends.
It is a ride and a half, and if you've got some booze, you'll have a good time ahead of you.
It also looks pretty dang nice, so if that's your thing...
Plus any show with ear blush is a good show in my book.
I think my favorite thing about B: The Beginning
is that the title itself is a threat. A threat that we will be getting further installments of B, and may the anime gods have mercy on our souls.
As long as we get more Lily tbh
I can only hope that if the other anime that come out this March are messes, they will be as fun as this one. Though I also hope they don't put quite so much emphasis on this acronym.