In a world powered by advanced technology, crime and action unfold in the archipelagic nation of Cremona. Koku, the protagonist. Keith, the legendary investigator of the royal police force RIS. A mysterious criminal organization. A wide variety of characters race through the fortified city as it is beset by the serial killer, Killer B, and a chain of crimes in this suspense drama by director Kazuto Nakazawa and Production I.G
It’s so rare to see an anime of such high quality to take as many risks as B: The Beginning does. Sure it stumbles a bit along the way, but the final result is undeniably an ambitious and thoroughly entertaining ride worth watching.
The story is totally insane on paper but is somehow even more bewildering in action thanks to such lovingly crafted visuals by Production I.G. with a talented director at the helm. It is in one part a sci-fi police procedural similar to Psycho-Pass, but simultaneously a game of cat and mouse like Death Note. These wild ideas packed on top of each
other in only a brief 12 episode season makes for slightly underdone execution and lacking development. In my opinion, there’s enough good in this show to outweigh the negatives, but to summarize them before diving into the analysis:
+Fantastic Action Scenes
+Expressive Dub and Good Soundtrack
+Shocking Twists that add Rewatch Value
-Underdone Sci-Fi Setting
-Large Cast of Supporting Characters are Underdeveloped
-Too Fast-Paced at Times
-Confusing Story at First
To start I’ll say, B: The Beginning is a thriller with plenty of twists and turns in its story to keep you interested. It’s not really a traditional mystery because (like Death Note) the titular ‘Killer B’ that the title alludes to is revealed in the first episode and is one of our two protagonists. One being the enigmatic Koku with his black wings and nack for murdering criminals; the other is Keith Flick a gruff former detective who’s helping out the police hunt down killer B. He’s sort of inept in social situations which derives plenty of comedy that I found quite funny. Keith's intelligence makes him a perfect lead to see this investigation from. Whenever he’s in deep thought putting the pieces of a mystery together we see his thoughts visibly through words and diagrams that appear onscreen. It’s all quite neat as well, not cluttering the screen and conveying his organized mind. He even has a tragic backstory to complement his gruff design which ties into the story and is revisited before the end to give him a satisfying conclusion to his character arc.
Our second protagonist, the teenage Koku struggles to maintain relevance until his backstory is fleshed out during the second half. Keith gets the majority of the screen time of the two. All of the characters have some level of charm making them all quite watchable, excluding Koku. He’s just an angsty teenager with black-wings and an arm that turns into a sword… yeah my interest in him was only maintained by his mysterious origin. That origin takes an intruiging shape and justifies all of the insanity we see up until then in an extremely satisfying twist. I found Koku alienating at first, but he proved to be a crucial part of the story as it went on. While I couldn't entirely get invested in his subdued personality, at least I understood why he was so subdued. His backstory and to a greater extent the show's whole story became a mystery I didn't expect to be engaged with but I loved it. I would definitely rewatch this show to understand it with the knowledge of the twists. It was a huge risk making an experience that relies so heavily on ambiguity, thankfully it worked out because the twists are so rewarding.
My favorite member of the supporting cast, Lily stands out with her sarcastic, defiant, and irreverent personality. Working alongside Keith, her lack of experience gives the audience a simpler and more comprehensive perspective on the potentially alienating first half. Her separate scenes were a joy to watch, never hurting the show's overall dark tone. I do wish that she and the other supports had more visible development by the end. At least the protagonists grow a sufficient amount thanks to their backstories being woven into the story.
Throughout the first half of the show, a criminal group creates havoc throughout the show’s fictional sci-fi country Cremona. Sadly the setting becomes little more than an afterthought because the main focus of the show is the game of cat and mouse. Just like the detective Keith and his fellow investigators, we are left in the dark on what exactly is happening in the terror-filled nation of Cremona and why. It's an effective way to immerse us in their struggle to find the truth and put an end to the violent chaos. We get information on the terrorist group as the police do, it rarely feels like the audience is ahead of Keith’s knowledge. Unless of course, we’re seeing the story through Koku’s eyes as he’s fighting at the heart of the cacophony.
Mostly populated by thrilling action sequences, the first half spares very little time on developing the many police officers due to the quick pacing. Instead the talented Kazuto Nakazawa gives us recognizable character designs (oh lord especially the clown makeup cultists), strong English voice performances, and a punchy script that gives the cast enough personality to not be cardboard cutouts fighting a pointless battle. While I did find myself caring about the characters when their lives were threatened, I can’t guarantee everyone else will like their charm. Once the pace settles in the second half, development does come quite plentifully with huge twists that validate the madness seen in the first half. There’s plenty of rewatch value after understanding why the first half is so filled with ambiguity. There's even a teaser at the end of the last episode indicating a potential second season. Even though the story wraps up really well, I'd love to watch another season of it.
Jumping sporadically from one catastrophe to the next, the story showcases Production I.G.’s best abilities. CGI vehicles shake with realistic physics during the many entertaining car chase scenes. The camera is always placed right at the center of the action, never shying away from an abundance of violence, never afraid of blowing its budget on the spectacle. The creator/director Kazuto Nakazawa known for good animation work on series like Samurai Champloo has finally been given a project worthy of his talent. This is the only anime that I can say has a clown makeup wearing cultist skateboarding down the side of a skyscraper while being chased by a black-winged vigilante teenager. All with beautifully fluid animation at high speeds. If that's not ambitious, then I don't know what is.
Most of all, the background art is always well detailed, sometimes breathtaking. Even if those backgrounds don’t necessarily have details that flesh out the setting much more than ‘it looks pretty much like modern-day America’, they still look damn great.
B: The Beginning may have a confusing and fast-paced first half, with a poorly explained setting and a lack of villain motivations, but at least it’s never boring. Not one bit.
The villains eventually do get explained motivations (and the clown makeup actually makes sense!) but it does come in a twist so you’ll have to find out the answers for yourself! Getting to those motivations will mean you’ll have to get through the bewildering first half, but don’t worry! And besides, the sword duals are so amazing during the early episodes. It’s constant fluidly animated, sakuga that will grab your attention where the writing may not. But like I said before, after watching it I can say confidently there is a reason for everything that happens early on, even if it's confusing for a first time viewer.
On top of the great visuals, the sound design is also spectacular. Everything from the slice of a sword, whirring car engines heard as they drive by, and explosions with intense audiovisual feedback. It’s so impactful at every moment. Even when there isn’t a satisfying sound effect playing, the perfectly cerebral thriller soundtrack is reverberating. The ending song “The Perfect World” is amazing too, performed by Marty Friedman with Man With A Mission’s quite talented vocalist.
It’s common for people to criticize edginess in dark and violent anime like this one. It definitely lives up to the shows that inspired it, but does it break out of the overbearing edginess we’re used to seeing in this Crime-Thriller genre? In my opinion, absolutely. There’s enough comic relief separated from the high stakes action to make the characters seem like real people, not just pawns in a to be moved by the writer. There's an overall silliness that covers much of it, but it knows when to be serious. However, nothing is spared from the craziness that B loves to employ. It's everywhere; from the absurd hacking sequences with foot pedals (for what reason, I don't know!) to the to its occasionally hilarious cast. Also, the cultists' uniform makeup also helps them seem less like a feared undefined entity and more like mentally disturbed clowns that you’d want to run from if you ever saw on the streets. It's a ride, a really fun time that isn't afraid to get its hands dirty and only tries to entertain.
[Story: 6/10] Intriguing premise that takes it’s time to get going, strong ending.
[Character: 6/10] Good leads, underdone supporting cast.
[Art: 9/10] All around great, relatively tame towards the end.
[Sound: 9/10] Solid dub and soundtrack. Mediocre sub.
[Enjoyment: 8.5/10] Confusing at first, becomes more engaging as it goes.
It's all too rare for us to get a high budget anime like B: The Beginning that takes so many risks to create a unique and memorable experience. Thankfully those risks paid off and it turned out really good. It's far from perfect, but I'm just happy such a lovingly crafted experience like this got made at all. My only hope is that shows will take inspiration from it in the future.
First Devilman Crybaby, now this! My expectations of Netflix original animes have risen.
The overall story just feels like a clusterfuck of all sorts of different shows being thrown together like a crappy off brand bootlag dvd your grandma bought you for christmas for like 5 pennies.
While in the beginning I didn't really know where the story would go, it just got worse as it played out, with the characters feeling dumb and underdeveloped, making it hard to give a damn about anything that is going on as it dived deeper into the incomprehensible bullshit that is the show itself.
The best part of the show is the animation by far, with a bunch of really nicely animated fighting
scenes as well as a generally pretty art style, which really makes it a shame in my opinion for everything else to just end up the way it ended up ending up.
Have you ever thought to yourself: "Hey, I wonder what would it be like if someone combined Terror in Resonance with Tokyo Ghoul." ? or "What if someone combined Psycho Pass with Death Note?"
No? Well, me neither. However, it seems B: The Beginning is here to fulfil your non-existent needs...
But this isn't even exactly true either.
Story: Whilst the central story borrows many elements like that which I have mentioned, it is, with all elements combined, very different to most Anime of the genre. Although I have to say the synopsis given on MAL is very vague and misleading.
To start off with, Koku, the seemingly-angsty teen
character, is not the protagonist, or at least, the only protagonist. The older, ragged Keith Flick, a smart but relatable detective in the Royal Police Force, is the other, and it's this combination of two intertwining plots that make the story so much different.
Without any spoilers, there are twists and turns at various points in the story. However, some twists fall in the 'predictable' category, some seem to come from nowhere, yet, the few twists other than those definitely make up for them. The pacing is also noticeably erratic, but I didn't notice that as much.
Don't come into this show expecting a drawn-out fight each episode, nor an entire gore-fest (although gore is prevalent), nor a 100%-realistic psychological battle of wits. But trust me, the story is mostly unpredictable, actually quite complicated too, and overall, that's a major advantage. 7/10
Art/Animation: There's not much to say here. As for the art, the characters are rarely off-model nor act unrealistically, although sometimes it's intentional and for comedic effect (I also have to give attention to the attention to detail for Keith's stubble).
The animation for the fight scenes is good when it's close-up, but may be seen as lacking in the long-shots, although very rarely, I do notice bad animation that make it look like a screenshot of a character is just being moved by an invisible mouse, but those scenes are few and far-between. CG is also used for animating the cars, although it's not too bad till too much of it is used, but then again, that is not often. 7/10
Sound: Although not as good nor unique as Netflix's Devilman Crybaby OST, the soundtrack is a lot better than standard TV anime. The soundtrack isn't especially jarring, but is most of the time woven well into every scene. Tense moment? Tense soundtrack. There's one fight scene in particular early on where they use a track very, very suitable to the setting, without spoilers, which I have to give props for.
The ED is nothing special, but I like the use of English lyrics sung actually well. 8/10
Characters: This is probably the weakest area of the show. Although each and every character's face, personality and body type is very different from each-other, as expected of the studio that did Attack on Titan... In comparison to other series? Not so much.
For example, one character has black hair, and one different-coloured eye. If I gave you that description alone, you could probably think of loads of characters. Another character is a short, bald fat guy. Another is a tall guy with long blonde hair. The list goes on. I don't expect every single character to look different to any other character that came before it, but it is noticeable.
Personalities mostly suffer from being 1-dimensional. One character just seems to just follow one or two particular motives, without any particular character flaws. Another character isn't even given a backstory and is killed off without really meaning anything. No characters particularly develop as the story goes on, yet some characters, important characters, DO have more complex and well-built personalities. In all, 6/10
Overall: B The Beginning is nothing amazing. But it is nothing terrible either, and for sure, it's entertaining, and kept me hooked for the entire time I was watching. There's probably a lot more religious and ideas about life and death and humanity sprinkled in the story than I found from my first viewing, and the ending of the series is actually relatively conclusive. Sometimes things aren't explained in the series, and a lot is left for the viewer to work out, but overall, I'd give B: The Beginning a 7/10. A B Grade. After all, this is just the beginning, right...?
(This is my first review so sorry if I made any mistakes, thanks for reading!)
At first I thought this was going to be an simple cat and mouse game. Where the police would go after the murderer only to find him in ep 12 as the nice boy no one would suspect, but that wasn't the case and I loved it. I got more and more hooked on the story as I progressed. The mystery started to unravel. Who was the real murderer? and to find it out in ep 12 got me fired up, everything fell into place, everything became clear I always love it when an anime resolves everything in the end. One minor side-note I would
have liked it more if there was just an tad bit more of an explanation. also there are certain comedic scenes to lighten up the dark tones of the series. I would easily give the story an 8/10.
the art lets just say it was great it looked good it felt right and the information that was written over the screen felt like it had an certain elegance. 9/10.
the sound while the intro was quite intresting and there was an song that was unique most of the songs didn't stick very well. i would give it no more than an 7/10
the characters in the serie are quite intresting, espacially their backgrounds. 8/10
Overal I can say the creator of this story put alot of time in it and it shows, this story will take for an ride it might get weird but it will make sense in the end.
Side note I hope there will be an season 2 its teased in the end credits of ep 12.
It was recently announced that Production I.G's upcoming series, Perfect Bones, will premiere exclusively on Netflix. That means it will be "the first ever original anime title to debut all episodes simultaneously in 190 countries around the world." Let's explore why this is such exciting news!