Kazuhiko InoueyokaiYokai Ningen BemMinori Chihara
Youkai Ningen Bem (2006)
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2006
Director: Hiroshi Harada
Writer: Junki Takegami
Actor: Ai Horanai, Hirofumi Nojima, Kaori Yamagata, Kazuhiko Inoue, Manabu Muraji, Masami Iwasaki, Mie Sonozaki, Minori Chihara, Mizuho Suzuki, Naoya Iwahashi, Rokuro Naya, Yuuna Inamura
Keywords: Yokai Ningen Bem, yokai, anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 26 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=6541
Website category: Anime late 00s
Review date: 7 June 2022
It's better than the original. I like them both, but 1968 storytelling and animation can be primitive. This 2006 remake is easier to get into. I'd recommend it, whereas I'd hesitate to do so with its predecessor.
Importantly, also, it's respectful to the source material. It's kept the dark, often bittersweet tone. Our heroes look, talk and think as they should, both as humans and as monsters. (Later remakes aren't so careful.) They've ditched the hilarious opening theme, alas, but its replacement pays homage in the lyrics and is just as cool.
So, to recap... Bem, Bela and Belo are good-hearted youkai who insist that one day they'll be human. They can transform into human-ish forms, but even those aren't inconspicuous. Bem (the big black man) looks a bit like F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu when he takes off his hat. Bela (the woman) is a whip-wielding Bride of Dracula who likes doing housework and cooking when she's not killing monsters. Her dream is to be human. She's playing housewife. Belo (the child) has fangs, claws, elf teeth and a habit of doing impossible flea leaps when he's happy. Sometimes he'll hang upside down.
This is Belo's show, even more than its predecessor. Bela rarely gets involved and Bem almost never. The irrepressibly chirpy, optimistic Belo is the hero of almost every episode, assuming that all humans are his friends and being outraged by wickedness. What's more, the show's stopped giving every episode a new setting and supporting cast. Belo makes friends... but it's never easy. Kira's adorable and would defy the world to trust Belo, but her parents are blinkered racists and I think her mother has a death on her hands by the end of the series. (It's all the more hateful because they think they're saying obvious, correct things as they spout bigotry.) Sora's hard to win over. Mitsuki's even tougher, because he finds Belo's youkai form scary. (He's also mildly disturbing in how he and his mother talk to each other, which is jarringly formal.)
The early episodes have some brutal endings. Belo and Kira have become friends, but... well, those parents. Also, not all children are as forgiving and open-minded as her.
After that, the show gets easier to enjoy. It's basically episodic, but with character arcs based around different humans' relationships with Belo and the others. There are monsters of the week and people who deserve what's coming to them. It's a strong formula. A lot of these episodes are rather good.
Occasionally, it's GeGeGe-like. Ep.10 feels like a GeGeGe no Kitarou episode, for instance, but the two shows usually feel very different. They have different kinds of darkness. GeGeGe has a more shocking view of human nature (although neither is sunny) and more sinister heroes. This show, on the other hand, has fiercely moral heroes who always do the right thing, but a much higher body count.
The bad endings return as we approach the season finale, though. Misunderstandings pile up, while the police get a youkai exterminator on their payroll.
RANDOM OBSERVATIONS
Ep.19 = oi, oi. Sora and Mitsuki. Are you idiots? How desperate are you to forget what you yourselves did and saw?
Ep.20 = Belo knows what a human soul looks like.
I enjoyed this and I'll be watching the later remakes too. Yes, even the 2011 live-action one. I'm bracing myself. What I like about this particular one is its fidelity to the original, its dark tone and its characters. That's Bem, Bela and Belo, absolutely to a tee. I love them. I love Kira too. I was impressed by the season finale, which is pretty no-holds-barred (although I don't quite believe the too-quick change of heart from Kira's toxic mother in ep.26). I'm pretty confident that this is going to end up being my favourite version of the franchise.