Daisuke OnoKenji NomuraKensho OnoYokai Ningen Bem
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: B
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Yoshinori Odaka
Writer: Atsuhiro Tomioka
Actor: Daisuke Ono, Junichi Suwabe, Katsuyuki Konishi, Kensho Ono, Kenji Nomura, Kotaro Nishiyama, Maaya Sakamoto, Maaya Uchida, M.A.O, Soma Saito
Keywords: Yokai Ningen Bem, yokai, anime, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=21994
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 15 June 2022
It's a 50th anniversary revival of Youkai Ningen Bem. Bem, Bela and Belo are still hiding in the shadows of the human world, helping people when they can and trying not to let anyone realise that they're monsters.
The show's also appalling. I loathe it. I don't mean mild dislike or boredom, but actual hatred. Ep.1 left me a bit negative, but the show kept getting worse until I wanted it dead. It had looked bad at first glance, but so had the 2011 live-action TV series and that I liked. This... aaaah, no.
It's a dour, grey slog through misery. It's a red-letter day when someone in this universe smiles. It's a story of urban corruption, dirty cops, assassination, sinister unseen councils, etc. Idealists die. Even children in game arcades say things like "this is going to be our turf", or perhaps "I have to buy alcohol and go home or Dad will hit me again". The baddies can be impressively evil, but I found it increasingly hard to care.
Bem, Bela and Belo hate their lives and are incapable of tasting or enjoying anything. Belo sneers about humans and gives the impression that he'd sooner take a bullet in the face than talk to you. He plays video games with all the joy of torture victims having their fingernails pulled out. When his "friends" find him feeding stray dogs in ep.8, you wouldn't have been surprised if he'd then killed the dogs to stop the humans from being able to use them as an excuse to meet him.
What's more, the humans are just as bad. Sonia Summers must have had her smile muscles surgically removed, while Helmut Felt genuinely seems incapable of emotion.
Holy shit. Where do I begin?
Firstly, the character designs. Bem, Bela and Belo are now all attractive teenagers, because that's the TV law these days. You couldn't identify them from a line-up. Bela's a schoolgirl. (Ironically there's an end-of-series baddie, the Mysterious Lady, who more closely resembles the scary original Bela.)
Secondly, the characterisation. Bem's not actually that different, to be honest. Belo, though, is a spit in the face. The original was an endlessly cheerful, bouncy goblin-elf, incapable of giving up on anyone or anything. He was the show's heart. What happened? The simplest assumption is that this is a reboot, with no connection to the original versions of these characters, but what if it isn't? They're immortal. It could easily be them, fifty years later. What broke Belo so badly? The show never even considers that question, because being miserable is its default mode.
As for Bela, she's attending school and hanging out with, uh, friends. (They never comment on her inability to smile, react emotionally or change her bored tone of voice.) Bela actually thaws the most in this series.
Is there an argument for these changes? Different is good, I suppose. It's a change. We've had two 26-episode series starring Optimistic Belo, etc, whereas this is another take on the characters. Yes, it is, but it's also a boring one. The real versions were better. This characterisation is one-note and monotonous, with emotional growth for Bela being, for instance, finding a boy at her school attractive and being bewildered when her heart speeds up in his presence. "What does this mean?" she asks.
In short, no no no. This is an anime of robots. You'd be impressed if they cheered up enough to become dreary, although in fairness some of the supporting characters are nice, ordinary people. Belo is offensively rude, barely acknowledging other people's presence and not taking off his headphones when they talk to him. He only comes alive when being snide to Bela.
Pointlessly bleak.