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Netflix Anime Review - B: The Beginning

Recently I started watching anime on Netflix. Netflix is a very interesting platform that really caters to my inner binge-monster. I watched some Japanese shows before, such as Terrace House or some dramas (which I stopped after a few episodes, J-Drama's can't hold my attention anymore..). After watching Devilman: Crybaby, which I really liked especially the art and music (that rap was awesome!) I decided to try another anime. Storywise I already knew Devilman, so I decided to watch something totally new with no prior knowledge or even a summary or trailer. Therefore I decided to watch B: The Beginning.

The story is about a killer, Killer B, whom kills other killers and has mysterious powers. The RIS or Royal Investigation Service is investigating this Killer and whilst doing this other crimes that seem to be connected happen as well. This setting of this all is an archipelago called Cremona which has a king and a royal family. The main protagonist is Koku, whom is Killer B, he is in search of someone. Keith Flick returning to RIS after years of absence is also back to resolve matters related to his past which seem to be related to Killer B as well. I won't do a detailed recap here so I will just write about what I liked or disliked about this anime, so SPOILER ALERT.

The art: European tones dominate in the architecture 
What struck me at first was the amazing art of this anime. The European looking Archipelago setting felt a bit like Huis ten Bosch which is a Dutch village near Nagasaki as it has European feel to it but still with a Japanese vibe. The European feel combined with beautiful landscapes gave me bit of a Ghibli feeling without the Ghibli optimism: the story is quite dark but the scenery make it uplifting almost. I liked that they mixed up cultures and ethnicities: there are French, Italian, English, German, and Japanese names. The architecture was also a mix of many styles. At one moment you are in the beautiful city centre which feels like the heart of a European capital, and the next moment they are fighting (and breaking down) a Buddhist temple called Heian-ji, a name which reminded me of the Heian temple.




City centre, very European feel to it. There's even a pub on the left side. Also the bakery as shown in episode 4 sells Italian as well as Japanese baked goods.

 Royal Library, looking like a European church from the inside

The Heian-ji (before it gets utterly trashed)


I really liked the way they had designed this world. The name Cremona wasn't as convincing as it wasn't used many times (or I wasn't paying attention..) and the history and the country itself was not really detailed, unlike the artwork. I also liked the voice acting, although it was typically Japanese. Inuyashiki for example is a fairly new anime which presents a rather new style of voice acting, not as exaggerated but still enthralling enough to get you sucked into the story. I like original stuff like that.

Story and characters: thrilling yet lacking in its chaos
I don't mind shows where I am thrown in without any knowledge and it's in the middle of the story. There is no clear beginning but there are flashbacks that will explain everything later on. I don't mind having a lot of information and going through it, as long as it comes together nicely. This is what B: The Beginning fails to do in my opinion. But the animation, art and soundtrack make up for a lot of it. And as this is probably just The Beginning (see what I did there??) we will hopefully get a more complete world which will 'earn its wings' (I did it againnn). 
About the characters, I got a bit of Johan-vibes from the main killer Gilbert, but that's not the only comparison I made to Monster, seeing all those children being 'experimented' on. However, we do not see the actual experiments, but apparently they were being made into living weapons in search of resurrecting ancient 'gods' from an ancient scripture and fossils found centuries ago. Koku, one of the main protagonists, is being called the king which we still don't really know much about at the end of the series. What is this ancient race? Were they truly gods? How did they 'resurrect' them? What are these fossils exactly?


I am left with more questions after watching it, and I would have liked a bit more background story on this. The folklore and the religion/traditions are also an interesting thing. The fighting scene at the lake with all the lights hint at a long history of unique traditions and customs of Cremona. I missed more explanation on this or at least a good connection to the story.

As it is very fast-paced and as different storylines intertwine, I also still have a lot of questions about the royal family whom we didn't get to see during this series. I am sure this series will get a season 2, but for me storylines that get too crowded or messy I prefer to see it a bit more spread out so we can really bond with the characters. Also the antagonists weren't really convincing, there are the 'failed' experiments or deliberate successes to make soldiers named 'Reji' whom need some sort of gold liquid to not go utterly insane, but will go insane anyway (I still don't fully get this Reji concept). Then there is some secret group of Reji's or something that want something from Koku (in the end we find out that it was a Reji that got manipulated by Gilbert, somehow). And then there's Gilbert. It's all very messy and didn't come together convincingly enough for me. I think if this anime was 26 episodes instead of 12 it could have been stronger, and not so rushed in the explanations and motives which is all jumbled up. It's best to just sit back and watch it as I did, but I always want to know everything and make sense of it so it was kind of hard to let that one go.
The character I liked was Lily, but she was still quite a superficial character and not fleshed out enough for my taste (wow that sounds cannibalistic..). I think her dynamic with Keith was the most interesting to this anime, I hoped some romantic feelings would be explored but it was only hinted at and then suddenly turned away from it completely. I do think, despite the age difference, they would be a good match. Age is nothing but a number, well and then you have Keith's crazy room.

This scene where Lily tells Gilbert she probably loves Keith (which is an act apparently) gave me some shipping hope!

 The reaction of the team was hilarious!
 Boris the ol' creep
Even Keith felt that one!

I think the team of the RIS we were left with at the end was quite nice, the designated hacker Kaela of course, and some older veterans of RIS as well such as Boris. I am also quite curious how Bran figured out about the program following them on camera which lead to his attack. I feel like there are dots that haven't been connected as well as they could have, which feels a bit sloppy in my opinion. I felt like I could have been a bit more invested in these characters, and care more if something happened to them or not. I did not at this time. Maybe next season. 

After watching everything I felt some things were lacking. Keith and Gilbert's motives were not that strong. Their bond could have been a bit better, more flashbacks about them in college or something, or even of Erika. I did not really feel the 'resentment' about Gilbert killing Erika except for that she is the (adopted) little sister of Keith and she looks like Lily. In the end it all started because of Keith and Gilbert trying to outsmart each other and Gilbert wanting to make Keith see from his perspective, ergo a killer. This whole thread felt extremely disconnected from the main story. I feel like this anime has to be watched several times to truly understand it. Kudos to y'all non-Japanese out there watching this without subs and getting everything in one time without a dictionary. I couldn't do it, for sure.

Conclusion: too many genres smashed together without delving too deep into one
The story ends 'well', if you consider all the main people still being alive as a good ending. But the after credits show that one of the friends who helped Koku, Kirisame, is still alive and kicking and wants the arm that Koku took back. This probably means that not all of Koku's friends/fellows are dead and there are more of those 'Reji's' and 'god-experiments' out there.

Well, this series is called B: The Beginning for a reason, as this season was packed with action but probably still just the beginning of exploring this world further. At least now we know where all the important detective work is done.

This picture sums it up for me, it's an anime that tries to multitask a bit too much making it almost comical. 

All in all it was a great anime to binge, the artwork and animation was great and the soundtrack good too. The genres are very mixed, we get some sci-fi, some folklore, all part of a deep detective story. It reminded me of Psycho-Pass, Monster, maybe some folklore anime like Ghibli because of the beautiful landscaping, and even Chrno Crusade as this somewhat timid boy suddenly turns into a demon-like creature to protect the woman he loves. Story wise it could have been a bit more focused and given us more fleshed-out characters. Except for the dead bodies. They were pretty "fleshed-out". I am however looking forward to exploring more anime on Netflix, so hopefully season 2 will bring us a story that will make me connect more to this world and its characters. Wrapping an intricate story like this up in merely 12 episodes does not do it justice.

Art: 9/10
Animation: 8/10
Story & characters: 6/10


~Written by Devi~


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