B the Beginning is The Sci Fi Mystery You Never Knew You Wanted
These days, most anime is adapted from a pre-existing source material. A majority of anime in recent years are adaptions of manga and novels. So it’s always refreshing when an original anime comes out, untethered from expectations laid out by its source material. This works especially well in a thriller, where not knowing what happens next is crucial to the show. This brings me to B the Beginning, the latest anime to hit Netflix’s streaming service under its “original” animes, following Devilman Crybaby. The show comes to us from Production I.G., the studio best known for the animated sequence from Kill Bill. So, is B the Beginning worth your time? Or is it just another throwaway show on Netflix to binge and forget about?
Where to (B)egin
The show is set in an alternate timeline on an archipelago run by a royal family. I can’t talk more about this setting, because this world isn’t fleshed out very well. We never get to meet this royal family, either. The story follows two protagonists, the first of which is Keith Flick. Kieth is a genius investigator for the country’s royal police force, who is brought on to help in the investigation of a vicious serial killer known only as Killer B. The other protagonist is Koku, a seemingly normal boy who, in actuality, is a supernatural being seeking a lost companion. Their stories connect and intertwine as their searches lead them to a secret organization, a research project involving the resurrection of gods, and a prophecy foretelling the rise of a “black king”.
The story for B the Beginning is not bad, but it can be confusing at times. The plot makes sense once you figure it out, but understanding it can be difficult at times. B the Beginning is a crime drama that’s also trying to be a supernatural sci-fi, and a mystery. As such, there are a lot of related elements and concepts, all of which mish-mash together. It does a good job balancing all of these elements and keeping them consistent up until the last quarter of the show. At that point, an ancient prophecy is brought in that feels out of place with the other elements in the show. It feels like it’s trying to be too many different things at once, but not everything mixes together well. There is a pretty good story in there, however that’s assuming you can understand everything.
Both plot lines are almost given equal attention, but the proportioning of this ends up a bit unbalanced. The earlier and latter episodes put more focus on Keith than on Koku’s story, but the times that do follow Koku’s story do so in greater depth. The show attempts to balance these plots out evenly, and does so fairly well most of the time. However, despite the even screen time, its very clear that Keith’s story is the more important one of the two, with Kokou’s story having much less weight. Even Kokou’s ending felt more like an afterthought thrown in at the last second, as opposed to feeling like its own ending.
The Many Players in This Game of Cat and Mouse
B the Beginning is full of colorful, well-written characters bursting with personality. They’re very believable and consistent throughout the show, with unique personalities to match their roles. Keith in particular stood out, taking the eccentric genius trope and putting a spin on it that made him a fun character to watch. I loved seeing how he handled the various puzzles thrown at him, and seeing what he would do next. Koku, by comparison, is a bit more subdued. He’s your typical anime protagonist, which makes him seem a little out of place when put next to a more realistic character like Keith. He’s not necessarily a bad character, but he has trouble holding up compared to the show’s other heroes and villains.
Mystery and Suspense
Where B the Beginning excels the most is in its suspense and mystery. The show does a good job at creating tension and keeping the viewer at the edge of their seat. One section in particular in episode 4 did this especially well. Here, a character has uncovered a conspiracy within their workplace, and has to get out of a building run by people who want him silenced. The directing of the scene and the context leading up to it created a very subtle-yet-suspenseful atmosphere, giving off a feeling that everything around this character is against him and could strike at any time. B the Beginning‘s direction and execution allow it to create some of the most suspenseful moments that I’ve seen in a long time.
The mysteries aren’t bad, but the clues to many of them are so subtle and easy to miss that it makes some of the reveals seem like they came out of nowhere. A good example of this is when the identity of the mole is revealed. The evidence exposing this traitor is only shown after the reveal, when Keith points out a clue in the forms of a broken watch and a code nobody knew about. The show doesn’t always give the viewer enough information to figure the mystery out for themselves. This makes some reveals cheap, because they lacked any foreshadowing until after the reveal. But, despite this, I always liked seeing questions answered and mysteries solved, as new bits of information came in and fit into the ever growing puzzle that is B the Beginning’s narrative.
Good Animation With Bad Vehicles
The animation was good. Nothing on the level of Gibli or Kyoto animations, but the studio behind the show made almost everything flow smoothly. I found virtually no animation errors in my time with the show. There was, however, one thing that bothered me the entire time. The animation is drawn in traditional 2D, but every vehicle is rendered in 3D CGI. The visuals of the cars clash with the art style, resulting in certain parts looking out of place. I get that hand-drawn animation is hard, but cutting corners on something like this pulls the viewer out of it. It sticks out like a badly rendered, computer-generated sore thumb.
B the Beginning is the best anime I’ve seen in 2018 so far. It’s suspenseful, decently animated as long as nobody is driving, and it keeps the viewer interested in the overarching mystery. A few flaws in its narrative hold it back, but nothing in it was a deal-breaker. It’s got something for anime fans, and people not into anime can find something to like about it as well. I highly recommend B the Beginning, and I hope Netflix continues to release Anime of this level of quality.
Final Score: 4/5
Season 1 of B the Beginning is currently available for streaming on Netflix.