OP: 「Memories of the Universe」 (Uchū no Kioku) by (Sakamoto Maaya)
The 2019 series BEM is a remake of the 1968 series, Youkai Ningen Bem. The main premise is that three monsters fight other monsters in an attempt to eventually become humans. It’s not established how this works (yet), only that Bem (Konishi Katsuyuki) and Bela (M.A.O.) believe this. Belo (Ono Kensho), on the other hand, is a little more skeptical. One gets the impression that they’ve collectively been burned one time too many by humanity. Meanwhile Sonia Summers (Uchida Maaya), who is not Judy Hopps from Zootopia, is starting work with the Outside’s police force. The city appears to be divided into the more affluent Upper Town, where Sonia is from, and the significantly less glamorous Outside. Still, it has a very noir-style charm of its own. Between the jazzy background music and the characters themselves dancing with a frenetic energy during the opening scenes, there’s a beauty to the Outside. These people are living on the knife’s edge, finding excitement and danger around every corner. It’s in that kind of environment that monsters are made, and someone as straitlaced as Sonia could easily become tarnished by it.
There was so much to like about this. For example, the realistic fear and panic displayed after Sonia not only saw her fellow officers brutally murdered, but then had to deal with the monster that had just saved her from another monster, only for that monster to transform into a naked man. That’s like if Edward rescued Bella, revealed himself as a vampire, and then Bella emptied a cartridge into his chest. Plus, Bem’s outfit is so charmingly ridiculous. It’s exactly the kind of outfit that someone with a vague idea of how humans should dress would wear. Bem, Bela, and Belo are monsters that think good deeds will make them human, which makes sense since bad deeds/thoughts seem to turn humans into literal monsters. I think my biggest question is whether or not Sonia Summers will be a recurring character. Since her purpose was to act as a device to introduce the audience to the world and characters, she’s already fulfilled her purpose. That should leave us with the stoic Bem, Bela, and the more or less apathetic Belo. Out of the three, Belo seems to only be going along with Bem’s plan because he doesn’t have a choice. He’s been outvoted by the other two so this is what they’re doing. I’m sure going to appreciate this grittier adaptation of the 1968 version, but before I wrap this up, let me just say that the villain of this episode, the monster augmented by some shadowy being known as the Professor, was such a delight to listen to. That murderous glee mixed with shrieks and gurgles every time Bem electrocuted him really gave the whole encounter a very fun, campy feel that tells me this series knows it’s not nearly as serious as it’s pretending to be, and that’s very much to its benefit.
ED: 「Iruimi」by (JUNNA)
Original 1960s designs for comparison
I personally didn’t find the story very interesting, but I can’t say I don’t find Bela attractive enough to want to watch another episode.
The one part I liked is how Bem seemingly stopped and turned around just to show his true form to Sonia to see if she’d accept him or not, and she didn’t. It was an un-cliched moment which underscored what seems like one of the more substantial themes of this anime.
To add to that, I also like how Bem didn’t try to communicate verbally despite knowing human speech. Either he’s socially awkward, or has tried to appeal verbally before and knows that if showing won’t work, telling won’t do any good either.
Um.. do they drive an US Hummer? or why is this Car so big?
I quite enjoyed this. I like stories that explore what it means to be something — in this case human. The music was often distracting but we’ll see how that goes.
I would be very surprised if Summers was left by the wayside. Her going Outside is the reason for the story, even if first impressions weren’t the most positive.