BEM started out as one of summer 2019’s more promising candidates. The pilot was was surprisingly fun, giving an almost Batman: The Animated Series vibe with the setting, art direction and villain design. I was genuinely excited for the first few episodes. The mystery created around the protagonists had some promise. Unfortunately, all of that promise amounted into mostly wasted potential. Spoilers ahead.
The story opens with a goody goody cop being banished from her current precinct and made to serve in the city’s roughest neighborhood as penance. She has the bad habit of seeing something illegal or immoral and reporting it, cop or not. Her pure form of justice is being sent to a place that will hopefully kill it off. Despite what my basic description would lead you to believe, she was actually a very interesting character from the start; the blend of her beliefs with her environment was oddly thought provoking, even if only for a short term. However, it turns out she is not our primary protagonist.
BEM actually revolves around three otherworldly monsters who only desire one thing: to be human. These monsters are both immortal and powerful. Blending into society isn’t an issue since they can shape shift and appear human. But simply appearing human isn’t enough; they want the beauty that comes with truly belonging to humanity, mortality and all. To achieve this goal, they live among humans, doing their best to use their power to protect them from other monsters who wish them ill in hopes that someday it will lead to their transformation.
One of BEM’s standout early designs were the villains. Like I said before, they had a sort of Batman: TAS feeling to them. The designs were unique, if not a little out there (such as a giant vacuum guy or a bowling dude). On the surface, they were a little weird, but seeing as how they were products of a sort of mad scientist, it was easy to let it slide.
Unfortunately, like a lot of BEM’s promising plotlines, it just sort of falls off. This mad scientist, who is brought on screen again and again for foreboding scenes of impending doom, just sort of fizzles out in the last episode. Each of his creatures are defeated with ease, and he himself never grows into a real threat.
These problems crop up again and again throughout the anime. The deep mysteries and promised complex human emotion fall flat. Moments that I can only assume are meant to tug on your heartstrings and make you sympathize with the protagonists feel shallow rather than important.
It isn’t all bad. A few of the characters were genuinely interesting. But in the vast pool of character growth they tried to fit into the allotted 12 episodes, these few important stories were rushed and resolved before the importance of what was happening could really sink in. In the end, it came off as mediocre.
Mediocre could be used to describe a lot of what was happening on screen by the end of the anime. Everything from the animation, to the fight choreography, to the climax and ultimate non-resolution fell far short of what was promised in the first few episodes of the series. Mystery was introduced, but the man behind the curtain was simply disappointing to behold.
It’s unfortunate seeing how it all ended, especially since I (prematurely) labeled this anime as one of my Top 5 from the summer 2019 season (to be fair, it was delayed several weeks in response to the KyoAni fire). It was just good enough to finish the show in hopes that it would get better, but it never was able to climb back up to the heights shown in the first few episodes. Because of this, I can’t really recommend this one, simply because there are others in the genre who do it much better.
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