BEM – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Libra City is a sprawling metropolis whose districts split the rich and the poor. Hiding among the populace are three humanoid monsters—Bem, Bela, and Belo—who protect humanity and hope to one day become humans themselves. However, when a Mysterious Lady threatens their way of life, Bem, Bela, and Belo are pulled into a plot unlike anything they’ve ever known. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: BEM is clearly aiming to earn itself style points with the use of jazz music, combining it with prettied up shots of the city, a tactic often used by shows trying to come off feeling suave. However, the few times it employs CGI, BEM instead comes off looking garish and sub-par, even when sticking to good ol’ 2D, there’s plenty of moments when the animation looks laughably clunky and rough. Further cementing BEM’s attempt to be ‘cool’ is its use of ‘Engrish’ terms such as the opposing sections of Libra City being named the UPPER and the OUTSIDE.
Tom: What’s really compelling about BEM is its intriguing premise: three humanoid monsters acting as protection for the slums of Libra City and the by-the-books police officer who ultimately becomes intertwined with their efforts. It’s a pseudo street level super hero and monster mash up. Unfortunately for as interesting as that is, it’s not put together all that well. BEM’s first episode is riddled with questionable cuts, snapping between one kind of visual framing to another, making for a few jarring and confusing sequences. Then there’s sections that seem to be missing entirely, forcing the audience to piece elements of the story together themselves that would’ve been better as simple visualized through the story itself. These moments aren’t mysteries, they’re more mundane and their omission from the visual narratives feels odd.
Linny: BEM employs forced exposition a number of times, such as when it chooses to show how our golden hearted heroine, Sonia slaps away bribe money indicating just how strong her morals are even though most viewers would immediately question how anyone allowed her that chance to start with. BEM also suffers some most absurd cuts, such as randomly focusing on Sonia’s hip area during a deadly showdown. It’s not sexual but it also adds nothing to the sequence. Or as Tom touched on, when the series does a poor job of conveying exactly how Sonia happens to almost instantaneously teleport herself to the villain’s location, because it decides to leave out so much of the actual sequence of events. An earlier call to the police station from an innocent by-stander is the only information we have to go on for how or why Sonia even shows up there. Moments like this really drag down the production and make it hard to appreciate what BEM does get right.
Tom: BEM’s two competing narratives, Bem and Co’s efforts to save the city/become human and Police Officer Sonia Summer’s story about getting transferred to the slums and her defiance at giving into the corrupt nature of the local police, don’t feel connected all that well. The episode sees Sonia introduced to the corruption, but never has her facing it outright, there’s no challenge to her moral integrity. Instead her meeting Bem, and seeing him in his monster form, is supposed to replace that. But seeing as Bem and Co, have nothing to do with Sonia’s narrative arc, it makes Sonia’s later outright rejection of corruption feel like it’s missing a crucial step. She needed to be confronted with how the Outside works, in-spite of her beliefs. Without that moment her defiance at episode’s end feels hollow and unearned. BEM is a series with interesting ideas but uneven execution. I don’t know that I can recommend the series, but what it does have going for it is actually quite intriguing, and that keeps it as something worth experiencing, if you’re okay with a number of glaring flaws in your entertainment.
Linny: BEM definitely has promising elements. Its premise of supernatural showdowns gives rise to great potential for action and mystery in regards to the origins of the supernatural creatures. If the show could tweak its art more and get better at pacing and framing its scenes, it could definitely engage those who enjoy showdowns between good and evil set in a corrupt city. However, thanks to all the flaws we’ve listed in this preview, BEM has an uphill battle ahead, one that could still earn it some fans but seems more likely to be rejected by more selective viewers.