Bem Series Review: Stuck in Shadows

Original Run: July 15, 2019 - October 14, 2019
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Action, Supernatural

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Bem. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Libra City is split between the affluent Upper and the more downtrodden Outside. In Outside, life is hard, and crime runs amuck. The police do what they can, but they are of little help. Recently, more and more mysterious murders have been occurring, as well as the sightings of strange shadows in the darkness.

However, little does the public know, those shadows are fighting to keep the peace.

A team of three demons, Bem, Bela, and Belo (voiced respectively by Katsuyuki Konishi, Mao Ichimichi, and Kensho Ono), are doing everything they can to help as many as possible. They believe that if they save enough people, they will earn the right to become humans.

Unfortunately, humanity has trouble accepting the trio, and more often than not, labels them as terrifying monsters that must be destroyed. Nevertheless, Bem, Bela, and Belo will not stop until they achieve their goal.

Series Positives

It is only as I am writing this review that I realize that Bem (2019) is the second anime remake of 1968’s Yokai Ningen Bem. I have never seen that series, but I can tell you that certain points throughout this installment suddenly make a lot more sense when they are put under the light of a story celebrating its 50th anniversary.

But that’s neither here nor there, and it doesn’t change my thoughts on this series.

I can say with great confidence; I am not against Bem. I didn’t think it all that bad. It held my attention, there was excitement, and in the end, I don’t feel as though I wasted my time on it. However, if you were to ask me about this show six months from now, it will most likely take me a second to realize what you are referring to.

Although I may not have disliked this series, I am not going to call it good either. Bem was a serviceable show with a lot of forgettability. Nothing about it stands out positively or negatively.

So, if you told me you liked or disliked this series, I would wholeheartedly agree with you. I highly doubt anyone will come forward to serve as a champion for Bem. Likewise, if someone were to argue this was one of the worst shows of 2019, boy, do I have things to show them.

If nothing else can be said, Bem, to its credit, had a respectable soundtrack. There was a ton of smooth jazz, so if that and demon fights are your things, then you have just found yourself a nice little nugget. If you want something to go with your music, though, well, that is where everything gets a bit tricky. But more on that later.

The only area where Bem can take any credit is with its characters, I say with a heavy dose of salt. Only two of this series’ characters – Bela and Belo – were worth anything. As a central theme for this show, the main trio wanted to become humans, and it was through Bela and Belo that that idea materialized in a meaningful way.

Bela and Belo had stories that focused more on being accepted rather than what they thought it meant to be human. Although the pair went along with the hope that they could one day become human, neither of them was convinced such a thing could happen. More than anything, they were constantly wondering if that was something they truly wanted.

Both Bela and Belo had human friends they were protecting, and neither of them was willing to reveal who they were. No matter what they did and what lengths they went to in ensuring their friends’ safety, there was always an unignorable feeling of doubt. Although Bela and Belo knew that them being demons was something most people would be terrified of, and each of them had their fair share of experience being called monsters, to hear the ones they cared for the most say that would have been too much.

Unlike their comrade Bem, Bela and Belo had a potentially peaceful life on the line. Bem had ideals, but the other two had something much more tangible.

As a result, it was a lot easier to get into this series whenever it focused on them. All things considered, Bem was quite good at allotting screen time with its three main characters. So much so that I can’t even complain about not having more of the show not being dedicated to Bela and Belo. Their stories were as long as they needed to be, and that is an accomplishment.

The same can be applied to Bem in general. It didn’t underplay what it had, nor did it overstay its welcome. This show did everything it needed to do and then called it a day. Sadly, that does make things even more unfortunate because what it needed to do wasn’t the most interesting thing in the world.

Series Negatives

The question isn’t what Bem did wrong. Instead, what we should be asking is:

What about this show was worth caring about?

The short answer to that is, not a whole lot.

For starters, if I didn’t know any better, I would not have believed this was an anime from 2019. Visually, this series would have been decent had it released ten years ago. For example, I think I can create the same animation for Bem, Bela, and Belo’s transformation sequences using the dissolve transition in PowerPoint. Yeah, that didn’t look very good at all.

However, that’s mostly just a casual observation. I mean, yeah, the visuals in this show weren’t brilliant, but I have seen way worse this year. Besides, the most disappointing aspect of Bem was its lack of substance. In simpler terms, this series was one long-winded speech on the nature of humanity away from being from a dull slog. While it was nice that Bem never reached that point, getting as close as it did didn’t do it any favors.

The totality of this series’ lackluster execution could best be seen in its titular character, Bem.

To their benefit, Bem’s comrades Bela and Belo had things worth fighting for, and I suppose I find more merit with actions than I do with idealism. Bem was the one who pushed the group to keep believing in humanity, even when they fell victim to its more disgusting side. While a noble sentiment, I’m not sure where it was coming from.

There was no reason, or, at least, Bem didn’t give a firm reason why he wanted to be human. He didn’t have anyone to protect; there wasn’t someone for him to hold onto, hell, we didn’t even learn what it was like for Bem and company to be demons. Using everything this show gave us, there was no benefit for the team to be human.

You could argue that someone like Bem admired humanity’s capacity for love and kindness, and to an extent, that did exist in this series. However, it existed in Bela and Belo’s stories. All Bem had was a pointless cop character who could have been removed from the series entirely, and nothing would have changed.

This was Bem’s subordinates’ show. I’m convinced Bem was the leader only because he looked the oldest when he was in his human form.

Perhaps, it’s just me, but when a character’s name is the title of their story, I want to feel as if they are crucial to said story. When they are not, it’s hard for me to get into such a narrative.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you could do worse, but is that a good enough reason to do it anyway?

There was positivity in this show; it did have two decent characters to follow. However, everything that was left wasn’t worth much of anything.

If you are a fan of the original series, then I guess you’re in luck to have this. And I’ll be honest, I am interested in watching it myself, but only for it having been released in the 60s.

To that end, I cannot recommend Bem, but I can’t flat out tell you to go out of your way to skip it either.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise Bem? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you’ve liked what you read and want more anime content, please follow me at LofZOdyssey Anime Reviews or on Twitter @thelofzodyssey.

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I’m LofZOdyssey, and I will see you next time.

Also Read: Fairy Gone – Series Review

About The Author

LofZOdyssey

LofZOdyssey has been an anime reviewer since 2015, an anime fan for much, much longer, and is currently based in Osaka, Japan. As a rule, there is no anime he is unwilling to review, and any series he starts, he must finish. Leave all the feedback -- positive and negative -- in the comments. Also, be sure to follow LofZOdyssey on Twitter @thelofzodyssey for more anime related content.