Review: B: The Beginning [Netflix]

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In Cremona, an archipelago nation powered by advanced technology, the mysterious teenage boy Koku, along with legendary investigator Keith Flick, find themselves drawn into the twisted and sinister plans of a serial killer, known only as Killer B. With Flick reinstated into the Cremona Royal Police after 10 years away, this murder case should be a cinch for a genius like him. But is Koku an ally to be trusted, or just another target for the merciless serial killer? And is there more to these seemingly linked crimes than meets the eye?

 

 

 

Release Date: March 2nd, 2018
Format: Streaming (Netflix)
Studio: Production I.G.
Certificate: 15
Language: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, French, Polish, Arabic, Japanese

B: The Beginning premiered globally on Netflix, and was released on March 2nd, 2018. Produced by Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass, Eden of the East), and directed by Kazuto Nakazawa (Parasite Dolls, Kill Bill: Vol. 1) & Yoshiki Yamakawa (Kill Me Baby, Little Busters!, Hatsukoi LimitedB: The Beginning is an original show written by Katsuya Ishida, and promoted as a Netflix Original Anime. Originally titled Perfect Bones, Netflix had originally advertised it as “the first ever original anime title to debut all episodes simultaneously in 190 countries around the world”. A bold statement, to say the least, and while other Netflix Original Anime shows like Devilman Crybaby and Blame! have appeared exclusively on Netflix, none of them are watchable worldwide just yet. This new outing by the renowned Production I.G. hopes to change that, and be some kind of benchmark for Netflix’s master plan to be a name to turn to for anime streaming.

It’s not difficult to see why Netflix would choose to get exclusivity for a Production I.G. show like this, though. B: The Beginning gives off the air of dark mystery thriller right from the get-go, where we see the first murder (that is featured in the show). However, if one has watched the trailer Netflix released for this, one would be under the impression that this is simply all the work of one psychopathic serial killer, with the old-hat genius detective determined to catch them. What I was not expecting in this show was characters bordering on the supernatural. While I could call that a complaint, as the show progresses, you come to realise that all the odd characters (whether they be allies or antagonists) do have a purpose somewhere along the lines. The antagonists shown in here are oddities and outcasts of society, who use the powers they have not solely for their own gain or pleasure, but to make a statement. Just as Makishima wanted to expose the Sibyl System in Psycho-Pass, and how the Laughing Man wanted to stick it to the government in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Speaking of Production I.G, given their portfolio so far (Psycho-Pass, Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East), no other animation studio could have done a better job. The show opens with what seems like a murder in the forests that will end up as an open-shut case. This comes just as the eccentric but legendary detective Keith Kazuma Flick is reinstated into the police force, and puts forward his opinion of this ‘Killer B’. From what starts off as a murder mystery very quickly transforms into a supernatural action thriller, as we learn that there is, in fact, no singular ‘Killer B’, and the real culprits have far bigger plans for the nation of Cremona and its residents than just random murders.

Also lying in the center of the show is the mysterious youth known as Koku. As he masquerades as a craftsmen’s apprentice, he chases down the real culprits himself without the aid of the police using the powers that have been granted to him in equally mysterious ways. As an amnesiac, Koku is on a mission not just to track down the assorted psychopathic oddballs in the show via his own bizarre brand of vigilantism, he wants to know who he is really, where he came from, and where his powers came from. Unfortunately, most of the focus ends up drawn towards Keith Flick, main characters Lily, Mario and Brandon, and the assorted small murder cases that end up on their tables. Our attention on Koku and his mission is, by all means, sweet and pretty to watch, but these moments are often brief…

…and it is a pretty show to watch too, and the character design is just as enjoyable. Production I.G. certainly didn’t spare anything when it came to style in B: The Beginning. The main city looks both futuristic and old-fashioned, as we see modern-looking buildings with ornate roofs mixed with vintage-looking cars. It’s as if it’s like some advanced city in Continental Europe, but the technology featured in the show is made to look believable, unlike the ultra-modern, clinical and emotionless city-scapes featured in other Production I.G. shows like Ghost in the Shell and Psycho-Pass. The English dub, however, is not very good and borders on cringe-worthy. While you can hear the rough yet intellectual tone in Hiroaki Hirata (Keith), his English counterpart, Ray Chase, makes him sound almost bored…as if he would rather be somewhere else. The English voices for some of the secondary characters (Mario in particular) also make you think that they could have done a much better job if they had more time. Is this me being snobby as a sub devotee? Not really; I just want to hear a quality dub voice-over, as I’m sure many anime watchers who prefer dubbed instead of subbed do too, and to see Netflix be on the credits for a not-so-great English dub production like this isn’t totally surprising, but still disappointing nonetheless. The main theme for this show is “The Perfect World” by Marty Friedman.

Here’s the Netflix trailer for B: The Beginning:

I want to like B: The Beginning more, but my main issue (among a few) with it is that it often feels like watching two shows at once. One half is murder mystery, while the other half is action fantasy, and it’s only when the two halves blend together (which only comes towards the end of the show) when we see something truly interesting. I’m sure viewers who greatly appreciate past Production I.G shows will find a lot of novel things to like about this show, but it lacks the cohesion that some of their past works had, and its to-ing and fro-ing from murder mystery to supernatural action can be off-putting. Just as off-putting can be the subtitles that explain what’s on Keith’s mind as he processes evidence; it ends up getting mixed up with spoken dialogue, leaving you confused and almost wanting it to vanish. Maybe a better job could have been done here, but the fault certainly doesn’t lie in the animation studio, as they have put together a slick-looking production. If only it were better to understand.

Verdict

70% Good

This show is dark, moody and brooding. It can also get very confusing, so coming in expecting an atypical murder mystery will leave you clueless when the more bizarre & supernatural elements of the show arrive, along with the more oddball antagonists. That said, it looks great, and is just as slick, cool and classy as anything you would expect in a Production I.G. show. The English dub lets the show down though, so sticking to the Japanese sub comes recommended.

B: The Beginning is available on Netflix now.

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Disillusioned ex-weeb. Simulcast writer for The OASG. Making plans to teach English abroad. Blizzard games fan. Also follows Formula 1 and esports.