With Netflix recently announcing their desire to branch out heavily into the anime market, B: The Beginning is one of the first to be produced by the streaming giants. After the artistic flair of Devilman: Crybaby earlier this year and the episodic Violet Evergarden (which we’ll review after the last episode is up), B: The Beginning is next in the anime queue. Unfortunately, this 12 episode anime is tonally confused and convoluted for much of its run time, flitting between a mystery shrouded detective thriller and a straight up action through two parallel but connected plot lines. The result of this is a bit of a mixed bag but the animation is beautifully presented making the ride a visually pleasant one even if B: The Beginning stumbles to the final episode.
The two stories play out simultaneously throughout the 12 episodes with both interconnected at certain points in the series. The first storyline revolves around a royal police force trying to track down a serial killer nicknamed Killer “B”. Its here that genius investigator Keith Flick (Hiroaki Hirata) rejoins the police force after a lengthy period of leave and his steely gazed, emotionless determination is the driving force for this storyline. The second plot running parallel to this sees mysterious youth Koku (Yûki Kaji) attacking and fighting through an army of mysterious, face painted characters whilst learning more about the legend of the Black Wing King. B: The Beginning is likely to be divisively received from audiences with those loving the artistic back and forth of the two plot lines and others disliking the lack of emphasis on characters. There are certainly moments where the story lends itself to some impressive shot, visually appealing action and it’s helped too by the beautiful animation throughout. For those who can get invested in the story, there’s a reasonably well paced anime here and whilst B: The Beginning doesn’t necessarily push the boundaries of the genre, there are still some enjoyable moments.
Although visually appealing and featuring some impressively shot action, B: The Beginning struggles to garner any empathy for its characters. Some of the supporting cast fall into cliched tropes and the two lead characters, whilst shrouded in mystery and featuring intriguing back stories, never give you a reason to get fully invested in them. This is a particular problem late on when some of the action lends itself to scenes that should be filled with tension and drama but lack the necessary empathy to really elevate these moments.
With a second season teased at the end of the series, B: The Beginning is an interesting start for Netflix as it branches into the anime market. Whilst visually appealing and full of some slickly shot animation and fight scenes, B: The Beginning struggles to produce memorable characters and a cohesive story as it wrestles between the two separate storylines. Ironically, B: The Beginning could have functioned better as two separate animes as the plots struggle to intertwine harmoniously through the 12 episodes. Netflix have certainly shown their intention here, albeit in a slightly flawed way, but the signs are certainly there that Netflix could be a driving force for anime in the future. Just not with B: The Beginning.