BEM – 01 – It’s All Elemental

Across the bridge from a gleaming “Upper City” lies a “Lower City” where crime and corruption are rampant…and a water monster is preying on humans, drowning them in his aqueous body on the spot. That’s where idealistic rookie cop Sonia Summers is headed, partially for the challenge.

When she stops her Range Rover to chase down a purse-snatcher, a mysterious man in a wide-brimmed fedora saves her from getting run over before vanishing into the night. But he can’t stop her car from getting stolen.

Turns out the police are corrupt too, taking kickbacks from organized crime to look the other way. This is something Sonia “the girl scout” is extremely not okay with. Little does she know cops on the take are the least of her problems, as the serial drownings mount.

The man with the fedora (and string tie and skull cane) confronts the monster, who is growing increasingly murder-happy. It mentions that it was once human but has shed that humanity and now couldn’t be happier.

The man, the titular Bem, is also not quite human despite his appearance, and after electricuting the water monster and forcing it to flee, he meets with his two compatriots, Bela and Belo. Belo says Bela values humans too highly, while Bela says Belo values them to low.

Bem seems to be the man in the middle of a group that’s also in the middle of the struggle between monsters and humans. Bem believes (and the other two follow along) that if they save enough humans, they can become full-fledged humans.

The episode culminates in a final battle between Bem, who transforms into his true, beastial youkai form, and the water monster, who keeps resolving into a joker-like form. Sonia is there to witness, and three of her fellow cops are sliced to death in the crossfire. Once Bem defeats the monster, Sonia is so frightened of him, both in youkai and human form, that she empties her sidearm into his chest.

The bullets bounce off and he’s fine, but the message is clear: getting a human, even one as virtuous as Sonia, to trust him and his kind is not going to be easy. And yet still, he won’t stop trying, just as Sonia won’t stop turning down kickbacks. No doubt they’ll cross paths and Bem will try again to reach out (but not with his beast claws).

Bem is a sleek, elegant supernatural noir, supported by some excellent “camera”work and night lighting, a very tight soundtrack by MICHIRU and SOIL&”PIMP”SESSIONS, and character design by Range Murata (joining Cop Craft as the second show this season with his designs).

With a mysterious lady (voiced by Sakamoto Maaya) in a board room in one of those gleaming towers in Upper City apparently after Bem, it looks like monsters roaming the mean streets and befriending Sonia aren’t all he needs to worry about. Definitely worth a watch, even with another cop show in a gritty city airing this season.

P.S.: This is the second remake of the series Youkai Ningen Bem, which first aired in Fall 1968(!) and was remade for the first time in 2006. I’ve never seen either of those, so I’m coming at this with a clean slate.

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The Rising of the Shield Hero – 22 – What Now?

Last week felt like a finale, but I’ve suspected for a while now we’re in for second season of Shield Hero down the road. With that in mind, it hardly comes as a surprise that this week’s episode slows things down substantially—a calm after the storm, if you will—with only three more episodes remaining this season.

Naofumi is summoned right back to Melromarc by the queen, who holds a party honoring their service as a front for a conference meant to ensure the four heroes reconcile and start working together. Raphtalia and Filo finally get the class upgrades they’ve so desperately needed (though they don’t get to choose their class, in part due to Filo’s cowlick). We also learn Mirelia is as fanatical about Fitoria as her daughter.

It doesn’t take long for bad actors to slip right back into bad habits, whether it’s a drunk knight spouting anti-demi vitriol and starting brawl in the banquet hall, to Malt–er, Bitch attempting to poison a pie meant for Naofumi’s party. It escapes me why she wasn’t simply banished from the palace.

Things don’t go any better in the closed-door session of the Four Heroes, with Mirelia mediating. Even though his name has been cleared, Motoyasu is still loyal enough to Bitch to declare Melty is lying about the poisoned pie, even though Bitch still has her slave crest and owned up to the crime.

That’s just a small taste of the inflexibility Naofumi faces. As Raph fights the drunken knight, and others start fighting each other, the other heroes only reluctantly spit out a bit of what they’ve learned about leveling up. The three heroes then turn on one another when they have opposing views about what’s most important when upgrading weapons, or the specific contents of their respective HUDs.

The bickering gets so bad Naofumi puts up his hands and leaves the room with no progress made and only a modium of intelligence learned. He can now, at least, tell Fitoria that he made an honest attempt to reconcile with them, and it went nowhere. There may just be too much bad history for them to cooperate except under the most dire circumstances, like the Pope’s attempted coup…or the next Wave.

What little insight Naofumi does gain he puts to immediate use, learning that he has to “believe in” the other heroes’ claims of a weapon-copying functionality in the for it to actually appear on his HUD. The other bit of news the Queen had for them is that the Cal Mira Archipelago has been “activated,” meaning all XP earned there is boosted for a limited time.

It’s a location someone as underleveled as Naofumi can’t pass up, even if it means crossing paths with the other heroes, so after bidding farewell to the Queen and Melty (for the second time in as many episodes), he tries out his new weapon-copying skill at Elhart’s shop (much to Elhart’s dismay) and the party heads out to the harbor where a ship will them to Cal Mira.

By request of Raphtalia, they make a detour to her home village, whose scant survivors have set up a cemetery on a seaside cliff. She pays respects to her departed friend Rifana and folks. Naofumi’s earlier offhand words about leaving her and Filo one day have also stuck with her, and she asks Naofumi straight-up not to leave her, as she doesn’t know what she’d do if he wasn’t in her world.

Naofumi promises, but he may not be able to control when his summoning is reversed, be it when the Waves are defeated or not. For now, he resolves to stay in this world as long as he is able, until Raphtalia and Filo find happiness—and not just the happiness of being beside him. In both cases, they have potentially happy futures without Naofumi: Raph in her village, with all the other survivors tracked down; Filo as the new Queen of her kind.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves: it’s time for some serous leveling up. As is typical, Naofumi is given the short end of the stick when his private cabin is stolen by the other heroes and their parties, who arrived before him. But as chance would have it Naofumi and his party end up in the same room as the tough-looking but friendly male and female adventurers they met at Raph’s village.

Could these two potentially end up a part of Naofumi’s party, or are they merely two of the hundreds of rivals for that sweet Cal Mira bonus XP?

Owari no Seraph 2 – 02

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Shinoa has the feeling “something horrible’s about to happen” in a world with human experimentation and war with vampires, but that something doesn’t happen this week, so in the meantime, the gang trains. Specifically, with Yoichi having already achieved control and balance with his demon, Yu and Shiho’s turn to attempt to achieve “manifestation.” Once Yu passes out, it’s a waiting game for his friends.

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Now at the mercy of Ashuramaru, she tries to get him to break down, by first showing him a vision of his parents lamenting they created a “devil child”, the “Seraph of the End”, and his dad trying to kill him with a kitchen knife. Then she shows him the strewn bodies of the dead members of his family, who he’s told died because he ran away.

But Yu’s already been through something like this (as have we), and he’s not so easily falling for it this time. He breaks out of Ashuramaru’s illusion, and when she rushes to kill him, he tosses his sword at her, not in surrender, but in understanding: he was once alone; now he isn’t. The same is true of his demon.

He has family in Shinoa and the others. He still has Mika, who he knows wants him to save him. He asks Ashuramaru to be his blade, and in return, he’ll be her friend. She’s a bit annoyed by his new “whatever” attitude, but can’t deny his strength, and agrees to the deal.

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Between Yu and Shiho’s manifestation training sessions, we get a useful look back into the world of vampire politics, with Ferid parading Mikaela about and showing video evidence of Yu-as-Seraph during Kurl’s vampire conference call, making her look bad by undermining her claim she dealt with the Hyakuya clan and anyone who might’ve been the Seraph the humans could use against the vampires.

After a call that got her challenged by one of her peers and placed under a stronger microscope, Krul fumes at Ferid’s apparent insubordination. But Ferid has even more secrets, and even if she kills him, they’ll get out and ruin her. Similarly, she knows Ferid let Yu escape. So the two are bound by secrets with a pawnish Mika between them.

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That’s a grim contrast to the bonds of mutual respect made not just between Yu and his comrades, but between wielder and demon. When it’s Shiho’s turn, his demon Kiseki-o, like Ashuramaru, thinks she’s got his number; the key to enslaving his body: his bedridden sister. In his illusion, Shiho’s friends say they have to move on to find more food, and his sister will only slow him down, they tell him to put her out of her misery. Heck, she told them to tell him.

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It almost works—for about a nanosecond—then Kiseki-o makes the mistake of speaking through Shiho’s sister, all but confirming this is just an illusion; a test, and he needs to look at it that way. Just as Yu threw his sword away when Ashuramaru rushed him, he gives up the power the demon thinks he wants so bad, and will be able to move on and wield once he kills his sister, by turning the knife on himself.

The message to Kiseki-o is clear: Shiho will never see his sister as a burden. Watching how hard Yu fought to protect non-blood family, he would never forgive himself if he didn’t do all he could to protect his blood family, even at the cost of his life. It’s enough strength and conviction to convince Kiseki-o that Shiho is worthy.

When Shiho wakes up, he immediately challenges Yu to a duel, to see who’s stronger. Shinoa lets them, since they’re only playing around, but she and Mitsu are amazed how all three guys were able to achieve manifestation so (relatively) easily, leading the girls to do some digging on their pasts…only to find those pasts have been erased. Hence, something horrible’s probably about to happen, but at least they’re more prepared for it.

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