Who Wants to Live Forever?
- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Action, Demons, Supernatural
- Airing Date : July 15, 2019 – October 14, 2019
- Producers : Production IG, LandQSutiods
Based on Youkai Ningen Bem, which originally debuted in October 1968, the 2019 edition to Bem is actually the second reboot of this classic (the first reboot was broadcasted in 2006, and it had a live action series in 2011). Like its original counterparts, the three main characters are Bem, Bela, and Belo, through “youkai ningen,” or immortal humanoid monsters who wish to become human. However, due to their appearances and the actions of other youkai ningen, people immediately fear them and they’re are always quick to blame our heroes for whatever problems that happen in the “outside,” or the hood of the city they reside in. However, with the help of Sonia Summers, a detective who was transferred to the outside, maybe the main trio can show that not all youkai ningen are bad and envy humans.
1. It Has Excellent Themes
While its themes may not be original, they’re still executed rather well. The motivations of Bem, Bela, and Belo all come from a real place and the series gives you the opportunity to see what drives them. While they’re immortal, their immortality gives them a point of view where everything seems to be trivial and by gaining mortality, they can get a better sense of what life is truly about and why people value it. As the famous Queen song goes, who wants to live forever?, and the series does a great job of exploring that very question.
2. Sharp Designs
Like the 2019 Dororo series, this is a remake. While the original Dororo does take inspiration from its source material for its respective designs, the character designs in Bem are entirely different from its source material to suit its respective story and setting. While this particular quality is more for a Then Vs. Now article (which we’ll make at some point), we’ll mostly concentrate on the 2019 series. The designs to the 2019 Bem are very sharp, and they do a great job of reflecting modern day anime techniques and how the youkai genre has evolved this past decade.
The city portrayed in this city is very accurate in its architecture to modern American metropolises, most notably the Big Apple. While Bem, Bela, and Belo are in their human forms, granted they do have qualities that are demonic with their ears and eyes, they can still blend-in with humans as they normally interact with them, but with their stoic expressions, you can see they can only view humans externally and still can’t internalize what they’re about.
3. Varied Soundtrack
If you like a variety of music with your anime, then Bem has it all. If you want pop, techno, jazz, or something orchestrated, Bem has it all to set the mood. The opening them is a jazz tune to get you into the classic noir setting, and the ending theme borrows more from J-pop to give you more of an upbeat perspective, and the music within the duration of the episodes are largely orchestrated to suit its action and horror settings. Overall, the music does a well-rounded job of introducing you to its world.
1. Poor Use of Sonia
Sonia serves as our introductory character to the series. Through her, we first learn of the outside (think of it as Chicago’s South Side or LA’s South Central, but with monsters), of Bem and his allies, and the youkai ningen. You learn that she can’t stand the corruption and she’s world weary of being a police officer. After the first episode, she’s in and out and she’s just in the anime just for the sake of it. Throughout most of the series, she more or less feels underwhelming and her role as a surrogate for the audience just disappears. You don’t really learn more about her until the climax (which is very minimal and told in passing), and her individual development and her development with Bem are pretty much forced and inorganic.
2. The Series Is Too Short
As it relates to the poor use of Sonia, considering the two first incarnations of Bem were 26 or so episodes, it just feels insulting that the latest edition gets only 12. If the series were given 26 episodes, there’s no doubt that Sonia could’ve gotten the development she deserved. The first episode provides an excellent foundation to her character, and after that, as we shared before, the ball is more or less taken from her and her use as a surrogate for the audience is taken out.
3. Showing Vs. Telling Balance
When it comes to a shorter series, it doesn’t allow much opportunity to fully build the world. Granted some things are revealed at the last minute, but with more episodes, you get more opportunities to tell a more enriching story. Granted you do learn some things, but for example, nobody really talks about why the outside is the way it is, etc. It more or less relates to the argument of showing vs. telling. The anime has a lot of showing, but it lacks telling. We’ll admit most people rather want showing over telling, but there are some instances where a balance is necessary, and Bem is one example of that.
We’ll admit after watching this series, we’re very interested in its previous installments and when the time comes, we’ll do a Then Vs. Now comparing comparing all versions. Nobody can deny, the youkai genre is progressively getting oversaturated, but when you take into account this is a remake of a 50 year old series, in a sense, you’re watching one of the OG youkai anime that takes place in a modern setting but made for modern day audiences.