How About a Supernatural Version Then?
Spoilers, I couldn’t figure out a way to talk about this without spoiling parts of Psycho-Pass or this show. I tried to keep them to a minimum though.
Lately I’ve been on a bit of a Netflix kick so I figured it was finally time to get around to some anime I had put off for one reason or another. Today I’m looking at B: The Beginning (going to refer to it as B moving forward), a supernatural, mystery, police-like procedural that is very reminiscent of Psycho-Pass. If you like one, would you like the other?
For those of you unfamiliar with B, let me bring you up to speed. The show essentially has two separate stories going on that eventually collide together, as you learn how exactly they interconnect. The first story is about the Royal Police, particularly a rookie-type cop, Lilly, and an eccentric detective, Kieth. There’s a serial killer on the loose, Killer B, who Kieth wants to track down in order to get vengeance for the death of his sister. Story two is about a black angel boy and his desire to save his girlfriend, Yuna, from the Insane Clown Posse. He fixes violins as his day-job at Lilly’s house, and is Killer B by night.
You might be wondering how any of this could possibly parallel with Psycho-Pass, but bear with me, we’re getting there. First I want to talk about this show on its own and what it does, and doesn’t do well. Starting with the positives, it is at its best when following Kieth and Lilly.
The police procedural with the more “mundane” mysteries that slowly build to a greater conspiracy, was actually quite engaging. Kieth has a personality akin to Sherlock Holmes while Lilly, who is just as intellectually capable, expresses that in more unusual ways that don’t mesh well with how Kieth views things. It puts them at odds in a way that creates an interesting dynamic.
This dynamic is further explored when it is revealed that Lilly is extremely similar to how Kieth’s murdered sister both looked and acted. Several characters remark on this, including Kieth’s best friend, Gilbert. Speaking of, it is immediately obvious when Gilbert first appears on screen that he is going to be a bad guy, and while I find that obviousness bad, his character is a good one.
He works for the police as their ME, which allows him to fill the role of a killer among us quite well. Like I said, this isn’t exactly innovative, but when it comes to exploring the similarities to Psycho-Pass, I view this as a positive. I’ll circle back to this once we actually start diving into that in more detail.
Other notable positives are in the presentation. B does not have a traditional opening, but instead a strange sequence of images and ideas that hint at some core themes if you are paying attention. Those being how things layer to form a larger picture and how perspective can influence meaning.
When it comes to the ED, which is more like a traditional OP, this is only further emphasized. The entire sequence has this red/blue 3D effect put on that slowly brings things in and out of focus. As this occurs, things transition and change to demonstrate these ideas. The song, “The Perfect World” is also crazy good, and one of the single best things B has to offer musically.
Where things start falling apart for B is with its supernatural elements. At first this is actually kind of interesting, even leading up to one of the most impressive action sequence of the entire series pretty early in. The main problem is how it doesn’t blend well with the more traditional mystery story being told.
The whole reason these supernatural elements even exist is because genius boy, Kieth, translated an ancient tablet that was used to sequence DNA for beings that were precursors to humanity. These are the angle people. This tablet also describes a complex fate for the world that has been coming true throughout the narrative.
It is just a bit stretchy. Kieth is at the center of way too many things when it comes to the narrative structure of B’s story. This gets even more ridiculous when Gilbert somehow plays a role in all of this as well.
You see, Kieth’s father was a researcher who helped create the synthetic precursors. Some were great successes but others were failures, which the show refers to as Regies. Eventually Kieth’s father is betrayed internally by a group calling themselves Market Maker, which is an important group of interest in the normal cop procedural. Market Maker takes Yuna away along with Kokuu’s (the black angel boy, who is Killer B) brother.
Kokuu is the only survivor of this raid. He learns a few secrets as Kieth’s father dies, and then, in his grief, erases his memories. Oh yeah, did I mention that some of these angel people have magic powers? No? Silly me! Only a few do and they are either one of two things, some having both. They can manipulate memories or one of their limbs can become a sword. Why? Beats me. The memory thing makes some sense but the sword thing is kind of out there.
This story is largely Kokuu looking for Yuna because he loves her and feels like he has failed to protect her like he promised when they were children. Unfortunately, she is with the bad guys like I mentioned earlier but she has been brainwashed by the memory altering power. Most of this is just Kokuu being full of angst and yelling. While it does tie into the other plot, it is pretty loose and relatively uninteresting in comparison.
Circling back, as promised, to Psycho-Pass now. If you haven’t figured it out, the plot of Kieth and Lilly is very similar to the one of Kougami, Akane, and Makishima. Even down to the visual presentation of each character. The most obvious being the dichotomy of Kieth and Gilbert by having them shown as mostly black and white visually. This is very similar to Kougami and Makishima.
Their story even plays out in a similar fashion. Without totally spoiling either show, Gilbert wants to turn Kieth into a killer because he views them as being similar. Kieth desperately wants vengeance for his sister’s death. Lilly doesn’t want Kieth to become a killer. Instead of exchange philosophical ideas and having this dystopian setting in the background, more focus is placed on ideological back-and-forth in a more traditional setting. However, it is very similar.
Further, Gilbert manipulates Market Maker in much the same way as Makishima does others to further his own agenda. While not as interesting in B’s story, this was an aspect that did feel good, even if it was a bit contrite.
The supernatural angels don’t really play into Psycho-Pass as much, but may make for a more interesting angel for those looking for that over a technologically advanced semi-dystopian world. In the end, you are going to get a lot of the same things out of either show.
If I had to point to which show was better, it would clearly be Psycho-Pass. It is more cohesive, fully exploring all of its ideas and themes. B is not a bad show, but it is a lot weaker due to it having a loose narrative and more unfocused narrative direction. If I had to say where B was better, I would say it is in its resolution. While it does tease a second season which is coming… eventually, it feels satisfying as a standalone work.
Psycho-Pass certainly has a great ending, but it leaves the viewer with some unanswered questions with clearly more story left to tell. It still works well as a standalone work, but benefits from further additions. I don’t believe this to be the case with B. Even if the second season never came, I would feel content with what we got in these 12 episodes.
So if you like one, would you enjoy the other? Probably, at least in part. However, I would have to be completely honest and say that B feels like, well, a “B” version of Psycho-Pass for the reasons mentioned previously. Still, I recommend it and am pleased that B: The Beginning managed to exceed expectations.
Have you watched B? Did you feel it was similar to Psycho-Pass like I did? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you would like to support my writing, please consider a small donation by clicking my Ko-fi button below. Thank you, as always, for reading and I hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!