My expectations going into this were decidedly low – not because I dislike BL anime on its own terms, but because I have low expectations of the genre with regard to its generally abysmal track record and creep-filled tropes (of the ‘rape is love’, formulaic seme/uke-based relationships, and sexual and emotional abuse played as romance variety). I have zero familiarity with the manga so for all I know, Given may yet indulge in some of these conventions, but to my happy surprise, the premiere was entirely free of them. In fact, based on the premiere alone, I imagine people could possibly mistake this for being nothing more than a music-centric show whose two male leads bond over their passion for guitars. The romantic hints are certainly there, but not in any particularly overt manner, so for those with a penchant for more understated romance, BL or otherwise, Given may not be at all a bad choice this season.
On another major positive, it’s been a very long time since anime has delivered a genuinely good music series, but Given may score high in that regard too. I’ve never been a fan of idol anime, but I’m all over titles that are more rock-based. While it’s a bit too soon to tell what’s on the cards there, the show is definitely hinting at some decent sounds. In short, from the characters themselves to the perfectly respectable visuals and (hopefully) equally respectable soundtrack, I’d say Given is well worth a look.
There’s nothing really wrong with this premiere, but nothing really right, either – it’s just fine, with nothing to make it stand out one way or another, particularly in a season where at least a couple of other new action/fantasy shows are also airing. The biggest problem with Bem’s is that it feels too by-the-numbers; nothing we haven’t seen, and seen done better, countless times before. Add to this the clumsy exposition by way of side-character commentary, and the almost complete lack of meaningful characterisation of our main lead other than the whole ‘naïve outsider fighting for justice in an unjust world’ archetype, and Bem honestly seems quite pedestrian in comparison to many other urban fantasy titles. Surprisingly, the premiere also looks a little on the cheap and boilerplate side – not a complaint I thought I’d have with Production I.G at the helm. Still, at least the music is more than decent. While not enough to make up for the title’s shortcomings, it did go a long way to making my experience a pleasanter one. You could certainly do plenty worse, but for my money, Cop Craft is the higher-tier urban fantasy series this season.
Question of the post: What are your thoughts on Given and/or Bem? Will you be keeping up with either show this summer?