We are too harsh on mediocrity sometimes, I feel. Just because we can identify strongly with certain works of excellence (as I do with titles such as Cowboy Bebop, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Berserk, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt and Macross 7¹) we simplistically expect that every show that comes out conforms to this “standard” of ours, or at least be so radically different to give us a novel experience (and yet remain very “Japanese” – since you know, it’s anime).
When we do enjoy shows that do not meet even our own standards of excellence, such as they are, we perform all these philosophical workarounds justifying our actions. The bolder ones argue that the show their watching is actually good (it’s because I am watching this, my taste is impeccable; the show must be good); while an example I often make fun of is calling some of these shows “guilty” pleasures. A confession, an admission – that sometimes we enjoy something less than excellent.
Bullshit. We are not as averse to mediocrity as we say we are.
Beelzebub, the anime is good for a few laughs but I don’t think the show is good at all. But I like it anyway. And yes, I get to watch anime with my wife again. Let’s talk about this devil.
No, We Can’t Relate to Oga & This Show as a Whole Because Our Baby Doesn’t Have a Penis.
I first thought the laughs will come from us seeing ourselves (or our kid) in the situations Oga is in. Nope. Beelzebub is adapted from an ongoing Shonen Jump manga. Readers of Jump are primarily children, adolescents, and post-adolescents. I don’t imagine that these readers are raising babies currently because I’m almost certain that I heard from a number of anime references that Japan has a negative birth rate.
So no, the situations involving Baby Beelzebub and his “family” are quite absurd. Sure, putting a baby to sleep is tough (next to impossible for me personally). Sure, pacifying a baby is hard work. But the laughs don’t really come from Oga’s failures in baby-raising. They come from the shonen tropes: how easy it is for him to just pwn everyone; how Furuichi is obviously obsessed with Hildegard’s boobs; the lame homosexual jokes; the Demon Overlord starting a 10,000-year mah jong game; and the Cromartie High School kind of setting.
My wife and I laugh out loud at the gags related to these sometimes.
At my most generous, I think the clumsy irony of the show camps on the borderlands of compelling:
Oga’s Success as a Father to Beelzebub, Marks His Maturity and Growth. We Like This. It is Heartwarming. It Also Marks The End of Our World and the Triumph of the Devil.
I’m not too worried. I suspect the manga is too successful for the world to end via significant character development. If it suffers a significant dip in popularity, I suppose all hell will threaten us in the story.
So if the entertainment value is really some lukewarm set of over-the-top shonen tropes (unless you are particularly entertained by seeing a baby’s animated penis and testicles the whole time – it shoots jets of life-giving pee as well), it really isn’t good is it? It isn’t bad, which leaves me this opinion that the show is a mediocrity; nothing to get too worked up about.
You’ll get your laughs, maybe fewer and further in-between than those from a similarly mediocre show from last season: Invasion! Squid-Girl! I dropped that show, despite finding it funny in places. I probably won’t drop this one because my wife likes it and I love watching shows with her. I just need to really get the wisdom in acknowledging that not every show this season can be Star Driver… and that Fractale can still be enjoyed even if it’s already crushed by the weight of expectations its ambition clumsily tried to carry.
¹Okay, I lied. Only Macross 7 is truly excellent in this list.