In murky silence, a cell divided and created 3 lives. Bem, Bela and Belo are 3 sub-human creatures which were created in a lab. Despite looking humanoid, when they get angry they change into monsters. They roam the world and take on the role of protecting humans from other creatures such as their nemesis The Man With No Name (another sub-human created around the same time as Bem, Bela and Belo). What the trio want more than anything is to become human but if anybody finds out about their secret they have to move on to another city. When they arrive in a new city, there's a spate of mysterious deaths linked to a pharmaceutical company. A female employee Sayuri who is also a single mother has been infected with a virus that is gradually turning her into a monster. She unleashes her vengeance on mankind and it's up to Bem, Bela and Belo to stop her. Belo falls in love her with her daughter Michiru. There's also a chance for the monsters to become human at last.
Humanoid Monster Bem was originally an anime series which first came to the attention of the Japanese public way back in 1968. This is the spin-off movie from the drama series of the same name which aired in Japan during 2011 and had respectable viewing figures at the time. I first saw the trailer for this movie during my last trip to Tokyo at the beginning of December 2012 and there was heavy promotion for it at the time. In fact the monster trio were even used to promote the anti-piracy policy of Shinjuku Piccadilly cinema! Perhaps I should have watched the drama series first before watching the movie as all the characters (even the supporting ones such as their detective friend Natsume who is a part of a group of humans that are helping the trio out) are already established but as it has a story that's easy to follow it didn't really hinder me at all. There's a quick recap about their background story right at the beginning. It's a simple enough tale of good versus evil and of the trio questioning if they want to really become human. A special plant which is growing rapidly holds the key for them to fully turn human but will they decide to use it or not? Judging from the trailer I thought it was about a trio of good vampires but it has nothing to do with those creatures in the end. The main characters are interesting with each having a special talent: Bem has a rod/stick that can make him look what has taken place in the past but can also be used as a weapon as well, Bela has a whip to attack her opponents and Belo as the youngest doesn't have a weapon at all. The trio cannot die from conventional human weapons such as bullets as witnessed in a scene in which they charge full speed into a police ambush before flying off. They heal fairly quickly afterwards. I quite like the overall look of each of the leads. Their behaviour differs from each other with Bem being fairly quiet and contemplative though he is haunted by a ghost like image of The Man With No Name often. His wife Bela is quick tempered and Belo behaves just like any small child!!
The first third of the movie had me glued to the screen but I'm afraid my mind did wander during the middle section when the story does drag a bit too much and focuses on Sayuri's torment on becoming a monster and worrying that if she loses control of her human side she'll hurt her daughter. The trio also have to contend with the corrupt head of the pharmaceutical company who has a hidden agenda of his own and is responsible for Sayuri's condition. As the movie runs just a touch over 2 hours I felt that 20-25 mins should have been cut to make the movie flow better as the pace really slows down during this time. Things do pick up in the final third as Sayuri transforms into a fully-fledged tentacled creature and it is only Bem, Bela and Belo that can stop her. The trio of popular male idol Kazuya Kamenashi, Anne Watanabe and Fuku Suzuki do well in their roles making the audience care for them. The special effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The transformation effects with Sayuri's claw emerging from her arm is great and disgusting at the same time. The other CGI effects are just OK. Is the movie suitable for a family audience? Yes I think so, although there are a couple of scenes that might frighten the kids.
In the end, I was more or less satisfied with the movie. It had a good storyline which got a little bit sidetracked during the middle but it recovered well enough for the action packed finale. It's directed well enough by Shunsuke Kariyama. As it goes on for too long though I don't think it could sustain a kid's attention for the entire running time. Worth a watch.
Sadako's Rating: 3 stars out of 5