Betterman begins as a typical anime story: Keita Anono, a 17-year-old video-game junkie, stumbles upon a top secret research group and their efforts to destroy a virus-like menace called Algernon. Algernon causes humans to lose their minds and kill themselves or others. This first encounter reveals both Keita's unique and exceptional psychic abilities that allow him to pilot a mecha called a neuronoid, and the existence of a strange polymorphic creature that aids in the fight against Algernon. Naturally, the research group, Akamatsu Industries, recruits Keita as a pilot of a neuronoid.
At first, the story follows a rather predictable pattern. Keita and the rest of the team (some of whom are infinitely more likeable than Keita himself) get into trouble while investigating suspicious phenomenon. Suddenly, Betterman appears on the scene in one of his many (and impressive) forms, and defeats the large monster, that was, in fact, connected to Algernon. It reminded me of old Godzilla movies, where one large monster arrives to defeat another large monster that humans are unable to defeat themselves.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that there are plots within plots, and that Algernon may not be the ultimate enemy of the story. And this is where things get complicated. I have never seen an anime that was so determined to fill the time with scientific technobabble as Betterman. The plots are so complex, and the theories are so intricate, that it just about takes a degree in one of the biological sciences in order to keep up. For example, my husband, who has a degree in microbiology, understood it all at the first viewing. I, on the other hand, had to rewind often and ask him to explain things in terms that were less technospeak and more intelligible. This did taint my enjoyment of the anime, but my husband liked it immensely.
Technobabble aside, the pacing of the anime is slow. Information about Algernon and Betterman and how they are all related is revealed at a snail's pace, and often the reveal is so complicated it still does not make any sense. On the other hand, less important information is blatantly obvious. For example, it is clear there is a relationship between Keita's partner Hinoki and Betterman simply from the way in which they are drawn, but it takes the actual characters a long time to reach the proper conclusion.
All in all, Betterman is not the worse anime I have ever seen, but it is not one I would recommend.