One anime that really surprised us this season was BEASTARS, a deep and thoughtful show about a society of anthropomorphic animals. It follows the members of the drama club at Cherryton Academy who are putting on plays for the students. Legosi, a grey wolf who is in the drama club, develops an obsession for Haru, a dwarf rabbit who’s going through a rough time in her life, and the story unfolds from there.
Why should you watch BEASTARS? Here are some good reasons.
The Complex World of BEASTARS
Although the story is similar to Zootopia, the Disney CGI film that shared many of the same concepts, this is a story that could only have come from an extremely well-developed manga, created by female artist Paru Itagaki. BEASTARS is basically Zootopia with the trailing wheels taken off.
Right off the bat, the show asks complex questions. What laws would a society comprised of carnivores and herbivores need to create in order to remain stable and happy? For example, carnivores are forbidden from showing their fangs to an herbivore, and carnivores are banned from eating meat, making do with tofu burgers for their protein instead. And yet, never being able to eat flesh goes against the nature of meat-eaters, and as a result, “predation incidents” aren’t uncommon — the anime opens with the murder of an alpaca in the drama club — and there’s a black market where carnivores can buy meat secretly.
An Anime About Prejudices
One show I enjoyed was Oshiete! Galko-chan, a short anime that taught us to avoid judging from a person from their outer appearance. For example, everyone expects gyaru Galko to be a total slut, yet her heart is 100% pure. Each episode of the show teaches us to not judge a book by its cover.
BEASTARS wants to explore these themes, but it also has a lot to say about contemporary Japanese society. As I wrote in my long post about understanding Japan’s birth rate through anime memes, one social trend that’s come to the forefront in Japan over the past quarter-century is 草食男子 soushoku danshi, the “herbivore males” who have less ambition and drive than in the past and aren’t as interested in trying to get sex from females. In response to this trend, some women have become 肉食女子 nikushoku joshi, or “carnivore females” who will be more aggressive in pursuing relationships and sex.
Despite being a carnivore, Legosi is a kind soul who’s more than a bit wishy-washy and doesn’t even notice the romantic intentions of Juno, a fellow grey wolf, which brought me back to my own days of Nishikata-level stupidity in high school. And yet despite being a literal herbivore, Haru the rabbit has learned that one of the few things that alieves her feelings of helplessness at being the tiniest animal around is when she takes a male into her bed. The journey the two characters go on as they try to understand (and sometimes combat) their own internal natures makes BEASTARS a really fresh and interesting show.
Another character fans will love is Louis, a red deer, who is the star of the school’s drama club. He’s an herbivore, yet he’s determined to never lose to the stronger animals around him while on stage. He’s conflicted between his feelings for Haru and his need to fulfill the expectations of his clan.
One show that really impressed me this season was BEASTARS, which had a rich and complex world and rich and complex characters. Are you watching the show? Why do you like it, if you do? pic.twitter.com/ZpZBTuwAjF
— Peter Payne (@JListPeter) December 27, 2019
CGI I Don’t Hate
I’m rather vocal about strongly disliking the “cel-look” CGI some anime shows try to foist off on fans in a clear attempt to make animation cost less money, despite the low wages animators earn. And yet, I found I didn’t hate BEASTARS at all, and rather enjoyed the kinds of camera angles and action scenes they were able to tell thanks to the high-quality CGI animation.
The animation was handled by Orange, the smart studio responsible for animating the Tachikomas from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and bringing us Land of the Lustrous. Like Galko-chan, this studio is making me re-examine my own internal biases.
BEASTARS is Really Why We Watch Anime
I don’t know about you, but I was pulled into anime because of the kinds of stories and characters I found there. Stories that were big and bold and dramatic, for example dealing with interstellar wars and the future destiny of humans, or which put characters in life-or-death situations that leave viewers on pins and needles. And yes, stories that involve romantic love and sex rather than edit that aspect of storytelling out completely, as Disney does.
Among the many tropes that anime is built from, characters who freak out over a simple kiss and obsess over their purity are extremely common, and that’s part of the comedic charm for many series. But I also think a show featuring people (er, animals) who actually have sex like they do in the real world is absolutely fresh and interesting.
Another Note on Prejudices
A lot of fans have a negative view of anything perceived as being related to “furry culture.” Well, BEASTARS isn’t a furry show, but just happens to take place in society where animals are sentient. If anything, it’s among the darkest and most violent shows I can think of.
How to Watch BEASTARS
Currently, the show is only available on Netflix in Japan legitimately, but it’s coming to other markets in early 2020. I hope the reason for the delay is that they’re going to do a dub. Let’s hope it’s a good one!
There’s more good news: a second season has already been announced! And while we wait for that, we can all read the manga, which is also excellent.
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