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“Beastars” is certainly a show that exists. Because this show exists, and because I made the decision to watch it all the way through to the end, I am now going to talk about it. Of course, when I say talk about it, what I mean to say is that I am going to talk about how absolutely garbage it is.
What is this Story?
Its been a while since I’ve talked about a show that I thought was particularly offensive in terms of just how bad it is, so for this post, I will try to go in depth in why I think why certain things do or do not work. For starters, lets look at the kind of story Beastars is trying to tell.
The series focuses on a world of semi-anthropomorphized animals, who are divided into into to two broad categories based on their animal types, carnivores and herbivores. In this world, there is a lot of prejudice against carnivores due to their natural inclination towards eating meat, and more specifically small herbivores. Still, the two groups mostly get along.
At the beginning of the show, an herbivore lama named Tem has been murdered by someone presumed to be a carnivore. From there, the show follows Legushi, a social awkward grey wolf who is just trying to fit in at Cherryton High School. From there he meets Luis, the leader of the drama club, and Haru, a bunny who runs the school’s gardening club.
Story wise, there is just way too much going on. For starters, instead picking a lane and running with it, the show basically tries to split the difference between Zootopia and Twilight. From there the show goes from being a murder mystery to a shoujou drama to an action adventure and then back to a drama all within the span of twelve episodes. The worst part, though, is that the series succeeds at almost none of these, with the exception of a few things which I will talk about later.
Social Commentary: Beastars is…Accidentally Racist?
When I said that Beastars was splitting the difference between “Zootopia” and “Twilight,” I was not kidding. Pretty much all of Beastars characters, settings, and story-lines allude to a similar social tension between those identified as herbivores and those as carnivores.
This tension is shown most obviously in the first episode after Tem is murdered. The pain of his death was felt among all of the students, but specifically within the drama club, which he was a part of. After the incident, many of the herbivore members of the club felt immediately suspicious.
Now, “Zootopia” had a fairly similar message, although it dealt with more specifically with the idea that there was discrimination in the law against carnivores. In this way, it felt much more like an allegory for race relations rather than just another Disney movie about animals.
“Beastars” takes this message in a fairly different direction. The show actively incorporates the idea that carnivores are more naturally likely to kill, and even has an entire section of the series dedicated to show a secret black market where carnivores can eat meat, which has been strictly outlawed.
Basically, the show seems to imply that carnivores are naturally worse in some ways than herbivores. Hmmm…interesting.
Now, I want to be perfectly clear. I am not literally saying the show is racist, and in all honesty, I do not expect most people to pick up on this, considering most are probably watching the show for the drama anyway. However, it is something worth thinking about, because messages like this, even subtle ones, can have an impact on people.
Clearly I have much to learn when it comes to ways of character writing. In fact, maybe I should try and reach out to the original mangaka Paru Itagaki, because I did not think it was possible to write a character who is simultaneously the edgiest character, and yet also the most literal Beta I have every had the displeasure of watching.
My god, I have seen harem anime characters with more decision making ability than Legushi. For over half the series, this emo wolf cannot decide if he is pyschopath or in love, and then when he does, and then actually has the opportunity to be romantically involved with Haru, he just does nothing. Absolutely some of the worst payoff for sitting through 12 episodes of drama that I have ever watched.
Jazz is Cool, but Not in this Show
I was originally going to give “Beastars” some credit for its soundtrack. After all, Jazz often feels like like an underrepresented genre when it comes to anime soundtracks, with one of the only notable exceptions recently being “Kids on the Slope,” which aired back in 2012.
However, I then remembered that most of the scenes where Jazz is playing is either when Legushi almost gets romantic but then does not, and when he is doing one of his stupid emo monologues, which ruins any enjoyment of the music.
Does this Show do Anything Right?
Yes, actually. As much as I hate to admit, the blend between 2D and 3D animation, as well as the 3D animation itself, looks incredibly good. Normally I steer clear of CG heavy anime because of the way they look (see Berserk 2016), but in this case the CG almost always added to the show’s presentation rather than taking away from it.
One area of the show where this is most evident is in during the play held by the drama club. Even despite these episodes having a heavy amount of action, the CG never looks bad, even against 2D backgrounds. The fights between Bill and Legushi were especially entertaining in this regard. It is truly a shame that Studio Orange’s talent for 3D animation was wasted on this material.
Overall, though, I cannot say I am disappointed. “Beastars” turned out to be exactly the poorly written furry drama I expected it to be. There is something to be said for it as purely popcorn entertainment. Plus, those who are only looking for a show with good CG visual definitely will not be let down. Otherwise, this is worth nobodies time.
How do you all feel about Beastars? Let me know in the comments.
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