What do you think of Beastars? Let us know in the comments below. And don't worry--furries are mainstream now. You can admit it.
The first season of Beastars arrived on US Netflix recently, and it's the anime that everybody should be watching. Combining the holy powers of both horniness and genuine thoughtfulness about identity, sexuality, and society, Beastars lays out both a cerebral and emotional treat over the course of 12 episodes.
But first: Yes, Beastars is that series openly embraced by furries across the internet, and Netflix acknowledged it as so by calling furries to the frontlines for the US release of Beastars. If you're a furry or a curious individual, anthropomorphic animals do have sex in the show. Not graphically, but it's a thing. For the extreme perverts among us, a chicken enjoys watching a wolf eat a sandwich made with her eggs. Make of that what you will!
Beastars is an adaptation of the manga of the same name by Paru Itagaki. It's set in a civilized anthropomorphic society where herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores coexist without getting eaten or eating each other. As you can imagine, that's pretty hard to do when you have rabbits and wolves in close contact.
So Beastar's premise is like an experiment: What happens when you do try to get herbivores and carnivores under one metaphorical social roof? What happens when one subset of the population has an extreme physical advantage over the other? Cleverly, Beastars doesn't try to answer that complicated question all at once. It instead drops us into a relatively controlled environment, the boarding school called Cherryton Academy, and focuses on one subset of students in particular: the drama club.
This focus group gets complicated enough, even though it's just a handful of characters. We get a closeup of each student's thoughts and frustrations about speciesism, predator versus prey complexes, and sexism. Legosi, a timid but huge grey wolf, is our protagonist. He's a wolf torn over being a predator, who feels uncomfortable with his violent instincts. Legosi is also struggling with romantic feelings for a white dwarf rabbit, Haru.
But Legosi is not the only character with issues over identity and relationships to other species. Being a predator or prey is the source of many characters' deep insecurities. Louis, the red deer who's the seemingly untouchable president of the drama club, refuses to show any weakness and clashes with Legosi over the wolf's willingness to always avoid conflict. The deer views it as a personal insult that somebody like a wolf would want to be weak. Haru takes issues with always being considered cute and weak, and uses her sexuality as a coping mechanism. She considers slut-shaming and ostracization the lesser evil compared to being wrongly perceived.
The real charm of Beastars lies with the time it devotes to each of the characters' depth, and the relationships between the students. The members of the main cast are young and complex, navigating the path of defining themselves, but finding that there is truly no easy answer. No one's a trope, as much as the students, and even we the viewers, try to stuff them into boxes based on their animal attributes. Legosi says it best when he thinks about Haru: She's not just what the disdainful rumors say she is. His personal experience in her company shows him otherwise. And as much as the buck is perceived as a regal creature, Louis perhaps hides the grittiest, most violent tendencies of all the students.
The relationship between Legosi and Haru, a wolf and rabbit, is nuanced and works well as the anchor of the story in Season 1. They're unlikely partners--a shy wolf and an assertive rabbit--but their burgeoning relationship challenges each character to grow and sets the stage for them to think about who they are and are not as a wolf and rabbit. Legosi does almost kill her in the beginning of the show, and Haru's near-death experience isn't downplayed.
Death is a legitimate risk if they get together, and Legosi and Haru respond to that by thinking carefully about the responsibility they have toward each other. Their romance feels important to both students' growth and internal shifts, rather than a romance for romance's sake. On the romance note, Legosi's other love interest, Juno, also doesn't fall in a neat tidy box. You think she's going to go the conniving love rival route, but Juno's more complex than that. It's a 180 when it's revealed her goals are probably more about dethroning Louis than attaining Legosi. But there's a caveat: Although the female characters are refreshing in construct and like, actually multifaceted, Beastars fails the Bechdel test.
As for how good the on-screen adaptation of Beastars is, the CGI animation is relatively decent and doesn't feel too jarring, as some CGI shows can be. The creators also add in stylistic 2D animation to depict flashbacks and dreams, and those scenes really give the show the dynamism that the CGI scenes lack. However, for the anthropomorphic animal characters, a lot of their movements seem to be missing animal-specific characteristics. A wolf doesn't move the same as a smaller animal, and yet they pretty much do in the show. It's disappointing, but doesn't detract too much from the overall story.
Beastars is one of the most interesting manga to come out in the last few years. Beastars isn't interested in a tidy equality message per se--it's more concerned with exploring what the characters think equality is, unpacking that, dumping it on the floor, and watching them slip and slide in the mess. It's a glorious and complicated examination of power (both physical and via capital resources) and social relationships through the lens of an anthropomorphic society.
Beastars is a show to watch for furries and non-furries alike, and good news: Season 2 is already in production.