AND THAT’S CALLED JAZZ!
Beastars is a psychological coming-of-age drama manga and anime that’s written and illustrated by Paru Itagaki, and whose animation studio is Orange. Beastars is set in a fully realized world of anthropomorphic animals, which are divided among carnivores and herbivores. The world that Beastars is set in is incredibly rich and detailed. It feels like a nearly human world, full of very humanesque things like schools, restaurants, concepts like law and journalism, and where the residents live in relative peace and attempt to coexist. I say “relative peace” because its among the backdrop of this world being divided between carnivores and herbivores that we find ourselves in. Each side of the spectrum is absolutely driven by their primal instincts, to a destructive degree. I mean that both physically and psychologically. The Carnivores are driven by their instincts to hunt the Herbivores, while the Herbivores are terribly afraid of this. This leads to a fascinating dynamic as this world’s society has made it a taboo, punishable by law, to kill and consume a Herbivore. The Herbivores aren’t necessarily weak, depending on their species, with some Herbivores able to go toe to toe with other Carnivores in a fight, if necessary. What I find interesting, and i’ll dig more into this later, is the psychological toll this takes on both sides. The Carnivores, at a deep level, feel repressed. This is explored throughout Beastars by showing the dark, inner monologue of characters. Carnivores can’t act on their instinct, and are forced by society and each other to hide who they really are. Herbivores, who live in a state of constant fear that they will be eaten, have forced Carnivores to live by their rules, even going so far as to change their diets to nonthreatening meals while they live, work, and play side by side with them.
The male gray wolf, Legoshi, is the most interesting character because he’s not only the best example of a repressed Carnivore, but he’s the best example of a sexually repressed, depressed, and lonely teenager. As we meet Legoshi, he’s giving into his base desires and trying to devour the white dwarf rabbit, Haru. In a frenzy, Legoshi captures her, but can’t go through with it, and lets the rabbit go with nothing more than a scratch on her arm. This event traumatizes Legoshi immensely as he internalizes the guilt of what he just did. You see, Legoshi knows that he’s a Carnivore, he knows that its built into his very being that he should want to eat meat, but he wants absolutely no part of that. Instead, he’s goes about his days at Cherryton Academy utterly opposed to Carnivores attacking Herbivores. He’s a gentle soul, who worries about not only his actions, but the actions of other Carnivores that aren’t as gentle as him.
I love that in this anime we see what each character is not only thinking but feeling. When they’re scared, depressed, alone, overwhelmed, or whatever the case, Beastars goes out of its way to show that in great detail. It moves the story forward, sure, but it also tells a ton about what the character is all about. The inner “self” of these characters is revealed, and I find that deeply fascinating because we as viewers learn so much about what makes these particular character tick.
I also love the drama and the various conflicts that take place in Beastars. Legoshi is part of the drama club where he meets his senior, the red deer Louis. Louis is a strong and cocky individual and they have a contentious relationship, even coming to blows as they fall in love over the same promiscuous rabbit, Haru. Whats great about this is that the drama is so deeply ingrained into who these characters are and why they do the things they do. Haru is promiscuous with various men because of factors in her life that is rooted in her being a dwarf rabbit, and that has caused this rift between the loner Legoshi and the prideful Louis. This drama and love triangle forms the backbone of the absolutely fantastic story in Beastars. Seriously, the story, the conflict, the drama, and how the characters all interact with each other and within themselves is what shined for me the most. If you take anything away from what is the best about Beastars, its this right here.
If there was something I didn’t like, it was the sexual elements brought by Haru. While not as explicit as in other anime, it was still jarring to see a female rabbit disrobe and have sex with others, while talking about “being a slut”. I completely understood her character and why she did what she did. Haru had very legitimate reasons, from her point of view, to be doing that. At the same time, some moments feel like they could have been played out more delicately then they were, instead of being so upfront. To be completely clear, I liked Haru a lot, especially after I learned her absolutely wonderful backstory, I just wished that the fanservice elements was handled better. Entire scenes made me feel really uncomfortable as I was watching it, and I think you can glimpse why.
Beastars had some of the most unusual animation I’ve ever seen for an anime. The animation looks very similar to something Disney or Pixar might make in an animated film. There’s a smoothness to everything, and the way every character talks has a slight delay to it that’s very much unlike Japanese animation. You sometimes see 3D animation in anime, but its rare. Honestly, the animation works so well in Beastars! The art is so beautiful, but the animation really makes it a standout. I feel like people who don’t like anime, who maybe just like Pixar films, might be attracted to something like this. Really great!
Beastars seems to dance to a certain beat, and nowhere is this more evident than in the opening credits of the anime. The opening theme song is a jazz-inspired bop called “Wild side” by ALI that utterly captures you every single time you listen to it. Even the art and animation are different in the opener, going for something that looks like puppets that honestly reminds me of classic Nickelodeon shorts. It is truly joyful to see the pure creativity displayed in this one opener that matches the music perfectly, going from a dark and brooding theme, to a light and airy dance that lifts you up as you watch.
There’s something about this quote, punctuated at the end of such a whirlwind opening act, that captured me. Jazz music speaks to your soul, and I think that’s what everyone at Orange tried to do with putting together this opening sequence. It’s awesome, and I absolutely love “Wild side”. What a great opener for Beastars! I also want to give a shoutout to ALI for creating such a great song as well. It’s so catchy!!! I honestly can’t stop listening to it.
Beastars may not be the most conventional anime that currently exists. After all, there are no cute girls with pink hair or guys with giant swords. But, that shouldn’t stop anyone from watching this incredibly unique look at what happens when competing forces try to coexist. Even if you’re not that into anime, there’s something here for you. Beastars is an absolutely fantastic anime that I’d recommend to anyone. It’s still available on Netflix. Check it out, everyone!
The anime for Beastars will continue starting in January 2021, airing on Netflix. I’m excited to see what’s next for Legoshi and the others in this vibrant world full of dynamic characters. It’s one of the anime that I’m most looking out for!!!