Welcome to Beyond the Red Rim, my new weekly editorial in which I’ll be taking a look at the best and brightest from everyone’s favorite streaming platform Netflix. Today’s subject has raised more than a few eyebrows in the anime community, and has everyone watching it saying to themselves: “Am I secretly a fury if I enjoy this show?” I present to you Studio Orange’s Beastars.
*This review will be spoiler-free but I will be discussing a few of the important plot details as they pertain to the themes and ideas of the series. You’ve been warned.
Based on a manga of the same name by Paru Itagaki and released to Netflix on March 13, 2020, Beastars is a series about anthropomorphized animals living in a human-like society in which social classes have been divided into two distinct categories: Predators and Prey. Despite predators such as lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) having the obvious advantage in terms of raw physical strength, animal society has largely agreed to abide by a loosely formed version of the social contract, meaning animals like wolves and rabbits can theoretically live together side by side without incident. At least in theory.
Tensions between predators and prey are still high, however, and despite wolves and tigers eating tofu burgers and egg salad sandwiches instead of other animals to get protein, some habits die hard, and many predators are quick to give in to old instincts. Prey are often the victims of random predator attacks, which are treated as cases of serial murder. Cross-species couples are common among the same social group (one of the main series couples in the series is a rabbit and deer), but it’s extremely uncommon for a predator and prey to become romantically involved, and the practice is looked upon as semi-taboo.
This is the world in which the grey wolf Legoshi finds himself in. One in which he’s looked at as either being too timid to be a carnivore by other predators or too scary and intimidating to get to know by his prey classmates. Despite being one of the largest animals at Cherryton Academy, Legoshi is content with living a quiet and gentle life as one of the drama clubs’ stagehands. He has a gentle temperament and all he wants is to be left alone and to maintain a life of boring academic bliss with his classmates, but a combination of his primal instincts and untapped puberty have other plans for him.
After a chance encounter with his dwarf rabbit classmate Haru, Legoshi finds himself head over heels in primal, deep-seated love. The bulk of the series revolves around Legoshi coming to grips with his place as a predator in a world of uneasy predator and prey coexistence, while simultaneously trying to process his complex feelings about loving someone he’s been conditioned his entire life to either treat as delicately as a baby at best or devour both literally and physically at worst. Why must life be so difficult for the soft-spoken seven-foot-tall wolf?
Obvious parallels to the series can be made to films such as Zootopia and similar animated animal shows such as Bojack Horseman, but Beastars is able to stand on its own by taking the core concepts explored in Zootopia (IE what would it be like for anthropomorphized animals to live in a human-like society and have to deal with extreme social divides) and taking it to another R rated level. One has to imagine that in the writing and development of the original manga that “What if we did Zootopia but pushed the boundaries for a mature audience?” wasn’t at least a conversation had with a publisher at some point.
Final Assessment for Beastars Season 1:
I adore the use of stop-motion animation in the intro. Aside from a few CGI hiccups and a few odd slow-paced episodes here or there I really dug the hell out of Beastars and can’t wait for a second season. Legoshi is a good boy who did nothing wrong and I’m excited to see how he develops as a character. A recommended addition to any viewers My List.
Beastars is currently available for streaming on Netflix.