I have been trying to get into Anime lately and, admittedly, it’s a genre that continues to elude me. Sure, I’ve ran into some series that I enjoy like Death Note or One Punch Man, but Anime just doesn’t stick to me like I wish it would which is weird because a lot of it seems like it would be up my alley, so to speak.
I haven’t given up, though, and I’m continuing to delve into the genre looking for something else that will connect with me and, after what seems like weeks of Netflix recommending Beastars to me, I decided to give it a proper go.
What was that?
Have you ever wanted an R-rated Zootopia?
No, of course you haven’t… but you’d better get used to that idea because Beastars is going to shove it right down your throat in a “tail” of interspecies romance, sex, and a dozen other things that furries will be in to.
Personally, I don’t look down on anyone as long as they aren’t out hurting others, but I spent most of the run of this series partially covering my eyes and mumbling, “What the… what am I watching!?”
Beastars follows a high school student named Legoshi, a young wolf in a world of anthropomorphized animals. Legoshi is quiet, introspective, and thoughtful until one of his classmates is brutally devoured by a carnivore. This awakens an inner… I don’t know… instinct? Curiosity? Whatever you call it, it awakens inside Legoshi and he attacks a little white rabbit one night, but then chickens out and lets her go.
Later on, he falls in love… or lust… or he secretly wants to eat this rabbit named Haru and he becomes quietly obsessed with her. The rest of the series is a “will he or won’t he?” dance around the relationship, culminating in Haru getting kidnapped by the carnivore mob to be sold as food on the black market.
Beastars has many more subplots going on at the same time, but that’s really the gist of the main one. Haru and Legoshi, wolf and rabbit… predator and prey.
Perhaps I’m just reading too much into the symbolism here, but the juxtaposition of the predator and prey dynamic between these two characters is interesting. The idea that Legoshi can’t seem to differentiate his desire to devour from his desire to make love is also a strange but facinating quirk of this series.
The problem is, the series isn’t that interesting otherwise and draws way too many comparisons to Zootopia. Yes, the Disney movie. I understand that the manga that inspired Beastars came out around the same time that Zootopia hit theaters, so I’m not sure if it was inspired by the movie or if it was just a coincidence — honestly, I’d believe either scenario without evidence.
The two main characters of Beastars, Legoshi and Haru, are so wooden and boring that any scene with them feels grating and dull. It could have been the English dub, I’m not sure… but I did remark at one point that the relationship between them reminded me of Edward and Bella from Twilight… a dark and dangerous beastial man and a small and mouse woman… both of whom were tragically born without a personality.
To put it mildly, the relationship between the two becomes very uncomfortable to watch, at least for me. I found myself laughing uncomfortably several times during the last couple of episodes because it was hard to take seriously.
Where I thought Beastars became interesting was how it went to great lengths to examine and build the mythos of the world around these characters. There was a pretty neat episode about halfway through where Legoshi and a bunch of other carnivore guys from their dorm go to the black market to get real animal meat. There’s an old homeless animal, at one point, who is literally selling his fingers right off his hand to predatory animals… it was gruesome, strange, and showed a dark underbelly to what appeared to be a pretty decent society.
I also enjoyed a wonderful and hilarious subplot where a chicken girl who sits next to Legoshi takes great pride in the fact that Legoshi loves the egg salad sandwiches from the cafeteria because they’re made from eggs that she lays as part of a part-time job. She never says anything as this is all revealed in an inner monologue and is quite horrified one day when Legoshi admits to a friend that he’s stopped eating the sandwiches because they don’t taste as good as they used to. I wish the series would have spent more time on small eccentric stories like this.
Anytime Beastars does focus on the complications of a society where prey animals and predators live side by side, I enjoyed it. When it turned into some bizzaro tale of vore fetish and awakening sexuality, I checked out. I’m not a prude by any means, but it was uncomfortable to watch and, in my opinion, not done very well… not to mention that Legoshi and Haru have the personality and appeal of two slightly mossy rocks.
The animation was great, though.