Set in a world of anthropomorphic animals, Beastars opens on the death of Tem the impala at the hands of a mysterious carnivore. Tem’s friend, Beastars’ protagonist Legoshi the grey wolf, has little time to mourn his friend’s death, as the co-existence between herbivores and carnivores is so fragile that mention of instances such as these, have become taboo. Soon after, Legoshi finds himself losing control of his instincts and almost eats a white rabbit named Haru, before letting her go. Upon meeting Haru again and finding she has no memory of the attack, Legoshi finds himself unable to forget the small rabbit. Confused if he is conflating carnivorous instincts with romantic interest, Beastars follows Legoshi and Haru’s relationship as they confront the injustices and inequalities inherent to their society. The premise for Beastars is a familiar one; a Romeo and Juliette style narrative with the divide being that of herbivores and carnivores. Where Beastars stands out amongst the rest of the narratives in this vein, however, is its presentation and characters.
Beastars is a story that could only be told through animation. The animation is done mainly though 3D CG models, which is usually the kiss of death for an anime. Beastars, however, uses the technology the best I have seen yet. Legoshi’s anxiety is displayed through his constant fidgeting with his hands, and the 3D allows for a sense of scale between the small herbivores and large carnivores that is not possible in 2D. When the show does utilise 2D, the artwork is stunning, setting a contrasting atmosphere to the high-school drama that is rendered in 3D. The show also necessitates that the characters be animalistic. The narrative and themes of Beastars would not work if the characters were humans, with the characterisation of each character is dependent on which animal they are. Canines have greater senses of smell, deer startle easy and tigers have superior strength. The characters’ unique traits drive the plot in ways specific to this world, as character motivation and reactions align with their species. It also opens the show to go beyond a simple romance; instead, Beastars uses the differences between its characters to question what it means to be, ironically, human.
While it can read as sappy, the show is sincere in its belief that human connection can overcome any difference. Neither the herbivores nor carnivores act as monolithic representations of either sides of any specific debate. Rather, the dichotomy that the show establishes is a perceived hurdle that the characters feel they must overcome in order to relate to one another. This is highlighted in my favourite scene of the show. Haru and Legoshi share a meal, both too nervous to talk to one another. Legoshi’s inner monologue allows us to experience his anxiety of coming across as overly aggressive, since he towers over Haru. Whereas, Haru’s thoughts reveal that even though she suspects that Legoshi is a kind person, her natural instincts make her leg twitch to flee each time she sees Legoshi take a bite of his food. Even when both parties are considerate of the other, Beastars displays that there are no easy solutions to overcoming differences. Both sides must be willing to listen and understand the other. Herbivores carry the understandable fear of being overpowered and killed, while carnivores carry the stigma of being perceived as violent and bloodthirsty. It is Haru and Legoshi’s attempts at bridging of the divide that makes Beastars truly special and a must-watch.
Thoughtful, funny, and filled with brilliant characters and dialogue, I really cannot recommend Beastars highly enough.
Beastars Series 1 is available to stream now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below: