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Among the list of new upcoming anime, the BEASTARS adaptation is one that I’m genuinely excited about. Before you reject it as “that furry thing you see going around Twitter,” do not let that stop you from giving it a chance! I believe in duality: a story can inspire horniness (BEASTARS has the horniest fandom I’ve witnessed) and can also ask thoughtful questions. Thoughtfully horny does exist, which honestly, is the best of both worlds.

BEASTARS, by Paru Itagaki, is set in a fantasy world where anthropomorphic animals are civilized and live in a modern integrated carnivore and herbivore society. Our main character is a young grey wolf, Legosi. We follow Legosi as he tries to grapple with his identity and his burgeoning confusing feelings for his classmate, a white dwarf female rabbit, Haru. Beyond a basic plot summary, here’s what you need to know about BEASTARS. Warning: spoilers abound!

BEASTARS: Legosi and Haru Meeting
Image Courtesy of Netflix

H for Human Heterosexuality in BEASTARS

Itagaki’s manga examines a society with predator/prey relationships. It’s a complicated modern civilization that constantly grapples with the fact some of the population can eat the other. But while the characters have animal characteristics, BEASTARS stays strictly within the familiar confines of human societal relationships and constructs.

On one hand, BEASTARS does look at what would happen if anthropomorphic carnivores and herbivores try to be friends, lovers — essentially anything but the instinctual predator and prey dynamic. On the other hand, it’s not a one-to-one accurate reflection of animal kingdom dynamics. A lot of gay, bisexual, polyamorous shit should be happening with none of the monogamous, heterosexual, pairings that dominate the BEASTARS world. I’m truly disappointed that the male marsupial that fucks for hours until it dies isn’t featured in the story. Nor are any interesting societal structures like hyenas’ matriarchal dynamics mentioned as a curious alternative to the human society’s status quo.

That’s a caveat for my gays and gals — it is human heterosexuality with a capital H. You will be rolling your eyes, scoffing at the main romance between a bunny-girl and wolf-dude. And much like heterosexual shonen of yore, the bromance stuff gets more emotional development than the main romantic relationship. Think of the classic example: Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke. In this case it’s Legosi, Haru, and Legosi’s best friend, the red deer Louis. Heterosexual injustices live on!

BEASTARS: Louis and Legosi meeting
Can you sense the bromance that gets more development than the main romance? Image Courtesy of Netflix

N for No Racist Metaphors

However, BEASTARS entirely avoids what I was terribly afraid of. The relationship dynamics between herbivores and carnivores are not some thinly veiled metaphor for racism between humans. I let out a very long, heavy sigh of relief once realizing Itagaki side steps the hell out of that problematic pothole. You can see how it would be an issue to equate certain human races to carnivores who are larger, more aggressive, and stronger, and other races as inherently more vulnerable and in need of protection.

BEASTARS is about racism, but strictly within the the story’s context of animals with human-level intelligence that have predator and prey instincts. It’s interspecies racism, and Itagaki doesn’t equate it to real-life interracial racism.

S for Serious Considerations of an Integrated Herbivore and Carnivore Society

BEASTARS seriously considers how carnivores and herbivores would coexist, from the internal level, to an interpersonal one, to a larger societal one. It’s not a flippant slice-of-life story that assumes magical harmony. Many of the characters have different viewpoints of how carnivores and herbivores should interact. Legosi is our vehicle into experiencing these viewpoints since he starts out as somewhat unsure of what being a wolf means and what herbivores mean to him. To just name a few different internal landscapes:

Louis, the red deer who is bona fide celebrity of high school and drama club, struggles with the physical weakness in his herbivore body. As a result, he does everything in his power to overcome this perceived weakness by being as successful as he possibly can. Sebun, a female merino sheep, hates the fact that she can’t stand up to carnivores that discriminate against her at work. Bill, a Bengal tiger, while able to maintain friendships with herbivores at school, believes that carnivores should have the right to eat meat at the back alley market that illegally sells such goods. Other carnivores struggle with their perceived aggression. Notably, our main character, Legosi is uncomfortable with the violence his physical body implies and walks around meekly.

Louis and Legosi: A Carnivore and a Herbivore Trying to Be Friends

On an interpersonal level, herbivores and carnivores also grapple with their relationships. Legosi and Louis are one pair who do their best to figure out their friendship in the context of their herbivore and carnivore identities. Louis has his inferiority complexes, flair for drama, and utter distaste for the fact the he was “born to be eaten.” Legosi on the other hand, has his own set of carnivorous issues and desperately wants a body and a set of instincts that isn’t bloodthirsty. It’s pretty funny: at time Louis feels more like the predator and Legosi feels like the prey.

Their relationship reaches a point in which Legosi eats Louis’ foot in order for Legosi to defeat the bear, Riz, who ate a fellow alpaca classmate of theirs. It’s truly symbolic that by eating Louis foot, Legosi removes the slave mark that’s been at the crux of the deer’s insecurities, the mark that Louis received as a kid for sale in the back market alley. After Legosi eats his leg, Louis feels like he’s equal to carnivores on some level. It’s consensual consumption that doesn’t feel like predation, but also well, is morally complex. Because, Legosi still ate his best friend’s foot.

Another example of herbivores and carnivores working it out
An example of a carnivore and herbivore figuring out their relationship. Image Courtesy of Akita Shoten.

C for Complicated Female Characterization…To an Extent

To my ever-loving surprise, the female characters had decent development. Not to say that Itagaki’s female characterization is perfect. There’s plenty to say on the dismal narrative arcs she gives them. I went into the manga thinking that the main love interest, a seemingly cute, fluffy, white female dwarf bunny would be cute and innocent.

No. Haru takes off her clothes and propositions Legosi within 30 minutes of their second meeting. She’s not an innocent, wide-eyed rabbit. In fact, she actively is disdainful of every animal perceiving her as innocent, and she goes out of her way to sleep with dudes of all species. We later find out it’s the only way she has control over how people perceive her, and that’s her motivation to seek out sexual intimacy.

Haru the white dwarf rabbit! My girl.
Haru! My girl. Image Courtesy of Netflix.

While the rest of the school slut shames her, Legosi refreshingly and amazingly does not. He believes that she has her own reasons for what she does and instead does his best to get to know her better. Legosi’s centered on working on himself: he makes sure to differentiate between love for her and his carnivorous desires, rather than jumping into a situation that could harm Haru. He doesn’t want to change her or believe that she needs saving from her sexual promiscuity. An ethical main character that doesn’t slut shame — we stan!

Challenging Your Perceptions

Juno, a female gray wolf, is a layered character as well. Though your initial impression of her is that she’s a love rival to Haru, she is not reduced to that. Her entire existence is not to be a foil to Haru and be a stepping stone in Haru and Legosi’s relationship. Is she manipulative with the way she presents as harmless? Sure. But she’s also driven, smart, and has her own goals and ways of achieving them. She gets along with herbivores and has a tender spot for Legosi, but she also directly challenges Louis and states that she, too, will be just as influential as him. And though she has a rivalry with Haru, she also doesn’t fulfill the villainess role by tormenting her or finding ways to set the bunny up.

BEASTARS: Juno the wolf!
Juno! My other girl. Image Courtesy of Netflix.

With such a strong start to female characterization, the latter chapters of BEASTARS leave much to be desired. Itagaki does not flesh out or develop Juno or Haru’s narrative arcs very well. The sense of change in Legosi and Louis is perceptible at all times and these two characters have a steady evolution. Unfairly so, Itagaki leaves her female characters at standstill in the recent chapters. Supposedly Juno is still doing something at the drama club I guess and has some weird romantic thing with Louis. And who really knows how Haru’s internal landscape has shifted, if at all, after Legosi and her confirm their mutual feelings. Itagaki, give my girls some character development!

F for a Flawed Main Character Who We Still Root For

On the other hand, our main character is impressively fleshed out. Legosi is an ethical carnivore that is still a nuanced character who has flaws. Almost eating Haru when he first meets her, he is not infallible to his predator instincts. He also has a weird fetish for herbivores that he personally acknowledges and that his herbivore friend, Louis, points out. But complicatedly, that idealization of herbivores drives his admirable desire to protect them. That desire to protect is also not only sustained by a fetish — he is genuinely in love with a herbivore and loves his herbivore best friend. Legosi’s motivations are complex and the fact that he acknowledges them as not completely pure makes him a flawed character we’re interested in seeing grow.

BEASTARS: Legosi almost losing control and eating Haru.
Legosi almost losing control and eating Haru. Image Courtesy of Akita Shoten.

Watch It!

Netflix released BEASTARS on October 8th and is the exclusive distributor. I highly recommend watching it, as well as reading the original manga. BEASTARS is truly a series that fearlessly asks interesting questions. It isn’t afraid to get really dark and dirty with the details, and it goes all the way there with uncomfortable situations. Truly what the Bee movie wishes it was, BEASTARS has anthropomorphic animals romancing each other and an actually interesting plot. Read it and watch it!

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