I finally decided to give the Netflix Anime Beastars a go this and it didn’t disappoint! I came into the show ice cold, having no idea what it was about – only knowing that I’d heard it was “good” through the grapevine. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the interesting world, good story, and characters – but I’m officially a fan.
What is Beastars?
Beastars is series on Netflix with 2 seasons (season 2 was recently released on July 15th) totaling 24 episodes to its credit. It is based on a 2016 Manga publication where anthropomorphic animals exist in a world where carnivores and prey coexist. Think of it as the old Disney movie Zootopia, but way better and for adults (Oh, I forgot to mention: This isn’t a show for kids).
It is rated TV-MA for Violence, Smoking, Nudity (and likely for “Adult Themes” as well).
And that’s no surprise, it revolves around 2 main plot points for the entire run of the show so far:
Students dealing with the complex nature of the interactions between carnivores and prey in their world after a well-known student is brutally devoured in the school at the beginning of the show. Creating a spiraling mystery that motivates a number of characters in interesting ways.
The complicated “romantic” relationship that grows between a large grey wolf boy (a predator) and a small white dwarf rabbit (prey).
The rest of the motivations in the show and the ongoing storylines spur off of these events and all operate in a world where carnivores are looked down on because of their predation and prey basically embody emotional sensitivity toward things such as fear to power dynamics to sexuality.
Finding a good clip, even a trailer for the show, that kind of gives you a good idea of some of the elements of the show (without RUINING some of the fun parts of the ride) is HARD! But, I came across this one…
This clip at least gives you a good look at some of the animation and some idea of the personalities at play, but it doesn’t give anything away! Which is what I want for people coming into this cold as I did.
(I watched the Japanese version w/ English subtitles, but a lot of what I’m seeing online is English dubbed. Pick your poison, but I had a great time watching the Japanese audio on this one.)
Telling You About the Show Without Giving Away the Show
You can go and find spoiler reviews about this one all over, but I don’t want to ruin anything for you really – so I’ll talk about a few key elements in somewhat abstract ways to see if I can convince you to give the first 3 episodes of this one a try…
#1: Animals and Instincts
Getting this one out of the way first, this is a show about animals with human characterizations. That said, think of it as a show about “us” (as humans) but with everything we feel dialed up to 11. There is violence, bloodlust, friendship, love, obsession, desire, scheming, and manipulation – but it is all packaged in some surprising ways. You will think that you know a character and then suddenly you won’t. You will figure out one mystery only to be led to another because these animals, who are acting very human, are also still just animals at the end of the day. It is an interesting commentary on the human condition.
#2: The Use of Sexual Tension & Restraint
We are dealing with teenage animals in school. Think about how horny you were back in high school, and apply that here as well. This show will get a rep for how it deals with sexual themes (and it deserves them), but it’s not full-on furry nudity. If anything, I’d say a lot of it is presented surprisingly and actually serves a purpose for the characterization of some of the characters (male and female). Does the show deal with sex as a theme? Yes. Especially in the first season, and it’s toned down in season 2. But even in the first season – I’d call it suggestive and tame by American standards with some very well-placed innuendo and use of rumors. Basically letting your mind do the heavy lifting as the show restrains itself.
#3: The Characters Grow
As with any show, you’ll see some characters go through more full character arcs than others — but, for the most part, nearly every character on here who gets screentime has the opportunity to show you multiple facets of their personality and story. There are very few characters in this show who just have a single layer, and I think that’s one of the things people love about it.
#4: Debating Villainy
A mark of good writing to me is when it makes you question if what you define as “bad” is really bad, and if what you know as “good” isn’t just a pile of shit. Beastars does this PERFECTLY through its use of the 3 themes prior to this one. Is someone being bad, or are they just following their animalistic nature and they can’t help it? Is the sex “just sex” or is it really symbolizing something deeper going on with the characters? Are the characters really growing or just taking massive steps backward? Is that change always good or bad and why do they desire to change? Ok… Now ask yourself that about humans you know (if not just yourself). This is what this show does, and it’s what it does well.
#5: Strength (Pride) vs. Weakness (Vulnerability)
When it all comes down to it, what is strength? What is weakness? If you look at this show through that lens, you will take away a lot from it. More than I think you take away from most Anime these days, and that might be something else that’s a shining reason fans love this one. I see myself in a few characters, especially the main one (I have a wold tattoo on my arm because I’ve always seen it as my spirit animal in a way). The way they characterize his awkwardness and internal monologs REALLY make me think about how I’ve handled similar situations in my actual life and I wonder if I’m stronger or weaker for those things often. It was interesting to see that internal struggle portrayed so well throughout the series.
#6: What Do You Protect and Why?
The last big one that you’ll see move a ton of characters in this show protecting something: Their image. Their friends. Their relationships. A memory… Once you realize that’s happening, you may start to wonder why they’re protecting that. Is it because they want to? And if they do, is it for selfless or selfish reasons? Is it because that’s what society is looking for them to do because that’s just what people in their group(s) do? Is it all an act? You will see a lot of that happening throughout.
#7: Powerful Awkwardness
We’re all a little awkward in our own way – and so are our animal counterparts. This show fully embraces that to a degree that’s 100% relatable.
There are tons of other themes, but I feel like those are the big ones.
The fun thing about all of this is that when it’s all said and done, you realize that you’ve primarily been shown this entire series through the eyes of a wolf – and you have to ask yourself if he’s where he should be in this world at certain points. And even more fun, “How did you come to that conclusion of his place in the world?” (Now ask yourself that about your life)
Beastars is a bit of a welcomed mind-fuck at times.
I dig this show so much that I finished both seasons over the weekend and I’ve already started rewatching it from the beginning as I impatiently await a third season (hoping I get one).
If you are looking for some thought-provoking animated entertainment that is naughty, violent, and honest (as it relates to the human condition and the animalistic natures dwelling inside all of us) – 10 out of 10, I would recommend Beastars again and again.