“The full moon chooses which beast to illuminate”
Anthropomorphic society, teenage angst, theatre club, bullies, politics, murder, and so much more. That’s what Beastars has promised its viewers after premiering this week on Netflix Japan.
An interesting premise was already enough to encourage me to watch the show, but the world itself is what pushed me to want to review the series. When I first saw the teaser artwork I thought to myself: “Disney animals meet anime?”
To which I will respond: I was very, very wrong. When the official trailer premiered there was no doubt in my mind this world would be a dark and twisty one. The tone in the series is a serious one, nothing close to a happy-go-lucky environment. The establishing scene itself is shrouded in mystery, crime, intrigue, and suspense.
The story follows wolf Legoshi (Kobayashi Chikahiro) and dwarf rabbit Haru (Senbongi Sayaka) who must each navigate their own set of challenges as high-schoolers. Not only are they subject to prejudice and discrimination based on their predisposed ‘category’ as prey or predator, they must also handle the tension arising from the murder of their classmate, Tem.
Will the Cherryton boarding school turn into a stage for blood and death? I’m not sure but this first part will definitely include an investigation and perhaps a few other attacks and/or disappearances. The only thing that seems off-putting is that all school activities (shortly after a brutal murder) are continuing as scheduled. Different world, different rules, I guess. I’ll leave it at that for now in regards to story as the series has really only set the stage for what I believe will become a murder investigation, but also a setting allowing for deeper exploration of the characters’ psyche and instincts.
Off the bat, there are characters I’m drawn to slightly more because of their potential for growth and because of overall dynamic. Louis (Ono Yuuki), for one, has a strong presence on screen, one that overshadows our protagonist, Legoshi. He has an intimidating and self-important air about him that disappears behind closed doors. His real personality is actually quite cut-throat. And that scene with Legoshi invites one to believe that he might succeed in becoming his puppet master.
Mizuchi (Yamamura Hibiku) gives off the same stench as Louis. Arrogant and threatened by her peers. In order to keep their rank within the herbivores, they both use rough tactics to keep their schoolmates in check. Although Mizuchi might not evolve in the series as much as other characters, her appearance established a strict hierarchy by which the students abide. There’s a pecking order and she’s there to see it stays in place.
Then we have Tem, poor, deceased Tem. I’m not sure we’ll get more of him in coming episodes but the moments leading to his death and the flashback Legoshi had of him might mean otherwise. His friendship, and now his death, made a dent in Legoshi’s ‘normal’ high school life and I wonder to what extent. Legoshi, although awkward, bonded with him, even going out of his way to complete a small task on behalf of his deceased friend. It makes me wonder why anyone would target Tem in the first place? He didn’t seem to be the weakest of the herbivores. Why not Haru who, unfortunately, lives with a target on her back?
As a dwarf rabbit, Haru is considered the bottom of the food chain, on both large and small scales. Even other herbivores want nothing to do with her in fear of being targeted as well. Her personality, however, does not match her meek exterior. She’s snarky, hot-headed, and self-assured, no matter who disrupts her peace.
And finally, we have Wolf Legoshi, a very complex and misunderstood carnivore. His peers keep him at a distance for fear of becoming his next target as he is the prime suspect for Tem’s murder. After watching him interact with his surroundings, he seems to be more of an aloof character, sometimes awkward, and a bit of pushover rather than a murderer, with one slight exception.
He’s the predator who attacks Haru in the opening scene. It wasn’t clear to me if it was Haru’s scent that triggered his killer instincts or if it was an external agent meant to lower his inhibitions. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how this evolves in the next episode.
Studio Orange did a fantastic job with the animation. I think the CG animation is spectacular from beginning to end and certain stylistic details definitely added depth when scenes required moments of introspection. I hope the quality and thought behind the stylistic choices stay consistent as the series progresses.
There’s definitely intrigue here on all fronts (character development, story, production value), so you can expect at least one more review as I’m in it for the next episode as well.