OP: 「Ready to」 by Sumire Morohoshi
As the original creator/director of Little Witch Academia, Yoshinari Yoh’s contributions to Trigger have helped Trigger cultivate their image as a studio that acts as a creative outlet for some of the most imaginative and eccentric animators out there. Further exposure of Little Witch Academia came about when the shorts were adapted into an anime that would eventually team up with Netflix to stream the series worldwide. It was an important partnership that ended up allowing Trigger to use Netflix as a platform to release 6 episodes of Yoshinari’s latest anime, BNA, earlier. Since the full series is going to be broadcast on TV, I will be treating it as such, discussing on an episode-by-episode basis without skipping ahead or watching all of the currently available episodes ahead of time. That way, I wouldn’t be skipping too far into the material and the screencaps available would be of higher quality.
Needless to say that the first episode of BNA shows plenty of promise, being able to encapsulate the basics of its world in one episode while introducing us to key characters and their conflicts from the get-go. Its exploration of the differences between humans and beastkin gives off the impression that the series will be tackling subjects of race and identity in a way that feels worlds apart from other anime that have prejudice as a theme.
By centering the narrative around the humanoids having to navigate around contemporary society, it depicts their division as social strife akin to the subjects that the X-Men series explores. Is it possible to achieve normalcy when your abilities and appearance as a beastkin are extraordinary? Is creating a safe haven for beastkin the silver bullet for prejudice, or a temporary bandage to patch up a larger wound caused by the majority acting in poor faith? How do you try to integrate with the masses if you stand out too much based on your identity? The answers to these problems will hopefully be explored on a deeper level in future episodes, but the first one alone does quite a bit to set the scene to tackle these topics of interest.
Kagemori Michiru is our main focal point into the world of BNA as a human who had completely shifted into a beastkin tanuki overnight. Circumstances, racial prejudice, and outright hate crimes pushed her to seek refuge in Anima City where she is welcomed with open arms. But when she’s entwined into the politics that threaten to compromise Anima City, a wolf beastkin named Ogani Shirou helps keep her protected while she transitions into her new life as a beastkin. It’s interesting to see how much Michiru experiences within the first episode as she narrowly escapes a hate crime with the help of Itami Mary, discovers a city where she wouldn’t have to encounter the newfound discrimination that was on her plate, is the epicenter of a scheme for humans to pay off beastkin to attack citizens of Anima City, and attempts to find answers on how she became like this. From her experiences, we get a smooth, easy gist of what it’s like to be a beastkin in this world and what obstacles one would face to try to live normally when there is active discrimination from the human’s perspective.
We also get background on the characters and environment around Michiru that paints just what kind of world she has to survive in with her new appearance. While the politics in Little Witch Academia felt like a last minute ad-in to give Akko’s human friend more of a role in the series, BNA doesn’t shy away from giving Anima City’s government a key role in the series. The city’s mayor Barbaray Rose plays a pivotal role in the episode as a figure to keep the peace in town that also has to go behind-the-scenes to reassure the prime minister that beastkin won’t try to create civil unrest in society. Despite the prejudice humanity has for beastkin and the human’s efforts to get the beastkin to attack them to justify retaliation, Barbaray has the difficult job of trying to cultivate a proper relationship with humans by making Anima City a town of peace in a time where humanity is itching to have the beastkin trigger a war between the two.
Other characters are given a rather basic intro with Shirou acting as a beastkin who is emotional and sympathetic to Michiru as a new citizen of Anima City while he stops at nothing to make sure anyone pays a harsh price for disturbing the city’s peace. So far, my favorite character is Mary, the mink beastkin that forms an attack on prejudiced humans and offers help to Michiru in exchange for as much cash as she thinks she can get from her.
One neat detail that Mary introduces from her first appearance is how beastkin can shapeshift from their human form to their animal form at will. It’s explored vaguely in the episode with Barbaray too, but Mary had me interested in how that plays a role in the relationship beastkin have with humans and at what points is it necessary to be able to shift into human form. It also helps that she has the same fun energy that made Sucy a breakout role for voice actress Murase Michiyo in LWA.
Overall, it was exciting to see that the first episode of BNA was able to meet its expectations and then some with an intriguing story and a unique cast. With 6 episodes out so far, it will be tempting not to marathon through the ones available before we reach Episode 07. As a resident of Eagleland, it is a relief to know that every episode wasn’t dumped on Netflix so that I’d be able to review them in broadcast order and avoid the sorrow that can come from America’s “Netflix Jail” sucking the momentum out of any new anime that comes state-side. But I digress, if there is an anime I’ll be looking forward to catching week-by-week during this Spring season, it’d definitely be BNA.
ED: 「Night Running」 by AAAMYYY