OP: 「Kaibutsu」 (Monster) by (YOASOBI)
「少年の目覚めは何度目のアラームか」 (Shounen no mezame wa nan-dome no araamu ka)
“A Boy’s Never-Ending Alarm”
Winter 2021 is definitely a “big three” anime season for me. And Beastars is the first of that group to kick off (worryingly, one – Kemono Jihen – doesn’t seem to be licensed yet). There was no suspense about this series’ arrival – it was announced when the first ended – and the wait has only been a year. Nevertheless it’s great to have this show back, because not only is it excellent (I ranked S1 #6 for 2019, a pretty decent year at the top) but it scratches a pretty singular itch for the viewer. Parts of it use formula – albeit as a base to subvert – but the overall vibe is very much unique.
Itagaki Paru’s manga has, like Yakusoku no Neverland, come to an end since the first season aired. And like Yakusoku there’s too much manga left to fit into a single-cour sequel. Unlike that WSJ blockbuster though, I think there’s real doubt about what will happen with this adaptation. Beastars is pretty popular to be sure, but I’m not fully confident under normal circumstances popular enough to get the three cours minimum it needs for a linear adaptation (plus, it’s undeniably weird). Netflix’ involvement as a producer should help the odds, but it’s nevertheless going to be interesting to see how director Matsumi Shinichi and Orange approach this season.
All in all this was a pretty low-key start to the second season, after what was a pretty intense finish to the first. There’s very little Haru for starters – she’s all over the OP and ED (though that’s a recap of the first season) but only in one scene in the premiere. She’s always on Legosi’s mind of course, present or not – he’s very much in love with her and seems to be at peace with that. The problem is, from Haru’s perspective they seem to just be two friends who get together secretly and talk – and Legosi obviously envisions them as something much more than that.
As with everything Beastars these calm pools run very deep, and there’s a lot to parse with that one. Haru is a girl who sleeps around with guys she doesn’t care about to deal with her lack of self-worth, so to her doing what she does – and doesn’t – do with Legosi makes him much more special. But he’s 17 and pretty normal and for him, that’s clearly not enough. Then there’s the carnivore-herbivore thing, which is mostly on the back burner here. With Beastars it’s always a puzzle trying to figure out just what sort of symbolism Itagaki-sensei is going for (and I’m not convinced she always knows herself).
Plot-wise we have a school ghost story making the rounds, as something weird has been sighted near the lecture hall where Tem was murdered a year ago. A sense of guilt over Tem and his death seems to still cast a pall over the carnivores here, Legosi’s circle being no exception. He’s unfazed by the ghost tales despite hearing strange noises no one else can hear, and eventually the ghost turns out to be a hoaxer (a first-year guinea pig), outed by the newspaper editor’s heat-sensing camera. But there seems to be more to this story, as what Legosi was hearing turns out to have been no mirage…
Also of note here is the return of Louis, not with a bang but more of a whimper. He waltzes into the rehearsal hall and hands in his club resignation, and afterwards cryptically tells Legosi that “the light and the dark have switched places” and that he’s chosen a new way to fight. With the election of a new beastar coming and Louis seemingly now out of the picture, Juno seems to be the favorite. She’s still obsessed with Legosi and he utterly mystified by her. Legosi’s attitude through most of the episode seems quite blasé, only rarely revealing that deep inside, he’s a bundle of stress. He’s dangerous, no doubt – and that certainly presents one of the core elements of Beastars.