「革命の馳走」 (Kakumei no chisou)
“The Taste of Rebellion”
I want to lead with something totally positive, so let me say this. If all CGI anime looked like Beastars, I don’t think fans would groan every time they found out a new series would be using it. I know I wouldn’t. Orange deserves a tremendous amount of credit for their work generally, but I really think Beastars is its apotheosis so far. Everything from the facial expressions (usually the bane of 3-D animation) to the backgrounds to the action sequences – it’s all gorgeous. Beastars sets a standard few series either hand drawn or CGI can match, and it’s the proof that in an ideal world, this sort of animation doesn’t need to be graded on a curve.
Maybe that first paragraph set off alarm bells (especially among those of you who knew me well). And you’re not wrong, though my praise for this series is heartfelt. But yes, I had some issues with that finale, and a couple with the season as a whole. I realize it’s not fair for me to bring my baggage on this trip – I can try and crack the code of Itagaki’s symbolism all day long, but it’s not her job to satisfy my interpretive imperative. Maybe all this time a cigar was just a cigar, and should only be judged on whether it smokes like a Sir Winston or a Dutch Masters.
But just between you and me, there’s no way that’s true. She’s way too smart and ambitious a writer.
Basically, neither of the two major developments in this finale really worked for me (I don’t include Pina being alive, since that was pretty easy to see coming). I didn’t buy either Ibuki’s suicide (let’s call it what it is) or Louis’ sacrifice. As soon as we saw the ED as the OP, I pretty much knew what was going to happen with Ibuki. But that doesn’t mean I buy that he had to do it. I think the plot needed Louis to leave the underworld and go back to his own world, and that was a way to make it happen with some pathos. But it feels more like pathos for its own sake to me.
Then we have the conclusion to the Legosi-Riv fight. You can take issue with the fact that Legosi obsessed over this instead of just turning Riv over to the cops in the first place. And I’m left wondering why Rokume – a character with great promise and charisma – was here at all, as he seemed to have no importance to the plot at all in the end. But for all that, the fight itself was pretty epic. And it was gorgeously choreographed. The showdown itself was sort of anti-climactic from a thematic standpoint, but highly climactic from a dramatic one.
I’m even good with the idea of Riv and Legosi making this a battle of world views in the end. Riv sees the strength of carnivores as something forever isolating them, their weapons of destruction only valuable to terrorize the world and push it away. For Legosi those weapons are a privilege, because they give him the ability to protect those he cares about (who pretty much all happen to be herbivores, the ones he’s protecting anyway). What exactly is Beastars trying to say with that? Well, that’s where things get complicated.
As for Louis telling Legosi to eat his foot in order to win the fight, well – I gotta admit, that was kind of a head-scratcher to me. Beastars is a weird series to be sure, and I’ve never been quite so perplexed by my own need to project meaning onto what I’m seeing. Maybe, as I said, that isn’t fair. Maybe (though I’ll never be convinced) there really isn’t any allegorical meaning beyond what we’re seeing on-screen. But that was not a deer telling a wolf to eat his foot in order to subdue a bear, sorry. Deer and wolves and bears don’t talk and aren’t plagued by self-doubt and self-loathing. If you tell me to just interpret events as if these were the animals they physically appear to be, I’m afraid I would have to call BS on that.
I will grant you this – I have no idea what to make of any of that. Whatever meaning Itagaki was going for there above and beyond the literal is lost on me. Maybe there’s a certain “to thine own self be true” element to all of this, and there’s no question that for a wolf, it’s impossible to be all you can be without eating as nature intended you eat. If that’s the message – we should accept our true natures rather than swim against the current – that’s all well and good. But what does that say about the herbivores in the equation? Whichever spin you put on all this – race, gender, identity politics – it gets uncomfortable pretty fast.
With the ending largely firing blanks for me, it’s hard to rank this second season of Beastars on par with the first – though that’s a very high bar indeed. Season 1 did strike me as more thematically consistent, and I found Legosi’s character journey there more compelling than this season-long dance With Riv (though we didn’t know who the dance partner was for much of it). I also missed Haru’s presence, because she closes the emotional circuits in a way Beastars generally struggles to do in her absence.
So what’s next? With the manga now finished, there’s nothing narratively preventing Orange and Netflix from continuing the story, and I know there’s enough material for at least one more cour (and possibly two). Whether there’s the financial imperative for a production committee to make that happen is another question, though I do think this being a Netflix show makes it more likely. Whatever issues I had with this season, I would certainly love to see Beastars get a full adaptation. It’s pretty close to unique for starters, and the writing has an intelligence and fearlessness to it that I heartily appreciate even when trying to come to grips with it leaves me thoroughly perplexed.