「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.

 

Preview

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for covering this series, Enzo, I was checking your reviews each episode even though I wasn’t commenting. I pretty much agree with all your criticisms, this episode felt rushed to me and the resolutions to the Riz situation and the way Louis left the Shishigumi were completely illogical and had the protagonists act out of character.

    A lot of things happened for dramatic effect instead of making sense. I couldn’t buy for a second the immediate transformation Legoshi had eating meat, his body changing dramatically in a matter of seconds nor the fact that he so easily accepted to eat meat (much less his friend’s freaking leg!) after all the pains he has gone through to control his nature as a carnivore. It shows that either his conviction wasn’t as strong as we thought or that he didn’t have to go to such lengths if he simply could find someone to willingly supply him with meat if the need arises, like other carnivores do.

    This season had some very intense and well directed scenes with powerful symbolism, as you mentioned (the striptease scene is a standout in my opinion). There were moments that I felt this series rose above other similar anime but overall it was uneven and that is for me the most frustrating thing, that it could be so much more.

    Grg
  2. I feel that sometimes themes are not something you need to look at with a microscope. Its maybe better to take off your glasses and back up a bit.

    How it look while blurry? Acceptance for what you are and trying to do good with it. A sort of overall vague tone of loving others and accepting your own actions.

    The duel itself is a hyper-masculine trope, fitting Beastars. There is no good reason for the duel, with sensible ideals you just call the cops maybe after getting evidence like Pina. No, instead its the arbitrary and real masculine value of pitting your ideals against another via violence. Beautiful, perhaps, but ultimately irrational and perhaps born of loneliness.

    Ry
  3. Thank you for covering this series! I looked forward to your reviews each week.

    I agree with your views and my head too has been looking for symbolism and metaphors in this series since its first chapter.

    If we do get another season in the future I just hope that we swing back around and actually address the things that got completely glossed over in the last couple minutes of this episode. It should have been a two-part ending. I felt I almost got whiplash from all the information in the last scenes.

    torog0z
  4. Thanks to all, I’ve enjoyed covering it.

    T’is the season of rushed adaptations, sadly. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times we’re in. Really makes you appreciate the faithfulness and pacing of Kai Byoui Ramune and Kemono Jihen.

  5. Guardian Enzo, I know you had a problem with Legosi actually eating Louis’s foot, but I think the episode in which Legosi ate the grubs happened to set up Legosi’s decision in this episode. The soul of the moth told him that it was important to respect life when deciding to consume, and although it still was very weird for Legosi to actually go through with it, I think he was respecting Louis in a sense, who has always been bothered by that mark of the number 4 on his foot.

    Vance
  6. Found your writing while I was looking to see if anyone else was as underwhelmed by the ending of season 2, and was glad to see I wasn’t the only one feeling that it’s a bit of a headscratcher (and not in a good way). When I really thought about it, it all does end up making sense IF you’re willing to consider that while the writing was good on symbolism, the writer(s) failed at creating the plot points required for events to fold out the way they did.

    For Louis, his view of himself and relationship towards carnivores has been heavily defined by the experiences he had as a fawn; how he was on deathrow to be fed, and at the very least sold as meat. While his adoptive father saved him from the fate, he’s being groomed to take the role his rescuer is pushing him into. Part of heading to the black market, trying to force his father to accept it at gunpoint, is fighting against these shackles of his past that bind him both in practice and deep within. In the final scenes when he sees Legosi’s conviction as a carnivore, to protect the physically weaker herbivores from predation even at the cost of his own life (without eating any meat!), it pushes their relationship to the point of trust and acceptance that it allows Luis to finally break the shackles of his past. When he offers the leg with cattle mark “4” to be eaten, it’s symbolic of him letting go of the past that has dragged him down for so long thanks to the bond he has formed with Legosi. And obviously the wolf’s physical consumption of the foot finally removes the mark. It gives a nice cathartic punch, Louis sacrificing something meaningful to get rid of the hold his past has on him, finally forming a trusting relationship towards a type of person (carnivore) who has violated him in the past, and keeping them safe (possibly Pina too) against a murderous predator.

    For Legosi, one of the other meaningful parts in the end, was to provide juxtaposition to Riz’s actions; consensual predation to Riz’s non-consensual. Legosi’s part of the story is also a lot about feebleness and imperfection of our experience in life, and how one can work on oneself to not harm others, if they have the will.

    I think the symbolism of the cattle brand, significance it has on it’s owners mental state, was one of the important reasons why Ibuki was introduced as a character. This was really hammered home when he exposes his past while showing that he still carries his mark. I personally didn’t care for his suicide scene much. I took his reasoning to be that he saw another person who shared the same past coming to the black market, taking part in the activites he has taken over the years with the same motivation (though with a more mercy and grace), only to see that someone leave that life (thanks to the relationship with Legosi). Ibuki finally realises that he could’ve chosen not to partake in the atrocities that he was almost subjected to in the past, and can’t live with himself anymore. That’s why he sees himself as “the lion he is”, and forces a situation where others either kill him and free him from the agony of this realization, or to succumb to mindless predation as comfort.

    Now the ending with Legosi & Luis would be really great, if the writing hadn’t ignored that they needed to give a plot point which literally forces Luis to sacrifice his leg, and Legoshi to accept it. It could’ve been Riz keeping Pina hostage, and threatening to eat him if they leave the fight (he wanted to get rid of both of them due to being witnesses), or they could’ve chosen Legosi and Luis to be stuck, with Riz guarding the only way out. Writers should’ve done anything to force the characters hand, but they didn’t, and thus the ending feels illogical and falls flat. If they just had ran away, they would’ve achieved the same result, except Legosi wouldn’t be even be charged with predation. There’s also meat eating giving instantenous massive muscle power, but that’s just something fantastical that you have to accept as part of the inworld logic I suppose.

    You are spot on praising the 3D-work on the series. I think the scene in the bar with Legosi’s earnestness (while wearing drag) and especially Louis’ demeanor breaking into laughter was an incredibly human moment filled with proper facial animations, and would’ve felt flat with traditional 2D-drawing.

    I guess I ended up writing quite a bit, must be the ending leaving me miffed coming out 🙂

    Gary

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