- Release Date
- Fall 2019
- No. of Episodes
- M (Mature)
Here’s a riddle for you, what do you get when anime tries to outdo Disney? That’s a question that genuinely will forever go back and forth with one another. While some animated videos with lions may be blatant rip-offs with very catchy songs, famous voice actors and continuing the resurgence of a soon to be entertainment empire. But one of the beautiful elements anime has over Disney is its ever-growing fanbase, and even more so is its excellent storytelling. Considering that outside the Lion King, the closest anime series that keeps people comparing it to Zootopia is Beastars.
Beastars is a 2019 Slice of Life, Drama anime series that takes its viewers on not only a rollercoaster of emotions, but it’ll also potentially elevate the viewers’ expectations of storytelling. While studio Orange hasn’t had much love for their creations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start a new era outside of the 3D aspect. After months of anticipation, and many are calling it “the last great anime created in the previous decade.” With such a massive hype behind it, can it hold up to the challenges, or will it just be another anthropomorphic anime series? Though people praise it for its similarities towards western animation doesn’t mean it is any better and, in reality, can become detrimental to its success.
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While the story isn’t necessarily original, it does have an interesting premise and is an excellent stimulator of any prospective viewer. In a civilized society of anthropomorphic animals, a natural tension exists between carnivores and herbivores. The students at Cherryton Academy, this mutually exclusive distrust boils over after a predation incident (the most taboo crime in this world) on campus, resulted in the death of a student. Tem, an alpaca in the school’s drama club. Tem’s friend Legoshi, a quiet and timid gray wolf, has been the target for fear his whole life. Following the tragedy, he continues to lay low and blend in within the background, which is disapproved by Louis, a red deer, the most popular actor in the drama club.
One night when Louis sneaks into the auditorium to train Tem’s replacement for the upcoming play, he decides to let Legoshi stand outside. During the lookout, Legoshi has a life-shattering turn of events when he meets Haru, a white dwarf rabbit bullied by her peers. While his feelings towards Haru continue to mix between his predatory instincts and friendship, forcing him to reexamine his “friendship” with his newfound quarry.
While the story is impressive on paper, it doesn’t always translate to a pleasurable engagement with each viewer. Fortunately for Beastars, it’s not only engaging but captivating while also not falling into the trap of typical clichés, which it does in some parts but shouldn’t halt any enjoyment for the viewer. The story has a natural flow to it, but at times it does have a little tendency to be slow or asking the characters, “you can’t be this dense, can you?”. Albeit having said that, it made it a little more realistic since carnivores and herbivores wouldn’t realistically be peacefully next to each other. The atmosphere of the world is indeed genuine, and quite candidly, that’s a great thing this show has about itself, making the danger feel real and not so far out of grasp.
Unfortunately, nothing can be utterly flawless, and the problems with the story need to be known and understood. The biggest positive of the story is the setting of the school. With Cherryton Academy being so enormous, it almost looks like a college campus, and although it may not be a massive problem with the series, it possibly could bring the viewer out of the story. Another problem with the story some viewers may not enjoy is the sexual undertones of the story, even though it made it more engaging to watch it isn’t overused as some series have done. Along those same lines, there are a few sexual scenes sprinkled into this series while nothing is really shown, they may turn off some viewers.
As I mentioned in Seton Academy, the colors were very energetic but clearly cartoonish. With this series, it’s a mix of both. Some of the characters are vibrantly colorful yet still staying realistic, and others are created exactly like their real-life counterparts. Unlike Seton Academy, everyone is a realistic animal, and that’s one aspect of this series that it has clearly mastered. Mainly when Legoshi smells Haru’s scent, the way they visualize it going into his head and getting caught in a never-ending spiral is a real added bonus to the art style. Throughout this series, it takes risks with its animation style, and especially with the opening theme, and when I say they initiated a chance and made an Enormous risk. They went full stop motion, but surprisingly it is absolutely flawless.
What truly makes this art style stand out against other shows is the production that comes behind it. Take, for example, the opening sequence, its completely stop motion, which is rarely seen anymore with any entertainment medium. The opening creates the tone for the entire series, where beast versus prey are being represented. It also has toys with the thought of good versus evil – evil being predation – with the light and day aspect. Throughout this beautiful sequence is a jive tune that is balanced exceptionally well with the opening and mixed together seamlessly with the tones of the animation.
Outside of the opening, you’ll see a beautifully produced animation that is arguably on the same level as a film would be. One example, the use of warm and cold colors to represent fears, which have been done before just as well. Though what makes this animation production stand out above the rest is that it doesn’t go towards the low hanging fruit – female characters being Moe – and sure there are some, but they’re usually very minor characters. The transitioning between styles mixed with the entirely made background and realistic designs of the characters complete something that a majority of shows have trouble with trying and usually fail at all three. They don’t overuse any of the “wow” factors they have like sexual aspects, murder, and even animalistic nature. Which is excellent in itself because it doesn’t take away from anything the story has built up.
Unfortunately, this series has a lot of potentially interesting characters, yet the series only focused on mainly three. Each of the three is uniquely different, yet something about them makes any viewer want to learn more about them and indeed reflects itself with the story. Legoshi, a towering gray wolf with a calm personality contrasting to what others view him as. A second-year student who works as a member of the drama club as one of the stage crew. While he attempts to hide his predatory nature from his herbivorous classmates, like all of us, we aren’t perfect. Although at times, he loses his anger and lets his animalistic nature get the best of him, he tries to make everyone feel welcome no matter what they eat.
Haru, a dwarf rabbit, a third-year and is the sole member of the gardening club. Her club, unfortunately, doesn’t help with her being an outcast in general due to her sexual activities with other students. She is viewed as helpless and fragile due to her size by society and purely wants to be validated as a person, which in turn makes her feel like having sex is the only way to gain control of herself towards others. The unfortunate side effect of this is that she tends to keep people at a distance and even said: “I don’t accept sympathy from someone I’ve slept with.”
The last of the main characters is Louis, a red deer. Louis is the star of the school’s drama club and dreams about becoming the next Beastar. While being an herbivore, he tends to look down upon carnivores, probably due to his past and animal instincts for survival. His personality is very manipulative and self-centered, and it’s quickly shown throughout the series but does show kindness and admiration towards Legoshi. While he may have a dark past, that was lightly touched on shows that this character is the one who’s undoubtedly running things and knows everything that is going on campus.
Outside of these characters are a few characters that are clearly there to progress future seasons, but in this series, it isn’t worth mentioning them. The only one that is worth mentioning is Gouhin, a giant panda who works as a psychiatrist and a back-alley doctor near the black market. He’s clearly in the story to help Legoshi, which he does figurately and literally. Outside of that, there are a few comic relief moments with him, but he’s not really important at this time. The aforementioned is a mixed bag of emotions because if a series is going to shoehorn characters in, then there better be a reason – which there is – and not leave it to a potential next season.
While the entire series was terrific, the series is hurt by one of the biggest sins in entertainment. The ending was outstanding and built up a lot of momentum for more episodes, but it gets overshadowed by the series giving the viewers an automatic second season “confirmed.” Now it is confirmed that there will be a second season, but if there wasn’t, then everything will be held to what happened? The series was very entertaining, but it doesn’t stop the series from doing terrible work wrapping up the season. Outside of that, the series is surprisingly beautiful and surpassed any expectation I had and will definitely be watching the second season.
This is a great series to watch if a viewer loves psychological, Drama, or even romance genres. Beastars could be a great introduction into anime and shows how studio Orange is one of the masters at not following trends and doing what they do best, creating fantastic anime. This series is clearly one series that will be talked about for a while and possibly be a classic. The pacing while not perfect still makes the series feel like the viewer is watching a film, so share this anime with everyone and anyone who hasn’t seen it. So the answer to the riddle is this is a series that will potentially touch more people than any Disney movie ever could.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.