The Summer 2021 Preview Guide
BEASTARS Season 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
BEASTARS (TV 2) ?
What is this?
Accepting his predatory instincts, Legoshi vows to become stronger for Haru's sake. Meanwhile, the herbivore killer is still on the loose. Things are somewhat calm again, but with Tem's murder unsolved and Louis missing, the school is filled with rumors of hauntings and strange occurrences.
How was the first episode?
After a year and change (plus some added months thanks to Netflix Jail), the furry and furious world of BEASTARS is back. I'll admit, I'm at a bit of an odd spot with this premiere, since while I enjoyed the first season of the show, I don't honestly remember a lot of the broader plot points. I recall and appreciate both Legoshi and Haru's general emotional arcs, and I recognize everyone in this premiere, but the finer details have faded with time (and the consequence of binging season 1). So for at least a few bits of this premiere, I felt like I was scrambling to remember just what was up with the likes of Juno and even the concept of a “Beastar.”
Thankfully this premiere is mostly about building up new stories rather than mining old ones, ironically by returning to ideas the first season largely sidelined. Legoshi and Haru are now a couple – sort of, maybe, he's not entirely sure if they're on the same page on that one – but are keeping things on the DL to avoid any more stigma than they already have. Meanwhile Louis has been missing for two months only to show up out of the blue, resign from school, then drop some cryptic warnings on Legoshi before disappearing again. Considering we last saw him with a gun drawn in the middle of a mafia hideout, that only raises more questions. Then there's a mysterious presence rattling around the walls and air ducts of the school, who only Legoshi and his sharp ears can pick up. The reveal of what – or who – that is gets left as a cliffhanger for episode 1, which I suppose is a decent enough excuse for having to wait half a year to finally watch this season. And it seems like we're even finally going to dig into that whole murder mystery that everyone sort of forgot about last time.
Overall this season opener feels about as seamless as you could hope for. The new OP is about the only tip that this wasn't a single continuous season, and Studio Orange's expressive and detailed CG work continues to charm. Though with so many scenes set at night this episode does unfortunately suffer from Netflix's awful bitrate, making the darker and atmospheric moments more of a headache to look at than they should be. But even with that hiccup this seems like a perfectly solid return to Paru Itagaki's wonderful, menacing animal kingdom.
After having to wait an agonizingly long time for BEASTARS' second season to be released from Netflix Jail, we can finally dig into the continuing adventures of Legoshi, The Anxious and Moody Wolf Boy Who Just Wants to Figure Out How Puberty Works. Season 1 proved that Orange was the best possible choice of studios to adapt Paru Itagaki's weird and wonderful manga, and it succeeded with flying colors. Now we have Season 2, which has a slightly more complicated goal to accomplish. Without giving anything away for anime-only fans, all I will say is that this second act of the BEASTARS Saga is where Itagaki's already strange style of storytelling starts to get…well, it gets even stranger, if you'd believe it. Can Studio Orange's second go-round with Legoshi and Co. keep the series' winning streak alive?
Based on its first episode, at least, I'd say we're still in good hands. First of all, the show is still hands-down the finest example of a hybrid 2D/3D anime around, for my money. The lush colors and excellent lighting of each scene helps the 3D models blend into the 2D background, and Orange's animators have damn near mastered the art of getting character rigs to move at intentionally low frame rates without making the whole show look like ass. Instead, the result has the effect that a lot of other CG shows try—and fail—to accomplish: When BEASTARS occasionally cut to a shot of hand-drawn character animation, the effect is almost seamless. Plus, the character acting of the models is so consistently lively and on point that the cast never suffers from looking Iike animatronics that suddenly broke down and stopped moving.
So, the show still looks great? What about the story? This is where opinions may become more divisive, since, from the get-go, BEASTARS Season 2 sees the characters and the plot at a very different place than in Season 1. Specifically, there isn't a hook anywhere near as immediately compelling as Legoshi and Haru's meet-cute-gone-horribly-wrong from the series premiere, and our main couple's romance actually takes a major back seat here. This might disappoint folks who were hoping for the series to pick up with where the two left off at the end of Season 1, though the fans who will be excited are going to be the ones who wondered why the first season opened up with a spooky murder mystery that literally never got brought up again.
That's right, after a whole season's worth of awkward sexual encounters and giant lion-mafia throw downs, there will finally be #JusticeForTem. Or, at the very least, Legoshi and his friends spend the episode investigating the Spooky monster rumors that have sprung up around Tem's memorial site. It's a surprisingly low-stakes episode for a season premiere, focusing more on getting the audience into Legoshi's headspace than moving the plot along (and you, uh, might want start cozying up that approach, is all I'm saying). But the stuff with the Good Boy Gang is a fun reintroduction to the world of Cherryton Academy (and also, Louis is back!).
Also, if there's one good thing about BEASTARS getting trapped in Netflix Jail, it's that we have the whole English dub ready to go here in the States. Not only do all of the actors continue to do excellent work in their respective roles, but the English script also gets the character names right! So, as long as nobody tries to convince me that Haru and Louis are named “Hal" and “Rouis", you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to be devouring this season, as should all of you. It's almost guaranteed to be a killer run.
BEASTARS is one of those shows it's hard to get a handle on, not because the plot is difficult to follow but because the tone swings so wildly that it can be hard to know where things actually stand. It's easy to forget that the opening scene of the entire series is literally a student being brutally murdered (and subsequently eaten) when we're caught up in Legoshi's attempts at star-crossed love or the drama club's troubles related to putting on their newest play.
This season premiere is a perfect example of this. On one hand, the episode is about Legoshi fretting about his stalled relationship with Haru and the meaning of his promise to “become stronger” for her sake. On the other hand, it's a horror story about a multi-eyed monster in the walls spiriting away students without a trace. However, while abruptly switching between the two plots can be a bit jarring, there's no doubt that both of them are expertly put together.
The “monster in the ceiling” story is doubly interesting because it works on several layers. On the surface is the simple question of “what is it?”—a question which all but guarantees viewers will be watching episode two for the big reveal. Further down, when you try to solve the mystery, you start to think about the broader world of BEASTARS and the types of creature anthropomorphized in the show. This begs the question: Are all animals humanoid in shape or are there animals that are simply animals even in the world of BEASTARS?
The monster mystery also allows us to see Legoshi's growth since season one. While he is in turmoil about what to do about Haru, Juno, and Louis, he doesn't doubt himself when it comes to his own senses and instincts. Even when the other canines can't hear the monster moving in the walls, he never questions that it is there, eventually punching the wall to scare it into revealing itself. The old Legoshi would have been more concerned with appearing non-threatening to his friends, but after his battle to rescue Haru last season, he seems to have accepted what he is—even if his nature is getting in the way of what he really wants.
All in all, this is a solid start to the second season that furthers established themes and plot points while also giving us a self-contained mystery that eases us back into the world of BEASTARS.
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