The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Beast Tamer ?
Community score: 3.7
What is this?
Beast Tamer Rein is banished from the hero's party, because he can only use animals. He becomes an adventurer and meets a cat girl, who is part of the strongest species.
How was the first episode?
You know, if this episode proves one thing, it's that having a kind person with a strong heart as your protagonist goes a long way to making an anime enjoyable. Rein is one of those optimistic people that just sees the best in everything and everyone—even to his own detriment. As a member of the hero's party, he didn't even notice that he was constantly being belittled and picked on; to him it was just good-natured concern. That makes him a tragic character of sorts, especially when you realize all that he was doing for them. Even though he was far from being an effective frontline fighter, he provided excellent battlefield intelligence and logistical support. Unfortunately, they clearly didn't realize how much easier this was making their lives (though I fully expect them to come crawling back at some point when they get tired of being under-supplied and constantly ambushed).
The other thing that's great about Rein is that he isn't overpowered in the martial sense. A simple group of goblins are enough to push him to his limit. However, he is smart about how he uses his abilities. He can always rely on animals to watch his back, and he can easily do gathering tasks by getting a group of small animals to survey the area for him. That said, I do like the revelation at the end of the episode that he is actually quite strong as far as beast tamers go. It's just the fact that he was partnered with the strongest people in the world that made him seem weak in comparison.
My only real complaint about this episode is that Kanade becoming his familiar seemed rushed. Pledging herself to him after only knowing him for a few hours seemed a bit insane. No matter how good of a guy he is, they're basically strangers after all.
That said, all in all, I had a better time with Beast Tamer than I expected. While I'm not sure I'll be sticking with it for the long haul, there was enough interesting elements here for me to come back next week and see how the show establishes its status quo.
I knew this was gonna be a bad time from pretty much the first scene. It's not just that the “kicked out of the hero's party” subgenre has already worn my patience thin – though that didn't help. No, the big tell that this episode was going to be a drag was when every single member of our protagonist's RPG party spent every last one of their speaking lines talking about how much they hate Rein's guts. It's not that they're making a practical decision, or that even one of them is slightly sympathetic towards their support role coworker – they all just cannot stand him and have seemingly been waiting ages to say it to him and spit in his face while they're at it. It's the kind of simplistic, tired character establishment you get from a newbie writer who thinks they have to make their antagonists as one-note as possible to hammer in that they're the bad guys, and it's emblematic of every other bit of storytelling in this episode.
Damn near every writing decision here just feels like amateur hour stuff. For instance, there's a scene where Rein explains an incredibly simple concept (“Temporary contracts” don't last very long, wow) to a group of perplexed children. This is played off as Rein's animal taming magic being complicated or strange, but it's so self-explanatory that the scene itself just makes the kids he's talking to seem really stupid. It's clunky exposition that actively makes the already uninteresting game-adjacent fantasy world less believable, and I can't imagine why it's here when Rein displays this exact power multiple times in the same episode.
Then there are the characters themselves, who come in two flavors – the ones that provide exposition, and the ones that talk about how great Rein is and how the guys who kicked him out are all mean jerks who didn't deserve him and his special powers. The latter is decidedly more annoying, because Rein himself has no remarkable traits, nor a memorable personality, or even an interesting power. He just shoots a magic circle at animals and they do a party trick for him, but apparently this ability is so godly that our super-rare catgirl heroine is left in awe of his casual excellence. It's the show telling us he's unique and interesting, but in action he's a stale piece of white bread surrounded by generic fantasy creatures.
And that's not even getting into how weirdly eager Kanade is to be magically “tamed” by a guy she met an hour earlier. I get that this is meant to be the inciting incident where their team is founded, but it's still strange that all it takes is a lunch box and an assist in a fight for her to magically bond to this random guy. Like, she doesn't even suggest being party members or partners first, she's immediately just telling him he's totally powerful enough to make her subservient to his special magic power, and he takes all of five seconds to decide that having a monstrously strong catgirl under his command would be great for business, so why not. Like the scene with his party before, it's writing where every character is defined solely by how they relate to Rein, and makes Kanade more like a Pokémon than a companion.
So yeah, this blows. It's cheap, amateur storytelling combined with workmanlike visuals and music. The only reason it's getting half a point is that, at least so far, Rein hasn't thought about making his newly acquired animal girl into a bedfellow. So it's at least ahead of a certain other show from last season. But otherwise there's nothing charming or interesting here, and I have no interest in seeing a guy who got picked last in dodgeball collect a menagerie of anime girls.
There's one very specific issue that I have with the first episode of this show, and it's that “beast taming” is being used as a workaround for the slave fantasy. It's not even a particularly subtle substitution – cat spirit heroine Kanade no sooner finds out that hero Rein Shroud is a tamer than she's begging him to “tame” her, as if it's the highest honor that a catgirl can achieve. Since we've seen throughout the episode up to that point (and after it) that Rein can use his tamer contracts to make animals do whatever he tells them to, that's a troubling development – Kanade is essentially throwing herself head-first into the trope that women really secretly want to be dominated by men. Am I overthinking this? Possibly, but that doesn't make the implications any less distasteful, especially since Kanade's explanations about her life make it very clear that she's not just an animal.
If that's not a deal-breaker for you, however, the rest of the show is pretty bland. Rein, like many fantasy protagonists of late, has been kicked out of his prestigious party for being “useless,” and it's very clear that that's nothing but an excuse made up by his terrible party members. Or, possibly, that his party members are morons, because if they think being a porter and a scout isn't important, they're about to learn a couple of very hard lessons. They also seem to have missed that Rein is apparently a tamer extraordinaire; Kanade is floored by his capacity for tamer magic. Of course, he has to be if he's going to build the “ultimate species” harem foreshadowed in both theme songs, but the point seems to be that he's had his self-esteem trampled over by some very foolish people. It is nice to think that he's going to learn that the problem was with them, not him, but I'm not sure that's necessarily going to be the focus here.
Plot issues aside, this is really very basic. It's generic sword-and-sorcery fantasy with the usual trappings (including guild girl), and about the only things that truly save it are the total lack of stats and the adorable unicorn bunnies. I could see this being a comfort watch for people, but that whole tame-the-girl thing has nicely removed it from my personal list.
There's something that really sticks in my craw about this current trend in gamic fantasy anime, where the main character is part of a support class and unfairly maligned as not pulling their weight by their combat-oriented party members, and I'm not sure exactly what it is. After all, it's not like there aren't real-life parallels where people who work in positions designed to support others, like nurses or retail workers or *cough cough* preschool teachers are looked down on by those who the capitalist system regards as creating more profit. There's just something about these narratives that, instead of speaking to the unfairness of the system, feel like the product of someone with a victim complex whining.
There's more to unpack there than a humble preview guide review has space for, so suffice it to say, I found Beast Tamer deeply unpleasant to watch. It's not the worst thing, especially since Rein is more of a Rit than a Naofumi or a Keyaru; that is to say, a nice-but-boring guy who accepts being kicked out with a dejected sigh rather than plotting his revenge. The members of the hero's party are just meanie poop-headed bullies who don't appreciate how awesome Rein is! We now have multiple anime where people call beast tamer a weak class and, having read Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce at an early age, I just have a hard time understanding how anyone can think that.
But even if I can swallow that, there are a lot of circles I can't seem to square here. Like, did Rein have a role in the party other than making contracts with animals to be their pack mules? What about him made Kanade believe he was so strong that she instantly wanted to form a contract with him? Why not tame the tiger beast instead of trying to kill it? If he can't handle a D-class monster, maybe he really is just bad at his job. Not that any of these questions matter, because let's be real, the point is not and never has been to build a compelling world with a tightly-woven plot. The point is to indulge the fantasy of having a fantasy catgirl girlfriend who's totally into you even though you have no personality, because Rein has no personality and Kanade is the most cliche airheaded anime girl around, complete with a grating vocal performance by Azumi Waki.
So yeah, Beast Tamer stinks. It's as boring and banal as any other gamic fantasy anime, and I know that a sizable contingent of fandom will slurp it up with a spoon.
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