BEASTARS Season 2
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
BEASTARS (TV 2) ?
How would you rate episode 4 of
BEASTARS (TV 2) ?
If there is one single lesson that we all should have taken away from BEASTARS by now it is this: Louis and Legoshi are two extremely weird dudes. Even by the standards of their melodramatic soap opera universe, these boys have a penchant for indulgent, introspective theatrically that borders on being unhinged. This is not a complaint, min you – one of BEASTARS' greatest qualities is that it perfectly captures that inextricable and potent combination of anxiety, confusion, self-centeredness, and mind-altering horniness that is the high school experience for so many young people. Every gesture or statement is something that could define you for the rest of your life; every relationship is passionate and real enough to fuel a dozen white-hot midnight trysts; and the stakes are always life or death.
At least, that's how everything feels, when it's happening to you. The animal kids at Cherryton Academy simply have to deal with much more literal manifestations of puberty's psychosexual woes, since all those kids who are worried about getting eaten alive by their peers have a not insignificant chance of actually winding up in some classmates' digestive tract. The carnivores are genuinely driven by a deep-rooted urge to devour their herbivore compatriots, and the different behavioral quirks of individual species are a matter of fact that we can observe in many of Cherryton's students. This makes for incredibly fraught storytelling whenever a story featuring anthropomorphic animals is being used as a thinly veiled commentary for real-world racial and cultural divides (see BNA for a prime example of when that approach ends up falling on its face by the end). Thankfully, BEASTARS largely avoids that issue by focusing on the allegories that touch on the divides and conflicts that make life hard for young people of any stripe.
The fears and desires that motivate Legoshi and Louis are not fundamentally different than what most human guys and gals go through at one point or another — their stories just so happen to have an even greater flair for the dramatic than most. All of this is to say that anyone who came into BEASTARS' second season with the hopes that Louis and Legoshi might have mellowed out a little is barking up the wrong tree. If anything, “Changes" and “Entangled" show us that the deer and the wolf are more lost in their own heads than ever before.
In Louis' case, we see firsthand how his hang-ups about being an ambitious prey animal in a world that feels dominated by predators directly led to his being inducted as the new leader of the Shishigumi. He's all too eager to give himself up to the lions after he caps their boss in the flashback to the events from the end of Season 1, which would have allowed him to go out on his own terms, but he is completely thrown the minute they present him with a job offer and a plate of steak to dine on. Louis refuses to fail what he perceived to be a mocking sort of initiation ritual, despite being fine with giving up his own life just moments before, and even after he claims the Shishigumi, Louis continues to eat the steak out of spite, not to mention the fact that showing any weakness to the lions would mean certain death.
That is, until Ibuki the lion offers Louis a salad box, making sure to emphasize how awkward it was for him to buy vegetables in the first place. I love this scene, because it casts Louis' role in the Shishigumi in a much more complicated and interesting light. Yeah, the crew is taking advantage of the image rehabilitation that comes with having a deer for a boss, but the cats all seem genuinely enthusiastic to be serving as Louis' subordinates. When they rescue that herbivorous dancer from the schemes of her jealous colleague and the sharp teeth of a dozen dangerously horny predators, they proudly proclaim that “Protecting the weak and taking down the strong" is the gang's new M.O. It doesn't detract from the legitimately dangerous situation that Louis is in, but it reveals shades of complexity that Louis was unable to see at first, distracted as he was by his preconceived notions of what a deer like him would be capable of in this completely unheard-of circumstance.
Then there's Legoshi, and the way he's going about investigating Tem's murder should tell you all you need to know about where BEASTARS' priorities lie, narratively speaking. While we do get a well-shot and exciting fight scene between Legoshi and his unidentified assailant, it isn't really framed as a major break in Legoshi's investigation. Just beforehand, Aoba the Eagle astutely described Legoshi's devotion towards Haru as being more religious than it is traditionally romantic. Legoshi is still twisting his own insecurities about being a weirdo and a predator into this need to prostrate himself before herbivores as a general idea, which Haru is merely a stand-in for. Later, when he meets Haru and they get so goddamned close to finally kissing, Legoshi starts going on about Haru's possibly lingering romantic feelings for Louis, and the need for him to essentially worship her from afar.
Fast forward to the attack, and Legoshi's narratively convenient cold makes it impossible to sniff the perpetrators out, so he ends up locking lips with his foe and swallowing as much saliva as he can so he can get some sort of profile going. The show even has Legoshi wishing his “first kiss" had been with Haru, just in case folks weren't catching on quick enough. True to BEASTARS form, it's a blunt but effective bit of commentary. Legoshi is just too damned weird and particular to have a normal, functional relationship with Haru, even now that they're literally in a relationship. Sure, Haru was telling Legoshi that they didn't need to rush into anything physical just a couple of episodes ago, but she was super obviously wanting to make-out with her awkward wolf boyfriend, but the Legoshi of it all keeps making things ten times more complicated than they need to be.
Once again, I'd like to reiterate that I'm not complaining; this is all great angst fodder for the melodramatic sixteen-year-old that lives on in my heart, and the film noir vibes that the murder mystery plot and bluesy soundtrack give off make it that much more delicious. There's a movie from the mid-2000s called Brick by Rian Johnson, the guy who directed the best Star Wars movie ever made. It is also a murder mystery noir story set in a high school, where all of the main players are incredibly articulate and opinionated teenagers. This season of BEASTARS is basically “Brick, but with Furries!", and I'm very much down with that. Now we just have to see if Gouhin can whip Legoshi into shape with time enough for our hero to take on the looming, existential threat before him.
The Cherryton School Wave
• Jack scored so many of the episodes best moments, especially in the English dub, where Ben Diskin is going the extra mile to make him the most endearing and sweet-natures Good Boy at Cherryton. Highlights include his cocky video-game tips, not to mention his unquestioning willingness to randomly bring Legoshi kleenex, no matter where he is at the school, simply because he hears his Paul's sniffles over the phone. The line of the night, though, was probably when he tells Legoshi, “All I ever wanted was for you to get over your awkwardness and live a normal, happy life!" Ditto, Jack. Ditto.• The runner-up for Best Line Reading of The Week goes to Legoshi/Jonah Scott, when he yells, "The memories of that special night are satisfying enough for me to go on living as a virgin forever!"
• Finally, I should probably mention that Pina the sheep has arrived to usurp the vacant Luois in drama club. There's not much more to say about the guy just yet, though I'm sure there will be plenty of comments from his many “admirers” in the weeks to come, since he's just such a likeable guy and all.
BEASTARS Season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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