This Week in Anime
Was BEASTARS Worth the Wait?

by Nick Dupree & Andy Pfeiffer,

It's been a long wait, but BEASTARS is finally available for streaming on Netflix. Based on Paru Itagaki's manga, the anime might look like a high school drama that happens to star anthro animals but throw in a murder plot, tense interspecies relationships, and a lot of complicated sexual feelings and you've got a one-of-a-kind series. Is it good though?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Content warning: sexual situations, some gore

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Andy, I know we've all been waiting with baited breath, but it's finally time. After months of staring at the calendar the day has come where everyone can experience the tense, dramatic, and uncomfortably horny adventures of a cadre of CG animal people from the comfort of their own homes.
That's right, CATS is finally out on digital.
Welcome to the Jellicle world of Anime.
Thankfully today we're covering BEASTARS which is far less creepy than a CG catgirl with Taylor Swift's face mapped on. Though it's certainly no less horny.
Studio Orange really tried on this one. They've proven not only that they're better at CG than CATS, but also that they're horny for DOGS (which are not cats).
There's a lot to BEASTARS besides just horny Furry character designs, but I do want to be up front in case anyone walks into this thinking they'll get Zootopia But Anime or something. BEASTARS is an intriguing, complex, emotionally intense series that also is all about anthropomorphic fucking and if that isn't your bag you are better leaving the dog park right now.
Horny teens ain't new to anime, and the internet could arguably use less horny animal people, but that's only a problem because most of those things aren't BEASTARS. Which approaches themes of sexuality and depression against a backdrop of societal oppression and extremely upfront logical questions about different animals boning. Questions like: Is it a kink for chickens to watch you eat their eggs?
That particular non-sequitor gets either better or worse when you know that BEASTARS' creator, Paru Itagaki, wears a chicken mask to all her public appearances.
Look, I'm sure your upbringing has lots of questions and unconventional results as an adult when you're the literal heir of the Baki throne. Paru Itagaki is a champ and if I ever get the chance to meet her I know the perfect place to go.
ANYWAY, this show isn't about the creator's hypothetical DeviantArt search history. It's instead the tale of a lanky, eternally awkward wolf named Legoshi, who's a very good boy with a bad case of Murder Face.
He's the most relatable protagonist we've had at TWIA in quite a while.

He's a good boy that hasn't been domesticated enough to be happy-go-lucky. Instead he slouches in the shadows and tries his best to go unnoticed. Oh right, this show is also a murder mystery? But don't get too attached to that because it turns out that you can only fit so much into 12 episodes, and we've got a lot of sexual frustration to get through.
You'd think with that setup this would all be about finding the murderer, but it actually serves as a visceral bit of worldbuilding. While eating other animals is illegal in BEASTARS, it's also one of those things that still happens enough that the authorities and populace just kind of move on after a few weeks.
Or, as we learn later, are happy to cover up to keep the peace! Everyone in BEASTARS is supposed to be strictly vegetarian, and it tends to go badly whenever anyone gets a taste otherwise. This kind of cowing of carnivore instincts seems to be a necessary step to co-existing with prey animals, but the stigma that one of them could murder the other at any moment hangs heavy over every interaction.
All in all it's a really well thought out setting, and it ties in well with the main emotional hook of Legoshi's arc: Does he want to eat this cute rabbit girl because he's hungry, or has he just got a vore fetish he's got to come to terms with?
There's only one way to be sure.
Really though it's a super interesting journey to take the audience through. Legoshi is a character constantly at odds with his own body, both in a puberty sense and in that he's afraid of using his innate strength and size to hurt somebody, even accidentally.
The supporting cast is built expertly to further emphasize each of his issues. Where Haru is a good inclusion in the problem of "how does sex work between a really tall person and a really short one?" The main dichotomy in the story is between Legosi and Louis (who, much like the dub, I also refuse to call Rouis), and the imbalance in those who want power but lack it, and those that have power and wish to never use it. Note: This also comes off very horny.

Louis is just a whole airport's worth of baggage. Real deer are characterized as high strung because of timid nerves, but this boy is high strung because he's constantly holding back his seething rage at basically everything.
He's got the deer fear! And he's so ashamed and hateful of it that he's decided the best way to overcome it is to make others fear how much they love him. He's certainly learned how to command a room, but at the end of the day he has to keep up an impossible facade, because any slip and his own mind starts screaming that he's nothing more than another weak herbivore.
Louis refusing doing anything half-assed, and that includes every single emotion he ever experiences. It's very fitting he joined Drama Club.
Can we take a moment to appreciate that the show is kickstarted with the death of the Drama Llama?
Oh, did we not mention that? Yeah on top of the carnivorous murder mystery/high school coming of age story this is also about the travails of a school drama club trying to put on the perfect show because BEASTARS, like its more human sister O Maidens in Your Savage Season, is a show attempting to make you experience every emotion possible. And that very much includes high melodrama.
HIGH STAKES DRAMA CLUB. Also, while it originally felt like a throwaway point, it's increasingly obvious how important the weirdness of this club is. First off, this is a fancy ass private school, and yet the only people allowed into the drama club are personally scouted from the weirdest and shittiest circumstances possible and then enrolled into this school to partake in the club. Every one of these characters explicitly have tragic anime backstories. We don't see them all, but they're there! Which really begs the question:
Yeah, we never really get an answer on that one. But considering Louis' backstory I don't doubt there's something horrifying laying in wait.
God the art style they used for that segment was so creepy and good. Also guessing that's why Louis is so eager to lose his foot.

Not exactly a memory worth a Randy Newman song.
That's another thing worth mentioning: while the show is mainly built on Orange's stellar CG work, it does occasionally break into other styles for specific sequences, and combined with the evocative direction it's basically always interesting to look at. Bonus points for the stop-motion OP that I never skipped despite Netflix's insistence.
OP of the Deer right there.
Anyway, Louis and Legoshi both have their various issues to work through, and in classic teenage boy fashion the both decide the best way to do that is to get really attached to a girl. The same girl. Who happens to be really into the executive producer of Law & Order.
Let it be known that if you, like me, grew up watching Digimon on cable TV, then this dub is gonna give you a hell of a life experience listening to Kairi talk about wolf pubes.
No disrespect to Laura J Miller. She did a great job here and it's great to have her back in anime, but that's the exact reason I had to switch to the sub.
Coward! But really, the acting in both the sub and dub are very good, but I really did enjoy her as Haru. While her two idiot boys are busy putting themselves on edge 24/7, she tries her best to live the life of a creature who is meant to be on edge 24/7, and honestly the way it informs her life makes a ton of sense.
Haru just wants to be treated like anyone else, but so few people can look past her size and species that the only time she really gets where people don't treat her like a fragile child is when they're making the Beastar with two backs.
The idea that everyone shows their true self in bed is Haru's gateway to an actual, if brief, connection with others. Hence the irony in both her main relationships. She assumes Legoshi's weird virgin vibes and inability to articulate anything means he shows up wanting the same thing everyone else does from her, and his freaking the hell out at being fuckable begins an extremely awkward friendship between two people who just want someone to see them. Extreme shout out by the way to the visual combo logic of rabbits living on the moon, wolves looking to the moon, and Legoshi thinking of his near wolfjob in the moon.
What's more, those brief moments of connection have lead to most of the school treating Haru like...well a lot like how plain old humans treat any woman who wants to do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.

BEASTARS has some messages about society, and it ain't exactly subtle. The saddest part is that this is compounded by her relationship with Louis. She met him in a moment of weakness and helped cover for him, and that sparked into a secret relationship, but when push comes to shove it's not much more than she gets from anyone else.

in the end she's a refuge, and while to her that's better than being a throwaway sex object, it still has nothing to do with treating you as your own person.
And it's not like Louis doesn't feel affection for her! But he's resigned to the life he's been cast in because it's a means to his goal of ascending society and reshaping it as he sees fit. Plus he's busy getting dommed by wolf girls in his spare time. It's a whole thing.
Juno is a great addition to the cast. As Legoshi finally starts to figure out his place in the world, and how he personally sees life as a carnivore, she shows up to thrust him into the spotlight as the exact opposite of what he believes. That she decides the fight over Legoshi, and therefore the school, is with Louis is the icing on the cake. His, "Girl, he ain't even into me. I cannot wait until you discover his kink," in response is so petty and great.
She does take it pretty hard when she finds out Legoshi's turned on by height differences, yeah.
That's not to say she doesn't have a chance. Sometimes what seems to be a perfect couple runs into a snag or two, like sexual incompatibility.
Oh, we will get to that scene. But first I do think it's interesting how Juno reacts to the same stigma that Legoshi faces. Where he tries to shrink away from his own ferocity, she wants to show the world how carnivores can be compassionate leaders who would never kill their herbivore brethren. That message gets a little undercut by, y'know, reality, but it's interesting nonetheless. Nobody tell her about the super casual meat market down the street.
Heya kid, wanna buy a finger? Fresh from the source!
And if ya ain't interested you can always hang out with Sexual Therapist Panda.
I appreciate doctors that go above and beyond for their patients. Naturally, this means I am entirely on board with the Panda Physician who treats his patients by murdering their enemies with a bamboo crossbow.
There's a lot of legal grey areas in BEASTARS but I feel like chaining up a teenager in your therapy dungeon should be grounds for a review from the licensing board.
I'd normally agree but it's certainly not the worst kink in the market.
OK yeah I guess we also need to talk about that little trip to the underworld. Y'know I compared this series as a spiritual sibling to O Maidens earlier but for all Mari Okada loves melodrama she never had anyone get kidnapped by the mob in her show about puberty.
You're right, O Maidens does still have some flaws.
I'm all for shows branching outside of genre restrictions for the sake of good storytelling but you gotta admit it's a little whiplash-y to go from "who's gonna confess to Haru at the school festival?" to "Who's going to single handedly destroy the Lion Mafia to save Haru" in like 2 minutes.
You mean you don't enjoy the half episode of violence followed by the most awkward attempted sex scene, followed by them returning to the festival with everyone aware of the rescue but kinda just shrugging it off and keeping on with the festivities?
Just raises a lot of questions, is what I'm saying. Especially since at the end of it all Louis shows up and drastically misinterprets what Deer Hunting Season is about.
Bambi 3: Blood Vengeance
Turns out Legoshi calling out Louis for refusing to rescue Haru had about half effectiveness. Rather than join him in his mission, Louis instead internalized the shame of giving into the corrupt society and decided to do a murder with a mob boss and his hungry minions. Which only happens because even in murder mode Legoshi is too kind to properly tear out a throat, even if it really really looks like he does.

Also note the very subtle visual for vore. That's what we call foreshadowing.
More like voreshadowing amirite?
Oh, voreshadows? We got those.
While Louis grabs the metaphorical bull by his own literal horns, Haru and Legoshi show us why this series didn't end up on Funimation.
I love the detail of all his friends being absolutely sure he cannot pull this off, and then the kicker of him absolutely not pulling this off.
Not for lack of trying! Despite or because of just getting out of a life threatening situation these two are both raring to get all doggy style. It's just that it turns out sex is even more complicated than cannibalism.
I'm not gonna put the entire blame on them for this though. They both just went through an intensely traumatic experience, and are kind of rushing into this to try and re-solidify their place in the world. Meanwhile the mirrors around them catch the reflections of their current states that they're trying desperately to shove as far down in their minds as possible.
Even without all the almost-murder surrounding the affair this is also just something that can happen. Sometimes two partners can be eager and straightforward but one or both just ain't ready for it. What's important is that they care about each other and try to be as honest and considerate as possible moving forward. Which gets slightly difficult with this FurAffinity commission sticking her nose into it all.
She takes Legoshi's heroic actions pretty well. The reasons behind them on the other hand...
Girl's gotta learn to mind her own business.
Juno's go-to seems to be to pin people down, and if she'd let go of her crush there's plenty of people who would be into that.
Juno's whole deal seems to be setting up for an eventual season 2, more than anything. It's there to establish that while Legoshi and Haru have turned a corner, their journey is far from over. And while I'm sure the path will be bloody and fraught with sexual dysfunction, I think these two will be okay.
Also there's that whole murder thing, which in case you forgot about it, we end with a wacky first-person POV scene! From the killer! Who Legoshi knows! SEE YA NEXT SEASON! BEASTARS OUT!
I for one am totally down for it. BEASTARS is a weird but immediately engrossing creation and I can't wait to see more of it some day. And hey, maybe next time Netflix won't make us wait 5 months to see it, right?

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