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Review: Netflix’s Beastars Anime Is The Adult-Oriented Zootopia That We Never Knew We Needed

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BY April 13, 2020
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Netflix’s Beastars Anime is a rivetingly good show. It’s a completely unique and surprisingly mature take on anthropomorphic animals. Beastars inhabits a complex world, and is extremely layered, with very adult ideas and concepts. The characters are multi dimensional and the world is rich. The Beastars anime on Netflix is a very good watch for fans of anime as well as of talking animals. Although some aspects of the series may not be for everyone. 

The Manga Series That Became The Netflix Beastars Anime

Netflix's Beastars anime manga The Manga | Image via Orange.

The original Beastars manga premiered in 2016 and was an instant success. The manga is an award-winning series. Its success is in part due to how the series acted as a reflection of society. Along with the problems that exist within it. The themes and ideas presented in Beastars are very reflective of social issues that are significant to our time. The show deals with discrimination, equality, as well as repression of sexual desires. And it’s all done through the lens of the differences between herbivores and carnivores. 

In a civilized world of animals, the Beastars anime takes place mostly at a prep school. One where anthropomorphic animals go through the rigors of typical teenage life. All the elements of a usual teen drama take place here. There are relationships, a social hierarchy, and characters coming of age. And they deal with it all. But there’s also the added complication of a society with a class divide. But one that’s between the herbivores and carnivores. 

The herbivores are supposedly weak and small, often times literally. This gives them quite an inferiority complex. While the carnivores are constantly fighting their true instinct. The ones that push them to prey on the herbivores as food. To the point where there are laws about carnivores bearing their teeth in public. Doing so almost constitutes as a hate-crime. Even food available publicly in restaurants is meat-less. The protein comes from other sources, so as to not trigger a carnivore’s latent instincts.  Beastars’ story starts when a timid and meek Grey Wolf encounters a small Dwarf Rabbit. Their violent first encounter awakes a desire in the wolf. The only problem is that he has to distinguish if it’s a sexual desire or that of a carnivore seeing his prey. 

Teen High School Drama Combined With Interspecies Politics

Netflix's Beastars anime Legoshi and Haru Love at first sight? | Image via Orange.

The Netflix Beastars anime’s story is very much like the usual teen drama. The setting for the story is a prep school that all our characters attend. It’s a usual school with cliques and clubs. The drama club is where most of our story takes place. The added layer to all this is that there are also sub-groups within species. The smaller rodents have their own group. Some Carnivores hang out together, and so on. During all this, we meet Legoshi, a threatening-looking Wolf, who acts as anything but. He’s shy, awkward and quiet. The smaller students fear him, but the ones that know him realize he’s not at all dangerous. The series begins with an innocent Llama’s murder. All carnivores are suspects. Tensions are high. During a chance encounter at night, something awakens in Legoshi, as he attacks a small rabbit. 

This is when the story that really begins, as Legoshi has to reconcile this violent act. Is it because he’s been denying his predatory instincts? Or was it more of a sexual desire that made him act unlike himself? As he gets to know Haru even more, as a friend and confidant, his attraction grows. But so does his struggle with the darkness within him. Beastars deals with this wonderfully through detailed inner character monologues. Not just for Legoshi, but most of the other characters as well. 

Netflix’s Beastars Anime Has Mature Themes And Content 

Netflix’s Beastars anime may not be for everyone. While the content may not be surprising for anime fans, it may shock casual viewers. Beastars sees some sexually explicit imagery. As well as references and conversations that are overtly sexual. It’s all part of the series’ allegory of love and lust being interchangeable. Beastars also has a running commentary throughout regarding sex between different species. The real-life parallels seem to be in regards to interracial relationships. It’s just one of the ways Beastars works as an allegory for the racial divide in many cultures. In that way, Beastars is very similar to the 2016 Disney movie, Zootopia. 

Netflix’s Beastars Anime Is Not Unlike Zootopia While Being Very Different

Netflix's Beastars anime the stage Image via Orange.

Disney’s Zootopia very much touched upon these similar themes, albeit in a different way. Zootopia showed the differences between predator and prey. And how society discriminates against those they have preconceived notions against. It was a worthy attempt to show the racial divide through cute animals to highlight a prevalent issue in society. Especially given that the demographic of Disney movies are usually youth and children. Beastars however, is for a more mature audience.

So there are more ideas that go beyond just the themes of race and culture, presented through animals. There is also the concept of sexuality and identity. And how repressing either can have negative effects. Beastars is very innovative in coming up with race politics in its story. Lions are the privileged; herbivores the downtrodden. As a society, it’s fractured within these two categories of animals, and the tension that derives from it. It’s a brilliant way of digging deeper than the surface and analyzing their society. Not to mention some incredibly jaw dropping action sequences that are rare, but intensely amazing when they come up. The climax of the series is one of the best animated series finales I’ve seen.

Beastars Is Great, But Also Odd At Times

Netflixs Beastars anime Legoshi Struggling with the dark side. | Image via Orange.

The way Beastars’ storytelling structure works is kind of jarring. At times the episode name doesn’t appear until halfway through. There also strange cut sequences that show some of the other students’ school ID cards. However, the students shown have nothing to do with the episode in question. It’s a seemingly unnecessary technique that pulls me out of the narrative most of the time.  There are also many side characters with their own inner monologue and back story. But their story never intersects with anything else going on in the rest of the series. It’s odd, but also makes me wonder if those characters had more to do in the manga. So they may have more to do in the additional seasons of the Beastars anime. Especially since Beastars season 2 is already confirmed by the end credits of season 1.  

Beastars Is Worth The Watch, But Be Wary Of An Unconventional Anime

For casual fans, Netflix’s Beastars anime may come off as odd and strange. Some may find anthropomorphic animals discussing sex outrageous or just plain weird. But Beastars portrays its mature themes with a certain class and sophistication. In a way that I’ve personally never experienced. It’s a serious show about a plethora of topics, handled with sensitivity and complexity. 

The Beastars anime is now streaming on Netflix. 

What did you think about Beastars? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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