TL;DR – can carnivores and herbivores co-exist in peace?
Welcome to Beastars, this is not Zootopia… I repeat this is not Zootopia. If you are looking for the Disney film please close this review immediately. You have been warned.
Beastars is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals (i.e. animals with human traits and emotions) where the ‘civilised’ co-existence between carnivores and herbivores is constantly threatened by animalistic instinct. The story focuses on the student life of Legoshi, a shy, awkward wolf with enough arm and jaw strength to tear the limbs off small creatures.
The scene is set when Tem, an alpaca student, gets murdered and devoured triggering a chain of events that examines the tenuous relationships between carnivores and herbivores. Aside from Legoshi, the cast is large and varied.
There’s Haru, a promiscuous, white rabbit, that Legoshi becomes attracted to while fighting his instinct to eat her; Louis the red deer and dreaming to become the next Beastar (a title given to an individual of great talent and service); Juno, a female gray wolf that has a crush on Legoshi; and a plethora of other supporting characters including a Labrador, cheetah, Bengal tiger, anteater, panda, bald eagle and mongoose to name a few.
The animation is nothing short of stunning with both characters and background settings created in remarkable detail.
There is also complexity and layered emotions in every character. Layers that lead to existential crises and lots of philosophical contemplation. This is all interspersed with depictions of extreme violence and sexual references that is not for the faint of heart.
The anime is based on the manga of the same name, illustrated and written by Paru Itagaki. Whether intentional or not, Itagaki has created a story that examines behaviour both animal and human that is allegorical in nature. The messages it speaks of reflects the strengths and weaknesses of real life and humanity.
Overall, for all its beauty and darkness, season 1 meanders somewhat as the murder of Tem is side-lined to examine more the inner struggles of the main cast. You almost forget the murder ever happened until the last episode where the first story arc of Legoshi, Haru and Louis closes and you’re reminded that the murderer is still on the loose. I don’t know why, but I found it difficult to empathise with any of the characters. Philosophical monologues would occur with a purpose that eluded me.
The adult characters are all on the periphery. The main characters, all in their teens, have to figure out everything themselves. The murder is never properly investigated. All of this disconnected me from their plight. Legoshi, Haru, Louis and company all attend a school that largely appears to teach nothing about life let alone subjects. So in the end, it becomes more about an animal kingdom where everyone is trying to survive rather than striving to live.
7 out of 10.