*This post contains minor spoilers for Beastars*
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Beastars stood apart from other anime last year with its more adult-themed rendition of Zootopia. The Netflix-Original show has received so much positive critical reception that even a Forbes senior contributor wrote about it. That’s saying something.
Unlike Zootopia, the setting here is a high school where drama takes center stage. No, literally. Beastars revolves around a taciturn young wolf named Legoshi who runs mostly lighting tech for the drama club at Cherryton High. This year of drama club is special because a certain deer named Louis has caught the headlights and headlines.
Louis is the first non-predator on the fast track to stardom. Winning the title of “Beastar” would place him on society’s center stage as a symbol of peace and hope to demonstrate that all prey and predators can live among each other while overcoming the primal carnage of their recent wild history.
WHO IT’S ABOUT
The real spotlight shines on Legoshi’s dilemma. Confusing carnivorous instincts for sexuality can be a real problem for a lupine high schooler in love with a delicate-looking rabbit named Haru who doesn’t wish to be treated so delicately. Neither does Legosi wish to be so despised for looking like a hulking menace— many of his schoolmates fear and loathe him— but a major point the show drives home is that it’s hard for others to see past the surface, quite literally, so it’s easier to remain what they see rather than not. Welp, that’s high school for you.
Haru runs the gardening club by herself. Tending to flowers gives her a strong sense of control over self-sabotaging tendencies she expresses sexually because she can protect life more delicate than her own. Louis has a hard-knock attitude because he’s had to relentlessly advocate for himself from a young age. You can only guess at the trials Legoshi endured as a young predator before attending Cherryton High.
Everyone in the drama club has suffered from some life-altering event. The show doesn’t make it around to covering Legoshi’s past, presumably because the writers want to save it for some juicier drama later down the line, but for now, viewers can happily expect to see into the personal histories of Louis and Haru.
Most characters live with misery that expresses itself in one form or another, which the show translates into a well-crafted metaphor that exposes our personalities for the paradoxical thoughts which underly them. Despite Haru’s self-sabotaging nature or Legoshi’s melancholic demeanor from facing fear and loathing, Beastars also manages to display beautiful moments of kindness and friendship.
Legoshi often tries to help anyone and everyone he can. He helps the new wolf-girl student from getting bullied, covers up an exposed Haru, and stops his friends from making poor decisions at the Black Market during a school field trip. Yes, it’s unsettling; no, you just have to watch it and find out for yourself! No cheating!
WHERE IT GOES DOWN
Speaking of cheating, there isn’t one instance throughout any of the 12 episodes where an exam finds its way to a student’s desk. Legoshi sits bored in a lecture hall once at the beginning of an episode waiting for the lunch bell to ring. That’s it.
Everything happens after school or sometimes between class periods in the lunchroom, club rooms, dorms, or hallways. Exams are boring anyway. We’re fortunate the creator spares us the monotony and stress of the classroom. Indeed, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dull moment while viewing the show.
WHY YOU’LL LIKE IT
Beastars succeeds with adults where Zootopia failed by injecting literary language into the heart of the narrative so it extends beyond the scope of the themes it initially presents. It portrays the delicate balance between adulthood and childhood that teens must reconcile in order to grow past society’s last protective barrier to the unrelenting world of unguided autonomy.
Between socially distinct commentary still ambiguous enough to range from topics regarding race or even to something as simple as the importance of taking pride in contributing quality eggs to the lunch menu at the school cafeteria for the sake of student nutrition, Beastars gives everyone some brainfood to mull over.
WHEN IT RETURNS
The anime will return next year with a second season. For now, don’t miss out on this wonderfully dynamic cast of characters and don’t forget to howl every time you see Louis on screen. He’s a total stag.