Dec 25, 2019
Krunchyman (All reviews)
“Ewww….this animation is gross.” — a naive Krunchyman

Coming into Beastars, I was a bit skeptical. That’s because I saw the 3D animation and immediately thought of Berserk 2016. Granted, the previews for Beastars were enough to convince me otherwise, but I was still leery. It’s not say that 3D aesthetics are terrible in general, but an artistic essence, if you will, seems noticeably absent — as compared to 2D aesthetics — making the 3D visuals seem a bit lifeless. Also, Japanese artists (unlike Western artists), draw 2D characters, which makes the conversion process to 3D look unnatural and wonky. Furthermore, the multitude of anime with horrendous 3D animation has soured expectations in the anime community, making a preponderance of fans jaded to the very notion.

Taking that all into consideration, I must say that Beastars far and away exceeded my expectations; as I was thoroughly impressed and astonished by its brilliant imagery. Episode 4 was the high water mark for the series, with its expressive color palette, remarkable camera angles, and phenomenal still-shots. It literally felt like someone painted a masterpiece, over, and over, and over again; stitching each stunning image into one cohesive product, that we call an episode. This, in my opinion, is the mark of a great film/series. One that leaves lasting images in the viewers memory long after the viewing experience. The shot with Louis extending his arm to Legosi — similar to Michelangelo’s, ‘The Creation of Adam’ — was simply marvelous. Also, the scenes with Haru and Legosi in the hotel bedroom featured poignant shots that expressed the emotional/sexual tension between the two. A tension that felt eerily relatable to the human condition, as each one of Legosi’s awkward advances were mired in insecurities. While there were hiccups here and there with the various character movements (the fight between Legosi and the Shishigumi boss comes to mind), it did little to diminish the dazzling visuals on screen.

That all being said, images only go so far, as a thematically rich story with well developed characters is needed to create a truly great work. Fortunately for the viewer, Beastars does just that. Starting with our main character, Legosi, he is a tortured soul that has a strong, innate urge to eat meat (which is considered taboo at school). In episode 2, we see the metaphorical demon that dwells within Legosi, and how that shapes him as a person. Because for Legosi, displaying any signs of aggression, in the presence of an herbivore, is unacceptable; thus, he represses this facet of his personality, in exchange for a timid persona that exudes little-to-no confidence. But while this calm, socially-withdrawn facade may put his fellow students at ease, it is tearing him up inside (resulting in self-loathing).

This was highlighted in episode 4, when Legosi and Bill (the bengal tiger) put on a ‘performance’ in front of the student body. But what appeared to be acting, was really subtext for the act that carnivores put on while in the presence of herbivores at school. An act that Legosi will need to acknowledge if he is to ever break free from his self-imposed constraints. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how Legosi confronts this dilemma, especially as his affections for Haru proliferate.

One of the other major character arcs in Beastars is that of Louis; a male deer who is the antithesis of Legosi (strong-willed, confident, and self-affirming). His dilemma, however, is not unlike Legosi’s — in which he feels insecure in his own skin — causing him to overcompensate with a brash attitude to conceal his ‘weaknesses’ as an herbivore. In this regard, Louis and Legosi are two sides of the same coin; wanting they cannot attain, but not appreciating what was given to them. They are both putting on an act that they cannot sustain, as all shows must come to an end — and after the show, comes reality.

Speaking of reality, Louis’ past reality is a tragic one. But it is worth remembering in understanding how that shapes his future self (it is also worth remembering for its stunning, visceral images). Because while it seems that Louis is always composed and in control — in truth, he is not. Louis is a slave to his perceived fragility, creating an identity crisis in which he desperately seeks power to prove himself to others. It is a quest that will, most likely, lead to self-destruction if he does not accept his limitations.

Another herbivore that seeks to transcend her limitations, is Haru. A bunny-girl that feels looked down upon (physically and emotionally) by society. This was accentuated beautifully in episode 10, when Haru chronicled her life’s story in the anticipation of impending death. But her plight for acceptance is different from Louis, as she utilizes lust to achieve ‘equality.’ A desire that provides temporary benefits, yet no lasting returns. And this self-destructive cycle not only precludes an endearing relationship, but it also tarnishes her reputation among her classmates — creating social isolation. All in all, Haru does more damage to herself via overcompensation. A theme that is pervasive in all three main characters (four, if you count Juno).

Needless to say, I was completely engrossed by the changing dynamics of Beastars, and how it utilized symbolism and subtext to emphasize its core themes. While the show featured different species of animals to underscore the hardships of carnivores and herbivores living together, it really showcased the same trials and tribulations that we face as humans. Hence, why it is crucial to watch these types of anime for proper perspective.

“The tendency to live within one’s own reality is a dangerous notion, and without proper grounding from outside influences — we can easily foster our own emotional seppuku.” — Krunchyman