Dec 25, 2019
Karhu (All reviews)
Beastars is an anime about prejudices, self-discovery and life under idealistic totalitarian rule where carnivores and herbivores supposedly dwell in harmony, and all of this takes place in a certain school's drama club. Everyone is already acting and then they try and act some more.

**Before we continue, in case you lean to the right side and consider yourself red-pilled, you most likely are at least on some level avoiding this anime like plague. I had my fair share of skepticism before going in, but I conclude this series is not driven by any pre-set political agenda. Social commentary exists, you can take it as political satire, call its world building neo nazi enigma, see the similarities to Stalin styled communism, laugh at how it practically labels food chain fascist, acknowledge the furry-relations, or entirely watch the series as an independent, stand-alone work that may have real life influence to back it up, but rather than preaching already discovered answers, it raises questions. It creates thought-provoking situations and presents them from multiple different perspectives, leaving room for the viewer to make their own interpretation. More than anything, it is what you make of it. What do we call this? Showing respect towards the audience.

There are three main cast members who all are vastly different from each others. They each have their own complex and shallow sides, inner and outer personalities; the one they are inside and the one they show to others, there is a clear portray of each individuals' self-image, fair bit of awareness of what their self looks like to the outside eye, even inner monologue filled with reflecting exist, and the list goes on. The character-centric focus is highly psychological while the presentation itself is partially toned with philosophical questions. This level of detail and accuracy is highly uncommon for anime characters even in psychological anime series. There is more depth, detail, planning and polish that one would expect or let alone see at first glance. The cast members all come with self-awareness and ideas that come from within the person. There are no moments in the narrative where a thought or piece of behavior seems out of place or controlled by the author behind the 4th wall. While some of the supporting cast members (such as mixed breed rabbits) clearly appear as devices in the narrative instead of being sincere individuals, the main cast members do not come with any type of compromises.

Our trio consists of Legoshi, Louis and Haru. Legoshi is the main main character, a cautious and sensitive wolf who faces prejudices that are about his supposed wolf-like nature. He aims to counter this by censoring himself and acting almost like the polar opposite of what is expected of him. This causes some inner psychological struggle and visible bounce in forms of his nature overwriting his supposed raw personality. Louis is a deer whom seems to have not only overly egotistic behavior but narcissism, superiority complex and manipulative skills. His ego is no less than enormous, but what makes him vastly different from common student who is narcistic is that his near flawless self-image carries thru making wide masses around him actually genuinely believe he is the greatest person alive, which is due to his skill to manipulate people on individual level and in masses but still not entirely limited to this. On a side note: I'd love to see how he puts on a buttonless t-shirt considering those massive antlers. They never explain that.

Our last main character is Haru and she is perhaps the most disliked character. She is a rabbit and literally a slut. She sleeps with everyone and is widely hated by girls for supposedly stealing their men. She is the most controversial character in the series and many seem to despise her. Despite her getting bullied, assaulted and violeted, it seems to be rare for viewers to feel any sympathy towards her. I think that's her true genius, because most people - at least in my generalization - love attention from the opposite sex (or their sex of interest) and are more than willing to make love with sexually attractive people, but we do not appreciate this feature in others. This is the viewer's moment to reflect. Haru is a bit pushy self-victimizer, and her ideas seem to be some type of double edged sword where she'd want to see someone see her inner personality, but her outer behavior tends to ratiate only the slutty features she has. She is practically a self-caused illness, but this is still fascinating thing to follow, because she is nowhere near a weak person. By weak, I mean both: not weakly-writter nor the opposite of strong. Without her the series would definitely not be the same, and she is essential because what makes the cast so incredibly strong is not really their stand-alone personas, but how they interract with each others and develope relations. In these moments, when you have high understanding of these characters, even their smallest actions come with profound slow-burn effect.

As far as the writing goes, the premise and world building are basically wit wonderlands. The psychological side is accurate and clever, the animal prejudices -which are used as metaphoras- along the societal structure and way the world works, do not only have their real life relevance and political satire factors in them, but do hell of an impressive job creating the anime's very own universe. One of its main ideas seems to be that healthy ideals do not necessarily create a healthy, functioning world. When a wide portion of society doesn't feel well, it tends to backlash, leaving room for extremist, anti-government activity, havoc and, more specifically in this case, create downunder societies and black markets for the products that are banned. Where's the funny in this, then? Because the herbivores blame those who cannot digest this; not the nu-food nor the bureaucratic bs and paints them the "bad guys."

The actual plot could be said to come with its fair share of simplicity, and certain events play out with some level of convinience, which shows that not every bit has been thoroughly planned to hold water (this is the series' sole biggest weakness), but as a whole, its writing has "attention to detail" type of approach, and when considering this, it's quite hard to give justified criticism of its shortcomings when they come out as attributes rather than flaws. However, it should be noted that some of the story events are heavily slice of life oriented, and during these fractions, the series can side track from its actual main content quite a bit. In case you cannot accept more baseline vanilla plot events that are simply beautified with detail, it may be hard to find Beastars' story significant and it may not appeal to you. If you can look past this rather niche and superficial issue, I promise what you see is a brave attempt succeeding and living up to its potential. I can only try and imagine the moment when the author wrote this and realized it's actually good. I am sure not even she planned this all to work so well in her favor. It all just kinda happened, fitted together like compounds of a vaccine. For this reason, it may be easy to overanalyze the series: give its intellectual side more credibility than it deserves. But on the other hand, the lack of strong inprint from the author makes the series seem far less pseudo-intellectual than majority of series that are supposedly aimed for smart people. More than being a tool thru to which the author tries to prove her own genius, Beastars does what was already once said: leave room for viewer's own judgement.

Some of the questions this raised in me were: Is equality the first step towards inequity? Are societal norms and values the very roots of human double standards? Can a person truly escape the mold that shaped him? Was Mufasa from Lion King actually wrong (you must take your place in the circle of life)? And most importantly, why do we so rarely get anime series that not only show us multidimensional characters, but tell a meaningful story? My final judgement: AOTY.