Netflix made big waves in 2018 with its adaptation of Keisuke Itagaki’s hit manga Grappler Baki, so now that his daughter Paru Itagaki has her own hit manga series in the form of BEASTARS, bringing it into the world of animation as well was an obvious move.
What’s less obvious is whether or not watching BEASTARS will be worth your while. After all, it’s clearly very different from Baki and its premise of anthropomorphic animals of different species all struggling to coexist in an uneasy society makes it feel like it could be little more than anime Zootopia. Luckily for you, you’ve got people like us who’ve read ahead in the manga to tell you everything you need to know about the ethos of that furry animated Netflix series you’re going to have to watch now that Bojack Horseman is being canceled.
They may wear human clothes and live human lives, but the population of BEASTARS’ world is very much in touch with their animal sides. The most important way in which these manifest is in the animals' dieting habits, specifically in the fact that the anthropomorphic herbivores still eat vegetation, while the carnivores eat herbivores. The only thing that keeps society afloat is the use of synthetic meat, eliminating their need to kill for survival, but failing to suppress their craving for flesh.
The story opens with the murder of an alpaca by an unseen carnivore—something extremely rare in the story’s present—which immediately causes massive harm to the relations between herbivores and carnivores. The plot follows Legosi, a young wolf studying at Cherryton Academy who doesn’t quite fit the traditional idea of a carnivore. A scrawny body, an empathetic disposition, and a strong distaste for the social order in spite of benefiting from it as a physically superior apex predator are all aspects of his character that alienate him from his peers.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Louis: a deer with impeccable grades who stands against our canine protagonist. While other carnivores in the story tend to stay in the camp of archetypical bullies, rejecting Legosi for not fitting into the alpha Chad expectations thrust upon him since birth, Louis represents a much more complex form of antagonism. Despite being a herbivore, Louis detests carnivores like Legosi who neglect what he perceives as their superiority. He's one of the few herbivores to act assertively around carnivores, but his self-defeating attitude towards them shows he has lots of issues to be explored, adding a deeper layer of intrigue to the character and the plot.
Legosi too is far from a simple character, since he initially comes off as little more than a timid good guy, but the story is not afraid to challenge this perception, showing dark things behind Legosi’s unthreatening demeanor early on and only goes deeper over time.
Tooth and Nail
If it’s not already obvious, Beastars’ narrative is an exploration of identity, focusing on individualities clashing in a society that assigns them roles incongruent with their needs. Legosi’s suppression of parts of him he deems negative and Louis’ antagonism towards those who could assert themselves as members of a class superior to his but choose not to give a holistic look at the extremes such a system brings out in people. Plus, when you remember that Japanese who do not live up to the highest standards of expectations placed on them are commonly referred to as herbivores, the importance these ideas hold to modern society become perfectly clear.
With gender identity becoming an increasingly contentious topic, parallels in Beastars are easily read, and what it does with those parallels is captivating. The complexities in the characters of Legosi and Louis we covered here bring a nuanced exploration of masculinity, but there's also so much more we sadly can't discuss without spoilers. The same goes for the series' musings on femininity, mostly conducted through the less-prominent but just as fascinating rabbit character Haru. We hope our look at BEASTARS' allegorical aspects has been enough to convince you to add it to your Netflix list and maybe even watch it too.