Japanese animated tv series (2019-current). Based on the Manga by Paru Itagaki. Orange. Directed by Shinichi Matsumi. Written by Nanami Higuchi. Voice cast includes Chikahiro Kobayashi, Yūki Ono and Sayaka Senbongi. Twelve 23-minute episodes. Colour.
Beastar's world is much like ours (see Alternate History), but its civilization consists of anthropomorphized animals and birds (whose sizes are unchanged), where the main social divide is not one of gender, race, wealth or religion, but of diet: carnivore and herbivore. Law and taboo maintain societal stability (see Sociology), but a blind eye is turned to its many cracks. Restaurants and cafeterias are vegetarian only, including eggs and soy products, but a thriving black market in meat is tolerated (sourcing from hospitals and funeral homes), whilst vials of blood are Drugs. News stories of attacks on prey species by gangs of carnivores are not uncommon.
The unease of this relationship is reflected by the students of Cherryton Academy (see Education in SF). One evening Legoshi (Kobayashi), a grey wolf, attacks and can barely hold off killing Haru (Senbongi), a white dwarf rabbit: she is traumatized and does not remember the attack. Legoshi, usually purposefully quiet and passive, is deeply ashamed of his behaviour: but also romantically attracted to Haru. Despite a panda psychologist (see Psychology) telling him these feelings are "warped hunting instincts", they slowly become friends. Haru, whose strong personality resents that her vulnerable appearance triggers protective behaviour in males, responds by being sexually active. Also prominent is Louis (Ono), a red deer whose alpha male personality can even dominate the larger carnivores. He wants to become the Academy's Beastar, an award given to an individual who can unite both carnivores and herbivores: it opens doors for the holder.
The first season centres on these three characters, their interactions also allowing the viewer to experience the world's culture and structure. On the surface the Academy and local town seem peaceful and contented, preparing for Meteor Day, which honours Dinosaurs "the ancestors of all animals". But events take us to the illicit meat market (outside of which a poor herbivore sells his fingers); later Haru is kidnapped by a Lion gangster (to devour). When Legoshi discovers the authorities wish to sweep it under the carpet (see Politics), he goes to rescue her: with Louis's reluctant intervention, he succeeds.
Though the carnivore/herbivore divide recalls societal injustices such as racism (see Race in SF) and the treatment of the powerless by the powerful, the main focus is on gender roles (see Feminism; Sex), with particular reference to toxic masculinity and the question of nature vs nurture. Louis dislikes Legoshi's docility, but the latter responds: "there's no pride to be had in a wolf being strong ... [but] there's significance in you being strong". Using allegory to investigate themes relies on the credibility of the analogy: if the viewer does not feel the presence of male herbivores and female predators – or of elephants and shrews – clouds the waters, then they will find this a thoughtful and rewarding Anime, with interesting worldbuilding and impressive CGI animation. Season 2 will be broadcast in 2021. [SP]
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