First Look: Beastars

Manga Adaptation by Orange
Simulcast Pending

Premise

Anthropomorphic herbivores and carnivores live together in a civilized world. After an herbivore student is found murdered and eaten at Cherryton Academy, old racial tensions flare up among the student body. In the middle of all this is a grey wolf named Legosi. Taciturn, awkward, but ultimately compassionate, he struggles with his own place in the world. While navigating the often complicated relationships between both herbivores and his own fellow carnivores, he meets two herbivores who will change his life forever. A dwarf rabbit named Haru and a red deer named Louis.

Gee’s verdict: Top Dog

As a big fan of Paru Itagaki’s manga about animal society and what it says about our own, I had a lot of reasons to be anxious about the anime adaptation of Beastars. An all CG production is the sort of thing you usually associate with the death knell of a promising anime (See: Kengan Asura, Knights of Sidonia). Even with Orange, one of the only Japanese studios to actually understand how to utilize CG’s strengths at the helm, I couldn’t help but be concerned. After all, Beastars is a wild story, with a cast of characters equally complicated as they are compelling. A good adaptation of Beastars isn’t just about looking good, it’s about feeling and sounding good too.

Subsequently, I’m quite pleased with the adaptation so far. There’s an undeniable directorial flare to the adaptation in the way shots are framed. Combined with a surprisingly charming soundtrack and CG that isn’t too jarring to look at, and you have an anime that begins to tell the enthralling story of animal society, with a level of nuance and maturity far surpassing the likes of Zootopia, its inevitable comparison. The more apt comparison I’d use is with the legendary Spanish eurocomic, Blacksad. Both it and Beastars are interested in going beyond just using anthropomorphic animals as cheap real world analogies, but are willing to more closely examine the ways a society would reflect and differ from our own if inhabited by individuals far more in tune with their animalistic nature. What makes Beastars so engaging is that it’s a story about both people and animals, and the messy intermingling of the two concepts.

Hard to say if Beastars will be able to keep it up. For now I am tentatively excited to see more. That said, while the visual directing was quite good for the most part, there were some questionable visual choices that were unintentionally hilarious in a way that deflated the scenes. Additionally, the anime is already beginning to remove content from the original manga, mostly in the form of smaller moments and incidental dialogue. I recognize this is inevitable with any adaptation, but it is unfortunate all the same. As a result, while I still recommend giving the anime a shot, if you find yourself engrossed by the story and its characters, do consider giving the original manga a try.

Iro’s verdict: Intriguing

The pall hanging over this show was whether it could bear (heh) being a full 3DCG show – that have a pretty lousy track record around these parts – but Studio Orange and some impressive names on staff bring undeniable style to proceedings. There’s a pleasantly mundane vibe to character interactions, where ostensibly serious happenings like a predatory murder or bullying over pure-breed relationships are treated both with necessary weight and the understanding that they’re “normal” for a society of animal people. It remains to be seen if it’ll actually go some places, but the pieces are in place and the manga’s word of mouth remains paws-itive, so I’ve got high hopes.

Marlin’s verdict: Is it Lupus?

I am really loving what Orange is able to do with CG in this show. While one would think this would be the hardest show to use CG on, considering hair is one of the hardest things to animate in general, they overcome this issue by creating a sleek style and mixing in 2D on still frames to make scenes pop. I also enjoy this weird shoujo-manga-esque plotline we have starting out, with not just the loner guy but also the ostracized heroine and stuck up rival archetypes all in one. What makes it work well is how much they complement or subvert their animals. Legosi’s diminutive nature and Haru’s bold personality clearly go against the ideas you see in a wolf and rabbit, whereas Louis’s pompousness works so well as a stag deer. I also love the little animalistic touches, such as Haru’s ear’s moving to sense danger in the final scene. I can’t wait for the cast to be fleshed out a little more and for the drama to get kicked into full gear. Is this a Zootopia situation where the animals are getting drugged, or is this really just pure instincts that are leading animals like the attacker and Lugosi to react so viscerally? How did this world come to be this way, and how long has it been in such a fragile balance? I can’t wait to learn more.

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