Beastars – In Sheep’s Clothing

Beastars promo

 

    • Genre:  School, drama, romance, thriller, action
    • Episodes: 12

 

High School can be a real jungle. It’s rough out there. Survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, dog eat dog kind of world. And you have to deal with all your hormones going nuts. It’s amazing anyone survives high school at all. You would think someone like Legoshi would have it easier than most though. After all, a large grey wolf is close to the top of the food chain. What could he possibly have to worry about? Sure he’s awkward shy and meek and gets walked on a lot but it’s not like you have to be gentle with carnivores, right? No one’s saying that their monsters or anything but they do eat people. And why would he be spending all this time with some tiny dwarf rabbit? Something isn’t adding up here. Did I mention that students are getting devoured on campus? High school can be a real jungle but strong will can bring them all together and the next Beastar may change the world.

You might know that I already did a collab about this series with my dear friend Scott (LINK). I had been wanting to see Beastars ever since it was first announced but had to wait until March 2020 for it to be available in Canada. Scott waited right along with me though because he’s the best! He also told me when we were coming up with ideas that there are already a lot of posts out there that say Beastars is good. This is another one of those posts but I still wanted to write it. Because I really enjoy reviews and also because I took tons of notes for the drinking game and I didn’t want them to go to waste. Priorities! Spoilers and such…

Beastars ep1-2 (2)

it starts on a dark night!

The opening credits of the first episode hadn’t even rolled yet (wait I don’t think there was an OP in the first episode but you know what I mean) that I said out loud to no one if particular “You don’t F* with Netflix Money!”. I’m not even sure what I meant by that. That’s how struck I was by the production. Guys, Beastars is amazing looking and obviously very very expensive! Possibly the best CG I have ever seen in anime and that’s even considering the mighty UFOtable.

The colours are so deep and laid out in careful palettes, The are contrasts and shadows and gradients all over the place. Alternate art stiles and stylistic camera tricks are peppered throughout so that every episode has at least on visually surprising moment but not so frequent as to feel like a gimmick. The consistency is flawless.

And less you think she’s just pretty face, the very first note I took was “the voice acting is amazing”. I’ll put in my usual disclaimer when it comes to voice acting. I like subdued performances. No one in Beastars is giving a BIG Performance. Probably no one will stand out that much. That’s because the entire cast is fantastic. The all sound so natural and the chemistry is palpable. When two characters interact they don’t only sound like two highschoolers talking. The sound like two highschoolers that have known each other for ever, or that are meeting for the first time. The level and detail of the relationships is taken into consideration in each performance and that deserves high praise.

Also the stop motion OP is adorable and I love it.

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even though I didn’t take a screencap of it

I could in fact go on for a long time. There is a scene in the opening that is partially in complete darkness with occasional spots of light, the art goes from a bright white outline to a deeply shadowed colour and back, something only in part. It’s very impressive to look at and capture your attention from the first second. It’s the perfect effect to set the mood, grab the audience and non verbally lay down the groundwork for the entire Beastars universe. It’s done in a few seconds. Somebody knew how to storyboard!

I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention because I can’t find much at fault with the production here. Aside from the fact that it was obviously so resource heavy as to be punishing to ever reproduce. That doesn’t exactly seem like a flaw.

The production was the easy part…where do I even start with this story. Ok, so the actual plot is that Beastars takes place in a universe of highly evolved animals that have established a human like society but are still bound by the biological laws we know which causes marked tension between herbivores and carnivores. The series begins with the murder and subsequent consumption of a sheep student on a high school campus. I should say this murder hangs over the entire season and is never resolved.

Beastars ep1-2 (2)

which makes it all the more unsettling

Legoshi is a meek but physically powerful wolf who is haunted and shamed by his own nature and desperately wants to somehow overcome it. He meets Rouis, an imposing you deer and the star of the drama club who seems primed to become the most influential student at the school and the two get to know each other in drama club. Rouis is an amazingly complex character and the interplay between him and Legoshi continuously highlights the difference between brute strength and power. A complicated and mature friendship, if it can even be called that, it was fascinating to watch the two coexist and how their respective struggles clashed. Legoshi also meets a young rabbit named Haru who he starts developing feelings for, making things very complicated indeed.

That is basically what happens in Beastars but it’ snot what it’s about. Beastars is entirely allegory. It’s very ambitious with it’s themes and tries to tackle a lot of complicated issued head one. Gender politics, class warfare, nepotism, social conditioning… the list goes on. It’s more successful at some of these than others however there’s clearly a gently sustained attempt at getting a message across and I can respect that.

Despite the cute premise of animals going to school, I should stress that this is not a show for children. Not only because of the mature and occasionally disturbing content but also because the richness of the series lies way below the surface and sort of takes it for granted that the viewer has lived through some things. It’s a series of philosophical debates and if you don’t care about the questions, you might end up a bit bored. Then again, what do I know?

Beastars ep5-8 (3)

Jack is best good boy

Oh right, I know one thing, Beastars is good!

Favourite character: Jack! but also like everybody else. This show did great with characterization.

What this anime taught me: You  can be whoever you want to be but sometimes, it takes a lot of effort.

If life gives you lemons, Add VODKA

Suggested drink: Hair of the Dog

  • Every time anyone’s instincts take over – take a sip
  • Every time Rouis sees through Legoshi – gulp
  • Every time there’s a split screen – take a sip
  • Every time anyone’s tail gets in the way – giggle
  • Every time you see that uncanny flag – sigh
  • Every time the camera focuses on Legoshi’s hands – take a sip
  • Every time anyone says “Prey” – get a snack
  • Every time Legoshi wags his tail – cheers
  • Every time we see Jack – raise your glass
  • Every time Haru gets bullied – take a sip
  • Every time Legoshi panics – take a deep breath
  • Every time we see  silhouette i take a sip

Beastars ep9-12 (31)

Bestars is a beautiful show. The screencaps don’t do it justice even though they are so lovely!

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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16 Responses

  1. foovay says:

    Hard to believe that every review I’ve read of this show is full of praise. Now my number one guru of anime reviews, Irina, adds to the gushing. I gotta get to this one. It sounds as if it is so much more than what it looks like at first glance. More of the very things I like.

    • Irina says:

      ‘m not exactly hard to please but I do think there’s a lot to love in this one.
      Also I’m not worthy of being anyone’s anime guru but I just now realise how badly I’ve always wanted that title!

      • foovay says:

        You are my anime guru. Not only do you seem to really be one of the best informed, you manage to write on a level for those of us who are not. Plus over time I’ve come to realize that if you liked it, I’m almost certainly going to like it. Which is nice to know.

  2. ospreyshire says:

    That was a good review. I’m still debating if I want to see this. It would certainly be bad to label this as some TV-MA version of Zootopia which would be oversimplifying things, but I still don’t know if a show like this would be for me though.

    • Irina says:

      I don’t think the two are really comparable aside from the anthropomorphised animals.

      • ospreyshire says:

        I agree from what I know about Beastars. The premise sounds intriguing, but anthro characters could be hit or miss for me. Sure, I’ve given positive reviews to Kimba and Ernest & Celestine, but I’m not sure about this one.

  3. Great review. It took me ages to get to this one too, but I’m so glad people have been enjoying it. It’s a wonderful piece of work 🙂

  4. K.A.L.T says:

    Studio ORANGE is actually known for their CG anime since “Kouseki no Kuni” otherwise known as “Land of the Lustrous”

    • Irina says:

      I know, this said Beastars is a cut above I would say. In the very specific aspect of CG. I’m still going to assume the budget was more forgiving

  5. Yon Nyan says:

    Awesome review.

  6. Dawnstorm says:

    I’d nominate Beastars for one of the prettiest shows of 2019, and you know how biased I am against CGI. This show looks amazing! You described it way better than I could.

    Looking forward to season 2 (it’s been announced, but I’m not sure we have a date yet).

    The victim was an alpaca. I thought he was a sheep, too, but they said he was an alpaca in one scene, which caught me by surprise (but then if he was a male sheep he should have had horns by highschool, so it actually makes sense).

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