I thought I’d get to see a wolf having sex with a rabbit. I don’t want there to be any false assumptions about why I decided to watch Beastars. Having originally started the show before it came to Netflix, the prospect of Studio Orange’s Land of the Lustrous follow up somehow lost its urgency in light of the international viral pandemic. But now we’ve all adjusted to the new normal, and the show must go on as they say.
A carnivore devours a herbivore in the school auditorium, this is how Beastars begins. The main cast of characters attend Cherryton High, a space which seems to both mitigate and endorse mammal order dichotomy as only a high school could. Legoshi, a lanky gray wolf, mans the lights for the drama club. Poised to become the next Beastar (think societal alpha) is Louis, a charismatic red deer who happens to be the star of the club’s upcoming production. Last but not least, the driving force of the gardening club, is Haru–a white dwarf rabbit that finds herself an outcast due largely in part to her sexual promiscuity–a rabbit who Legoshi nearly comes to devour in a fit of instinct. But after Louis ironically breaks his leg, Legoshi finds himself wrestling with the various forms of tension that work to undo the psyche.
From animation to score, Beastars is persistently ambitious. Splicing in artful and expressive breaks from their prescribed style that work to compel and underscore internal monologue; playful accordions float through lighthearted melodic interludes that fill out the performance wonderfully. Viewers are treated to a veritable feast as the aforementioned trio suffers through the throes of puberty and uncertainty, almost seamlessly working the pocket as a collective expression. I say suffer and not ‘explore’ or ‘work through’ because its one of the show’s more stunning flourishes: the ability to so effectively channel the feeling of adolescent angst that clouds all other emotions.
Amidst the serial crises that shape the story, the viewer gets a front-row seat from which to watch Legoshi’s torment as he confronts the perversions of adulthood and predation. Aroused by Haru in every way, tempted by the evils of the city, reconciling his proportionality among inexorable forms of societal tension. The immense power that Legoshi restrains is the very thing that frustrates Louis, while Haru is conversely fraught by the predator-prey interplay that would naturally weigh on any potential relationship, further complicated by her own assurances. This is where the Beastars shine brightest, treating us to tender and honest inaction–sentiments emblematic of the cloudborn confusion from which it materialized. Legoshi seeking Haru in the garden, just as Louis is departing the shed after a lay, and the two lock eyes through the glass door. It’s the closest the trio come to sharing the stage.
More than just furry-bait, I found myself compelled and impressed by the handling of simple complications that came to shape the narrative. Not so much the grander theatrics, but more so the little things that would get sprinkled in, the undercurrent on which our trio must sail. Partway through the series Louis, admittedly self-aware of his Beastar grooming, meets with the mayor under troubled circumstances. Himself a lion, the mayor explains to Louis the he spent no small sum of money to change out his natural teeth for a set without fangs. Dressed in a suit, with his mane tied back into a ponytail, the mayor smiles as Louis gingerly shakes his hand. It’s a chilling moment that cuts to the quick, asking quite earnestly: what does it mean for a tiger to change its stripes?
If you’re looking for another show you need to watch, check out Brandon’s write-up on Rilakkuma and Kaoru.
Image Source: Studio Orange