Now streaming on Netflix. Rated TV-MA.
I don’t know if I’m the only one, but a few months ago an interesting video showed up on my YouTube recommended list. It was called something along the lines of “Dwarf Rabbit Spends Night in Love Hotel with Grey Wolf.” Obviously curious I clicked it, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I would later learn it was a scene from a series called Beastars, and that was really all I needed to have an interest in this series. Though, from that video alone, you don’t really get a good representation of what the series really is about.
With knowledge only from that random video, I went into this series thinking of it as some sort of weird R-rated version of Zootopia. I expected to be weirded out, and not really enjoy it. Of course, this isn’t the case as I find the series extremely enjoyable and honestly somewhat of an allegorical masterpiece.
It’s not a very long series to begin with: only one season on Netflix (at the moment.) I was able to watch it in two sittings. While my schedule allows for easy binge-watching; with only 12 30-minutes episodes one can get through this series quickly regardless.
The story is set up to be interesting from the get-go, but I will warn you that some of the questions raised early on won’t be answered by the end of the season. We can only hope future seasons remedy this, but for now you have to live with knowing that you may not be completely satisfied with some of the subplots set up. In particular the murder mystery, which is essentially the first subplot opened in the series. But even though it isn’t brought to a clean conclusion it does work as a good introduction to the political and societal climate of this alternate universe of anthropomorphic animals.
The series has a cast of interesting and well-developed characters. Not only are we introduced to characters who are interesting on their own, we slowly find they’re well-thought out allegorical symbols that provide a surprisingly deep commentary on society as well as give the characters actions and thoughts an added level of realism and relatability. An easy example of this can be seen in the character of Louis/Rouis (for the sake of continuity I’m going to refer to the character solely as Louis from here on out, for no particular reason.) Louis is a buck, who throughout the story is striving to become the school’s titular “beastar,” which is essentially a school representative and a highly sought after position. He is presented as a menacing character, predatorial regardless of his status as “prey”. But not only is he aggressive, he’s diplomatic and strives to be an example for all students. This is a fascinating commentary on society, where aggressiveness is a quality important in leaders along with strong diplomatic abilities. What makes this commentary work so well and be so obvious comes from the author’s decision in making Louis a buck. An animal, that for all intents and purposes is “prey,” but is also known for being territorial, aggressive and capable of powerful predator-like violence. Throughout the series you notice symbolism used in this manner, and it only enhances the story.
World-building is also done well in the series, but is primarily for the advancement of the plot. The story, for the most part is character driven, so added details about the world only make the story that much better. And, honestly, the world is very much like ours, primary differences are explored and showcased throughout the series.
In addition the visual storytelling is also notable. With exceptional use of computer generated animation, this show is visually stunning and an experience in many ways. It is a true example of the enginuity of modern day animators and the continuing potential of CG animation in animated television series. And of course, one must mention the claymation opening that can only be described as beautiful, eerie, and charming.
If you are a fan of animation I would definitely recommend this story, and discourage those from dismissing this story as some “weird furry stuff.” This is an honestly interesting story with a lot of nuance and potential. I look forward to future seasons, and hope to soon get the opportunity to look further into the manga source material.