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Beastars is a great anime, and no, it isn’t just for furries. In fact, it’s far from it. No, really, I’m serious. Beastars offers fans of the series a meticulously crafted world and compelling characters. Both qualities are the bare minimum for a halfway decent anime, but Beastars goes the extra mile. The anime is beautifully animated, there’s no question about that.
So why did the show garner such a strong stigma when it first released?
Upon first glance, this is actually a pretty difficult question to answer. The simple answer is that it just looks like a furry show. For those of us who don’t identify as furries, that can be a little off-putting. However I’d say the issue goes a little deeper.
In general, furries get a bad reputation across all kinds of mainstream media. For example, the widely popularized NCIS television series has a bad habit of throwing shade at the anime and gaming fandom. There have been episodes where a few off-handed remarks painted furries in a bad light. Now this problem has gotten way better in recent years on NCIS but doesn’t erase the history of the show, or the fact that those old episodes still air on television.
I can’t imagine how the furry community feels when it comes to mainstream media, and I wouldn’t care to speculate. Frankly, I don’t identify as a furry, and I don’t speak on behalf of the community, nor would I ever want to.
What I can say is that some of the backhanded comments made on the crime drama, particularly in the earliest parts of the series still prick at my sensibilities in a wholly unsatisfying way, and I’m just an anime fan and a gamer.
If mainstream media perpetuates those stigmas too, then what about the anime community? Surely we would have been more enlightened, right?
Well, I don’t have the answer to that one.
Beastars didn’t do itself any favors with it’s promotional material for those of us that didn’t originally follow the manga. Moreover, Beastars has a barrier to entry that’s a little steep.
That being said, when the anime started airing, I couldn’t help but wonder where the series was going to go. From a narrative perspective, the anime just seems odd. It revolves around anthropomorphic animals. The anime isn’t just about bunny and cat girls. Every character, both male and female are animals with human characteristics.
They walk on two legs and speak normally, but the characters are still animals. While animal instincts tend to crop up from time-to-time in each episode, it isn’t exactly the core theme of the show. At least, not in the way you’d entirely expect.
So, given the murmurs about Beastars, and the initial knee-jerk reaction that came along with it from non-furry anime fans, I knew I had to see the series for myself.
My conclusion is this: Beastars, while somewhat strange, it is not just a furry anime. In fact, it is far from it. I wouldn’t say that it’s a “must see” show, or that it’s a pinnacle anime that everyone should watch.
Instead, I would say that it is a rare show, and a diamond in the rough. Yearly anime line-ups usually hosts a slog of repetitive, formulaic shows. If that’s you’re thing, awesome.
But, it isn’t my thing.
I don’t like watching rehashes of the same types of shows over, and over, and over again. Beastars is the breath of fresh air that I sorely needed.
Now, as I said before Beastars has a barrier of entry. I believe that for some people, it might be a steep one. It will demand that you leave your preconceived notions at the door. The reason I’m speaking so generically about this series is because it is extremely easy to give off the wrong impression of this show.
The core themes are deep, vast, and very nuanced. Not to go into spoilers, but some of the themes revolve around psychological impulse, trafficking, oppression, addiction, and the confines of society. That is what I mean by a barrier to entry. It never quite goes too far, but it is just dark enough.
I certainly came away from Beastars with several personal qualms. I won’t get into what I think is truly problematic, purely because that’s a very subjective concept. Also, what I dislike toes a fine line. I’m not quite sure how to articulate or even categorize those thoughts cleanly and concisely. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to.
Beastars demands its viewers to challenge their own perceptions. Anime as a creative medium, has a power to really challenge a viewers personal outlook. This anime could do that, if you give it a chance. Or, it could simply just annoy you. There are times this anime did both for me.
Now, there’s an interesting discussion to be made about how the series portrays racial tensions using species as a metaphor. It questions social divides, and the inevitable problems that come along with that. It even manages to do it in a very pragmatic way. It’s approachable, but it’s also unnerving.
This anime balances on a very slippery slope in a lot of different ways, and this is one of them. As an American, that particular part of the anime is one of the areas that I take extreme issue with.
I’m not sure how I feel about how the anime handles racial tension in its metaphors. Mind you, I realize that this comes from my American sensibilities, and my personal upbringing. In America, comparing someone to an animal tends to come off as racism, and this anime toes a strange line.
To give an example, there are two different species of rabbits in this series that don’t get along. Some of things that are said in dialogue exchanges are just flat out uncomfortable for me to watch. That being said, I am not the one qualified to lead any sort of discussion on this particular sort of topic.
I just wanted to point out that the metaphor is there, and that it can be questionable.
So, with everything I’ve just said in mind, I think every anime fan who wants a unique experience should watch Beastars at least once in their lives. This is not a mindless show. It is not furry pandering.
Beastars is literally a narrative beast all of it’s own, and it cannot be aptly compared to anything else that I’ve ever seen in anime.
If you do choose to watch Beastars, be aware of the core themes. Understand that it can get dark pretty quickly. A lot of concepts in the anime are very morally grey. If you do watch the series, keep that in mind.
This had been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”…
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