Beastars Exploration of an Obsession Over Death and My Disappointment with What It became

On the 31st of March next year, Bojack Horseman will release its last season. It’ll be its sixth season with 76 episodes all together (excluding the season two special). And that show matters a lot to me. It is probably, no definitely, my favorite tv-series of all time. That and Your Name are the only pieces of media that make me happy while not distracting me from my life. They’re the only things that seem to be able to tell me that everything’s going to be all right, which might sound weird is true. And the thing is that it isn’t just “This horse is depressed. Give us some awards already!” type of show, cause there is so much more to it than that. It explores ideas around sexuality and wanting to find who you are, and feeling consumed by whom you think you are. My favorite character, Princess Carolyn, isn’t really all that relatable, to me at least. I’ve never had a job like her and I don’t really suffer from workaholism as it kind of seems she’s dealing with. But I find her arc so interesting and her writing to be so sharp that it doesn’t matter. She is a brilliant character nonetheless. 

Why I have half a mind

It is more than just a show about a sad horse, but a city full of people who don’t know who they are, and who’ll probably search for themselves forever. And so seeing it end like this, basically canceled, is sad (although, with season five’s message it feels natural to end it here).

And I have probably tried to find another show, another anime, another anything similar to it ever since rewatching it a few years back and realizing how good it was. I wanted a show that could convey the same feeling of realism that Bojack did, but I never really found one. Even other shows about mental health never had that sense that it was about more than relatability. Maybe I knew deep inside that I wouldn’t find anything like it, but for some reason, I kept asking. And one of the many times when I did, someone recommended Beastars to me. It hadn’t aired yet, I mean an anime hadn’t even been announced. But it was in the back of my head ever since then. It seemed promising. Sad wolf show sounded like something I would enjoy.

BTW, I’m not going to talk about anything furry related. That’s just bullshit. Your sensitive ass sexuality won’t be hurt by a show about anthropomorphic animals, that’s all. I will spoil some big stuff though, so ye…

Beastars is about the tension between herbivores and carnivores in a society of animals, and what happens when a wolf tries to befriend a rabbit. And this was the most compelling aspect of the show, the tension between the wolf and the rabbit. In episode one of the series, our main character Legosi senses the smell of a rabbit and gets an uncontrollable urge to attack her. He lunges at her and puts her in a position where she can do nothing but accept her mortality. But in the end, he lets her go after talking to his own consciousness. His own obsession over thinking that he’ll hurt someone. The day after having almost eaten the rabbit, he meets her alone in the gardening club. This leads to Legosi trying to befriend the rabbit, Haru, almost in a way to show himself that he won’t harm her. And the way that this is executed is so interesting. It is almost treated like OCD. How he becomes obsessed over the idea that he’s subconsciously trying to eat her, doesn’t want to look at her in fear of that sending the wrong message, or just the first scene in episode two. “A hidden murderer might be inside of you, you know?”. It’s something I hadn’t really seen in anime, an accurate depiction of OCD (Not that he’s confirmed to be suffering from that, I don’t want to sound like an armchair psychologist. I’m just speculating). There always seems like there is a problem in him, and in a way, he has accepted this. He will always be feared for the sole reason that he’s a wolf, and maybe they’re right. Maybe he is to be feared, maybe he will one kill someone when his urge to do it can’t be beaten. He is in a way haunted by death itself. He is simultaneously the bearer and victim of it. 

And the way that this is reflected through the setting and its people is even more thought-provoking and compelling. How the herbivores live in constant fear of being killed, while the carnivores are haunted by the risk that they might be the bearer of it. Everyone is in a constant struggle with death, either being at risk of it or to do it. No one is safe, death is all. And it shows that an animal society like this one would inevitably collapse, with nothing but wild animals left. It’s something Wes Andersson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox explores as well, although in a more comedic way. And it’s refreshing seeing a show that makes a statement that goes beyond “don’t be sad” or some shit like that.

The vibe that the show gave off was really interesting because of this. The issues that Legosi struggle with and how they’re conveyed through the setting is an idea unique enough to make the show stand out really well! It sets a sense of thematic consistency that few anime achieve, that few works of fiction have achieved. But this was unfortunately not to be maintained. 

Cause after maybe 5 episodes, this vibe is lost. The tone and everything seems to change overnight, in a way I can’t even really describe. It is as if the director changed his mind on what he wanted the show to symbolize in the middle of production, only showcasing how inexperienced Shinichi is at directing a story. Suddenly Beastars isn’t about not knowing your own intentions or a critique on the idea of an anthropomorphic society anymore, but yet another Romeo and Juliet story. And the problem here isn’t that changing tone or theme is bad, there are a lot of good films and tv-shows whose tone and message change in the story and gain from this. The problem is that this has been explored so many times! The struggle of love that can’t be is such an overused theme that Gnomeo and Juliet isn’t even the worst example of it used. It isn’t even explored interestingly. Legosi falls in love with Haru for some reason and she feels the same way, and that’s it. The end of episode 11 kind of made me hope that the ending wouldn’t just be “and now they’re a couple despite all odds”, but that’s what happens anyway. Haru becoming a damsel in distress was probably the most surprisingly bad decision the show makes. Haru is taken by some lion gang or whatever, and Legosi has to risk his life to save her. What is this? Mario!?

This along with some structural and expository problems made almost half of the show kind of frustrating to watch. Going from that interesting exploration of an obsession over death, to that was honestly very jarring and disappointing. And it’s not as if I expected the show to be as good as Bojack Horseman. I didn’t want to see Bojack Horseman again, I wanted it to be its own thing. And it was, until it became just like a hundred other anime.

In the last episode of the show, Legosi confesses his love for Haru and they become a couple. And that just left me in a state of dissatisfaction like few anime have this year. Was this really a story that needed to be told? Was that ending really important for the story? Zootopia but now they’re in love… There are still aspects of this show that I feel like are more consistent than the story. The use of CG animation is at times distracting but is honestly one of the best uses of it that I’ve seen. From the cinematography to the use of other mediums is very inspiring. I don’t think the latter half of the story ruins this show by any means. It’s still pretty good. But I can’t help feeling like this show could’ve been so much better. It could’ve said so much more. It could’ve been great.

Medium 7/10 or something

Probably my favorite piece of animation in the show

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