Beastars feels like an adult version of Disney’s Zootopia. With a similar set-up in terms of a back-dropped murder mystery and a host of animals living in a hierarchical world, underneath the glitzy facade is a dark underbelly that’s incredibly interesting to see play out. The hand-drawn animation is absolutely exquisite too and throughout the first episode there’s a decent amount of creativity injected into these scenes to help things really pop and stand out.
Episode 1 of Beastars begins at Cherryton Academy as a young alpaca is chased through the hallways while a mysterious wolf-like creature stalks it. The projector turns on, and the shadowy figure strikes.
As we soon learn the next day, that llama was a boy called Tem and the herbivores join together to tell fellow llama Els she needs to be careful around the carnivores. The group adjourn for drama class and Els feels the watchful eyes from the wolf Legoshi on her as the group is split into two distinct halves following the murder – carnivores and herbivores.
Legoshi arrives after class and hands Els a love letter addressed from Tem. Tem wanted to give it to her while he was alive but since that’s no longer possible, he gave it personally to her. She calls him a kind wolf and apologises for saying mean things about him.
Rouis the deer arrives and he asks Legoshi for help. In the office, Rouis makes the decision that Zoe is going to replace Tem, telling the goat to head outside and learn the lines as Kai arrives and challenges him. In doing so, Rouis demotes him to backstage work while tasking Legoshi with keeping watch that evening, with late-night rehearsals taking up a lot of time. Before he heads in, he tells Legoshi he needs to act like a wolf.
Dwarf rabbit Haru finds herself struggling with her two cat-classmate bullies, who manage to make her vilified by the entire school. As she heads out the bathroom that night, at the Back Entrance Legoshi winds up experiencing animalistic tendencies upon smelling Haru’s scent. As she flees, Legoishi tackles her to the ground but holds her tight in his arms where we leave the episode.
Beastars is a gorgeous anime. The aesthetic is really well done and even during the scenes of darkness, the shimmering white outlines for this are really well depicted and immediately suck you into this world. There’s some topical and interesting ideas about racism and hierarchy here too and the editing – complete with letterbox swipes and fade-shots – does a great job adding depth and emotion to this one.
So far so good but right now this anime looks set to be a very interesting and impressive entry on the streaming platform this year.