Beginning where it ends, a frightened girl bunny is caught in the embrace of a savage red-eyed wolf. But for a blood red moon, a lit fountain, and school campus lights, there is nothing but darkness around them. Before the inevitable will he or wont he, another herbivore is running, also chased by a wolf this night, or perhaps a night earlier. He escapes into a dark lecture hall on campus, only for a presentation about the relation of predator and prey illuminates his figure.
Now between these two events, we meet the crest fallen drama club, now divided over the eating of its star member. The plant eaters accuse the meat eaters and the meat eaters yell back. A creeper wolf watches them argue from above. Creeper wolf works the lights.
This Netflix original features animals as humans on a school campus. That setting has a sincere university vibe, full of dorm mattresses being thrown from windows, and grande buildings full of self important twenty-something(likes). They squabble about love, class, and being the better than each other at drama. Apparently, some of them get eaten at night.
Where many CG-heavy shows can feel lazy, off-the-shelf or repetitive, Beastars sells me on its use. The show takes its characters and setting seriously, which means we have to find those characters believably grounded. The implied weight and ability to smoothly rotate 3D character models no doubt reinforces that point.
On the surface, Beastars’ purple myst of predator-making-madness hints at following the plot of Zootopida. Under the surface, Beastars hints at being a deeper animal. Where Zootopia takes a simplistic stance of gender, height and class discrimination… Beastars is a little more nuanced.
For example, the dwarf rabbit of the open isn’t a heroic girl held back from her dream of being a police by tall, dumb, muscled, toxically masculine predator after predator/male. Rather, she’s run up against another bunny who’s boyfriend went astray. The tools of the conflict are gossip and bullying. Simple. Grounded.
Over all, this is good viewing. You can draw your own conclusions on which groups could represent predator or prey, but Beastar doesn’t seem to have a specific downtrodden group in mind. Class and breeding distinctions cross the diet-line, as do concepts of power (though Herbivores seem to be in charge more often?), but our POV characters are just students. Students with animal bodies, but students all the same. Their troubles are smaller and more personal.
I’ve already reviewed 14 shows this season, refused to review 2 others, and will probably see more in the coming week. Between the twists and turns and the solid visual design, Beastars may join the small few of that number I continue to follow. Go on, give it a watch. It’s well worth your time.