BEASTARS: Episode 1 Review

Length: ? x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Drama, thriller
Year of release: 2019

When you try and distinguish yourself from the competition, it’s hard not to use gimmicks. Enter BEASTARS, an anime with a gimmick that doesn’t flinch, and embeds its gimmick firmly into its roots. Everybody is an animal, and from the darkly lit, opening scene of a murder that introduces this unique world’s racial divisions, you’re not given a chance to laugh. And that’s despite having a giraffe, in a school uniform, standing 2-3 meters away from their friends while bending their neck to their level. The detail is impeccable, and the fact that we haven’t entered an uncomfortable uncanny is a testament to how powerful BEASTARS is.


After Tem, a sheep, is brutally murdered by a figure resembling a wolf on campus, the tension between the races at Cherryton Academy increases to a near-boiling state. Legosi, our awkward protagonist, is a wolf that struggles with this, as his attempt to talk to a friend of the deceased results in difficult to watch prejudice against his fundamental species. However, while carnivores and herbivores are a major dividing line in BEATSTARS world, that’s not the only one. The second half of the episode gives us a day in the life of Haru, a white rabbit, whose fragile species and smooth breed causes men to instinctively desire to protect her – ruining relationships, and causing her to be bullied. How these two characters join to become protagonists is undeniably tragic, and setups a truly compelling mystery.

Now, the title is really a reference to the fact that Legosi is in the drama club as a stagehand, and we get to see how the rich-kid-cumstar-actor of the academy, Louis, abuses Legosi to get his way. But in this sequence, the direction shines, and throughout the whole episode, Studio Orange put a firm stake on the title of ‘Best CGI Anime Studio’. Not only are the 3d animal models particularly excellent, showcasing complex hair and expressions, but the storyboarding is also tremendous. One such scene, showing Louis savagely ripping apart the ego of Tem’s understudy, uses a letterbox on the recipient’s eyes to show his rage, and amusingly slides off to the right to show all the people watching. Particularly in the soundscape does BEATSARS shine, that utilises bleak string quartets and an extremely blue jazz rhythm section to define its ambience. I think few viewers will truly reconcile with the low framerate of scenes which gives a jaunting feeling, but that’s a minor roadbump in BEASTARS’ strong presentation


This episode was actually fairly low on content, but it reiterated its core themes beautifully and setup eloquently. The world of BEATSARS has been described in rather excruciating detail, without ever using exposition; cheeky writing techniques such as Haru’s rather two-faced roommate completing a crossword to show us the depth of carnivore-discrimination are in full-bloom in this episode. As a critic, I’ve got to smile, because elaborating on a point with such nuance is a hard thing to do without a narrative mouthpiece, and BEASTARS shows it knows how to write a world, drama and depict it all brilliantly. I forecast BEASTARS as a show to watch, and it exceeded expectations.

Rating: 5/5

Return to Fall 2019 Premiere Report

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