Some would say, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” Personally, I would go with, “Oh, how this bizarre anime-Zootopia soap opera has leaned ever forward into the ‘opera’ bit.”
Beastars is kind of a special anime to me. Last year, it helped revitalize (albeit shortly) my interest in anime and characters within the visual medium. Something about its interpersonal focus on characters, combined with the carnivore-herbivore societal dynamic, really appealed to me. Legosi, Haru, Louis, and other characters stood out particularly well both in service to the plot and as identifiable, relatable (animal) people.
So when news arose that the series would be getting a second season, I was looking forward to it! Unfortunately, by the time it started airing, my interest in anime, once again, had plummeted. Thus, several months late to the party, I have finally gotten around to once again seeing this lovely cast of characters in action for another twelve episodes.
What the fuck happened?
To start this off bizarrely, I am going to compare Beastars‘s second season to Metroid Prime 2. Outside of the fact that they clearly have much in common, it’s their relationship with their predecessor that makes things conveniently ripe for comparison.
I love Metroid Prime. It is one of my favorite games of all time, if not the favorite. Beastars, while not nearly as nostalgic, holds a similar caliber of enjoyment and positive qualities as a series that almost rivals that of the aforementioned game. When jumping to Metroid Prime 2, my primary complaint was that it tried to overcomplicate things with a heavier focus on creative ways of progression. Bosses have different forms and require multiple avenues in order to defeat them. Puzzles tend to be longer and more difficult. Beastars‘s second season follows a similar path, only for a series and not interactive game.
This continuation feels like a grossly exaggerated and confounding mess of a similar story presented before. Many of the same aspects and plot points—Tem’s devouring, Legosi and Haru’s relationship, Louis/Legosi finding their place in the world—are still focused on here. What’s different is that a (very) noticeable lack of cohesion occurs that becomes more apparent as the season continues. New characters drop in and out of focus at random; Haru may as well be a minor character—she’s given nothing to do; the narrative switches perspective so often that it’s borderline disorienting.
A decent number of new characters are present for this new season, one of which is featured in the promotional poster used as this article’s cover image. Other characters who were mostly in the background for the first season end up becoming a focal point to specific arcs. Rokume, Pina, and Riz are three particular stand-outs here, each with a varying amount of importance. Such importance tends to shine bright, but quickly.
Rokume is a “secret security guard” (What?) for the school who shows up for a grand total of two episodes (barely; she shows up at the very end up episode one). Her task for Legosi? Find the culprit for Tem’s devouring, carrying over from the first season. After another quick talk, she is never seen again. Awesome. Then there’s Pina, a prideful goat who seems to be heavily implied as the successor of Louis, if not for his aloofness and lack of motivation. He, too, is given a decent amount of screentime, all accumulating to do… not much of anything throughout the course of the season.
[The following two paragraphs will contain spoilers.]
Then there’s Riz, a gentle and kind brown bear that was initially unimportant during the events of the first season. He is the one behind Tem’s devouring. Legosi deduces this by… just knowing, I guess. Revealed around the mid-point of the season, the remaining episodes focus quite a bit on how Legosi will be able to defeat him in ba—wait, why is he not telling the police? The school? Anyone? “It’s a battle between him and me.” …What? What are you talking about? Tell the police. Tell the teachers. Tell Rokume. Nah, all that is stupid. We need to be animalistic and carnivorous. about things.
Look, I get that it’s a series about animals, and instinct or whatever is going to be a focal point. But c’mon, you really need to at least try to have some sort of rational reason as to why he wouldn’t go to adults for help. Him being a virtuous dude can only go so far for the sake of suspension of disbelief. Riz killed someone. Ate them. There’s family, friends, people’s livelihoods that were torn by the events of the incident, and you don’t want to turn them in because you want to settle it with them personally? Holy hell.
Take a look at that cover image. Look how dark and serious it looks. How gripping, dramatic; seething with tenacity and heartbreak inevitably waiting to occur. Then you look at the first season’s cover, and it’s more reminiscent of a goofy rom-com. It’s pretty clear that the direction of the franchise has been determined by that cover alone, instilling a sense of narrative decrepitness that was only a spice at the very end of the first season’s story. Now, viewers get to enjoy episodes ten through twelve of season one twelve times over, and debatably with even more over-the-top absurdity.
It’s true; labeling Beastars‘s second season (perhaps the whole of the series) a soap opera would be a disservice to operas everywhere. Emotional turbulence overflowing, many scenes play out like it were aspiring to be an Animal Kingdom Godfather film. Only difference is that, with the mindset that these animal students are all stupid kids who don’t know what they’re doing, it’s more akin to the very plays they performed so amicably in the first season. Ecstasy! Gusto! Sharp words and menacing glares! Moving declarations and honorable promises! It got to be much after a couple episodes—it continued for twelve.
Nonsensical, over-the-top, remarkably ambitious, morally sporadic, and occasionally hilarious (for all the wrong reasons). I ended up having a great time despite all the flaws. One could easily put together all the reasons why, logically and structurally, this is an absolute travesty of storytelling. More than anything, however, it’s almost so batshit that the standard measure of reasonable expectations don’t even apply. Like with, say, soap operas. You don’t expect soap operas to play by the rules of reality. Such is the same here.
And characters still remain themselves… generally. Louis is a lot shakier in his resolve here than in the prior season, and, as mentioned prior, Haru is almost entirely unimportant. Legosi remains an enjoyably innocent person who just tries his best, despite having some very questionable methods of justice. Some new characters, despite phasing in and out of obscurity, also perform well when given the opportunity. Riz is kind of funny in a melodramatic way, while Pina is admittedly very interesting. Some more emphasis on the latter would’ve been preferred, though I suppose I’ll take what I can get.
So basically, while vastly superior to the first season, Beastars‘s second season still remains delightfully entertaining. If only it would’ve kept itself even somewhat level, divvying up screen time to a number of different plot points and characters like a bored teenager on fanfiction.net. The future of the series, at least in anime form, is now in question to my mind. Should it continue, will it continue to devolve into a manic plethora or drama and big words? Or will it save itself? I don’t know, but I’ll likely keep watching, nonetheless.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.