Beastars is a manga that really didn’t work for me even by the end. You could probably guess that things were going to be dicey as soon as you saw the cover since this is a manga all about animals and it takes place in a gritty world. So animal violence is going to happen here right off the bat. The animals walk and talk like humans but at the end of the day they still look like animals and so with their losing limbs and being bumped off, the series never stood a chance. Ultimately this one should have just stuck to using human characters but the level of grit here would have doomed it anyway.
The series follows Legoshi, a wolf who lives in a world where carnivores and herbivores have a very strained peace. After all carnivores eat herbivores which comes down to their very nature and yet they have to try going to school together and getting through life. There are those who believe both groups should be completely segregated and others who want to keep them together. There is always a “Beastar” around who acts as a symbol of peace and hope among the species. The goal for those attending school is to hopefully become the next Beastar. Legoshi isn’t super interested in that being his end goal though and just wants to get through school. As the series goes on his goals certainly change though and a lot happens.
So first up we have what I would consider is more of the pre arc. We are introduced to how the world is and Legoshi gets to meet with different characters. Initially he isn’t too aware of all that goes on with the tensions between the species beyond the basics but then he meets a rabbit known as Haru who he gets interested in. The thing is he’s a wolf so naturally there are a lot of stigmas against herbivores being together with carnivores. The relationship will have a tough time forming and this also starts to make him hyper sensitive to carnivores that badmouth herbivores or who want to eat them.
This really becomes the foundation for his desire to change the world a bit. He would ideally like everyone to be in control of themselves so all the species could get along but it won’t be easy since he himself has a tough time controlling his natural instincts as well. It’s not as easy as just deciding he won’t eat the other animals and he has to work hard at it. He ends up joining the drama club which is a good way to mingle with the others and decide what to do. Unfortunately an animal is eaten and it seems to have been done by one of his classmates. Figuring out who did this is top priority since that’s a taboo that can’t be ignored but it’s not an easy mystery to solve either. The answer to this question could even get a little tricky for him since he knows most of his classmates. So it’s going to be emotional no matter who it is.
It’s a pretty tense environment all around and the series sets the tone early as we’re also introduced to a black market where animals basically sell themselves to the carnivores. This way they’re eaten on their own terms and also make some money out of it. It’s definitely a very dark look at how grim this world can really be for them. At the end of the day it doesn’t offer a big hope of finding a magical solution like in Animal Land. This series does start to get more and more supernatural by the end but for the most part it’s very realistic.
So much so that it’s a really big moment when someone pulls out a gun for the first time. You just never forgot that because it was a big turning point in the series. From here on out we would have gangs and a lot of other action coming up. I wouldn’t say the series ever becomes a full action but the final arc definitely does have a lot of fighting in it. Even by the end most characters would have trouble with a gun so personally I think more fighters should carry one.
Where the series really drops off early though is how gritty it is. You feel like the author gets away with a lot because they’re animals and he uses this as an excuse to take a really intense look at humanity. The themes here are things that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in any title like this. Some may appreciate the boldness for the series but for me it just means that you won’t be having very much fun here at all. When things aren’t being gritty or over the top violent then you have characters talking about love and getting together or animal fun facts that are usually more detailed than they would need to be. This is the kind of world you would not want to live in because your odds of getting out in one piece aren’t great.
The author should get a lot of props for building such a detailed world and figuring out the ground rules but that’s really where the props would end. You have characters sleeping around, getting arms hacked off, and others who are eating each other. It just feels like the world is way grimmer than it ought to be and even by the end I wouldn’t say it’s all very hopeful. Sure there may be a bit of a temporary solution that will help things out but from what we’ve seen it won’t last and it won’t be enough. A common theme in the manga is that this divide will always exist and the animals just have to keep living and surviving as best they can.
So even without the animal violence I’m not sure this would get more than 1 star. Imagining the series with all humans instead, it would still be super dark and violent the whole time with a bunch of very unfortunate characters. I do think it would be toned down somewhat but enough to make this a good title? I don’t see it. Best bet would be to have turned this into more of a true action manga like the final arc and then you have a chance.
As for the artwork, it’s going for a very realistic/detailed look. It actually worked decently well, I would say the art is good. It may not be my favorite style but the action scenes are clear and you’ll never mix up the characters so that’s important. You can easily read through the whole adventure without any issues. There’s usually a lot of text so the average volume will take longer than most but with the artwork it’s always clear.
While part 1 of the story is really about the school days, eventually Legoshi goes out into the real world. He has to try and get a job and interact with everyone outside of the sheltered school life. It was interesting to see him in a new setting and it felt like a whole new saga in the manga. Sort of like your classic Shonen Jump timeskip and it always makes for a very effective tool to get the character in a new setting. You can flush out the old cast and bring in a bunch of newer ones. This would also send the series more into its action setting. Even the fight scenes you won’t enjoy as much as the average one since they are still animals fighting which takes away from the whole thing but I’ll take it over exploring the black market.
This eventually leads us to the final part of the story where we get a true main villain, Melon. He has a pretty tragic backstory as you could probably guess and his thing is that he’s super insane. He basically wants to create as much chaos as possible and really put the world on its head. If he has his way the world will revert back to a jungle where only the strongest survive and everything is settled through combat. Naturally that means he has to be taken down and so the Beastar is ready to fight but Legoshi may have to step in as well. It’s actually impressive how well Melon does because at the end of the day he is still one guy. So if a few animals ganged up they could probably beat him but it’s always easier said than done since nobody wants to be the guy who is bumped off.
We even get a tournament at the end of the series although unfortunately this is where the series starts to rush towards the ending at full speed. It’s too bad because I was looking forward to getting through the whole competition. The first round was actually intense with a very long explosives battle that had a lot of strategy and good defensive feats for Legoshi. The second round started to look very solid as well even if Legoshi was holding his punches a lot since he was fighting a lady but then the rest is basically skipped.
We do get a lot of action either way though which works out and some twists near the end. Beastars may not have ended up being a winner for me but a whole lot definitely ended up happening and it’s a very memorable manga. You aren’t likely to forget it in the end because the title/setting is very unique. It’s a manga that is taking things in a very different direction from most. For me that’s for the best since you want to keep animals as far out of the rotation as possible. You may end up being very memorable but in the end it’s just not worth it.
Now lets talk about the characters in more detail. First up we have Legoshi and I can’t say I liked him too much as the lead. First off he can be way too timid with Haru which often leads to him running around and keeping her in the dark. He’s also too oblivious to romance which leads to the series needing to have a lot of conversations about it as they basically teach him how it works. His self control isn’t very good with how often he needs crazy strict training programs and pep talks to move forward.
A lot of the series is about how this is all biological so it’s hard to resist the natural urges but it’s just way too tough. He isn’t able to do a whole lot on his own there. It’s good that he had a solid mentor in Gohin who helped show him the way. Now that guy ended up being one of the best characters here without a doubt. He’s actively making a difference in the world by helping animals overcome their hunger and protecting anyone he sees. He also trains Legoshi a whole lot which directly helps a whole lot of characters that exist within the world.
Jack is more of a minor character but he really works as a very loyal friend to Legoshi. It’s good to have someone like that in your corner who can give you a pep talk when you’re feeling down. I’d say he ends up helping a whole lot in that way. He may not be ready to tackle the more serious elements of the world but he keeps Legoshi grounded in that sense.
Haru is the main heroine here and initially she is very much a free spirit but in all the wrong ways. She can’t really find much satisfaction or purpose in her life so she started sleeping around but gradually met Legoshi and changed her ways. At that point things would always be very complicated for her since he had a tendency to vanish all the time and show up out of the blue. As a result her role in the series can also be a bit sporadic as she will go long periods of time without appearing. I can’t say that I ever became a fan of hers though. Even by the end she was close to letting one of the villains eat her on a whim. Her lack of a survival instinct would really hurt her at different points.
Yahya on the other hand is easily a highlight of the series. The guy is a top fighter and it’s easy to see how he became the Beastar. That’s not to say that he is a big hero though, In fact he has his dark secrets as well and there is one disturbing scene where we find out what he uses as fertilizer for his plants. He basically became an extremist in his pursuit of Justice. He still helps a whole lot of people out but uses some rather murky methods to do it. It was just nice to see someone trying to make a difference though and he did get lots of results. In fact he even took out Melon quite easily initially. Unfortunately Legoshi ruined it which was a low moment for his character.
Gosha is Legoshi’s grandfather and has done a good job of just living his life and not letting things get to him. His family had a really tragic turn in life but he’s done his best to stick it out and look out for Legoshi when he can. His acid makes him a very dangerous fighter if he ever wanted to cause a lot of chaos. The others should consider themselves lucky that he is a pacifist although he will act if Legoshi is in trouble. I liked him well enough and it was nice to have a calm character to balance out the rest. Almost nothing would faze this guy.
Then there is Louis who you could consider the main rival of the series. He’s really popular at school and the favorite to be one the next Beastar. He has a ton of confidence and doesn’t back down from Carnivores. He’s a deer so that puts him at a physical disadvantage in a fight which he is well aware of but he works hard to get around that. He can fight his battles with intellect and resources. When that doesn’t work he pulls out the gun and so people don’t really mess with him. He gets to see even more of the world than Legoshi for a while due to his joining a gang of lions. He definitely got even tougher with them and ultimately does a whole lot of work in the shadows.
His father Ogma was always a fun character. His screen time is a lot more limited to be sure but he definitely makes the most of it in every occasion. The guy has a hard time sharing his feelings due to having to be emotionless and cold as the head of his company. Louis isn’t great at dealing with him either so the two are often at a bit of a crossroads. It can be tense but that’s why their scenes are always fun.
Juno is a wolf who usually has a lot of bad luck in who she goes after. Initially she wants to go out with Legoshi since society dictates that you date within your species but he’s not interested and then she goes after Louis but he’s got a fiancé so it’s all rather tough on her. I like her boldness though and she does fight hard for who she wants. Not the type of character who just throws in the towel really quick.
Bill is more of an annoying character because he doesn’t have a lot of willpower and he’s really okay with going to the black market. Not the guy you would really trust too much if he starts to get hungry. By the end he gets some development but he had a really rough start that is hard to forget. Then you’ve got Riz who is one of the most unlikable characters in the series. He likes to justify things a whole lot but ultimately they’re just excuses. He’s someone you’re just hoping will get taken out the whole time.
Then you have the main villain Melon. He’s okay, Melon is one of those characters who wants to watch the world burn and is super crazy the whole time. I feel like the heroes should have been able to stop him way sooner since I wouldn’t say that he’s a top tier threat or anything though. He can use the soul animal ability and he is quick but scenes like where he is threatening the lions are a bit much to me. They should absolutely be able to crush him with sheer numbers and the fact that they just let him boss them around the whole time is absolutely crazy. He openly mocks them and does his best to make their lives a living nightmare so they really have nothing to lose.
It’s why I ended up not being a big fan of the Shishigumi. Those guys can’t stand up for themselves and are too eager to be led all the time. They need to stand up for themselves and fight hard instead of always waiting to have someone lead them around. That’s absolutely not the best path for them and they have the muscle to be able to fight on their own. That would have helped their characters immensely, make them a full threat. You can’t help but think that all of the other groups in the final tournament look more impressive as a result since they don’t take orders from other people or get infiltrated so easily.
I did like that we were introduced to astral forms and basically supernatural super forms to help make any animal more of a threat. It was a good way to increase the power levels. It may have been a bit of a vague mechanic but I thought that it worked out pretty well. Legoshi could have used a much cooler super form though as I didn’t care for this one’s design much. It made sense for his psyche but it’s just not as threatening as it could have been. In a way it’s rough for Legoshi because throughout the series he trains really hard physically and mentally but rarely gets the definitive wins that you would expect. Often times he is outclassed physically or needs help even though you feel like he puts in more work than his opponents.
If the series focused more on the battles and this supernatural angle over the hyper realism then that would have at least salvaged some things. Focus it more on the Shonen elements and you’re good. Even in terms of dialogue it would help be an improvement if the characters were talking more like normal people. I think a more confident main character instead of Legoshi would have been a good idea as well since even by the end of the series he’s fairly timid.
Overall, Beastars gets a point for putting in a lot of effort but that’s about it. It basically runs into just about every issue I could possibly have with a title. It’s overly violent, has a ton of animal violence, gets really gritty, the romance is no good, and we even have characters running around having affairs. It pretty much avoids the fanservice issue since they’re all animals at least. At the end of the day I wouldn’t recommend the title. If you want something with a lot of novelty value for being unique then you should check out Law of Ueki instead for how to make a power like “Trash into Trees” very effective. Now that’s a title that is hype and stays that way the whole time.