Coming to us this month, is the newest title from VIZ Media, BEASTARS. I first heard about this when I went to AX this year. Beyond the simple synopsis of “High School drama and romance, but with animals” I have to admit that I didn’t have a lot of immediate interest in reading it. Even when we got the copy, I took it mostly to have something new to read. As of writing this I am filled with so much regret not getting a physical copy of this manga when I had the option at AX.
So before anyone else can make the joke, yes this is an alternate reality where people are animals, similar to the movie Zootopia. The story focuses on two main characters, a six foot tall gray wolf named Legoshi and a dwarf rabbit named Haru. Haru, being view as small and weak, has to deal with terrible rumor mongering that she uses her size to attract men and steal boyfriends. While Legoshi…is a six foot tall wolf in the drama club as part of the technical crew.
At first, the main plot comes across as a murder mystery, since there is a murder in the very first pages of the manga. While that story doesn’t go away—it’s talked about in the background from time to time—it does take a back seat to the main point of the story, which is bridging the divide between herbivore and carnivore. By doing this, that person achieves the illustrious title of “Beastar”, and is a promise of fame and fortune for the rest of their lives. Of course, the reason it’s so illustrious is that carnivores are feared and treated similarly to ex-convicts and the herbivores are in constant fear of being devoured. To the point that meat and biting another creature is incredibly illegal and taboo. Something that current president of the drama club Louis the red deer hopes to achieve with his latest play. Which is how Legoshi and Haru meet.
During a late night, and very much against the rules, emergency rehearsal between the two main actors, Legoshi is bullied into being a look out. While standing look out, Legoshi sees a shape and his natural instincts take over and he catches Haru into an embrace. It’s anything but loving however, as Legoshi has a battle within himself against his inner instincts before being interrupted and shaken out of it. After Legoshi loses himself, he finds himself having to battle with his inner instincts and how he wants to act. Going so far as to never touch anything soft to avoid remembering clutching Haru. At least until they meet again, but we’ll need to wait for the next volume to see how this plays out.
The art style is strange to say the least in what the author choose to use. Rather than what I believe as standard with hard lines and color fill in (it’s mostly gray) the art style has more of a water color look to it. Soft lines around the edge of characters and shadowing and shading has a more natural light quality to it. Except for the few times where someone is talking in the foreground and they take on a checkered pattern, it looks pretty good.
Overall, I’m excited for this one. I love all of the various layers that are in this manga, too many to recount in such a small article. Even the characters, who may initially come off as simple and falling into standard archetypes, already have the impression that they are larger than how they appear. Granted, the story comes off very slowly, but I’d rather there be a slow build than a fast burn. Until next time!