Know Your Role and Open Your Mouth? Beastars Season 2

WARNING: SPOILERS

There’s no denying that Beastars is a very horny series. It centers around a carnivore and herbivore falling for each other despite the kaleidoscope of social and physical taboos, and it’s not afraid to get freaky in all the more predictable ways as well. With respect to this premise, one of the more compelling aspects from Season 1 of the anime is the notion that to fully follow or defy one’s own instincts is faulty, and that a balance is necessary. I did not expect Beastars Season 2 to push that idea to extremes.

At the end of Season 1, Legoshi the wolf has recently rescued Hal the rabbit from the Shishigumi, a lion mafia that was planning to eat her. They aimed to consummate their love, but their instinctual relationship as predator and prey make that impossible. Now back and school as classmates, they’ve gotten closer, but there’s still a palpable awkwardness. On top of that, a killer is still on the loose at school, and Louis the deer (who was the academy’s brightest star) has disappeared. But while Legoshi devotes himself to protecting herbivores and transforms himself so that he can fight like them, Louis re-emerges as the new leader of the Shishigumi. The carnivore has taken the role of the herbivore and vice versa.

Legoshi and Louis are opposites through and through, and nowhere is this clearer than in how they view what it means to be strong. To Louis, carnivores like Legoshi are the epitome of power. They’re aggressive attackers by nature who overwhelm their targets, and there’s just no substituting that with hard work and wishful thinking. To Legoshi, however, Louis’s ability to inspire others and stand tall in spite of his inherent limitations as an herbivore is the very definition of strength.

At the climax of the season, however, the two end up taking their traditional roles, albeit with a twist. In order to defeat a common foe, Louis literally offers his leg to Legoshi to devour as a way to power him up. Louis tries to shift the burden entirely onto himself by saying he’ll declare Legoshi innocent, but Legoshi counters that he won’t let Louis take on all the responsibility of this decision. They both arrive at their “natural” relationship, but instinct is only a part of it. In the face of an enemy who threatens the peace, they find a compromise of sorts. It’s their valuing of the other’s archetype-defying strengths—Legoshi’s kindness and Louis’s boldness—that allows them to arrive at this controversial decision. They do the wrong thing in service of a greater good.

An added layer is that the lower leg Legoshi eats also was the last physical proof of Louis’s darkest secret: He was originally meant to be meat to be illegally sold on the black market. Ironically, by becoming what he desperately sought to avoid, but by doing it on his own terms, he is fully able to break away from that same past. Louis’s actions simultaneously reinforce and challenge the carnivore/herbivore dichotomy.

The way that Beastars and its characters defy the expectations placed on them is what makes the series such an unusual and fascinating work. They refuse to fit neatly into any categories or stereotypes, and any attempt to box them in is met with such vigor that it practically jumps out of the screen. Reason and instinct once again both factor prominently, but their relationship and distinctions are further blurred, just like with carnivores and herbivores.

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