On De-platforming

As someone who has traditionally valued online discussion, I’ve long believed that de-platforming is something of an extreme measure. However, as multiple social media platforms have banned Donald Trump for inciting further violence akin to the attempted coup on the United States capitol, one thing that’s clear to me is how de-platforming is not about robbing someone of their freedom of expression. Rather, when used properly, it’s about protecting those who would wish to engage in honest discourse from those who seek to use the facade of debate and social interaction as a Trojan horse to further causes that seek to oppress and diminish others.

In far too many cases, “change my mind” ends up simply being a smokescreen. It’s become a running joke. Often, those who throw such statements out are not actually open to ideas but are performing images of strength and indignation in the presence of those who are potentially vulnerable to their posturing. The use of bots to spread disinformation and make an outlandishly dangerous opinion have greater support than is actually there only contributes to this weaponizing of public discourse. To leave social media open to such actors is to invite them to continue to bamboozle people through demagoguery.

I do have concerns when it comes to de-platforming. I fear is that if it’s taken as too default an action, then it can become incredibly easy to label anyone with whom you disagree as “arguing in bad faith” without it necessarily being the case. One of my core beliefs is that people grow at different rates. While there are those who never let go of their hatred, anger, and/or ignorance, there are also those who need the right person or people to communicate with them, and to encourage a level of change that doesn’t meet self-resistance or induce a backlash. I worry that people may be so perpetually drained both mentally and emotionally that they push anyone and everyone into the “bad-faith” category to spare themselves both the pain of having to engage a potentially disingenuous person on the other side and the stress of constantly trying to discern whose minds can be changed and who are lost causes.

But while I encourage people to give others the benefit of the doubt initially, once someone has revealed themselves to be a snake, you don’t let them crawl back into your nest. It might seem like a game without stakes, but it has become painfully clear that there are deadly consequences: COVID-19 is ravaging the world and especially the United States at an unprecedented level that can only get worse, and we just had a mob try to take over the US federal government in order to re-install their hate-filled savior figure. How many lives could have been saved if we had not let Trump and those like him keep their online megaphones for so long?

If anything, the skill that I think needs to be developed most robustly for human beings going forward is being able to discern between those who come to the table actually open to an exchange of ideas and those who are simply pretending to be. In the meantime, while freedom of speech is an inherent right of all Americans, there should be consequences for those who seek to abuse it—especially for the leaders who play games with lives.

Today is January 20, 2021, and a new US president is being sworn into office. I hope that the lessons of these past four years are not in vain.

Oxen, Free: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2021

A part of me understands that years are really just arbitrary designations of time, but I still feel a sense of relief that 2020 is officially behind us. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I desperately hope that current and future generations learn the lessons we need about the important of healthcare, of helping those who are marginalized, and understanding that while competition is a part of humanity, it should not define us to the point of mutual destruction. Leave the power fantasies of invincibility to isekai anime, and let’s help one another out.

I also want to draw special attention to the Georgia runoff elections that will determine control of the US Senate. If you’re registered to vote there, you have the power to shape the future in your hands. If we want to establish even the chance for a future that benefits those in need rather than those addicted to power, this is our best opportunity for the next two years.

Anyway, thanks to the following Patreon sponsors at the start of 2021:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from December:

Best Anime Characters of 2020

See my picks for the top two!

The Prince of All Rating Systems: The Vegeta Level

A simple question: How Vegeta is your favorite anime?

Christmas, Nostalgia, and Shinkalion

A look at how the anime Shinkalion utilizes nostalgia, and what makes it difficult to license in English.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 35 brings the pain!

Patreon-Sponsored

Thoughts on HoloModels

My initial impressions on the augmented-reality anime figure line.

Closing

On a less somber note, it’s the year of the ox, and we’re seeing a lot of cow cosplay anime fanart. I’d say something about being careful about NSFW pieces, but I get the feeling most people are currently at home.

Holicow: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2020

On the other end of what I hope is the biggest and most important election of my lifetime, I feel a mix of joy and nerves. I also begin to wonder if there is a need for me to continue to bring politics into my writing here, only to realize the answer: of course there is. That being said, one of the goals of Ogiue Maniax has always been to encourage people to think through the lens of anime and manga, so I’ll strive to strike a better balance moving forward. Let’s just say that the last two months were more of an emergency call to action, and even then, it’s only one step in a long journey to a more just and equitable world.

Part of the last month or two has also been me realizing how many Japanese creators are being sucked in by right-wing conspiracy propaganda, which puts me at different degrees of empathy with Harry Potter fans, but I think I might leave that for a full blog post. Or not.

Last month marked 13 years since I began Ogiue Maniax, and it’s probably the heaviest anniversary post I’ve ever written, in no small part due to everything that has happened in 2020. COVID-19 literally changed the way I blog (even if the actual content might not be so different), and it feels strange to head into December—normally a time where I spend time away while reflecting on anime and manga as well as my personal life—while hyper-aware of the fact that things are simply Not Normal this year.

As 2020 comes to a close, I want to thank my Patreon sponsors, especially the following:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

And while my Patreon rewards are such that I only include people above a certain pledge amount every month, I want to give a special shout-out to those who’ve supported me for a long time who choose not to have their names on public display. I really am grateful.

Blog highlights from November:

Gold Lightan Is Bananas

Go watch Gold Lightan. It is a ridiculous anime that few can match up with.

Pokémon Journeys, the Original Mewtwo, and Playing with Canon

Thoughts on the recent anime return of the OG Mewtwo from the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back

500 “Easy” Steps: Rivals of Aether

My review of the Smash Bros.-style game Rivals of Aether has turned out to be one of my most popular articles in recent memory.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 34 shows both the grace and might of its student body.

Patreon-Sponsored

Let’s Make an Entire Show Out of Dance CG: D4DJ First Mix

My early thoughts on this anime about cute girls DJing.

Apartment 507

Love Live!, Nijigasaki’s Setsuna Yuki, and the President Archetype

Comparing the student council presidents of Love Live! past and present.

Closing

May we have a 2021 that is full of light and hope, and where we can all laugh and sing together again.

In the meantime, stay home for the holidays if you can. Let’s all protect one another.

Blog Sounders XIII: Ogiue Maniax 13th Anniversary

Here we are, at lucky number 13. Toward the end of last year, I wrote a few posts about my feelings going into the new decade, unaware that the span from 2019 to 2020 would feel less like a year and more like a decade. As much as I would simply want this anniversary post to be about Ogiue Maniax proper, I can’t ignore that the world is in a strange and unusual place due to the effects of COVID-19 and the extremely uneven response to it around the world. The fact that we managed to deliver a defeat to the would-be dictator that we call the 45th President of the United States is at least some comfort, and I’m genuinely happy that I’m on the other side of the US election in a position of relative hope instead of soul-draining despair.

The pandemic has actually affected Ogiue Maniax in certain ways, and not just because I’m more readily willing to write about topics like it. For instance, in recent years, I’d been doing my writing during long train commutes to and from my day job. While not an ideal situation, I’d begun blogging on my smartphone as an efficient use of my time and as a way to decompress from the work day while also fulfilling my personal standard of at least two posts per week. If I didn’t feel like writing, I might read manga (whether paper or digital), listen to podcasts, play games, or any number of activities that could become the fodder for future blogging. But now, I have no commute to “fill up,” so I’ve had to adjust my habits again, accounting for this shift in routine as well as my personal mental and emotional status. Which is to say, I’m not traumatized to the point of inactivity (as any regular readers would notice), but I definitely can’t say I’m unaffected.

Even the travel I would have done—a combination of personal, professional, and blog-oriented excursions—have been kiboshed. Gone are the conventions like Otakon, Anime Expo, New York Comic Con, and Anime NYC. What would have been a trip to Japan next year is highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. I’m one of the many who picked up Animal Crossing as a way to connect to friends, and I’m sure that has influenced my media consumption in some ways as well. Ironically, I’ve worried in the past that I haven’t done enough individual reviews of anime and manga, and now I’m worried I might be doing too many. I used to think nothing could keep me from Otakon, but I did not expect a deadly virus to upend the world. Silly me.

One bright spot among all this is that Ogiue Maniax’s site views are actually trending upwards for the first time in about eight years. In recent times, I’ve been lamenting the declining popularity of anime blogging at the same time I have been reluctant to move from the format, out of some combination of stubbornness and comfort. However, when I looked at my site stats recently, I noticed that almost every month in 2020 has been better than the last in terms of exposure; curiously, it seems to have begun in March and April. So while I have no concrete evidence at hand, I have begun to wonder if the pandemic has been a significant influence on my readership. Could it be that with so many people at home now, they’re willing to read my blogging? I appreciate the increased hits, but I would trade them for a world not in the grip of a plague.

I really, really, really hope next year’s blog anniversary sees us all in a better place.

Love Over Hate: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2020

It’s no secret that politics and the health of the United States has been on my mind these past few months, and now we’re a mere two days away from Election Day. I hope that this is the most important election of my life, because I don’t want to imagine another presidency worse than this past four-year ordeal. For those who have already voted, either by mail or through early in-person voting, I hope you remained safe. While I am deeply horrified at the idea of Trump getting another term, I respect the exercise of democracy as long as all who are rightfully eligible are afforded the same opportunity.

Please bear with me as I express my strong beliefs about this election.

Long-time readers may know that while I could touch on a lot of related topics in years previous, my specific political beliefs were rarely ever front and center on Ogiue Maniax. However, the 2016 election changed something in me, as I came to feel that my distanced academic outlook did not do enough. While I still believe in robust dialogue aimed at finding common ground, I’m much more aware of the fact that right-wing extremism is a dangerous part of the current landscape, whether that’s attempting to recruit kids through video games, voter suppression, or outright violence. I changed my policy of allowing any and all relevant comments to a blog post because there’s a difference between disagreement and merely wearing a facade of civil discourse as a means to push ridiculous ideas. I recently deleted a comment that started with the notion that “wokeness” is ruining anime because it’s an extension of a general right-wing corrosion of Youtube as a whole.

As for Trump himself, I’m going to say straight-up that he needs to be stopped if the United States is to survive, literally. We cannot take even more negligence and death rates when it comes to COVID-19. We cannot take a man who purposely sabotages the US Postal Service in the age of a pandemic and in an election year. We cannot take a man who will sell out the US to the highest bidder, a man who abandons allies to the slaughter and allows bounties on American soldiers. We cannot take a man who thinks climate change is fake yet also believes windmills cause cancer. The Paris Climate Accord is crucial to the well-being of not just the US but the entire planet, and if the country does not rescind our withdrawal, we are headed straight for catastrophe upon catastrophe. Most importantly, we cannot take more damage from the Republican Party, which has enabled this would-be dictator to escape responsibility just because they use him as a battering ram to get more federal judges into the system, including three Supreme Court justices.

To all readers in the US, if you see voter intimidation at your polling place, contact the Election Protection Hotline.

And now, back to Ogiue Maniax proper.

Thank you to this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from October:

Smash Bros. and the Concept of Restrictive Consequences

A thorough look at how the notion of constant freedom plays heavily into competitive Smash Bros., and how it contrasts with the ability to be “very wrong” in other fighting games.

Manga Made for Theater: Maku Musubi

A recent manga series focused on a school drama club that has a nice theme of finding a new creative direction after the loss of a dream.

Dick Dastardly’s Gun Kata: Appare-Ranman!

Last season’s transcontinental racing anime is not quite what I expected.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 33 starts a battle of the bands at the high school culture festival! Lots of great side characters return for this one.

Patreon-Sponsored

Anime Faces: VTuber vs. Horror Games

Thinking about how the limitations of virtual youtubers actually enhances the horror-game-streaming experience for viewers.

Apartment 507

Love Live! Nijigasaki’s Yu Takasaki is the Perfect Audience Character

The new anime pulls off transforming the mobile game’s player character into a fleshed out individual.

Closing

Vote if you can, stay safe no matter what, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Talk About a Scary Month: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for October 2020

The new anime season is starting up with plenty of potentially great shows, and we’re one month away from one of the most important general elections in the history of the United States. It would be an understatement to say I’m feeling some whiplash.

Before I get into the two sides, though, I want to thank this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

First, the fun part:

For the new anime season, there are strong sequels galore—the two I’m hyped for are Haikyu!! To the Top part 2 and Golden Kamuy season 3. In terms of new titles, I’m curious about Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai (I’ve heard good things about the manga over the years), Hypnosis Mic (because everything fans have told me about it is bonkers), and Taiso Samurai (gymnastics + MAPPA).

I’m also looking forward to experiencing Love Live!: Nijigasaki High School Idol Club as a full-on anime instead of as the story in a mobile game. I’m curious to see how the different art style they’re using will affect the feel of the show. The Fall usually is traditionally great for anime, and while real-world events have thrown many anime off course, things are looking strong for now.

And then the not-so-fun part:

We are less than one month away from seeing if the United States is capable of rejecting a president who wishes he was a dictator, the corrupt politicians and businessmen who continue to enable his reckless destruction of the US, and whose combined greed and incompetence have the blood of over 200,000 people on their hands. And now, we find a president who not only denies reality when it gets in the way of him being beholden to debtors for what may be over a billion dollars, but is also currently hospitalized due to COVID-19: the very pandemic that he has tried to deny over and over again in order to prop up the economy at the expense of human lives.

I know I have readers outside the US, and you don’t have a direct say in the outcome of this election, but you’re probably concerned. I’m thinking of this as the most important election of my life, but that’s only because I hope and pray that it doesn’t get worse from here.

Now, back to good ol’ anime blogging.

Blog highlights from September:

Gattai Girls 11: “Granbelm” and Kohinata Mangetsu

Gattai Girls—wherein I review giant robot anime starring female pilots—is back!

Wyld Stallyns’ Greatest Triumph: Bill & Ted Face the Music

My review of the long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite movie franchises of all time.

Try Angles: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!

The anime adaptation of one of the best modern light novels comes to a close.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 32 starts a new trimester and a new story arc for the singers of Hashimoto Technical High School, and it’s one of my favorite chapters yet.

Patreon-Sponsored

Hololive EN and Multilingual Fluency Among Virtual Youtubers

Some thoughts on crossing the language and (sub)cultural barriers through the new English-language VTuber group

Apartment 507

The Matter of Family in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

When it comes down to the appeal of this popular series, I really think it’s about familial love.

Closing

Take care of yourselves.

Nine Feels Like Seven: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for September 2020

I seriously am having trouble believing that we’re almost to the Fall season. Nothing says to me the effect that COVID-19 time dilation has had on my mind that the month of August feels like it went by in a flash.

In terms of anime news, what sticks out most to me is that the last big anime con of the year, Anime NYC, has finally declared its cancellation for 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. While New York City has managed to go from the highest infection rate in the nation to the lowest, an event with 30,000+ people is inevitably going to be the worst kind of Petri dish. They made the right choice.

However, even before anime and anime cons, the ever-approaching US election is occupying my thoughts, fears, and even hopes. If you’ve read this blog at all lately, you know where I stand politically, and I strongly feel that continuing down this same dark path created by systemic racism, income inequality, and Trump’s unbounded corruption is going to lead to a United States that is weaker, sicker, and more concerned with hierarchy than equality at the expense of its people and its economy. If you’re a US citizen and you haven’t registered to vote yet, there’s still time. And while I can’t force anyone to vote one way or another, I do hope we can all recognize the threat of authoritarianism we have seen explode in recent months.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Ogiue Maniax update with this month’s Patreon sponsors.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy (NEW PATRON!)

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from August:

Healin’ Good Precure and the Age of Coronavirus

My thoughts on the potential impact of COVID-19 on the biggest magical girl franchise.

A Farewell to Arms, the Studio Behind Genshiken 2

Genshiken 2 came out when Ogiue Maniax first started, so with Arms declaring bankrupty, I thought it to be a good time to reminisce.

Success and Failure in the Ongoing Attempt to Bring Giant Robots Back to Kids

The site’s most popular post in a while, this is my survey of kid-oriented mecha shows of the past 10 years.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 31 is the most music-heavy chapter yet, but more importantly, it talks about Macross!

Patreon-Sponsored

Saint Snow’s Dazzling White Town Is from Another Time

My review of the debut single of Saint Snow from Love Live! Sunshine!! Spoilers: The songs are amazing.

Apartment 507

Mobile Games Are Temporary, But Their Anime Are Forever

With the announcement of the North American version of Magia Record closing, this article feels even more relevant.

Closing

The United States is not the only country facing the threat and sad reality of authoritarianism. Stopping this hateful and foul ideology is paramount for the safety of the entire world, and I hope we can make our way out of this to a better place.

Healin’ Good Precure and the Age of Coronavirus

In recent weeks, many of the anime that were on hiatus due to COVID-19 have begun returning, and one question that arises is how these series might be affected by the delay going forward. Many, like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and The Millionaire Detective, are adaptations, and so wouldn’t be affected content-wise. Similarly, historical fiction like Appare Ranman! can easily ignore current events. But there is one series I’m looking at as potentially being deeply impacted by coronavirus on a story level, and that’s Healin’ Good Precure.

The main motifs of Healin’ Good Precure are healthcare and the environment. The girls essentially act as doctors trying to heal different Earth spirits when they fall ill, their interactions with their fluffy mascots take a veterinary angle, and their magical dresses briefly resemble physician lab coats during transformation. It’s an incredible coincidence that this would be the Precure series we have in the middle of a global pandemic, but here we are.

The Precure franchise as a whole does not have any source material—the anime are the original works. Everything else, from manga to video games, are subordinate to it. What this means is that there’s no source material to reference or adhere to, so it likely has a degree of flexibility in terms of potentially changing its story. The fact that Precure shows are typically around 50 episodes also means there’s plenty of time to pivot and try to take into account current trends and real-world concerns. Also, while the series was on hiatus, the official Precure LINE channel actually had videos featuring Precure stuffed dolls talking (via the voice actors) to kids and playing games with them, so i think there is an awareness that children are feeling the effects of self-quarantine and the like.

While I don’t think Healin’ Good Precure is going to do anything as drastic as explicitly introduce coronavirus into the show, I do wonder if they’re going to try and incorporate some of the good behavior into the girls’ special moves or equipment. For example, what if one of the mid-series upgrades are special magical masks that give the Precures enhanced powers? What if the girls learn a special attack that requires them to stand six feet (or two meters) apart from one another? Of course, it’s also possible that the show will keep ignoring the environment created by COVID-19 in the hopes of giving young kids an image of how things are “supposed to be.”

Regardless of how far Healin’ Good goes to address current events, Precure’s general positivity and supportive messages are very welcome. I’m just waiting to see how far it goes.

Never Forget that Black Lives Matter

“I’m conscious of race whenever I’m writing, just as I’m conscious of class, religion, human psychology, politics — everything that makes up the human experience. I don’t think I can do a good job if I’m not paying attention to what’s meaningful to people, and in American culture, there isn’t anything that informs human interaction more than the idea of race.”

― Dwayne McDuffie 

Black lives matter. An anime blog isn’t necessarily the best place to make that statement, but I felt the need to do so. More than simply leaving it at that, however, I want to write my own thoughts about the intersection between race, racism, and privilege, because I see in parts of anime fandom an alarming component of rancid intolerance and ignorance. I’ve tried in the past to couch explanations of privilege in more analogous terms—comparing it to a fighting game super meter or imagining worlds where privilege is more concretely shown—but I’ve come to realize that such approaches only go so far. There’s a reality staring us in the face about the way black lives are not valued in the United States.

I recently watched the 1942 film The Talk of the Town. While it features a primarily white cast and is not explicitly about racial discrimination, the spirit of the film is very much in line with some of what I’m feeling: 

“The law must be engraved in our hearts and practiced every minute to the letter and spirit. It can’t even exist unless we’re willing to go down into the dust and blood and fight a battle every day of our lives to preserve it. For our neighbor as well as ourself!“

It’s easy to think one can avoid controversy and sensitive political topics by just sticking to one’s fandom. Shamefully, I thought for many years that I could stay distanced from these matters—concerned and saddened, of course, but powerless to do anything. However, even geek fandom itself is rife with discrimination and passive exertions of privilege in ways that poison the ability for something like anime or superhero comics to bring people together through love and passion. When a black cosplayer dresses as a non-black character, there is inevitably a reaction from a vocal segment about how they’re doing it “wrong,” that dark-skinned people should cosplay as dark-skinned characters. A lot of media assumes lighter-skinned characters to be the default, yet when those who don’t match the inherent appearance of a character try to express their own personal take on it, they’re harassed. When light-skinned characters are viewed as the “standard” in so much of our entertainment and media, and dark-skinned fans face gatekeeping that discourages them from expressing themselves through cosplay or other means, there’s a very stark message about what we as a society consider to be “normal.” It’s not that far a leap to go from seeing this, to seeing how black people’s lives are disregarded in America.

I am not black. I am Asian-American, and because of that, I’m going to bring up a topic that is hotly debated among Asians in the US: affirmative action. Examples of affirmative action such as college admission and hiring are sometimes framed as evidence of how white people and Asians are discriminated against in favor of black people. The idea is that because there are these systems in place to give black people help, they are therefore the real beneficiaries of our society. “How can white privilege exist when black people can get into college more easily? Isn’t that black privilege?” But that reaction in itself is very telling. To those on the outside who don’t understand the tacit power their appearance grants them in society at large, “privilege” comes only in the form of concrete milestones like receiving higher education or landing a job.

Privilege is at its strongest not in these big tent-pole life events, but in the small everyday interactions that permeate every single person’s life. Consider the simple choice of how we dress. You might choose to dress well because you like to look good, or maybe it gives you confidence. Maybe you don’t care about fashion and just want clothing that is functional. Or perhaps you grew up in a place where you were ridiculed for your clothing, and you began dressing a certain way as a form of protection against bullies or assholes.

For black people in America, their choice of clothing can be the difference between being viewed as a “respectable member of society” and a “dangerous criminal,” and even then, it might not be enough. There’s a 2016 CNN article titled “For affluent blacks, wealth doesn’t stop racial profiling.” In it, a black Republican senator, a black trauma surgeon, and a black Harvard professor all recount the police approaching them as potential criminals because of their blackness. When Amy Cooper threatened to call the police on Christian Cooper, who simply was trying to tell her to follow mask-wearing rules in Central Park, she purposely pitched up her voice to ham up her role as a “frightened white woman” up against a “scary black man.”

Philando Castile was shot by police in his car in front of his wife and daughter despite following all the rules. He mentioned to the officer that he was a licensed gun owner, and that his gun was in the same place as his license and registration. He was compliant in every possible way, and he still died for it. By default, black people are seen as potential threats to a country and society built on white privilege and black labor, and no amount of dressing well or making enough money can paper over that inherent injustice. What hope did Amadou Diallo, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, or countless others have? 

What’s more, you can even see the damage white privilege causes to black people and the US at large in the malignant counter-arguments against “black lives matter.” “All lives matter” is an attempt to take focus away from a specific and stark problem brought about by the US’s history of enslaving black people and building its economy on their bones. “Blue lives matter” is an attempt to inflame tension and reinforce the dichotomy built upon the assumption of black criminality. These are disingenuous in their intent, and need to be understood as such.

I say it again just as much for myself as I do for any readers: black lives matter. I hope the energy that has come out of the worldwide protests and the calls for justice continue for as long as it takes.

Beastars and the Fight Against Behavioral Absolutism

Exploring the tension of anthropomorphic animal society from the perspective of high school students, Itagaki Paru’s Beastars can at times feel like it’s encouraging a very dangerous view of the world. In a world where carnivores and herbivores co-exist peacefully and eating your fellow animal is illegal, the constant pressure faced by the timid wolf protagonist, Legoshi, for not embracing his violent, meat-eating ancestral nature seems to bleed into sexist alpha/beta nonsense territory. Yet, by the end of a first anime season filled with tumultuous and shocking developments, the message I took away was something far different and more nuanced than a simple animalistic nature vs. civilization dichotomy.

Warning: Beastars spoilers ahead

Legoshi is portrayed as shunning the spotlight. Although he’s in the drama club, Legoshi works as a meek behind-the-scenes stagehand, leaving the attention to others such as the club’s star actor, Louis the red deer. But what Louis notices is that Legoshi is clearly stronger and potentially more intimidating than he lets on. As a gray wolf, he possesses might that no herbivore can hope to match, and it incenses Louis that Legoshi can be such a pushover. When Louis gets hurt and a shuffling of roles causes Legoshi to appear in a play, a tiger clubmate named Bill tries to bring out Legoshi’s dormant ferocity.

However, Legoshi is afraid of his own carnivorous side. Not only was his good friend, Tem the alpaca, eaten by a carnivore, but Legoshi himself comes dangerously close to succumbing to his lupine instincts and devouring a female dwarf bunny named Haru—a girl he later develops strong feelings for. Legoshi does not want to be that kind of animal, which is why he looks up to Louis, who accomplishes things through grace and diplomacy. Even so, there’s no denying that Legoshi would be incredibly powerful if only he let himself be. 

Part of what holds Legoshi back is a society that discourages carnivores from exerting dominance through force. Meals for them are made with high protein content, e.g. eggs, as a way to sate hunger, but the appeal of real flesh can be overwhelmingly difficult to endure. Throughout the series, Legoshi struggles to fight that desire for meat, which then blends in odd ways with his love/lust for Haru, further complicating things in his heart.

Towards the end of the series, Haru gets kidnapped by an organized crime group—a cadre of lions called the Shishigumi—with the intent to eat her. Having discovered previously that Louis is seeing Haru (though what Legoshi doesn’t know is that Haru is extremely promiscuous as a way for her to have some control over her life), Legoshi tries to bring Louis along. However, Louis declines, having already learned about the kidnapping and being told that he must stay quiet if he is to accomplish his goal of rising to the top of society and being able to effect widespread change. Legoshi storms the Shishigumi base without the red deer, and by fully tapping into his violent side, is able to rescue Haru. 

At first, the lesson seems to be that Legoshi finally set aside his false persona of timidity for what was truly inside, but what happens afterwards communicates what I found to be the most important takeaway from Beastars: when it comes to instinct vs. reason, there is no universal answer.

Having saved Haru, Legoshi and her end up at a love hotel prepared to take their relationship to a physical level. Legoshi confesses that he was the one who tried to eat her, and Haru says she always suspected it was him but was still drawn towards Legoshi. However, just as they are on the verge of consummating their relationship, Legoshi’s mouth moves uncontrollably as if he’s going to eat her, and Haru’s body moves, as if on its own, to be eaten by him. Built into their genetics is a relationship of predator and prey, and sex between them isn’t “supposed” to happen. Even so, they’re genuinely in love with each other and they want to make it work, which means denying what their DNA is screaming at them to do. If Legoshi wants his heart’s desire, reason must prevail over instinct.

The underlying message I take away from Beastars is that the question of whether to follow or rebel against one’s animalistic nature is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are times when it can be of great benefit, but other times when it can be a mistake or lead to disastrous outcomes. Moreover, whether or not doing so is a right choice will vary from individual to individual. Legoshi is not Louis. Legoshi is not Haru. They can naturally accomplish things he cannot and vice versa, but they’re also all capable of going out of their inherent comfort zones to do even more. It is the moderation of both reason and instinct relative to each other that allows us to flourish.