Know Your Role and Open Your Mouth? Beastars Season 2


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.

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.