Published by VIZ Media LLC on July 16th 2019
At this high school, instead of jocks and nerds, the students are divided into predators and prey.
At a high school where the students are literally divided into predators and prey, it’s personal relationships that maintain the fragile peace. Who among them is a Beastar—an academic and social role model destined to become a leader in a society naturally rife with mistrust?
I was really intrigued by the advert for Beastars that popped up on Netflix recently, but I haven’t yet got around to watching it. I’m always apprehensive about watching an anime because I always want to read the manga first but then often don’t get round to it. This year though, I’ve really been making an effort to get more into manga though, and I’ve been very much enjoying it, so I was thrilled to see Beastars v1 available on NetGalley!
The premise of Beastars is deceptively simple – at a boarding school for animals, there’s a clear divide between predators and prey, but the balance between both is carefully maintained, and students go about their day, attending lessons, eating meals and sleeping in dorms all on a campus full of their natural opponents. The apparent murder of a student throws the balance into disarray – suddenly, no one knows who to trust, and the previously cosy familiarity between organisms of the same type starts to feel more like taking sides of a battle.
We follow Legoshi, an awkard wolf, as the murder is discovered, and then as he tries to go about his normal school life in the aftermath. We have a big cast of supporting characters, from Louis the drama club president stag to Tem the alpaca who is close friends with Legosi. The cast are really interesting, and the story takes an interesting approach to stereotypes, with creatures living up to some and subverting others.
The art is unlike anything I’ve seen before (in my admittedly not very wide experience with manga). It has an endearing cartoon sketched style, something I can totally imagine following as part of a webcomic, and there’s so much detail, both on characters and backgrounds – in many ways the art reminded me more of a graphic novel than a traditional manga.
The comparisons to Zootopia are unavoidable, but it’s sort of Zootopia crossed with One of Us is Lying or a Gillian Flynn story. Think Zootopia made by the creators of Pretty Little Liars or Riverdale rather than Disney – it isn’t truly gruesome or horror, but it’s definitely got a dark and sinister edge to it (in the best way).
I’m gripped by the plot, which is at times a little farfetched but nonetheless addictive and intriguing. The story is undeniably clever, with it’s clever allegories, the social divides and relationships. It makes you think about nature vs nurture, and whether gaps that seem like they could never be bridged truly have to be that way. The cast are great and I LOVE Legosi. The art is something to really enjoy taking your time over. All in all, a brilliant opening volume that I desperately need a physical copy of and I can’t wait to read the next one!