I went into Beastars knowing absolutely nothing about it. Based on the cover alone, I had assumed that it would be similar to the Vertigo comic Fables, and that the wolf on the front cover would be some kind of detective. I was pretty wrong about that. The wolf is Legoshi (named after Bela Lugosi), a student at Cherryton Academy, who is also a member of the drama club working as a stage hand. The Academy is shaken when an alpaca, Tem, is murdered and all eyes turn on the carnivores in the school.
In the world of the manga herbivores and carnivores both live side by side, although there’s a lot of distrust between them. Just because there’s laws to say that carnivores can’t eat meat, doesn’t stop the herbivores from panicking whenever they’re alone with Legoshi or any of the other carnivores. While the manga starts with the the murder, the mystery is not really the focus at all, at least not for volume one.
Instead we get quite a slow introduction to the main characters, and what’s happening with the drama club. After finishing the volume, which I did enjoy quite a bit, I don’t really know where the story is going. It could be a murder mystery, or a straight up drama where the murder just kicks off the events, and there’s even a hint that it may be more of a Romeo and Juliet style romance story. It’s probably all of those things, but the first volume is more focused on setting the scene than kickstarting any story arcs. I quite like the pace of it, and the slow revealing of the characters. There are quite a lot of characters though, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to struggle to remember their names, at least until the main characters become more obvious.
The storyline is taken very seriously, despite it being filled with anthropomorphic animals. There were a couple of funny moments, but it’s a lot darker than I was expecting. There’s a some heavy themes in the story, most notably the allegory for racism through the distrust between the carnivores and herbivores. It’s an interesting way to look at everything.
While I came round to it pretty quickly, the art style is quite unique and I wasn’t quite sure when I was reading the first few pages. It looks a little rough and there are moments when I couldn’t quite tell who the character in the panel was and had to re-read it. That’s more of a ‘me-thing’ as it wasn’t what I was used to, and by the end of the book I’d gotten into sync with it.
Overall, I think the first volume of Beastars is a great introduction to the series. I’ll definitely be reading more as soon as I can.
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