Manga Review: BEASTARS Volume One

BEASTARS Volume 1 establishes the world and the characters of this series, which features a cast of animals that attend high school.

BEASTARS Volume 1
Written by: Paru Itagaki
Publisher: Akita Shoten
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 16, 2019

BEASTARS is set at Cherryton Academy, a high school in a world occupied by anthropomorphic animals. At this school, there is a divide between the carnivores and the herbivores.

The volume opens with the murder of an alpaca named Tem, who is eaten by a carnivore. This event makes the herbivores distrust the carnivores even more than they had prior to the murder. The main character of the series is Legoshi, a large gray wolf who is rather timid. He was friends with Tem, but with how awkward Legoshi acts after Tem’s death, there are those in the drama club that they are both part of who suspect that Legoshi was Tem’s killer. As the volume progresses, though, the reader learns that Legoshi is indeed kind.

Another element that is introduced in this volume is the hierarchy of the drama club, which is led by a red deer named Louis. He’s the main star in the upcoming drama production, and he carries a lot of clout within the club. Unfortunately, Louis is shown being full of himself and doing things in order to keep himself looking good in front of his peers. Louis’ ultimate goal is to become a Beastar, someone who is respected by both carnivores and herbivores.

During an assignment for Louis, Legoshi has a fateful encounter with Haru, a female third-year rabbit. Leading up to this moment, the reader sees that Legoshi tries to suppress his instincts as a carnivore when he’s around herbivores, but this encounter with Haru really puts his ability to repress those instincts to the test.

While I had heard references to BEASTARS prior to reading this volume, my college-age son just came home for winter break and showed me the digital copy he’d purchased of the first volume and wanted to share it with me. I happily obliged and was pleasantly surprised by what I read. This volume hooks the reader right away by opening with Tem’s murder. From there, Itagaki does an excellent job of establishing several of the main characters. As a reader, I was fascinated by Legoshi from very early on. The pacing of the story is perfect, and to me, the events unfold realistically. I found that I wanted to keep reading, and I didn’t stop at all until I reached the end of the volume in one sitting.

My son says that he’s heard BEASTARS described by others as kind of being like Zootopia, except that it includes plot elements that Disney would have never used (such as the murder that opens the volume), as well as violence and other more “adult” leaning themes. After reading this first volume, I would tend to agree with this sentiment.

As I read this volume, I was drawn in by Itagaki’s art style, and I especially liked the character designs for Legoshi and Louis. I don’t know if it’s because they’re two of the main characters, but there was just something about their designs that constantly attracted my attention and made them stand out to me.

In some materials at the end of the volume, Itagaki explains that Legoshi’s name is inspired by actor Bela Lugosi. For readers who don’t know who this is, he was known for portraying Dracula in the 1931 film about the character. He also had other roles in horror films. I thought that this was a neat little trivia fact.

After reading the first volume of BEASTARS, I found myself wanting to read more. My son has digital copies of the next two volumes, and I’m hoping to read them while he’s home for winter break.

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