Beast Complex Volume Two is a compilation of six short stories set in the world of BEASTARS, and these shorts were drawn after BEASTARS was completed. Only one of these stories is a prequel to that manga, while the others take place after the final volume of the manga series.

Beast Complex Volume Two
Written by: Paru Itagaki
Publisher: Akita Shoten
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 21, 2023

The first story in the collection is titled, “The Pig and the Peacock,” and it features a pig named Eugene who works as a taxidermist to preserve deceased animals for their loved ones. One day, a peacock police officer named Gerbera encounters Eugene and his shady business. The two become friends, and one day, Gerbera asks Eugene to kill him and stuff him. The way this story was set up, it appeared to be heading for a dark turn. However, I appreciated the direction that Itagaki took the story, because it wasn’t what I was expecting.

The next story, “The Shiba Inu and the Shiba Inu,” focuses on a middle-aged male shiba inu who has spent several years posing as a young female shiba inu for a yearly calendar. His female persona’s calendars are so popular, that he doesn’t have to do any additional work for the rest of the year due to the money makes from this gig. But, he’s aging and the company he works for is trying to pressure him into taking actions in order to keep looking younger, since it’s getting harder to touch up his images. By the end of this story, the reader sees what happens to this character after his secret is revealed. This was kind of an interesting story, although I have to say that with how this shiba inu is designed, there are times where he kind of looks like Legoshi from BEASTARS, and I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t Legoshi.

The third story is titled, “The Crow and the Kangaroo,” and it’s the story that Itagaki says in her author’s note is set before BEASTARS. The characters live in what’s known as “District Zero,” where only creatures who are pure white can live. The citizens make it habit not to leave the district, because they are seen as valuable due to their pure white appearance. A female kangaroo that was born in the district developed spots in an area that can be hidden, but she had to make an arrangement to sleep with anyone who asks in order to remain in the district. A newer resident, a crow named named Ebisu, becomes friends with the kangaroo, and we see how their friendship helps them to find the courage to defy the expectations of the district. This is another story that could have potentially taken a darker turn, but it didn’t. I was glad to see the direction that Itagaki took the ending in.

Next is, “The Steller’s Sea Eagle and the Mongolian Gerbil,” which features a steller’s sea eagle who is so determined not to work, so he lives with a female Mongolian gerbil and provides her transportation to and from work. One day, the gerbil announces that she’s getting married, which catches the bird off-guard. He assumed there was more a relationship between him and the gerbil than there was. He’s also determined not to actually work, that he keeps beginning her not to get married and to continue their current arrangement. The bird is also afraid of thunderstorms, and we see the gerbil trying to work with the bird to help him move past this fear. I have to admit, I find the bird’s motivations to be a little odd, but I appreciated seeing the concept of trying to help someone overcome a fear in this story. And when it comes to the design choice for the female gerbil, I have to say that there are some panels where she almost looks like Haru from BEASTARS, except for the fact that the gerbil’s ears are shorter.

This is followed by “The Chipmunk and the (Mountain Hare).” In this story, a popular writer named Ichijiku is running the risk of missing the deadline for the next chapter of their story in a literary magazine. The story is written from the point of view of a female herbivore, so the expectation is that this fits the description of the author. A new female editor to the magazine is sent to talk to Ichijiku, and what she discovers surprises her. Admittedly, I had guessed this twist before it was revealed, but I hadn’t guessed what would happen afterward. For what happens after the twist, it was a situation that could have gone in a darker direction, but Itagaki turned the situation on its head again. Leading the reader to believe something darker would happen, but then not taking the story in that direction, seemed to be a theme that ran through several of the stories in this volume.

The final story in this compilation is titled, “The Wolf and the Rabbit.” If you couldn’t guess from the title, the main characters are Legoshi and Haru from BEASTARS. I hesitate to talk too much about this story, though, since it’s obviously set after the ending of BEASTARS, and I don’t want to potentially provide spoilers to readers who haven’t finished the manga series. As someone who hasn’t finished BEASTARS yet, I can guarantee that you will get at least one spoiler if you read this short story. Although I’m not going to provide details about this story, what I will say is that I enjoyed it, even if I did end up getting spoiled about something that would have to happen at the end of BEASTARS in order for this story to work.

I don’t know if it’s because I had already read the first volume of Beast Complex, but the stories in this volume didn’t feel nearly as gritty as they did in the first one. Then again, the stories in Beast Complex Volume One were written before Itagaki started BEASTARS, and these were written after, so it could also be chalked up to her writing style changing over time. The tone of the storytelling in Volume Two feels much closer to the BEASTARS manga than the stories that appeared in Volume One did.

When it comes to the art in Beast Complex Volume Two, it looks very much like what readers have come to expect of Itagaki’s style from BEASTARS. But as I mentioned for a couple of the stories, there were characters who looked a little too close to a couple of the main characters in BEASTARS even though they aren’t the same animals as the BEASTARS characters.

If you’ve read the entire series of BEASTARS and want to see more stories set in this world, then I would recommend reading Beast Complex Volume Two. If you haven’t read all of BEASTARS yet, but want to read this manga, then I would suggest waiting to read this one until after finishing BEASTARS.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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