I take a look at Netflix’s new story about discrimination. It’s solid.
Humanity is not alone. Since ancient times, the beastkin, humans who can shift into humanoid animal forms, have lived on Earth, but have been hated for as long as anyone can remember. They have finally managed to find refuge in Japan in Anima City, a metropolis built just for them. The newest arrival is Michiru Kagemore (Sumire Morohoshi/Cherami Leigh), a tanuki beastman, who was formerly a normal human high school girl until a year prior. Having grown sick of hiding from humans who now want to harm her, she heads to the city to find a cure for her condition. She gets caught up in a bombing attempt by terrorists and is saved by Shirou Ogami (Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ben Diskin), a wolf beastman with incredible strength and regenerative ability. Soon, Michiru finds herself embroiled in a massive conspiracy involving a large pharmaceutical company, a religious cult, and a beastman mafia.
Unlike most anime shows (at least as far as I have watched), this series was apparently completely original. While there is now a manga and a light novel series in this universe, they both were created after the anime was already developed. I think that may be why the style of animation seems so different from most other modern anime, seemingly pulling more from the style of Scott Pilgrim or other modern Western comics, themselves a blend of techniques, for some of the shots. It’s extremely colorful, containing a lot of day-glo imagery. The fight animations are pretty awesome throughout, although they get a little overblown towards the end of the series with the neon colors. Bottom line, the style may be what draws you to it or it may repulse you. It’s gonna depend on what kind of “purist” you are. Personally, I thought it was fine.
The overarching theme of this show is discrimination, something that most animal-themed media seem to want to talk about nowadays. However, while Beastars and Zootopia both had some issues due to the nature of their societies being based around carnivores and herbivores, this series eschews that complication entirely. Deer beastmen can eat meat, lions can be vegetarians, they’re just regular people who were also born with these abilities. As such, they can stand in for almost any group that faces discrimination based on their birth. Throughout BNA, we see a buildup of violence among the beastmen that causes them to lash out, but the show subtly indicates that it’s because too many of them live in too small a space. In other words, if they weren’t forced to live in a refuge city because of discrimination, they wouldn’t be violent, but their oppressors use the violence as justification to keep them suppressed. If you can’t find a metaphor there, then I recommend reading up on history between 1930 and 1965. Any country, really.
The reason why the message works so well in BNA is because the main character goes through a massive amount of personal growth and discovery throughout the storyline. Michiru was a regular human until shortly before the story begins, meaning that while she might have been aware of the bias against beastmen, it was not “real” to her in the way that it is after she becomes one. She, like most people, seemed to perceive Anima City as a utopia for Beastmen, only realizing afterwards that it basically exists only at the mercy of the humans, who constantly threaten to remove financial funding or business or, really, just blow it the hell up. Then, at the end of the series, we find out that there is a very powerful group who just want to “cure” all of the beastmen and damned if that doesn’t have a number of historical nasty parallels as well.
Overall, just a solid series. It’s pretty accessible to almost any age group and, like I said, it handles the metaphor better than most shows.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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