That’s a hell of a title, huh?
Beastars is a fantastic anime, and I’m sure I’m months late to talking about how amazing it is compared to everybody else, so I’ll keep the opinion on the show itself short. Please note that as I talk about this topic, it’s with knowledge of only the anime, so maybe the manga is different.
Beastars is nothing new to the mainstream. When people say it’s basically rated R Zootopia, they aren’t lying. The themes, world building, and even main character dynamics are rather similar.
What I find fascinating about Beastars and Zootopia was the choice to portray the subject of discrimination using anthropomorphic animals. Perhaps there is something to be said about how discrimination is such an alien concept to people who have no such biases. Perhaps the only way we can understand and overcome these issues is by exaggerating the issue to its foregone conclusion, which is making the discrimination based on instinctual and genetic differences. What do we do if our differences are TRULY not just on the surface, but scientifically true biological differences?
A wolf is a wolf in the Beastars and Zootopia universe. A rabbit is a rabbit as well. It’s not as simple as a human with differently colored skin and a history of oppression. Herbivores and carnivores once had hatred for each other because carnivores once upon a time ate herbivores. Their lies a primal savagery in them that cannot be set aside. If we were to take this story literally, then it’s easy to say that the herbivores are correct. The carnivores need to be controlled and treated with caution, if not outright scorn for their past.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, are herbivores then accepting their fate as the weak, always on the precipice of a violent revolution by their “stronger” kin, the carnivores? Which brings me to what I believe the true point of Zootopia and Beastars. It is not about any particular race, or really, about species.
It’s about the concept of nature vs nurture.
It is within a wolf’s nature to hunt, stalk and kill. Does that mean that wolves are inherently predisposed to be hunters? If this universe were literal wolves with no higher thinking, then yes. However, the Beastars and Zootopia universe are unique in that they are populated by animals that are basically of human intelligence. The troubles of human intelligence is the realization that “Holy shit, I’m actually affecting the world”.
The way it was before, before a civilized and peaceful world, simply doesn’t work anymore. In fact, it’s possible that some hate this part of themselves for being there. In that, I can see the age old debate of “Is man inherently evil?”, but I thought no, that can’t be it. If the question of Beastars and Zootopia was fighting against your evil nature, then the implication is that the herbivores are free of flaws. That would be a disrespect to the herbivores as individuals.
Rouis’ character arc in this series isn’t one of confronting evil. It is confronting weakness. In my opinion, the true message of Beastars is “Can a person overcome who they are?”.
It’s more or less about the inherent struggle of people and their identity, which racism can cause. The herbivores have lead themselves to believe that they are inherently weak and in danger from the likes of carnivores. On the other end of the spectrum, many carnivores consider themselves slaves to their public personas. More to the point, they are slaves to their inherent bloodlust. It’s a binary example of people being slaves to “what’s in their nature.”
I’m a wolf, so I have to hunt.
I had a bad family, so maybe I should be bad too.
And so on and so forth.
The core message of Beastars isn’t really about race, but of human nature. It’s about the constant struggle to be more than what you are, despite genetics and environment not really being with you on that journey. I’ve always believed looking at the topic of racism in Zootopia and Beastars as purely cosmetic was ridiculous in the first place, because in both universes, the stereotypes definitely have foundation in truth. The racism is more due to their conflict throughout history. It’s comparable to countries that endured war with each other for hundreds of years then suddenly being forced to cooperate.
This is why I was always bothered by people trying to find 1:1 comparisons with real life cases of racism and Beastars, because it’s simply not the case. There isn’t any one race IRL that can be an exact representation of carnivores and herbivores, because EVERY single one of us has a chance of being either or both.
TL;DR People are complex and we should be tolerant of them, yo