One of the hottest manga right now is Paru Itagaki’s BEASTARS, which won the Manga Taisho last year and is now set to receive an anime adaptation by Studio Orange this October. Itagaki’s manga, which follows protagonist Legosi’s school days in a society made up entirely of anthropomorphic animals, has garnered attention because of its unique premise and setting. Yet Itagaki argues that it never would have succeeded without the proliferation of Disney around the world.
In a new interview with Comic Natalie to promote the upcoming Japanese release of the Tim Burton-directed live-action Dumbo film, Itagaki discussed how Disney animated movies have influenced her as an artist. She professed that she used to watch lots of VHS tapes of older Disney movies with her siblings and had fond memories of a certain Dumbo plush. Considering that many animated Disney movies feature anthropomorphised characters, perhaps it’s no wonder that a childhood obsession with Disney would then lead to Itagaki’s professional career, in turn, revolving around a world of anthropomorphised characters.
Not only were Disney films hugely influential for Itagaki as a creator, but without them, Itagaki argues that BEASTARS would never have been able to take off in the first place. She refers to the “Disney gene,” saying that because so many people have grown up with Disney films, we don’t feel find fictional worlds with anthropomorphic animals in them strange. In this sense, you could say that these films have affected us on a subconscious level.
While Disney movies certainly aren’t the only factor out there that have contributed to our ready acceptance of anthropomorphic characters – for me and many others, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise was also important – it’s hard to dispute Itagaki’s argument. We can’t measure the impact that Disney movies have had on us subconsciously, but the ready success of BEASTARS is perhaps one example of that. But we shouldn’t discount Itagaki’s own talent either; I’m sure that plenty of others have tried to create the same type of story as her only to fail, after all.
In any case, what do you think? Would BEASTARS be as successful as it is now without the proliferation of Disney? I’d love to hear what you think via social media or our Discord server (which you can find below).