One interesting tidbit about Studio Orange’s anime adaptation of BEASTARS is that while Paru Itagaki’s manga kicked off with the predation incident that saw Tem get eaten, the anime starts off with Haru and Legoshi’s first meeting. Purely on a structural level, this makes BEASTARS season 1 into a much more polished story, given that it is largely about Haru and Legoshi’s relationship. In turn, the fact that the predation incident plays second fiddle leads perfectly into BEASTARS season 2, which finally solves the mystery of who ate the poor sheep and why.
That being said, BEASTARS season 2 is not just about the mystery behind Tem’s murder. Rather, it is a sequel in every sense of the word: continuing not only the story but also the development of our characters and the respective paths that they’ve taken. Paru Itagaki’s manga is just as much of a character study as it is anything else, so it’s good that Studio Orange didn’t change any of this.
Everything good about the first season gets better, with very little to complain about along the way.
When we last left off with our loveable anthropomorphic animals, things were hardly hunky dory. Louis had plunged into the dark side by killing the leader of the Shishigumi, Legoshi had rejected Juno in favor of Haru, and his evening encounter with the dwarf rabbit didn’t exactly go according to plan. Much of the first episode is dedicated to recapping those facts, but from episode 2 onwards, it’s all new material.
Unfortunately, not all of our characters get a chance to shine in BEASTARS season 2. For the most part, Haru and Juno are left on the sidelines, mainly because the focus is squarely on Louis and Legoshi. Don’t worry, though, because both of these characters will get development in the future: Juno, in particular, takes a turn that anime-only fans might not expect.
In any case, it’s probably no surprise to hear that Legoshi is the focus this time around. He’s the main character, after all, but what about Louis? This arc in the manga, commonly referred to as the ‘Murder Incident Solution,’ was probably most readers’ first indication that BEASTARS was actually a tale of two protagonists, which is something that season 2 of the anime captures beautifully. The grey wolf and the red deer are given practically equal screen time.
I don’t actually view this as a spoiler, but some of you might. If you want to go into BEASTARS season 2 completely blind, I would recommend skipping over this paragraph and the next: after killing the leader of the Shishigumi, Louis ends up becoming their boss. Why? Because the world of the back alley market is changing, and making a herbivore the face of the lion gang might get them to adapt. That’s what Ibuki thinks, anyway.
Looking at it more broadly, Louis’ newly found status as the boss of the Shishigumi fits in perfectly with his journey as a character. After Haru was captured by them and the authorities were powerless to do anything, he realized just how ineffective operating within the law could be: what good would becoming a Beastar do if the system couldn’t even protect the one he loves? To draw a comparison, it’s a bit like Sasuke’s journey in Naruto, except without the added baggage.
You could also say the same about Legoshi. In BEASTARS season 2, he continues his journey from awkward adolescent to confident young man, propelled above all else by his love for Haru. His main task is to solve the mystery behind Tem’s murder, given to him by Rokume, but it’s all still about ‘taking responsibility’ for his strength (to use Louis’ phrase) and finding a use for it. Just like season 1, he discovers that he doesn’t mind embracing his instincts if it means protecting the one he loves.
Given that the series is not yet available outside of Japan on Netflix, I don’t want to talk too much about probably the biggest spoiler of all: who exactly killed Tem and why. Nevertheless, suffice it to say that it’s satisfying: attempting to solve a mystery after so many years (two, to be precise) always courts the risk of disappointment, but that’s not the case in BEASTARS season 2. In terms of both characterization and themes, it makes sense.
Some new characters also serve to vary the roster. Pina the sheep is delightful in his fabulousness and complete inability to read the room, mainly stemming from his obsession with romance. Ibuki the lion also makes a compelling father figure to Louis, and Riz the bear sure does make some delicious-looking food.
Overall, the fact that BEASTARS season 2 is very good mainly stems from the fact that the part of the original manga that it adapts is also, well, very good. The first two arcs in particular suffer from a lack of focus and some rough art, hence why so many changes were made for season 1.
That’s not the case this time around, meaning that very few changes are made. There’s a bit of cut content here and there, for sure, but the adaptation also somehow found the time to adapt the short but effective story about ‘Beastbook’ and Shiela the cheetah’s struggle to relate to herbivores. That could have easily been cut, so it’s significant that it wasn’t: Studio Orange is dedicated to capturing what makes this story so great, even if it means moving away from the main narrative for a moment.
Still, BEASTARS season 2 was saddled for me somewhat with the unfortunate memory of how the manga’s final arc turned out, leaving many questions unanswered and some plot points unaddressed. If there’s one positive thing about Studio Orange’s anime adaptation from the point of view of a manga reader it’s the fact it made me realize how much I love this series, all over again.
That’s the true magic of adaptation.
BEASTARS season 2 comes to Netflix worldwide this July.