Oh, Trigger. Never change.
All right, now that it’s out of Netflix Jail and I’ve had the time to binge through it, time for that quick review I promised! But first let’s get all the formal stuff out of the way.
Kagemori Michiru is a human. At least, that’s what she claims. But one day she suddenly transformed into a beastman. Fleeing to the beastman paradise of Anima City, she’s dedicated to finding a cure for her “Beastman Disease.” But it’s a journey that gets her wrapped up in a world of corporate espionage, political schemes, and religious manipulation as the tensions between beastmen and humans continue to mount.
I found this series to be something fascinating and special. And, man, did it come out at an appropriate time. I’ve seen a lot of people referring to it as “Anime Zootopia,” but that… doesn’t seem particularly accurate. Having seen Zootopia, I can understand the comparison. Using animals to represent human prejudice is a pretty easy allegory. But one thing I find BNA to actually do that Zootopia didn’t is address the problem in a broad scope. One thing I really like about how Trigger tends to handle series like this is they don’t bring things down to a laser focus. They have a topic and explore multiple facets of that topic. The benefit of 12-episode series (around 4 hours of runtime, when compared to Zootopia, at just under half that) is the chance to really expand on your topics and themes.
BNA shows many, many different aspects of racism and its plethora of impacts. Not just in the most glaringly obvious sense, mind, but also the systemic side of things. For example, laws that are clearly designed to oppress a specific group of people with increasingly transparent smokescreens to cover up that fact. It tackles the impact of religion to a marginalized group, as well as the unfortunate reality of people who break the law because the law isn’t on their side to begin with, making them feel backed into a corner. It touches on all of that. And while it doesn’t touch on all of those things with an extreme degree of individual depth, it definitely hits on them and poses strong societal observations.
But this is me, we’re talking about. I don’t really care all that much about the themes unless the story is mechanically capable of carrying them. Well, I’ll let you in on a secret. I only even bring up the themes if I think the story did a particularly good or poor job in delivering them on a mechanical level. And I certainly don’t think it did poorly. I got into this on Twitter, last night, while I was watching the first few episodes. The series has a quasi-episodic approach in its storytelling, but it isn’t episodic. It’s just “Serial-lite,” as I called it in one tweet. There are clear connective threads that run throughout the whole thing. Not just the thematic through-lines, but also actual plot. One thing leads to another, and it builds. It’s like a snowball effect. Until the true turning point of the series where the rubber really hits the road, the plot is slowly picking up steam the entire time. And I think this was a really effective way of letting us get more familiar with the world while also giving us just enough of a glimpse of progression to keep us engaged until things boiled over.
There’s also the matter of the characters. One thing Trigger’s always managed to do for me is come up with really strong principle casts. This is no different. Michiru is great, and flawed in a believably teenager-y way. Shirou is also great as an older and wiser, but deeply troubled character who’s got a lot of growing to do in his own right. The gaggle of side characters are all a lot of fun and while they might come across as “one-note,” I think they still serve as nice little microcosms of the beastman world and its many troubles. The series does become a little murky in regards to its central antagonist, but that’s largely a plot concern. The downside to the plot being executed the way it was is that the central antagonist of the series isn’t given a particularly great amount of time for you to get at the heart of their motivations and whatnot. So it has to all just kind of come out at once. And while it makes sense, it’s the kind of thing that could’ve done with a little more time. Basically, it’s almost the exact same problem that Trigger tends to have with a lot of its villains. Croix in Little Witch Academia and Ragyou in Kill la Kill had somewhat similar problems… and they got a looot more exposure than this one. Though both of those shows are admittedly twice as long.
There’s one scene particularly early on that jumped out at me, but I think I’ll be saving that for a more thorough deep dive, later on. I also want to talk more at-length about the whole “Church of the Silver Wolf” thing, as well as the very concept of Anima City. Because the series had a lot to say about those things and I believe they warrant a more thorough, dedicated look than what I can do in a review meant to summarize my thoughts. Overall, though, it was a really fun series with some expectedly strong insights into its subject matter. Michiru and Shirou’s respective character development was great. Watching Michiru overcome her habit of pre-judging and jumping to conclusions was a really strong arc for a character in her position. And seeing Shirou learn to let go of all that vengeful spite was… cathartic, in a way. The animation is, of course, stellar. But I shouldn’t even need to say that, at this point. It’s Trigger, after all.
Did BNA blow my socks off? Eh. Not really. But it was way fun and met with all of my expectations with very little in the way of glaring narrative issues. At least, the ones it did have was largely negligible. I’d absolutely recommend watching it.
What’d you think of BNA: Brand New Animal? Let us know and don’t be shy about telling me what’s a topic in it you’d like me to look at more closely, in the future! Thanks for reading, as always!
Keep up the Awesome!