ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Beastars,’ Volume 8

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Beastars Volume 8

Looking to continue the Beastars journey after binging the Netflix original anime? Then look no further than VIZ Media‘s English publication of Beastars Volume 8 from mangaka Paru Itagaki. The last volume marked the entry point to dive into after season one of the anime and now we get to see the dynamics of herbivores and carnivores in the scariest place: The Black Market. In volume 7, we saw Legoshi fight who he believes is Tem’s killer, barely survive, and Louis became the leader of the Shishigumi, a gang of lions who kidnapped Haru in earlier chapters.

Now, in Beastars Volume 8, gray wolf Legoshi begins his training with giant panda Gohin in order to better protect his friends from the killer he now knows is still very much on the campus of Cherryton High. But in doing this, he faces an ethical paradox when he is told he must eat meat to grow more powerful. In order to protect the herbivores, Legoshi begins to train his body to not respond to his natural instincts: to eat meat. By practicing exposure and abstaining from the food in front of him, he builds up the ability to suppress his instincts but, this leaves him weak in certain ways and forces him to adapt to his body’s new strengths.

Through Legoshi’s training and Gohin’s efforts to rehabilitate the meat-crazed carnivores, Itagaki begins to add more context to nature, nurture, and the rules of Beastars’ society. This further explores the carnivore and herbivore dynamic but, more importantly, it pushes the series away from its high school setting and into the adult and dangerous world. Now, there is still a semblance of high school life, specifically as we watch Legoshi’s grades drop, his interactions with the drama club, and of course, catch up on his and Haru’s relationship. That said, it isn’t the focus, and instead, the adult world of eat or be eaten is.

This is also shown through red deer Louis’ part in the story. In an act that blurs the strict lines of herbivores and carnivores, he is committed to choking down the flesh of beasts to maintain his status as the leader of a carnivorous lion gang, and he feels betrayed seeing Legoshi carry a bag of meat.

The most interesting element of world-building to happen in Beastars Volume 8 is the way that Itagaki takes us into the other elements of carnivore instincts: sex. This is the most adult volume of the series so far and that’s because we enter a strip club. Shown through the perspective of one of the herbivore dancers, this section of the volume does a good job of showing herbivores as capable of agency, making choices to survive. But, Itagaki doesn’t lose sight of the inherent dangers carnivores pose. The dancer performs in a cage for her own safety. She pushes away Louis, stating that she hates herbivores who shame her and pity her alike. And then, she winds up as prey.

Itagaki’s world is immersive and it just keeps expanding. While some may write off Beastars because it’s focused on anthropomorphized animals, those who give the series a chance will see how deep and dark the narrative is. Itagaki plays with established tropes from romance, to slice of life, and now to Yakuza stories, and she does so with purpose. Beastars Volume 8 is another fantastic volume for a story that has no intention of slowing down.

Beastars Volume 8 is available from booksellers on September 15, 2020.

Beastars Volume 8 
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TL;DR

Itagaki’s world is immersive and it just keeps expanding. While some may write off Beastars because it’s focused on anthropomorphized animals, those who give the series a chance will see how deep and dark the narrative is. Itagaki plays with established tropes from romance, to slice of life, and now to Yakuza stories, and she does so with purpose. Beastars Volume 8 is another fantastic volume for a story that has no intention of slowing down.