REVIEW: ‘Beast Complex,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Beast complex

Beast Complex is a collection of six short stories that set the scene for the best-selling Beastars series. As Paru Itagaki’s first work before Beastars, Beast Complex offers up a look into the series that we haven’t seen yet. In the six stories, we get the chance to see different pairings of carnivores and herbivores as they grapple with conflicts.

Beast Complex is published in English by VIZ Media, translated by Tomo Kimura, with an English adaptation by Annette Roman, and features touch-up art & lettering by Susan Daigle-Leach.  The entirety of this volume is to showcase not only the differences between herbivores and carnivores but also how they find common ground. The relationships highlighted in Beast Complex span from antagonistic, loving, friendship, and everything in between.

By focusing on a new pair in each chapter (with a couple of familiar faces sprinkled in) we get the chance to explore the world of Beastars from a different perspective. While the world of the series is expanding with the main volume releases we still have only two perspectives, from Legoshi and Louis. While that’s good, and we get the herbivore/carnivore dynamic, neither of those characters are “normal.” Both of them transgress boundaries established by their society. With Beast Complex, however, we get to look at more “ordinary” characters. You know, the ones not imbued with some specific sense of duty like Legoshi. Instead, we get to see scary and tender moments that just happen in a world where carnivores and herbivores live together, and that includes a lot of devourings.

Some of the relationships consist of a tiger and a beaver, a camel and a wolf, a bat and a lion, a kangaroo and a black panther, a crocodile and a gazelle, and a fox and a chameleon. While all of these relationships bring forward elements that look at the way society is established in the world of Beastars we also get to see types of species that haven’t really come into play just yet in the main volumes (currently on volume 11).

For the tiger and the beaver, they have to defy peer pressure and fight for justice, oh and they do it as kids. Then there is the camel journalist who passed judgment on carnivores for years spends a life-changing night with a seductive wolf. And one of the weirdest with a crocodile and a gazelle who must find a way to work together as chef and assistant on a cooking show with flagging ratings. And another one of note serves as a deeper look into not just how we see others but how those assumptions show us as well when a fox and a chameleon wrestle with stereotypes about each other.

The fact that Beast Complex gives us reptiles, a flying mammal, and a gigantic size difference, we get the chance to see more of just how everything works. While this is because of how well Itagaki writes her characters, it’s also because of how she brings them to life in illustrations. Anthropomorphizing each animal in a way that retains their distinct qualities, but bringing out enough humans to draw an empathetic thread between the reader and the character.

Overall, Beast Complex isn’t necessary reading, but it’s a damn good addition. As American fans of the series eagerly await season 2 of the anime and for volumes already released in Japan, Beast Complex offers a nice bit of reading to scratch the itch.

Beast Complex Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.

Beast Complex Volume 1
4.5

TL;DR

Overall, Beast Complex isn’t necessary reading, but it’s a damn good addition. As American fans of the series eagerly await season 2 of the anime and for volumes already released in Japan, Beast Complex offers a nice bit of reading to scratch the itch.