Crunchyroll, which has long underpaid its employees, has currently declared its intent to recast the English dub of Mob Psycho 100 rather than even consider meeting with SAG-AFTRA representatives to discuss unionizing their dubs—this would help actors gain access to things like health insurance, and help make up for lack of residuals. People continue to pressure Crunchyroll to change their stance on social media; we encourage readers who are able to take part.
What’s it about? Beast tamer Rein gets banished form the hero’s party because all he can do is control and communicate with animals. Good thing he meets cat girl Kanade, one of the strongest species in existence, as he rebuilds his life and finds a way to use his unique skills for good.
I am a devout Tamora Pierce fan: a big part of my personality was formed by Daja Kisubo (The Circle Quartet) and Veralidaine Sarrasri (The Immortals Quartet). The former is Black sapphic and a fire-user, capable of working metal with her bare hands. The latter? Well, Veralidaine, or Daine as she’s better known, can bond with animals and change into them. (She also has a fraught age-gap relationship, but… focus on the animals for the moment, okay?)
I bring up the definitely-not-an-anime-creator Tamora Pierce and Daine because Beast Tamer wants you to believe that being able to communicate and utilize animals is the least cool thing ever, at least initially. But whether you were a Horse Girl, a Cat Girl, a Dog Girl, or like me in my AFAB youth, a Bat Girl, you know that this is wrong: you know, instinctively, that actually, being able to be an animorph without the PTSD and horrific animal transformations (that is, being able to relate to animals) is hella cool. It’s the dream come true: how many times have I wanted to grow my own bat wings and take to the night? How many times did I want to echolocate? Let me tell you, it’s a non-zero number for sure, and a part of me still gets a bit giddy at the thought of being able to join bats in their soaring, night flights. The child in me still loves that, and so do many others: it’s the appeal of being into animals and reading narratives where humanity merges with them, be it telepathically or via magical/scientific transformations.
All this primed me to be pretty excited about Beast Tamer’s premiere and everything it might bring to the table this autumnal season. After all, a story that might finally bring the cool factor to making pacts with animals? Wicked.
Or…well, you’ll see.
Episode 1 is brutal. I mean, five seconds in, Rein, out intrepid protag, is fired by the Hero himself. Why? Because controlling animals–or beasts–just can’t measure up to magic or like…a sword. It is the weakest skill, isn’t suitable for combat, and generally just kinda sucks: at least it does before Rein snags himself a cat girl, but that’s for later. Right now, Rein is fired, forlorn, and without hope even though it’s pretty clear from jump that Rein will one day reign over his former party members, pun intended.
Still, this is compelling enough to launch you into the rest of Rein’s new start, wherein a lot of pretty rote tropes happen: he registers as an adventurer, nearly beefs it, and meets said aforementioned cat girl/ultimate species cutie, Kanade. It’s here that he forges a pact with her, setting up the rest of the series as a gotta forge a pact with ‘em all show wherein Rein will likely add a fox girl, a dragon girl, and what I can only imagine are twin bird girls to his party. With luck, it won’t turn into a harem, but the odds feel slim.
Beast Tamer is mediocre. It’s not doing anything interesting, but hey, it doesn’t look bad and so far, no one’s weirdly sexualized (although there are some potentially sketchy implications to the contract system). The music is… okay. The clear romance of Rein and Kanade is… okay. The art style is… okay. The character designs and everything are… okay.
It’s all okay, including the pretty mediocre OP that lacks any slapitude or memorable melodies, and the ED that I think I watched but couldn’t tell you any details about. It’s all okay, in the most neutral way. And there needs to be room for that in anime seasons, especially as they become more bloated and full of way too many shows, to the extent that everything has blurred into anime soup, with very little delineation unless a show becomes a Big Topic on Twitter.
Which is why it’s sad that Beast Tamer is the way it is, at least in regards to its premiere.
This show’s biggest weakness is that it’s just kind of meh. It’s the unseasoned potatoes of anime: filling enough, but with no pizzazz. And like, there’s so much to milk from the concept of a beast tamer: it’s got infinite possibilities to create, iterate, and toy with. To bring it back to Ms. Pierce, there’s a wellspring of ways that Rein’s skills and relationship to animals could develop: he could come to be able to view the world through their eyes, could even learn how to transform into them or gain demi-human attributes. Instead… he gets to make a pact with a cat girl, which isn’t the tasty morsel I’d like to hook me into the larger story.
There’s nothing in existence to convince me that being a beast tamer–or someone who can generally control animals–isn’t the best skill from jump. The ability to ask a bear the help you carry your load? Wicked! A squirrel helping you find goblins to slay? Amazing! The list goes on from there because animals are cool and being in communion with them is even cooler. And perhaps Beast Tamer will lean that way. As of the writing of this review, the light novel series and companion manga haven’t been localized: their chances go up, naturally, because of the anime, but… I’m hesitant as a light novel editor to recommend this series based on my first impression. A curious premise that’s executed in the most bland way.
This is a case where I won;t outright discourage watching, but… I’ll say this: maybe watch this once it’s all out since it’s kinda bland and there’s just better from previous seasons. Granted, Beast Tamer could pick up and become more than the sum of its parts: I’m ready to eat my words at the end of this season. But for now, my suggestion is this: perhaps instead of watching this series, you should go snag yourself copies of Tamora Pierce’s Immortal quartet. I guarantee you’ll get much more feminism, flavor, creativity, and lots of animal friends than Beast Tamer could ever imagine.