Chiaki, Lizzie, and Mercedez take a look back at Studio TRIGGER’s over-the-top furry rights anime, BNA!
Date Recorded: July 21st, 2020
Host: Chiaki, Lizzie, Mercedez
0:07:45 Coming out
0:10:21 Homogenization in civil rights movements
0:13:31 Use of racial themes and imagery
0:18:27 Nina and portrayals of beast women
0:26:41 Baseball bears and failure to challenge racial stereotypes
0:37:23 Nazuna and the cult
0:43:00 Michiru, Nazuna, and women’s empowerment
0:49:15 Jackie’s gender
0:52:28 The last two episodes
0:59:28 Final thoughts
CHIAKI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Chiaki, one of the editors for AniFem. You can find me at @Chiaki747 or @AnimatedEmpress on Twitter. Today we’ve got a solid crew here, with two of our latest additions to our team, Lizzie and Mercedez. Why don’t you introduce yourselves?
MERCEDEZ: I guess I’ll go first. My name is Mercedez. And like Chiaki said, I’m one of the newest additions to AniFem. I am a freelance writer, freelance transcriptionist. I do a little bit of Japanese-to-English translation. And you can find me on Twitter @pixelatedlenses. Yeah. [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: Awesome. I’m also the newest member on Anime Feminist. I’m Lizzie Visitante. You can find me on Twitter @LizzieVisitante, and I have a website, also at the same name. What do I do? I do mostly critical analysis pieces and just overall like to talk about anime.
CHIAKI: All right. And so today—thank you for joining me—we are going to talk about our latest favorite anime, I guess, BNA: Brand New Animal.
MERCEDEZ: I’m so excited!
LIZZIE: Me too.
MERCEDEZ: I’m so excited. Where is my fursona? I want it now!
CHIAKI: [Chuckles] So, yeah, BNA is about Michiru, a raccoon or tanuki—depending on who you want to side with, her or the rest of beastkind—trying to become human again after being weirdly transformed into a furry and all the crazy things that happen throughout Anima City, what is supposedly a safe haven to beastkind.
And the reason why we’re covering it is, it does get messy at spots, but a lot of the show hits a lot of very pertinent issues about oppression, race, racism, religion, gender. It’s a lot. And strangely enough, it is only 12 episodes long.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, they do a lot in 12 episodes, don’t they?
LIZZIE: They really do. It was 12 episodes, but it’s so energetic. So many things are happening so fast. Sometimes I did find it difficult to breathe a little, especially for the characters. I feel like they never get a break because something’s always happening, even in the next scene, episode, whatever. It was fun to watch, though. I never got bored.
MERCEDEZ: It was really enjoyable. It was really enjoyable.
CHIAKI: Let’s cover a little bit about the show itself. So, BNA is made by TRIGGER, from the creators of Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia, of which it’s directed by Yo Yoshinari of Little Witch Academia and it’s written by Kazuki Nakashima, who wrote Kill la Kill, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Promare. So, a lot of good shows that people have a lot of opinions about.
MERCEDEZ: And BNA has some big Promare energy. It’s got very big Promare energy in a lot of ways.
LIZZIE: It definitely reminded me of Gurren Lagann a little bit in terms of how energetic all the characters are and how vibrant the animation was. There’s never a moment anybody took a break. So that’s fun.
CHIAKI: Mm-hm. And I’m not particularly a major TRIGGER anime fan per se, but from what I understand, it kind of builds as a typical TRIGGER anime, as in it keeps building and building and building and building and building and building.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah.
LIZZIE: Yeah. And they don’t stop. They keep going.
CHIAKI: So, let’s hear a little bit about your personal history and general feelings with this show. You want to go first, Lizzie?
LIZZIE: Sure. What I thought about the show ultimately was… At first, it was a lot of fun. I mean, there was not a moment that I was bored. But definitely, I think the messaging was really, really mixed. So, I have some complicated feelings about what the show was trying to say. And there were a couple of plot holes I noticed as well, I guess because they had more important things to explain.
But yeah, that’s initially what I thought of it. I mean, definitely, we can go into all those things about what about the show was messy in a second.
MERCEDEZ: I share a lot of the same thoughts. Definitely, I would say the last arc is pretty messy. But it has that kind of TRIGGER buildup of something happening that you don’t expect. But really, overall, I actually really quite liked it.
I think it’s nice to have Michiru as the main character. She’s a really interesting character to view everything that’s happening in the series through. I really just liked a lot of it. I felt like a lot of it hit on a lot of very pertinent things. I mean, I know that there was no way that TRIGGER knew 2020 was going to happen, but a lot of it is really quite pertinent and, I think, pretty well executed.
Yeah, I just liked it. I just really liked it. It was really good. It was really fun. It was really heartfelt. Yeah. Messy but good.
LIZZIE: Yeah, I really want the art on a mug. I just want that art all over my wall, the ending theme art. It’s just so pretty.
CHIAKI: Oh, man. Yeah, that was actually apparently outsourced to a Western… I’m not sure if it was an American or Canadian. I know the lead artist is Vancouver, I think, or Toronto.
LIZZIE: Ooh. Ooh.
MERCEDEZ: That ending art was beautiful.
LIZZIE: So pretty!
MERCEDEZ: It was so good.
CHIAKI: Yeah, no, it definitely caught my attention to the show. Just saying here, I am a full-fledged furry. For the last four or five years, I’ve just embraced it. I’m a cat on the internet. Whatever. But this show really just kicked it into overdrive for me, as far as how furry I am in presentation.
MERCEDEZ: I’m not gonna lie. I want to swan-dive into the furry fandom after this.
LIZZIE: I’m gonna confess, I am a furry as well. You heard it here, folks, on Anime Feminist.
MERCEDEZ: Between Beastars earlier this year, which made me think, “Hm,” BNA, it just embraced me. Embrace me. I’m here and I’m ready for it. It’s so good. It’s so good!
LIZZIE: I love the animation in Beastars, but we could talk about that in another podcast.
MERCEDEZ: All I’m gonna say is I’m glad everyone who’s a furry is getting their year of anime.
CHIAKI: Absolutely. And manga, too.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] We matter. We matter.
MERCEDEZ: Live your truth, feathers and all. Well, I guess feathers technically aren’t…
CHIAKI: Feathers, scales… It’s all good.
MERCEDEZ: I’m new. I’m learning.
CHIAKI: But yeah, no, for me, that’s primarily why I started watching, because it’s a furry show and I really like furry animals, animals and characters.
But what really caught me was definitely the social justice angle I think it was trying to take, all the—as you said—pretty messy at parts but also very pertinent and interesting references, that I sometimes go, “Wait. Y’all actually included that reference here?” There were moments where I’m like, wow, this thing is kind of really woke.
MERCEDEZ: I don’t know if either one of you all saw Promare?
LIZZIE: I haven’t yet because—I want to, but it hasn’t been accessible to me. It was nowhere near.
MERCEDEZ: So, removing spoilers from it, it follows a lot of what Promare tried to do with speaking to social injustice. But I feel like BNA pulls off a lot of it and is very aware, which is definitely in its favor. It’s really quite aware at some times. Ah, God, it’s just so good! It’s just so good!
LIZZIE: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot to unpack because the show really throws a lot of allegory for us to pick apart and want to dive in deeper. For me, it was a migratory bird.
LIZZIE: Yeah, what was the bird’s name? Pinga?
LIZZIE: Yeah, for Pinga… For me, what really brought to mind for me was this whole thing about issues about civil rights movements. When you want to homogenize experiences, oftentimes specific realities are ignored, like when you think of the LGBTQ movement when it excluded trans women or QT BIPOC folks—what I mean by BIPOC is black, indigenous POC; QT, queer and trans—or the women’s rights movement, where it was very much white women–centric, especially if you look at the suffrage movement, and did not take account women of color, et cetera.
So it made me think about that, Pinga’s whole story arc, because when they got human rights, all of a sudden their right to freely fly across the world was taken away because now they have to stop at borders, get checked in.
CHIAKI: Yeah. And for me, that was the moment where I was like, “Wow, you actually included that.” Because borders are fake. That’s a thing that a lot of people who have had migratory traditions or in the past settled in a whole vast swath of area but have been separated or segregated because of political forces that are beyond their control… That was like, “Wow, you actually referenced that? In an anime?”
MERCEDEZ: When BNA is on it, it’s really on it. And I like that it doesn’t sugarcoat the issues of borders or the issues of discrimination. There’s nothing gentle about it, because in reality those things aren’t softened. I really, really like that. It just kind of puts it out there, and it’s like, yeah, this is something that in this world people have to suffer with.
And I thought it was really interesting, because right now in our world Japan is dealing with border issues. So, for this anime set in Japan, talking about borders when real-life Japan is struggling with that, I was like, “Ooh! Wow. BNA knows what’s up.”
LIZZIE: Yeah. And it probably also goes into that whole rhetoric about nationalism and all the problems that come with that.
CHIAKI: So, just going into that, then, we can talk a little bit about how some of these issues come up in BNA. And overall, it just seems throughout the show that being a beastman in a human world kind of sucks.
LIZZIE: It really does, yeah.
CHIAKI: There are so many things that the show really captures. As you said, it goes in hard. Human trafficking, poverty…
LIZZIE: Misogyny as well.
CHIAKI: Misogyny, yeah.
LIZZIE: Forced experimentation as well. They mention that.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, the forced experimentation especially. Mm-hm.
CHIAKI: I feel like when they brought that up and then laid it over the Holocaust, I was one of those people who felt a little concerned, like “Do you really want to go there?”
MERCEDEZ: I was very anxious when they did that, also. There’s plenty of examples in anime where the Holocaust or World War II has been used. The one that ironically came to mind was A Centaur’s Life, where they used it and it was this really not good table setting.
I feel like somehow BNA actually kind of pulled off integrating it into the storyline a lot better than it could have been. Because I feel like actually what it showed was that beastmen have always been—it kind of paralleled real life with minorities—beastmen have always been here, and they’ve always had to deal with these really horrible conditions.
And I actually felt like it wasn’t perfectly integrated but it actually kind of gave some consideration to… you know, World War II is something that is still a problem that we deal with in real society.
I have to give credit to TRIGGER. It could have gone one of two ways, and it thankfully went the good one, where it wasn’t just this shock value thing.
LIZZIE: And yeah, definitely I was really concerned about… because I feel like the Holocaust is always… the imagery of that has always been, I think, at some point overused. But I get the point that BNA was trying to make about how beastmen… in the context of the show, they’re not seen as human.
And you bring that back to real-world issues, that, yeah, unfortunately, the bodies of marginalized people at some points in history have not been seen as human. You bring up issues of scientific racism or forced sterilizations. There are so many examples of that all over the world. Or even the Tuscany project.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, the Tuskegee?
LIZZIE: Yeah, thank you. You said it better than I’m pronouncing things. But yeah, so, I get what they were trying to go for, but I’m not sure… It just kind of stopped there and didn’t do much with it.
MERCEDEZ: I was gonna say, that was kind of my problem. It could have actually been a really powerful thing, but it’s just dropped. It’s the mayor. The mayor is the one who brings it up, right? She mentions that, I believe, she was in a camp. And I kind of wanted them to bring that full circle, because it’s brought up and then it just gets dropped because the plot, just very soon after, goes in a very different direction.
I suppose I was just thankful that they didn’t misuse what for a lot of people is a very painful narrative.
LIZZIE: Yeah. And I feel like that’s the issue with BNA. They bring up a really good point, but then they kind of just drop it. Like when they mention in the earlier part of the series, “Oh, misogyny exists,” but they don’t do much with it.
I mean, the only positive representation of beastmen that we see is the mayor. Michiru… I want to count her, but she was a human that turned into a beast via injection. But there’s not a lot of really good positive representation by actual beastwomen. Just the mayor. I’m not sure if I can count the bunny grandma who did human trafficking.
MERCEDEZ: I was gonna say, Bunny Grandma is not— [Laughs]
LIZZIE: Yeah, no, you cannot.
CHIAKI: Gram Grandma… You cannot say Gram Grandma is a good person or rabbit by any measure, given…
LIZZIE: Yeah. And that’s kind of what I mean about the leadership. In terms of positive representation, it’s just the mayor, and that’s it. Bunny Grandma’s there, but she’s a villain and trash.
MERCEDEZ: I mean, look, because she’s my favorite, I’ll say that Nina is some pretty interesting female representation. But that might be because I really, really like Nina and I liked her entire episode.
CHIAKI: I like Nina in the sense that she’s a very uplifting and hopeful character. I’m glad that she maintains hope for human and beastkind to coexist and continue to hold frank exchange. But she’s definitely a kid. And she ultimately, just like Michiru, is a kid who has never been around real beastpeople. She herself is a beastperson who has never been around humans, so she’s very naïve, and I think both characters have a lot to still learn at that point.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that might be actually why I like Nina, because Nina felt very much so like how a lot of young… I almost called [them] “young people.” Does that make me sound old? The Teenagers? I think that’s how a lot of people who are encountering racism for the first time outside of their environment… I felt so bad for Nina. I cried. I cried when they put her in that water tank. I was just like, “Oh, no, this is not gonna end well! This is not good.”
CHIAKI: I get that. I get that.
LIZZIE: I was so sad. But I did appreciate that Michiru felt really uncomfortable at that party. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but when she saw Nina be put into that tank, that’s when she was like, “Yo!”
She’s such a good girl. I love that she got Nina out of that mess. I don’t know. I wish she said more to the humans who treated Nina like a spectacle, but…
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. I think too, though, sometimes the reality is you’re a person of color in a really weird situation and you don’t know what to say; you just want to get away. And I actually kind of like that that’s the route they took, because that felt like a lived experience.
Yeah, sometimes you’re a woman or you’re someone who identifies as a woman and you’re also a minority, and you just want to get out of there. You don’t want to be around. Even if there is something that you could say, you’re afraid. And it felt like two teenagers, two kids who really just didn’t know what to do. And I kind of like that.
CHIAKI: I’ve definitely been in a party situation like that, where I’m a person of color just standing there. I don’t feel totally comfortable there, but I start to approach someone and I talk to them, and suddenly they start saying really, really crazy things. And I’m like, “Right! Okay. Well, I’m gonna be over here now and realizing that I have to be home now. I gotta wash my hair. Bye.” [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: Yeah. Yeah, being in those environments where you experience a lot of microaggression can really take its toll on you, especially if you’re a marginalized person. In a lot of spaces I’ve been in, there’s always been a lot of white folks who’ve made jokes, ethnic jokes that I’m supposed to consider funny, but it’s not, right? And you often have to do awkward ways to get out of the situation and be like, “This isn’t my space. I’m just here for work.”
But I like how real it was for when Michiru felt that discomfort. She didn’t understand why she felt uncomfortable, but later in the scene we see why that is.
CHIAKI: But I think if you have a fairly good understanding of entering a quote-unquote “allyship” space like that party that Nina and Michiru wind up in, the red flags are there from the very beginning.
MERCEDEZ: It was pretty well telegraphed how bad this was gonna go from the start. I mean, gosh, Nina, you sweet baby angel. You little cute dum-dum!
LIZZIE: Aw! [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: But watching it, I was like, “Oh, wow, I have absolutely been this dolphin beastwoman before,” because she walks into the party and the moment she reveals who she is, everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh! We got a beastwoman!” And then they put her in that tank, because they’re like, “Oh, Nina needs to get refreshed.” And they put her in that tank, and for a moment I was like, “Have none of them looked up what real-world dolphins do? Did they not take biology class?”
LIZZIE: And even prior to that, they make her go into a pool and have her do flips for them.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. That scene falls just short of them throwing her a fish.
CHIAKI: The fact that this whole sequence takes place in a beastman-themed party… For me, when I first saw it, I immediately said, “Oh, it’s like that time when the one Asian kid shows up at the China-themed frat party and everyone’s like, ‘Yeah! Cool! We got a real Asian here!’” It’s like, “No!”
LIZZIE: Damn. Those frat boys.
MERCEDEZ: But that is absolutely the vibe, though. Nina shows up, they’ve all got their cheap, “they clearly went to the 100-yen shop” mask on, and then Nina shows up and they just go wild, and they’re like, “Oh, we got one! We have our token beastwoman.”
LIZZIE: [Deadpan] Hooray.
MERCEDEZ: That whole scene is really when I was firmly hooked on BNA, because Michiru does… she demonstrates this real, genuine, like she can’t put her finger on it, discomfort, and it just really sets up everything that happens after, with her having to deal with “I’m a human, but I have this mixed-race heritage now. How do I deal with the fact that I was born into the group that’s oppressing the people that I’m now a group of?”
And it’s just really interesting. It’s just really quite interesting. And yeah, I cannot express how much I like the show. [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: Yeah, it’s just so much fun. I think I resonated with my favorite tired dad, Shiro. I was like [sighs].
LIZZIE: I was like [sighs]. In the first episode, I was like, “You’re tired. I’m tired. I like this show.” I related to his tiredness.
CHIAKI: Speaking of things that got me fully on board the show… I was pretty on board the show, but what really sold me about this show… Let’s talk about… Da Bears!
MERCEDEZ: Oh my God!
MERCEDEZ: Oh my God. It’s so good.
LIZZIE: The Bears.
MERCEDEZ: It’s so good.
LIZZIE: Bears. Are we talking about the baseball Bears?
CHIAKI: The baseball, yeah.
MERCEDEZ: That whole baseball episode… inexplicably hilarious at so many moments.
LIZZIE: The dodos were not meant to survive anything.
MERCEDEZ: I felt so bad. I was just like, “Oh, it never ends well for them. It just never ends. No help.”
LIZZIE: Never ends. Never. Nothing. This show had to remind us that dodos are just not meant to survive in nothing.
CHIAKI: At least they—
MERCEDEZ: It was such a fun episode.
CHIAKI: They lasted longer than real dodos, though, because, I guess, 2020…
MERCEDEZ: You know what? They did. They got a couple hundred years. Because dodos went extinct in the…
CHIAKI: Late 1800s.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. So yeah, they got a few extra 100 years. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good. Yeah, that whole baseball episode where the point is you murder each other while playing baseball was really, really funny. Because it came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it to be literal murderball.
LIZZIE: And that’s kind of funny, too. Michiru at first is forcefully joined because she sees that it means something to them if they win the game. But the moment it was offered that they’re going to get paid if they lose a game, the whole dynamic changed.
But I don’t blame them. I mean, they’re poor. They want money to survive. It was just kind of funny because Michiru was… I feel like her emotions were all over the place in that episode.
But it also kind of confuses me, though, because later on, we find out why beastpeople go wild or whatnot. So wouldn’t poverty cause stress? So wouldn’t you do something about that? I don’t know.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, once the big reveal of “there’s a genetic factor that stress makes beastmen go wild,” I did kind of think, “But there’s a lot of beastmen in Anima City that are living in incredibly stressful situations. Do you mean to tell me that they’re just okay?” [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: Yeah, that doesn’t make sense to me at all. And then eventually, because there’s a lot of stereotypes associated with the beastmen… And I hate that the show for the most part doesn’t really do anything to challenge those notions. Most of the time those stereotypes are proven right.
“Oh, they’re uncivilized.” “Oh, they’re emotional.” Or “oh, they’re all these things and therefore, they should not coexist with humans and they have to just disappear.” I’m like, “Okay, I’m not comfortable with this message.”
CHIAKI: Yeah, that really hit me, especially with the baseball episode, because you had Dante the washed-up coach who is actually the first beastman baseball player in a human league, according to canon. He used to be in the baseball leagues, but then he got kicked out for going berserk and slaughtering half his team on accident. And I got some Jackie Robinson vibes from him.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, I was gonna say this episode gave me a lot of “famous black people who were baseball players” vibes, specifically because of how Dante’s storyline was handled.
CHIAKI: Yeah, and the thing about Jackie Robinson was he was very much in his full demonstration not being violent and just playing the game and being a good example of an African-American in the sporting world to break down those racial barriers. I felt like ending Dante’s stint in the majors, or at least the Japanese leagues, with violence kind of felt very cheap or rude.
LIZZIE: And to an extent, in the context of the show… not the end result for him, but I understand why he became so bitter, because I like the flashbacks that we get about how awful he was treated by his teammates, from the crowd… And it took an emotional toll on him.
And I can only imagine in the real world how much Jackie Robinson or other athletes as well, who were the first in any game, how they must have dealt with all that racism, the microaggressions, both in the locker rooms, by the crowds yelling racial slurs at them… All that stuff really takes a toll on you, physically and emotionally. And I often wonder what kind of help, if any, did they get outside of that to deal with that trauma.
MERCEDEZ: Right. And I mean, I would assume, much like in BNA, where inexplicably there’s no beastman therapist, which… I kept thinking about that.
I mean, in the real world, minorities still struggle with getting good, quality mental health care for things like microaggressions. I didn’t have a therapist who was a minority until I moved to Japan. [Chuckles] I didn’t have a therapist who would be considered a person of color until I moved to an Asian country.
And so, I assume Jackie Robinson, much like me, just for the most of his life didn’t have any help. I would imagine at one point he was probably told, “Suck it up,” and expected to just move on with it, which is a really horrible thing because those things hurt.
I do want to say, I find it inexplicable that the mayor has not set up a counseling division. If she knew that beastmen getting angry was a problem, could we have therapy? [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: I mean, they do have a social worker department headed by Shiro Ogami.
LIZZIE: But I feel like, like most counseling, he’s like the only one on staff. [Chuckles] He’s the one doing literally the physical and emotional labor.
CHIAKI: Mostly physical.
LIZZIE: Oh yeah. There’s that chicken couple with… I don’t know what kind of animal his wife is. But yeah, those two who do things as well, I guess.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, and they’re very sweet. They are admittedly very sweet.
I mean, Dante’s backstory… Just, gosh. I like that his backstory was fleshed out because it does… Humanize? I don’t know if that’s the right word to use for beastmen. It makes him a more full character. And you kind of see why he’s become the way he has, versus him just being like, “oh, he’s just an old cranky man who is taking money under the table.”
You actually see, yeah, if a person is put through this specific kind of series of incidents and series of racialization and series of really harmful, aggressive actions, yeah, it’s a wonder that Dante’s not a meaner person. It’s a wonder that he’s not a much more harmful character. Though, taking money under the table so your team could lose is not the best thing, but… [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: Yeah. That’s tough because I feel like most of the city is run by the mafia. That’s another thing that the show also presents but doesn’t really do much with it. I mean, at the end of the day, they worked with Shiro to stop the big threat by the end. But yeah, I just find it interesting the show brought that up but didn’t do much with it. If anything, the mafia was invested in the city thriving because if that city disappears, they disappear.
CHIAKI: Yeah. And that actually goes to how gangs and mobs typically operate. Especially in Japan, organized crime isn’t so much “We want to do bad things.” Yeah, they want to do bad things, but a lot of the people who join those gangs are people who don’t have a chance to do anything. And the same with inner-city gangs in the United States. Basically, you join in doing illicit activities because there’s no other options.
MERCEDEZ: It’s very much so an act of “I need to survive.” It’s not like how a lot of media paints it, like you do it so you can do bad stuff. No, you’re talking about communities that… They’re working with what they have, and they’re just trying to survive day to day. It’s a very desperate thing. You’re not doing it because you necessarily want to hurt people or be bad. You’re doing it so that you have food on the table, so that you have a community.
LIZZIE: Yeah, because oftentimes, they also do it for that, too. They want community because they feel like everything else in their life, whether it be at the school, the system, or whatever, has failed them. So they look to the nearest thing that could offer them that chance to maybe somehow thrive.
CHIAKI: Speaking of communities to help you thrive, how about that beastmen cult?
LIZZIE: That transition was really good.
MERCEDEZ: That cult… First of all… So I’m just gonna say it: I don’t like Nazuna. I didn’t like her. She made me very angry. I know she’s a teenager. She made me real angry. But respect for her going in and becoming the leader of a cult. [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: I wanted to be Nazuna when I was in high school, okay.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, she’s pretty cool looking.
LIZZIE: And also, the weird logic she gave Michiru about why she’s a cult leader is like “Remember when I wanted to be an idol and I wanted people to pay attention to me? Well, it’s like the same thing, except it’s a cult.” [Chuckles] She didn’t say it like that, but it sounded like that to me.
MERCEDEZ: I forgot that her literal example was like, “Well, I couldn’t be an idol, so I became a cult leader instead.” [Laughs] Oh my God.
LIZZIE: I just love—
CHIAKI: I feel that’s kind of some commentary there on the idol industry, I guess.
MERCEDEZ: It did actually feel kind of like a jab because idols in Japan are kind of treated like these perfect, almost godlike—when fans treat them—almost godlike characters, when they’re actually just very human and very normal. They’re just putting on a performance.
So, the fact that Nazuna literally did do the idol-to-cult-leader pipeline… [Chuckles] I mean, respect for her. I think I struggled with her because I just really like Michiru and I don’t like to see my two anime girlfriends fighting.
LIZZIE: I’m not gonna lie. Michiuru did get on my nerves in episode 10, because once they found a quote-unquote “cure” for going wild, Michiru was sort of all in for it and Shiro got really mad saying, “No, I don’t want to become human. This ‘cure,’ quote-unquote, is meant to get rid of beastmen because you don’t want us to exist.”
And Michiru, when she was arguing with Shiro, was like, “Okay, but this will stop everyone from going wild.” She was trying to give all these logics as to why beastmen should take this quote-unquote “cure,” but it just frustrated me because I’m like, you’re really like not listening to Shiro, you’re delegitimizing his experiences, and you’re kind of feeding into why he’s so distrustful and hateful towards humans, because humanity does not want beastmen to exist.
So, she got on my nerves. She got better by the end. But episode 10, I was like, “Michiru, you need to stop right now.”
CHIAKI: Even before that. Even before that, though, because when I was watching… I watched this show twice over, once in Japanese, once in English. So, the second time through, I felt Nazuna had a point, even though she wasn’t saying it in the nicest way possible, because she’s technically right.
I went back and when I was watching it the second time through, Michiru really did just go off on her own to assume that Nazuna wanted to escape the cult rather than embrace it as their leader. And I’d honestly be miffed, too, about it if I was excited about being the idol that I’ve always wanted to be and just being told, “No, you shouldn’t do that,” especially when you’re a teenager that really likes attention.
MERCEDEZ: And the keyword that I have to keep remembering is “they’re kids.” So, of course, of course…, Yeah, I think that’s actually a really big part of Nazuna’s personality: she’s very much so a teenager.
And to her credit, yeah, I don’t think Michiru ever asked, “Did you want to be a part of this cult? Is this something that you’re interested in doing?” I don’t think she ever actually asked Nazuna. She does just kind of assume that “Oh, Nazuna’s in with a cult. I’ve got to save her!” when up until the very end, Nazuna has a pretty okay time in the cult, and then things go very off the rails.
LIZZIE: Yeah, Michiru is very much the kind of person who has a strong sense of justice and just goes for it, no questions asked, which is not always a good thing because then she’s not taking into account how other people are feeling in any given situation and sometimes she can make the wrong call, like what she said earlier to Shiro. She really did hurt Shiro’s feelings about curing beastmen by making them human.
So, yeah, she misses the ball at some points, but thankfully, she does learn. But she did get on my nerves for a while.
CHIAKI: Overall, though, I feel the journey both Michiru and Nazuna… Ultimately, the show does become a story about Michiru and Nazuna.
Most importantly, the writer, Nakashima, in an interview had apparently said that this is ultimately a story about women’s empowerment. And I think it works very well in that regard. Even if it gets messy in how it depicts the more dicey and complex racial and sexual or religious connotations of diversity, I felt like at the end, it was just really cool to, first, see Michiru embrace her own strength, her own power to be this shapeshifting beastman who can just have gorilla arms and sock a villain in the face or have wings to fly or have cheetah legs to run. Embracing that strength is really powerful in my opinion.
And also, then you have Nazuna, who is also embracing her identity, and this time as an idol. So she takes her shapeshifting powers and instead molds herself into exactly who she’s always wanted to be.
MERCEDEZ: You know, that actually is a really powerful way to look at what she’s doing because, yeah, she does. Nazuna knows what she wants and she’s gonna get it. And on that end, it’s a pretty admirable trait that a teenager… she knows very clearly what she wants, she takes on the identity that she wants and, yeah, just rolls with it.
You know what? Maybe I don’t not like Nazuna. Maybe I’m actually secretly a Nazuna stan and I’m just keeping myself from that.
CHIAKI: You got merch.
MERCEDEZ: Oh, there’s merch? Oh no! Oh no! [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: And to add to that, I also wonder how much more powerful that message would have been if that women’s empowerment thing was attributed to actual beastwomen in the show.
I mean, we have Michiru and Nazuna, and they’re great in their own right. But they did become beastwomen on accident. They didn’t want to become it. It just sort of happened due to medical screw-up. I wish we had more characters that we got to see more of that empowerment with.
Like, I would have liked more of Marie aside from reminding me that she’s a mink. I love Marie, but that’s all we got.
CHIAKI: She’s got a great attitude.
LIZZIE: She does have a good attitude. But I wish we got more of her instead of her just showing up sporadically once in a while. But yeah, I kind of wish we had more of that. That way, I think that women’s empowerment thing would have come through a lot more, especially to folks who have actually been beastwomen from the get-go, especially since…
I go back to that episode, when you think about [how] it was predominantly beastwomen in that little mafia that were selling these children and how they had to try to work around surviving the shitty patriarchy that it is. So we don’t have much of a resolution for that, that there are other beastwomen out here who are not doing that but they’re doing positive things, aside from the mayor. So, yeah, I wish we got more of that. And damn it, I just want more of Marie.
MERCEDEZ: I do like that in the middle of the final rising action, she is there to remind you that she is a mink.
MERCEDEZ: And it’s very good. It kind of breaks up the tension in a really good way, because then the climactic battle happens. Which, I just have to say, was not expecting TRIGGER to go so hard to be TRIGGER in the final action with the whole arc with Alan.
But yeah, I wish we had more Marie. I like her a lot. She’s a good mink. I like that she always hustles. I like that that’s her thing: she’s just always hustling. She sells that horse a box of carrots and cigars, and it’s very funny. [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: And the horse thought it was full of cigars, not carrots. It’s like, “Well, did you look at the picture properly?”
MERCEDEZ: She is the equivalent of when you buy something on eBay and the person says it’s a photo of a PS4, but you think it’s a PS4, and you get it and it’s a picture, but you paid $400. That’s just her personality in a nutshell, and it’s very good.
But yeah, I do wish that we had a lot more female characters who weren’t necessarily villainous or bad, because we really only have the mayor and Marie and that’s all, and, I guess, our two female leads, but there’s not a whole lot of other characters that get a lot of screen time that also go with the women empowerment theme, though I do think that theme is pretty solid.
CHIAKI: Mm-hm. So, and this is more of a side character issue thought, but did you think Jackie is a girl or a boy?
LIZZIE: Who’s Jackie again?
MERCEDEZ: Jackie’s the little bear.
CHIAKI: Yeah, little bear. Catcher bear.
MERCEDEZ: I read Jackie as being female, but in the dub that’s not how they gender Jackie.
CHIAKI: Yeah, exactly. I was kind of surprised about that.
LIZZIE: Ah, I did not know that. I only watched it in Japanese, but tell me more. How is the dub?
MERCEDEZ: First of all, the dub is good. I actually quite enjoyed it. In the dub, though, Jackie is male.
CHIAKI: Yeah, they distinctly say, “Oh yeah, he’s…” They use male pronouns. I’m like, “Huh, wait, I thought Jackie…” I was coding Jackie as a girl the whole time.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, so is it different in the sub? Is it different in Japanese? Is Jackie gendered at all?
CHIAKI: I believe the sub said she/her. I’m not sure, though. I’ll have to actually go back through.
LIZZIE: I think it was more ambiguous, to be honest. I don’t think they ever really… I have to go back, but I think it ever really referred to their pronouns ever.
MERCEDEZ: If Jackie wants to be our nonbinary, genderqueer monarch for Anima City, I’m here for it. I thought Jackie was just cute, but it is strange that… In the dub, when they said “he,” I thought, “Wait, I had been reading this character as female.” Either way is… I mean, we all know gender’s not…
CHIAKI: Gender is fake. [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: Yeah, gender is a social construct.
MERCEDEZ: It’s a giant ruse. But Jackie is just cute. They’re just cute, and I love ‘em. I like their bob cut. I like that Jackie is real into having that water purifier. That’s the funniest joke in the show.
CHIAKI: I want to give Jackie a slice of bread.
MERCEDEZ: Oh my God! When Jackie gets the bread and is like, “There’s two types of crust!” [Laughs] Oh my God! Oh, it was so heartbreaking.
LIZZIE: I do admire that Jackie is all about that hustle, wanting that water filter business to go through.
MERCEDEZ: Oh my god, that’s the funniest thing. And Michiru’s reaction every time is just like “No, thank you. I don’t want this trash water, Jackie.”
LIZZIE: Sometimes I’m like, “You’re still on this water filter business?” She really wants to make it work—or they want to make it work.
MERCEDEZ: It’s a fact.
CHIAKI: Yeah. That was two episodes ago, Jackie. Come on! [Chuckles]
LIZZIE: We moved on. Move along at the pace of the plot, damn it.
MERCEDEZ: Because Jackie shows up in the last two episodes and it’s very funny. It’s very funny.
LIZZIE: That’s a real line, though. It’s like anyone who feeds us food is a god. I’m like, “You know what, Jackie? You’re right.”
CHIAKI: Big mood.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, Jackie being so devout to food. I feel you, Jackie. I understand too.
LIZZIE: I get it. It’s a theme.
MERCEDEZ: Speaking of last two episodes, can we really just quickly address the way that TRIGGER let this entire anime go off the rails with the fact that Alan is a beastman?
LIZZIE: And pureblooded too, because Alan makes sure to remind us, “I’m not just a beastman. I am pureblooded, not like you mixed-bloods.”
MERCEDEZ: I screamed. I screamed! [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: Yeah, no, that really was the low point for me in this entire show.
LIZZIE: For me, I was frustrated because I was like, “Oh, you’re bringing in that whole annoying conversation about racial purity?” So annoying.
MERCEDEZ: So, from the first moment he showed up… Anyone who’s seen Promare, he looks like a character in Promare, but just the thinner version of him. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, okay, Alan’s gonna be… I know what character he’s gonna be.” But then I didn’t expect the “he’s actually a beastman” twist.
And if I had to say one thing I really didn’t like, I would have liked for him to just be a really bad human, like he’s just a really greedy human who wants to eradicate this group of people. The whole fact that he’s a beastman and he was like, “I only want the purebloods.” This Draco Malfoy-looking guy made me so angry when he said that.
LIZZIE: And it’s frustrating, too, because his whole bullshit on racial purity or pure bloodlines really goes back into real-world issues. There were legit real policies anywhere in the world you look into about wanting to whiten the race.
MERCEDEZ: Right. That’s still a thing right now. Definitely, that’s still a huge thing right now, right?
LIZZIE: Yeah. So, yeah, it was frustrating. And I also wasn’t comfortable that they let him go. Even though he lost the fight and lost the will for now, that’s not to say he’s not going to want to do this again later.
MERCEDEZ: And it was just so late in the game to introduce this plot element. Like, we are at the end of the series. TRIGGER, could you have foreshadowed this a little bit, please? Maybe I’m just a bad viewer, but I couldn’t think of anything that foreshadowed this happening.
CHIAKI: Only thing was when he drank the beastmen drink when he first arrives in Anima City and said, “Oh, yeah. Can’t drink this.” But that was the only thing that you could possibly pick up on, and that’s only with a second viewing.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess that would be very true, wouldn’t it?
CHIAKI: But as far as how he’s defeated, though, I felt it was very poetic that… You know, he starts going into berserker mode, too, because of the stress that he’s feeling in being challenged by Shiro. And I felt there was some poeticism in him being saved from completely going berserk by having to have mixed blood in himself by Shiro forcing him to bite down on his blood to be administered his immunity.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, and I actually really liked it because, for all his pomp, ultimately in the end, Alan needs the beastmen that we have and the beastmen that exist today to save him, because otherwise, assumably, had Shiro not have stepped in, he would have gone crazy and he would have died, probably. It would have gotten to a point where maybe something lethal would have happened.
But ultimately, yeah, he spends the entire fight talking down to Shiro, and guess who you need in the end? It was actually really quite good. I quite like that resolution.
LIZZIE: And I also like the fact that Shiro’s howl was the one that was also able to kind of calm the beastpeople down until the other vaccine to cure them of going wild was administered. I don’t know. Maybe it was explained and I missed out because everything in the show happens too fast.
LIZZIE: But I felt it was kind of poetic, because Shiro has spent over 1000 years protecting beastmen from oppression and violence. And because of that, he’s worshipped as a god. I mean, he never goes out of his way to reveal who he is to beastmen—until now. I assume they know he’s the real deal.
But I think that there’s a legacy there and that resonates with a lot of the beastmen in the city, that because he’s been a force that’s been made to protect them, it’s only natural his howl would calm them down. That’s how I read that, at least. I’m not sure if that’s right.
MERCEDEZ: I mean, I think we’ve all said it gets messy at points, but I really did like the ending. Whether you want to talk about the animation being just simply sublime…
LIZZIE: Yep! Oh, God, it’s so great.
MERCEDEZ: Alan is just the most beautiful three-headed wolf I’ve ever seen.
CHIAKI: So, can I also say… I’m plural, by the way, which means I use I-pronouns but I also go by “we” sometimes. And we got three cats in this head. And I’m like, “Yes, give us that.” [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: Alan might have been my final conversion to me being like, “You know what? After a decade of saying no, I’m saying yes to the fur.”
MERCEDEZ: “I’m just gonna own up to it. This is a part of me.” Because Alan just looked so cool.
LIZZIE: For me it was Shiro. He’s tired like me, therefore we connect in that way.
CHIAKI: If we’re talking about faves, honestly, I just love the bird himbo Pinga.
LIZZIE: I like Pinga.
MERCEDEZ: Okay, I just have to say everyone in this series was really hot.
MERCEDEZ: Inexplicably everyone.
LIZZIE: [crosstalk] It’s not a lie. It’s not a lie.
MERCEDEZ: They’re either cute or hot. Everyone. Everyone! Every animal, every human. Good Lord, what do I do? [Chuckles]
CHIAKI: So, as much as I’d like to keep talking, we are hitting about the hour mark and we should start cutting this up. So I wanted to go into final thoughts. So let’s talk a little bit about what really makes this story special. And how do you recommend it to folks?
I’ll go first in saying that I honestly really love this series. It surprisingly was one of my… I’ve watched it twice. It’s that good. I’ve recently commissioned a three-headed fursona of myself, because I am just inspired by Nazuna. And I will have this up for the podcast when it goes up online probably.
MERCEDEZ: Please do. I’m so excited.
LIZZIE: As for me, I had a good time. Despite the mixed messaging, it was a fun series. I was able to binge it really quickly, and normally it takes me a while to finish anything, but this was a lot of fun. All the characters were really vibrant. They’re memorable. They’re colorful. The music is great. Yeah, there’s nothing about the series I don’t like.
And I definitely would recommend it to folks, but I would definitely give them trigger warnings about a lot of the real-world messaging in the series and the mixed messages as well. I mean, that’s valid, especially if a lot of those mixed messages are hella uncomfortable for whoever decides to watch it.
CHIAKI: Oh, and a little bit of mild gore, I guess, because it does get gory at times.
LIZZIE: Oh, does it? Yeah. Okay, yeah, it does. I don’t remember. Everything happened so fast.
CHIAKI: I watched twice.
LIZZIE: Oh yeah. There we go. That’s what happened.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, I think I echo a lot of y’all’s sentiments. I really liked it. It was very fun. I found it really optimistic. I think if there’s any anime someone’s going to watch during summer or anytime during 2020, BNA is just really optimistic.
And it doesn’t let Michiru get away with the assumptions and stereotypes that she has about beastmen. It does actually kind of address it in, I feel like, a pretty realistic way. It’s messy, but I love mess. So, it’s a pretty easy recommend for me. It’s just really good.
It was unexpected. I don’t think I expected to like it as much as I did, but it’s all I’ve been able to think about for the past few days. It’s just really good. It’s definitely worth it if you need some hope, if you need some optimism. It really just does it.
CHIAKI: All right. Well, I guess I will take us off from there.
CHIAKI: Thank you so much for listening to this, folks. If you liked what we did here, please check us out for more at www.animefeminist.com or follow us on social media @AnimeFeminist on Twitter, AnimeFem on Facebook, and animefeminist on Tumblr.
And if you would like to help us continue publishing all this great content, consider supporting our Patreon at Anime Feminist. Your monthly support goes towards not only paying for our site, but our editors and contributing writers. Even $1 goes a long way for us. But if you’re interested, we do have a $5 tier that gives you access to our Discord server, wherein I scream about my fursona at 2 AM. So you should really consider joining.
You might think, “Wow, a Discord server full of feminists critiquing anime,” but really, it’s mostly a wholesome community of nerds screaming about animated butts, having She-Ra watchalongs, and planning Animal Crossing swap meets. So yeah, we’d love to have you there.
And with that, we’d like to sign off. Thank you for listening.