Writer and artist Panu Itagaki crafts murder and mystery into a school divided by herbivores and carnivores with her first serialization, Beastars.

Cherrywood Academy is a boarding school for numerous different animals from all over the animal kingdom. The students, however, are literally divided by what they eat. Here, these students try to maintain a delicate peace amongst themselves. However, one fateful night, an alpaca student, Tem, is brutally murdered. Quickly, the already inherent mistrust among the students grows, particularly in the drama club where the victim was slated to co-star in the upcoming play production. The gray wolf Legoshi, one of the stage hands and Tem’s good friend becomes a possible suspect and gets some weird looks from his classmates, both carnivores and herbivores alike. He’s used to having mistrusting him so it doesn’t bother him. With the already fragile peace starting to show cracks, a number of the students begin to wonder what will become of the upcoming play now that the star of the drama club has been murdered. Perhaps it is an ideal time for a Beastar to rise up to their destiny.

In the manga Beastars, the familiar setting of a high school first shifts with the entire cast being a member of the animal kingdom and having a delicate peace among the student body, and then throws a murder of the drama club’s rising star to turn it on its head yet again. With this setting, “Beastars” sets up a universe that looks similar to the film Zootopia and the webcomic Kevin and Kell. In establishing a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, Itagaki also creates something unique to this world, the titular Beastars. In the manga, Beastars are school leaders, seen as heroes, who are above the mistrust among the species and they go on to become world leaders after graduation. The first volume seems to set the internal story at the school before touching about the world outside. However, the internal struggle of Legoshi takes center focus for much of the first volume, struggling with his carnivore desires. Finally, from an artistic point of view, the manga does a wonderful job at having students from all sorts of branches of the animal kingdom. The art is able to shift from simplish panels with numerous students to detailed scenes of action. The amazing details belonging to the characters’ expressions is, without a doubt, what stands out the most. 

The first four volumes of Beastars are available from Viz Media, with the fifth volume slated for a release on March 17th. Across the pond in Japan, Beastars currently has 17 collected volumes and counting. An anime was released on Fuji TV in Japan and is available to be exclusively on Netflix worldwide.

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