OPINION: BNA and the New Generation of Furry Anime

With the recent premiere of Studio Trigger's BNA: Brand New Animal, a new era for furry anime is officially upon us. What does BNA have in common with its other recent entries into this niche subgenre?

BNA banner

Image via Netflix

 

This article written by Carlos Cardorniga was originally published on July 3, 2020

 

Anthropomorphic animals have been a large part of the pop culture sphere ever since the early days of Disney films. Anime series of the past like Sherlock Hound and Samurai Pizza Cats have long since capitalized on depicting worlds of goofy talking animals in different settings. But in recent years, we’ve had three distinctive anime that have truly taken this particular subgenre to new heights in intense but shockingly relevant stories of animals trying to live their human lives. It’s no stretch to say that the new generation of furry anime is officially upon us.

 

Anime depictions of this eclectic internet culture have always been present as either side characters or overly fantastical plots, but the last few years have seen a resurgence of walking, talking animals in more contemporary narratives. Talented and venerable studios in Studio Trigger and Studio Orange (of Promare and Land of the Lustrous fame, respectively) have each adapted and created similar yet unique worlds of Beastars and BNA within the realm of furry characters. Sanrio’s Aggretsuko preceded them both by creating its own society of animals and creating something far more grounded than the other two.

 

Each show utilizes the same toolset to deliver wildly different but equally compelling stories in ways that can only be told through the lens of furries. Let’s take a look at how each show achieves that.

 

Aggretsuko: Quirky and Relatable Workplace Humor


Retsuko Rage

Image via Netflix

 

Of the three new heralds of the modern furry anime trifecta, Aggretsuko is by far the most relatable. Red panda Retsuko is constantly caught up in anxiety episodes, the Japanese office space, and social awkwardness, and her only respite is roaring her lungs out in heavy metal karaoke.

 

This short slice-of-life dramedy presents a strikingly-accurate depiction of modern-day workplace culture. As Retsuko navigates the crests and falls in her life, she and her fellow animal friends have remarkably relatable experiences in their day-to-day lives. Annoying co-workers, terrible bosses, social media scrutiny, and complicated romances are just a few of the ways these Sanrio critters put their hands on our shoulders and say “we’ve all been there.” 

 

Retsuko and Friends

Image via Netflix

 

The eclectic cast of animals also benefits from being incredibly personable. While this may not be wholly intentional, the many different species and characters we see interacting with each other speak to the diversity of people and personalities we may find in our own lives. A single person can become very different between their work clothes and whatever they wear to unwind. No one expects the timid, mild-mannered Retsuko to be able to belt heavy metal freestyle like no one’s business. 

 

Another great example of this dichotomy is in Haida. At first, he’s just another worker who has a crush on Retsuko. It isn’t until later that we begin to see characters for who they are outside of the office, namely when Haida brandishes a rocker style and plays guitar. Aggretsuko works best as a parallel of real people with real-world problems. Its narrative works less as a subtle allegory for real life and more like an insightful testimonial on what we go through on a normal day.

 

As a comedy, Aggretsuko and its short-form narrative provide a palatable burst of entertainment. But on a deeper level, Aggretsuko says what we’re all thinking. Or rather, screams it. 

 

Beastars: Human in its Animalistic Narrative

 

Beastars

Image via Netflix

 

Akin to Disney’s 2016 film Zootopia, Beastars takes place in a world fully populated by anthropomorphic animals within modern-day society. High school student Legosi is a gentle and kind-hearted young man, despite being an enormous gray wolf with considerable strength. When he suddenly finds himself having feelings for a white rabbit in his class, he begins to grapple with whether those feelings are romantic or predatory by nature. Legosi is then forced to confront the realities of a world divided between carnivores and herbivores and see if he can overcome his natural instincts in the name of love.

 

This adaptation of Paru Itagaki’s manga not only has some truly impeccable animation going for it; it’s also a surprisingly human coming-of-age drama told through the lens of a furry story. The worldbuilding of a society that takes nearly every different species into account does well to contextualize the struggles of each character. 

 

Legosi and Louis

Image via Netflix

 

Legosi tries to be a good person while overcoming his innate carnivorous urges. Louis the deer works his entire life to improve his social status but is painfully aware of how little that means when it comes to his herbivore nature. Haru the white rabbit tries to shed stereotypes of her timid stature by brandishing and aggrandizing her sex appeal. It’s these stories that make the show an interpersonal introspection on both maturity and discovery amidst the turmoil of growing up.

 

Beastars shines as an examination of sociological hierarchies and societal expectations. It’s a story that can’t necessarily be told if humans were the main characters, but still speaks to the human experience in profound ways.

 

BNA: Resonant Commentary on Discrimination

 

BNA

Image via Netflix

 

One of 2020’s anime highlights has been Studio Trigger’s own foray into the world of furries. In a world divided between humans and shapeshifting beastkin, the latter are made to reside in the sprawling modern metropolis of Animacity. A once-human girl named Michiru seeks refuge there after suddenly and inexplicably becoming a beastman herself. Upon meeting Shirou Oogami, the resident wolf protector of the city, they work together to protect beastkin as well as uncover the conspiracy that led to Michiru’s change in the first place.

 

This sci-fi story is unafraid to shed light on the horrors of systemic racism and prejudice. It’s impossible not to draw parallels between beastkin made to live in a walled-off city cut off from the rest of the population and real-life social struggles of segregation and the unspoken but prevalent hierarchies of different races. As Michiru interacts with Shirou and the people of Animacity, she learns of the innate racial privilege afforded to humans and the oppression that beastkin undergo on a daily basis. 

 

Animacity

Image via Netflix

 

Beastkin have long demanded civil rights, and the best result they could ask for was isolation in an enclosed city and adherence to bylaws to do more toward restriction than equality. Animacity internet gets no legal internet connection to the outside world. Bird beastkin can’t fly through the air without the proper permits. Residents unfortunate enough to wander outside the city are only met with racism and violence from humans. And still, the show dares to go further. Throughout history, beastkin have been treated poorly by overprivileged humans, to the point where beastmen were even held in concentration camps during World War II. 

 

The story of BNA is driven by racial tension and cross-cultural understanding. Throughout her entire arc, Michiru represents what happens when one’s privilege is stripped away and the reality of inequality becomes clear. She spends the series unlearning much of her own biases and entitlement while trying to help Shirou and the beastkin with whom she becomes close.

 

BNA

Image via Netflix


 

This new trifecta of furry anime in recent years has never shied away from some introspective storytelling. Underneath Aggretsuko's adorable exterior lies the zany yet harrowing tale of a woefully-anxious red panda trying to navigate adulthood. In an ironically human perspective, Beastars presents a harrowing but realist introspection into social hierarchies and expectations through the lens of carnivore/herbivore relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, BNA: Brand New Animal makes commentary on stereotypes and bigotry between humans and beasts and an outlandish and dazzling spectacle that only Studio Trigger can provide. With the rise of notoriety between these recent anime on anthropomorphic animals, the genre of furry anime has not only been added to but reinvigorated altogether.

 

Which ones are you binging this weekend? Do you have a favorite of these three? What other furry-centric anime do you think deserve some love? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Carlos is a freelance features writer for Crunchyroll. Their favorite genres range from magical girls to over-the-top robot action, yet their favorite characters are always the obscure ones. Check out some of their satirical work on The Hard Times.

 

Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!

 

 

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