The furry community loves it for obvious reasons, fans of Kill la Kill will adore its over the top and bizarre action, but does Trigger Studios “BNA”—Brand New Animal—actually have anything to say about the larger societal issues it so ham-fistedly inserts into the show? It feels like it, but by the end of the 12 episodes, they are still tripping over the delivery. There are obvious allusions to the American drug epidemic of the 80’s, the AIDS crisis, and in many cases through the show it could be argued there is an overarching trans allegory… but nothing sticks. No stance is taken, the main character Michiru stays almost willfully naïve, and the ending is so abrupt and boring that it seems as if there was something crucial cut out of the episode.
Equal parts slice of life and action, Brand New Animal (BNA), follows a young girl who is accidentally transformed into a “beastman” much to her chagrin. These humans, who can change into an animal at will, live as second class citizens in what is basically an island ghetto; they are demonized, seen as more aggressive than normal people, and just as you would expect, it basically reads as racism. The beginning of the first episode literally opens with our main heroine, Michiru, being the victim of a hate crime, on her way to flee to this beastman city. Over the course of the 12 episodes, we see this community poisoned by a drug created by the pharmaceutical company that basically runs the island, who is working hand in hand with that countries government; On top of this, aforementioned pharmaceutical company creates a “cure” for the disease that is causing all these people to have fursona’s against their will—even though throughout the series it is explained that there have always been tribes of this hybrid race, and most of these beastmen seem to be quite content living in this community—further muddying the waters of what allegory the writers are trying to portray. Oh, but that cure I mentioned? Its death. The company that is running this island literally infects the community with what is basically rabies and then starts putting them down, violently in the streets, with what looks like military grade robot tech. Oh, and because its an anime, these beast people turn monstrous when they are infected, and grow to giant sizes, and it’s completely downplayed that the community was basically gaslit to death.
Of course our heroine and her ancient deity cop pal (who reads very much as the Batman to Michiru’s Robin), are trying to unravel this and save the day, as per usual, but even when the evidence of corruption is being presented to them on a silver platter, and furries are dying in the street, Michiru is still plot blind to it. Goodness, honesty, and believing in yourself conquers everything, right? The baddy is eventually “defeated”, which, just like in real life, will likely just mean that the rich owner of the corporation will go to some sort of cushy facility that is only a prison in name, and be right back to their shenanigans in no time. The ending is incredibly lackluster, and while that could be blamed on the higher tension/high action that came before it, it is only made more apparent by how easily everything ramps back down.
Outside of the pacing and generally ambivalent attitudes the anime had towards racism and government corruption, the most annoying and demeaning was Michiru’s attitude towards her beastman status. As it was an accident, much of her drive was towards becoming “normal” again…which, considering the coding for beastman being second class citizens, is a little cringe.
This is only made worse because of the fact she is a “special” type of furry who can change into all different types of animals, instead of just one like everyone else. Couple this with the fact she bounces back and forth between accepting what she is, wanting to be a beastman and have a sense of community with her neighbors, and then in the next episode wanting to go back to normal, to her privileged status, and it becomes very difficult to feel for her plight. Especially gross is her last stance, at the end of the show, when she finally WANTS to be a beastman…because of what she can do, and the physical advantage it grants her. Her arc is what is commonly touted by watchers of the show as the trans allegory, and all it does is reinforce harmful stereotypes about trans people, which is why its my least favorite part of the anime.
Overall, the anime itself has good bones—the art style is incredibly appealing, and the story could be moving and meaningful if it was handled with more finesse—but as it actually stands, Brand New Animal never learns how to use its wings.
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