Beast Complex, is an early work by Paru Itagaki and a precursor to the popular manga series, Beastars. It’s set in the same world of anthropomorphized animals as Beastars, and this short-story collection is composed of self-contained stories that explore the tensions between herbivores and carnivores.
Short-story anthologies can sometimes be a mixed bag, but I found that I enjoyed the majority of the stories in Beast Complex. I especially liked the final two stories in the collection, which happen to be the two most recent and visually polished works. “The Crocodile and the Gazelle”, explores the conflict between a judgmental gazelle and a tactless crocodile who host a cooking show together. While the pair get off on the wrong foot, they eventually come to respect each other’s passion for cooking. “The Fox and the Chameleon”, meanwhile, is a cute high-school romance about a shy chameleon who has a crush on a fox, who is bristling under the stereotypes of her species and struggling with bullies. Both of these stories have dramatic moments, but they’re also humorous and more light-hearted then some of the other chapters in the book.
My absolute favourite story in the book, however, is “The Tiger and the Beaver”. This story features a young tiger and beaver who are determined to stay good friends, despite the fact that their boarding school segregates the herbivore and carnivore students after they reach a certain age. This is a very sweet tale of friendship persevering in the face of social pressures, and it also features an exciting chase sequence, as the boys try to help an older herbivore student who is being harassed by a group of carnivores and end up having to escape the bullies themselves.
My least favourite story in the collection is “The Camel and the Wolf”. This is a sensual(?) story about an encounter between a camel who works as a journalist and a mysterious and alluring wolf. At the start of the story, the camel is considering quitting his job, as he feels himself becoming more and more jaded from repeatedly writing obituaries for herbivores who met gruesome demises at the hands of carnivores. In an attempt to challenge his own pessimistic outlook, he tries to interview a beautiful wolf that he meets by chance at a coffee shop. While she’s initially insulted by his sudden and thoughtless questions, she none-the-less ends up agreeing to go out on a date with the cynical camel. Their date goes well and, when they move things to the bedroom, the wolf confesses that she does feel the urge to devour him and asks if she can have a little taste of his flesh.
Apparently, our intrepid journalist is so caught up in the moment that he agrees to this request and allows his date to eat one of his fingers. This experience somehow renews his faith in beastmanity. I found this story to be a bit confounding and I’m really not sure what the message was supposed to be. It feels like these events should have confirmed the main character’s worst assumptions about carnivores. I guess, it doesn’t matter if carnivores are dangerous, so long as they’re sexy.
While I didn’t find every story fully satisfying, most of the tales contained in Beast Complex are fun, and some of them are even thought-provoking and moving. This is a lovely companion piece to Beastars and I’d recommend that fans of that series check this book out. This manga also offers a good introduction to the world of Beastars, if you’re curious about it and are looking for a way to get your feet wet before fully diving in.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.
What did you think of this manga? Which story is your favourite in the collection? Let me know in the comments!
For more information on this title, visit Viz Media’s website.
Be sure to check out my reviews of the Beastars manga, as well:
- Beastars Vol 1 Review
- Beastars Vol 2 Review
- Beastars Vol 3 Review
- Beastars Vol 4 Review
- Beastars Vol 5 Review
- Beastars Vol 6 Review
- Beastars Vol 7 Review
- Beastars Vol 8 Review
- Beastars Vol 9 Review
- Beastars Vol 10 Review
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