I’m someone who likes to watch short anime. I love the shows that tell everything about itself in 11-13 episodes and don’t make me bother with sequels or spin-offs. However, there are some shows that even I can understand that they should be long; and BNA is one of these shows. This anime should have been twenty-four episodes instead of only twelve, because it loses a lot of time for introduce its world to the viewers in the first six episodes and this causes the final result to be told in only four episodes. As a result, we see an anime that has progressed faster than necessary and cannot properly tell the message it wants to tell. So, what is it that BNA wants to tell? While there are multiple messages that BNA is trying to tell, its main focus is discrimination against minorities and the inability of different races to live in peace. In the first half, since the time it devoted to promoting its world is sufficient, it tells the discrimination to animal-humans quite nicely in these episodes; but since it tried to explain more than one subject in a short time in the second half, there is not much left from that good storytelling of first half. And when we take the storytelling out of the equation, we have a pretty average show. Because both the story and the characters of BNA are cliché. You can easily predict how things will take shape and who is a friend and who is an enemy even before reaching the half of the anime.
Even though the characters are likeable, all of them are stereotypes, especially the main characters. Michiru is a character who likes to stick her nose in everything but fails to do anything unless she is lucky, and she doesn’t experience proper character development as the anime progresses. On the other hand, Shiro is a character in the “cool hero” theme that we see in most anime like this. He loves his own race and protects them, but treats everyone around him coldly. At least they did not make him a black wolf instead of a white one and named it Kuro, otherwise it could have been much worse.
Despite the story and characters are weak, the most important feature that distinguish Trigger from other studios is still here: Art Design.
Even though I’m not a big fan of Trigger’s art design, I still like it. Thanks to the its unique art design, no matter how bad the script and characters are, I like to watching Trigger shows after watching too much anime with similar art designs on top of each other. Especially since I haven’t watched anything other than anime shows lately, it is nice that Trigger shows make me feel like I’m not watching the same things over and over again, even though animations in some parts of BNA are look like 10 FPS…
Although I like the art department of BNA just like other Trigger shows, unfortunately I can’t say the same thing for sound department too. It wasn’t bad but there was no soundtrack that I really liked either. Thanks to the good voice actings and banger OP-ED, BNA’s sound department was above average for me.
As the result; although the script was sketchy, the characters were cliché and the final conclusion was very rushed, I still had a lot of fun watching BNA. If you are someone who loves Trigger’s art design, I recommend you take a look at this with keeping your expectation low, maybe you can find something you can love in this anime. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t like Trigger art design, there’s nothing special about BNA worth looking at.
BNA: Brand New Animal is ambitious. It attempts to craft a fully-realized setting to explore nuanced political themes such as racism, fascism, eugenics, and activism. Simultaneously, it tells the story of estranged friends, super-powered crime fighters, a government conspiracy, and cults. In twelve episodes.
Needless to say, Trigger bit off more they could chew.
BNA begins with a hooded girl in tattered clothing running through the subway. She passes by a sign reading, “Let’s Hold Hands. Animal Rights,” above the text is a human hand holding an animal paw. This immediately establishes a theme: Humans and anthropomorphized animals live together, but not in harmony. A group of shady men walk down the hallway, the girl hides in fear because she is part animal. The men spray paint “Beastmen should die,” now we know there’s discrimination. Immediately after, the girl runs past a TV, the news is on—a reporter announces a special zone for Beastmen has existed for ten years. Soon after, we find out the beastmen zone is an entire city, known as Animacity, exclusive to beastmen. It is an ethnostate funded by a private pharmaceutical corporation.
We have been given a lot of information very quickly. In this world, humans despise beastmen to the point they were forced to build an ethnostate. The widespread racism is an allusion to our world, albeit in an exaggerated way. So why do humans hate beastmen? Well, because they want to preserve Japanese values? Later on, a slew of information is poured onto us; Beastmen can transform into humans at will. The media does not indicate they pose any threat to humans. It seems like the only perceivable problem is that they look different from humans sometimes. Perhaps it will be explained later, let’s continue… While trying to reach the city, the girl is attacked by a group of racist fanatics who intend to kill her. The fanatics express their disgust for how the girl looks. Okay. Humans love animals and they’re fine with other humans, so why do they hate people who look like animals?
Confusion aside, the girl is conveniently saved by a wandering beastman, a mischievous Mink who calls herself Mari. The greedy Mink demands money for saving the girl’s life, we now know her name is Michiru. I need to get Mari out of the way right now. She is a recurring figure, I hesitate to call her a character because… she isn’t one. Mari shows up at random times when it is convenient for the plot. At first, I was willing to overlook the contrivances because I expected the show to develop her, but she remained one-note. If the pacing slows down, she causes conflict or gives the plot a device to get moving. This would be kind of ok if she was a good character, but she’s one-note. She is a crook who tricks people out of their money, and she always has to remind us she is a mink. “I’m a mink, not a weasel!” Yes, that is what you are. I wish you weren’t just a Mink, but a character too. The supporting cast is full of hollow cartoonish archetypes like Mari. In comparison, Michiru is a much better character.
Witnessing Animacity through Michiru’s eyes is what makes her immediately relatable. She was originally an average human with dreams and aspirations. Through mysterious circumstances, she has turned into a beastman. As an outsider, she knows nothing about beastmen culture. We learn about the world at the pace she does. Although she’s easily tricked and manipulated, her compassion for others makes her likable. Michiru is a mystery. How did she turn into a beastman? How does she have these powers? How does the government know of her? Do not worry, dear reader, all of these questions are answered. To avoid spoilers, I will say just this: you will be disappointed with how lazily written the answers are. Michiru’s motives are very simple; Why did she turn into a beastman and how will she go back to normal? Her struggle between hating the beastmen world and not being accepted in the human world is incredibly sympathetic. She was robbed of her human life, her hatred is justifiable. The greatest scene that conveys this is when Michiru hesitates to reach out to her human mother. Yet she can’t do it until she’s human again. I’m sorry to say this is one of the many intriguing plot threads left unresolved. Michiru’s family and background are ignored for the rest of the show. This completely contradicts her entire motivation, to go back home. It felt like a slap in the face to see a character I liked so much be wasted on soulless writing.
Michiru is no ordinary beastman. In desperate situations, she can gain a superpower-like ability. Cheetah legs to run faster, Rabbit ears for listening, long arms to save herself, etcetera. During fight scenes, BNA shines. Michiru’s creative super-powers fluidly animated and the amazing synth soundtrack underscores every action sequence. Everything that’s animated has an impactful sound. High production values aren’t enough to overlook the odd inconsistencies with Michiru’s powers; In one situation, Michiru falls from a 100-meter building, but she is unable to grow wings to fly. Later on, in a similar situation, she can fly. In the first situation, she can’t fly because the writers need an excuse for her to be saved by someone. In the second, the writers decide there are bird beastmen too, so now she has wings. When a story has internal logic as inconsistent as this it’s obvious the episodes were likely written one at a time without forethought. All of Michiru’s problems stem from her inability to swap into her human form, unlike normal beastmen. There’s one instance in an early episode in which she becomes a human out of nowhere. This asspull is never explained, it happens solely as an excuse for a side-plot. It’d be fair to say her powers don’t have any logical consistency.
The deuteragonist, Shirou, is a beastman with a deep hatred for humans. He’s a superhero who needs no praise, only justice. Like Michiru, he has special powers. Along with strength and speed, his scent is so good it can be used as evidence by law.
When he closes his eyes, the art style changes to silhouettes, discordant music plays, and he solves a mystery. I have no clue how the police can trust someone enough to not lie about something as arbitrary as scent. There is no way to corroborate Shirou’s claims without a criminal confession from whoever he accuses. Shirou’s work as a part-time detective often overlaps with Michiru’s adventure to find answers. Their friendship isn’t a friendship. They coincidentally run into each other, then they start living together in a co-op home. They work together to fight crime, occasionally, but they have no chemistry. Shirou is such a dry character. When he’s not talking about his incredibly deep morals or info-dumping, he provides some great humor like this:
“You have a cute assistant.” -Guy referring to Michiru, who is in fact cute.
“She’s not cute.” -Shirou
Oh, ok buddy, sorry I said anything. Shirou’s so damn serious he deadens the laughter of any scene he’s in. In the eyes of the writers, this is not a problem. There’s nothing wrong with him, therefore he has no room to grow. He’s the perfect superhero, except his motivations make no sense. Imagine terrorists plant a bomb in an unknown location and you can locate it, what would you do?
A. Tell the police where the bomb is.
B. Try to defuse the bomb.
C. Evacuate the area.
D. Let the bomb explode.
If you guessed D, check your refrigerator temperature, it is higher than your IQ. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, Shirou is as dumb as you. He plans to “Catch the criminals in the act,” as if finding a live bomb isn’t evidence enough. Another time, Michiru is trapped in a cage by criminals, while Shirou watches nearby. Rather than using his powers to help, he stands by and waits for the police, only to step in at the end to act like he saved the day. He constantly contradicts himself, then hides behind his unambiguous mantra, “Human bad, beastmen good.” When Michiru defies his orders, his default response is humans are evil and you're a human so you wouldn't understand.
BNA had potential in the first six episodes. The pacing is fast, but it suited the show at first. Michiru’s adventure just flows in unexpected directions, it was exciting. The first five episodes tell individual stories, then the sixth introduces the actual story. At the start of the episode, there are always a few plot contrivances to get things going. This is a likely side effect of trying to write creative self-contained stories in a short time-frame. In the end, the first five episodes ended up feeling like filler. A variety of intriguing characters were introduced; Michiru made friends, learned life lessons, and expanded her worldview. Then it’d end, and we would never see newly introduced characters ever again. It’s a shame because I think these episodes touch on intriguing themes such as censorship, virtue-signaling, and class inequality.
One of these ‘filler’ episodes focuses on an amateur baseball team in the slums of Animacity. Michiru joins the team due to a series of coincidences, per BNA standard, and uses her powers to win games. The kids are an adorable band of misfits bears. They were born poor and they’ll die poor, or so they say. And that’s the cycle of poverty, isn’t it? Their coach is an alcoholic driven to crime because poverty has broken his spirit. He lost what made him love baseball, driven money rather than pride. This episode is cute and all, but something didn’t sit right with me. I expected the series to address the huge divide between the upper class and the lowest in Animacity. In reality, over 20 million people in Japan are impoverished, so tell us why. Make us sympathize with these people because BNA’s audience sure as hell isn’t homeless. For all the time this show spends talking politics, the slums aren’t addressed as a serious issue. In BNA the lower class is caricatured as a bunch of dumb and greedy crooks, not as real people. People often end up in poverty if they struggle with mental illness, addiction, a lack of affordable housing. The poor characters are unintelligent—that’s the entire joke. It’s the anime equivalent of laughing at a homeless person. In every developed country on Earth, poor people lack access to public services, like schools. If they have nothing to drink except filthy water, like the bear kids have to, this will also contribute to their lower IQ. BNA’s interpretation of poverty is just a classist mocking of poor people.
Trigger has addressed similar political topics in Kill la Kill, which was also set in a fascist state. But Kill la Kill was about revolting against the system, not accepting it. BNA is about embracing the system. Michiru becomes friends with the friendly dictator. This is a little strange because the dictator isn’t a good person. Animacity is an authoritarian ethnostate. Information from the outside world is censored like it is in North Korea; Note, the dictator is exempt from this rule. Normal beastmen are forbidden from learning about human society via the internet, restricted by law. Beastmen are made to believe humans are genetically inferior to them; Unifying people with us vs them rhetoric keeps them in line. The city not run by democracy. The people are subservient to a ubiquitous figurehead manufactured by the state. Festivals are run by the government to celebrate Animacity’s liberation from humans. This reflects an integral part of fascism, the aestheticization of politics, embedding politics into the minds of the population. Whether the writers intended it to appear this way or not, this is the most interesting aspect of BNA. In reality, Japan is practically an ethnostate. The population is 97% Japanese and the population is shrinking. The economy is in the shitter because of it. Japan could solve its money problems if they let more immigrants into the country. I had hoped BNA would make a political statement on how being an ethnostate isn’t economically viable, but instead, it just supported ethnostate. We’ve been here before, Trigger. You have to realize your country is fucked sooner or later. If you’re going to write a political story, is this the message you want to send?
Despite BNA’s shallow themes, I love the minor details in Animacity. Like restaurant signs with slightly different names from real life (Dog-way, lol!). Aside from the thinnest layer of world-building, there’s not a whole lot of visible differences between the human world and the beastman world. This leads me to wonder, why? Why beastmen? Why animals? There’s no social hierarchy of species, no conflict between carnivores and omnivores, and no world-build to flesh out the distinct differences between beastmen and humans aside from appearance. Beastmen are interchangeable with anything inhuman, demons, vampires, fish people, dwarves. This is, however, not about the rise of the dwarven ethnostate, it is about animals because this is a furry anime. The use of anthropomorphized animals in BNA is completely arbitrary. If you want a good show that explores the implications of a society run by animals, watch Beastars, not this cheap bait. Furries might love this anime, this is their anime, more power to them.
I’m incredibly disappointed at how phoned in BNA is. Trigger is capable of so much more than this. Instead of crafting an ambitious original anime, they played it safe and made a cash grab. There are few anime with so much budget and talent that waste it all on lazy writing. By the end, it crashes and burns in a clusterfuck of disorganized ideas and unintelligible motives so awful it will leave people howling with frustration for how good Brand New Animal could have been.