Studio Trigger’s latest anime is a mixed bag of furry fun
What They Say:
The ‘Us versus Them’ mentality is a conflict as old as time itself. In the world of BNA, humans and beastmen have quarreled for over 1,000 years. Beastmen are a variant species of humanity with the ability of anthropomorphic transformation. Due to their persistent persecution, most beastmen have gone into hiding. But one place stands as a beacon of hope for the beastmen.
Anima City is a safe haven where beastmen can live peacefully among their own kind. Michiru Kagemori seeks refugee from the human world after suddenly transforming. Michiru arrives in Anima City during the town’s 10th anniversary, hoping to solve the mystery of her transformation. But she would soon find out that the supposed “safe haven” of Anima City is plagued by the same issues as those in the human world. Are Human and Beastman all that different? BNA aims to solve this mystery.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Studio Trigger is back with Brand New Animal (BNA), which just arrived on US Netflix. With all their A-listers in tow – Hiroyuki Imaishi and You Yoshinari as Directors, Masahiko Ootsuka as Sound Director/Exec Producer and Kazuki Nakashia writing the script – BNA was shaping up to be another wild addition to the Trigger catalog. And after binging all 12 episodes over two days (just the way Netflix intended) I can say that BNA carries the spirit of your typical Trigger production. A boisterous & energetic atmosphere, clever use of limited animation, a hyper-actively scattered plot line and plenty of self-referential shticks (i.e. the star-shaped emblems that appear in most Trigger shows). Studio Trigger likes to wear their personality on their sleeve, so it wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t capture those flairs that set them apart from most studios. But despite capturing that tone and style I’ve come to love from them, a lot of BNA’s elements felt half-baked or even recycled. BNA is enjoyable all the way through, but ultimately it left a lot to be desired.
Let’s start with its presentation. It comes as no surprise that BNA’s strongest aspects lie in its animation. Imaishi and Yoshinari are a one-two punch when it comes to animation prowess, and they flex those muscles plenty throughout BNA. Action sequences are as beastly as the characters; our wolfman protagonist Shirou Ogami bringing the pain frequently throughout the series. Michiru is also a perfect template for animation, as her Tanuki powers give her the freedom to transform into any animal she sees fit. Subtle character animations like those often used throughout SSSS.Gridman and Darling in the FranXX weren’t as prominent in BNA, but the consistent quality of its action set pieces more than make up for that.
The art direction also serves up plenty of eye candy. Michiru and Shirou’s designs create a perfect balance of cute and cool. That’s not to detract from the wide array of quirky designs that make up each of Anima City’s residence. The beastmen having both animal and human forms add a layer of creativity in how they design each character, which I appreciate. I was always curious to see what each person looked like in their other form. BNA’s overall color palette is drenched in pastel blues and pinks, which instantly reminded me of Promare, Trigger’s movie from last year. Visually speaking, this isn’t Trigger’s best-looking show, but the overall design choices are very appealing.
My other favorite element of BNA is the music. Manabu Yamaguchi (mabanua) provides a fitting soundtrack for this show. In a way, the City-pop soundscapes mixed with the retro colors were reminiscent of the golden age of anime, as if Trigger were attempting to relive their days of yore at Gainax. BNA’s opening and ending themes are also extremely fun. “Ready to” is performed by Michiru’s voice actress Sumire Morohoshi and brings the energy you’d expect of a Trigger joint. The song reminds me a lot of the Mob Psycho 100 openings performed by Mob Choir. But between the two, the ending theme is my personal favorite. “Night Running” by AAAMYYY takes the city-pop aesthetic and turns it into a moody dance-floor banger. Of all its parts, BNA’s visual and audio presentation are the main attraction.
Unfortunately, BNA’s Achilles heel is its plot. Our main protagonist is Michiru Kagemori, a human who suddenly transformed into a Tanuki. Because of the way humans treat Beastmen, Michiru isolated herself from everyone – that is until she heard about Anima City, a place where Beastmen could escape the oppression of the human world. When Michiru arrives in Anima City, she meets Shirou Ogami, a wolfman and self-proclaimed hero of all beastmen. Shirou works with Anima City’s mayor, Barbara Rose, to seed out any corruption that arises in town. While Michiru’s initial goal was to find a cure for her beastman disease, she is constantly roped into the sketchy events happening around Anima City. It becomes apparent very quickly that Anima City is not the paradise it claimed to be. Terrorist attacks, child trafficking, illegal gambling, evangelical religions, shady business deals – Anima City is no less contaminated than the human world Michiru ran away from. As the series goes on, Michiru and Shirou will uncover the beating heart of Anima City’s corruption and learn of the history that ties Beastmen and Humans to their predestined conflict.
I’ll start by saying that there’s nothing inherently wrong with BNA’s plot. The themes of self-acceptance and accepting others are well-explored through the beastman/human interplay, and the main plotline is interesting enough. But where BNA falls flat is in its pacing and execution of said plot. The first six episodes aim to establish world-building for Anima City, while the latter six setup the main plot line. The first half conveniently puts Michiru at the heart of each major organization in Anima City – Rabbit Town, Medi-Cen, the Family, the Betting Baseball league – we get a taste of what Anima City has to offer, but the whiplash of tone and messaging is kind of hard to follow. By episode six, the most we can gather is that Anima City is extremely messed up, but its lovable residents (my personal favorites being the goofy Bear baseball team) compel Michiru to help make Anima City a better place.
While the latter half of the season is more focused, the plot is rushed, predictable and a bit contrived. While watching BNA I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I’ve watched this show before. By episode 12 I realized that when it comes to Trigger story lines, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. How many times have we seen this story before: X people and Y people have fought all throughout history. But one day, person X meets person Y and realize they aren’t that different! Suddenly, it’s people Z that were the enemy all along!! We see elements of this in almost every Studio Trigger story. BNA is so similar to Promare that major plot twists and villain reveals could be seen from a mile away. I think as a standalone story, BNA could have been a very compelling series (especially if they had a few more episodes to flesh out some of the details). But as a Studio Trigger project, I feel a bit underwhelmed.
BNA is a classic case of style over substance. While the story wasn’t anything revolutionary, the show was a fun ride from front to back. If anything, Studio Trigger will always be proof that anime above all things should be entertaining, and BNA accomplishes that.
Streamed By: Netflix