Brand New Animal Addresses Discrimination Differently

The first thing someone might notice about the show BNA: Brand New Animal is the distinct visual style it offers. Releasing on Netflix in 2020, the anime quickly rose to popularity within Netflix’s list of new additions and people could not get enough of what it had to offer. What would on the surface seem like a cheerful anime about quirky animal people quickly revealed its true intentions upon a closer examination. Similar to another anime, Beastars, BNA attempts to discuss topics that affect our societies as a whole while using anthropomorphic animals to grant a bit more distance between our reality and the world they are portraying. There is something about the use of anthropomorphic animals such as in shows like the aforementioned Beastars, BoJack Horsemanand Tuca & Bertie that allow for an exploration into and elaboration on topics that otherwise might feel more uncomfortable to discuss. BNA uses anthropomorphized characters to explore more complicated topics by taking what the show calls Beastmen and divulging the ways in which they are discriminated against by humans.


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Picture via Netflix

Overall the story of BNA revolves around a high-school girl named Michiru Kagemori (Cherami Leigh) after she mysteriously transforms from being a human into being a Beastman. This is a process which had never been heard of before, and it means that suddenly she is in a lot more danger as she can’t hide her beast form like other Beastmen can. As it currently stands in the BNA universe, Beastmen are heavily discriminated against by humans, going so far as to even have humans hunt down and kill Beastmen in what can only be labeled as hate crimes. Viewers are thrown into scenes like this immediately, BNA not holding back from exploring heavy themes. This discrimination is so bad that Beastmen have largely had to self-segregate into a city known as “Anima-City” where only Beastmen reside and can be their true forms without worries about being harmed by humans. The show makes sure to disclose multiple layers of discrimination too, not just violent forms.

baseball-finals bna
Picture via Netflix

One episode in particular that really stands out for this theme is episode four, “Dolphin Daydream.” Michiru finds herself on a journey with a newly acquired friend to go see the mainland where the humans live, and they end up at a Beastmen costume party where humans attempt to appreciate Beastmen. Unfortunately, this appreciation for Beastmen is clouded by either misinformation or a lack of information. For those humans, the Beastmen are more like entertaining animals than equals, even if they do recognize the discrimination that Beastmen are put through. Their lack of care to go beyond the surface level of “Beastmen are discriminated against” allows for a situation to occur where Michiru’s friend almost drowns after the humans presume that she can breathe underwater from “being a dolphin.” This is an important situation that the show wants to make sure people are aware of, as it can be easy to just say individuals are discriminated against and then fall into the trap of believing misinformation yourself regarding those same people. When we allow ourselves to believe in stereotypes without bothering to consider how it may harm others, it actively hinders our ability to understand one another.

Misunderstandings between Beastmen and humans doesn’t just end on an individual level either. Beastmen are constantly shown to be oppressed even at the highest levels, with mayor of Anima-City, Barballet Rosé (Cindy Robinson) not being taken seriously in her attempts to discuss political agenda with human government officials. In the same episode mentioned earlier, she even explains that part of the agreement with the humans to leave Anima-City be is that they aren’t allowed any information outside Anima-City, thus isolating them from much of the outside world and what goes on around them. This manipulation of information is often used to keep those who are oppressed from rising above their current positions, and it becomes clear that humans do not want to treat Beastmen as equals to them for one reason or another. This level of political isolation is shown even more directly in episode ten “Rabid Wolf” when the mayor attempts to discuss with the Prime Minister of Japan to discreetly relocate Beastmen across Japan to avoid detrimental effects caused by population density. The response she gets instead of cooperation is hostility, with the prime minister choosing to hold Barballet in custody while he allows for the main antagonist of the series Alan Sylvasta (Robbie Daymond) to dispense a much more hostile solution to the population issue instead.

Picture via Netflix

BNA takes the theme of discrimination and presents it to viewers in a way that is simultaneously easy to comprehend and easy to reflect into our own lives. The decision to make the characters being discriminated against be represented as a fictional race of people with fantastical abilities makes it easy for us to disconnect and obtain a view of an outsider looking in. We are able to see the struggles that the Beastmen go through, and we are able to understand that this is unfair because they really do behave just the same as humans do. This clever method also allows for viewers to have the narrative shifted into, “What if they weren’t Beastmen? What if they were a group that is discriminated against in our lives?” Beastmen on the outside clearly look distinct from humans when in their beast-form, but other than that, what differences do the two really have? That’s the connection that the show wants to make, that there isn’t a difference there, yet humans act as if there is. The same can be just as easily applied in our own world where people are constantly discriminated against for one reason or another, be that race, religion, sexuality, or something else. By introducing viewers to a fantasy race and then so heavily showing that they are unfairly discriminated against, BNA makes that transition to discussing how discrimination is wrong that much easier because discrimination is inherently wrong and yet it can and does happen so easily. It also reminds us that just acknowledging the discrimination isn’t enough, we have to actively stand against it if we want to see change happen within our own lives. We all have a responsibility to be aware of our actions and how we treat others, and BNA reminds us of that by using an anthropomorphic race and entertaining visuals to ease viewers into the harsh reality that discrimination still happens today in varying degrees, and it won’t stop unless we work together to stop it ourselves.

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