BNA: Brand New Animal Review: A whole new anime animal
Hot off releasing their first anime feature back in 2019, Promare, rising anime studio Studio Trigger teams up with Netflix to deliver a fast-paced, fun, and surprisingly socially relevant anime series in BNA: Brand New Animal.
The series brings us into a modern world where humans are not the sole dominant species as there is species called beastmen, humanoid animals that can transform between animals and humans at their free will, that are often subjected to persecution by humans. Looking for sanctuary where beastmen can live their lives with the same rights and free-willingness as humans, Anima-City is a safe-haven created by beastmen, with the financial help of the mysterious, human-led pharmaceutical company Sylvasta Pharmaceutics, so that they can live normal lives with the same rights as humans. However, even though Anima-City is a more accepting place for beastmen, it doesn’t come without its flaws as anti-beastman terrorist groups and Anima-City’s criminal underworld that threaten the peaceful nature of the city and beastmen’s ability to live normal lives.
The world-building immediately piques you interest as the series unapologetically paints the daunting reality that beastmen face in the scrutiny they receive. From seeing graffiti and propaganda telling them to die to literally fighting for their lives as they are hunted down by terrorist groups, the world is clearly unaccepting of beastmen – making the existence of Anima-City all that more important. Upon arriving at Anima-City, it’s hard not to feel this reminiscence to Disney’s Zootopia, but with an adult anime twist. There’s a bright neon glow that radiates from the freeing feeling that many beastmen residents have in being able to live normally in Anima-City. Plenty of bright personalities and intriguing characters liven up the scenery immensely, but there’s still this dark looming presence felt throughout Anima-City. For every innocent-looking civilian, there’s another that’s incredibly shady and connected to the criminal underground that’s been slowly forming within Anima-City. All of this makes Anima-City a real melting pot of personalities and crime that lead to some stunning action.
BNA delivers amazing anime action episode after episode with its fantastic animation and art-style. The human character designs are seemingly harmless for the most part, but once they transform into animals, things can quickly flip. Seemingly easy to take down thieves or non-threatening scientists can suddenly turn into some of the food chain’s deadliest predators and it leads to some genuinely surprising moments. Heated conversations can suddenly take an animalistic turn that’s unbelievably pulse-pounding and animated beautifully. BNA delivers some of the best action sequences with how brutal the blows can be and how certain beastman’s animal abilities can change things. They’re incredibly eye-dazzling and fun to watch – especially with the series’ two main characters always in the mix.
The series’ two central protagonists, Michiru (voiced by Sumire Morohoshi/Cherami Leigh) and Shirou (voiced by Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ben Diskin), really showcase two different sides to Anima-City and this conflict between beastmen and humans. Searching for asylum after she suddenly transforms into a beastman, Michiru travels to Anima-City with the hopes of finding a peaceful life, the whereabouts of her friend Nazuna, and some understanding of why she’s suddenly become a beastman. While most beastmen are that way from birth, Michiru suddenly became beastmen one day and now hopes that their could be some answers, or better yet a cure, that could help her return to her normal life as a human. Michiru’s genuinely sweet and innocent personality make her a caring character that viewers will instantly love and whose naivety gets her into some troubling situations that are incredibly fun to watch play out.
She also acts a perfect example of the different animal abilities with her being a tanuki, a kind of raccoon that in Japanese culture has transformative abilities. Michiru is truly a jack of all trades when it comes to the kinds of body changes that she can have other animal abilities she can harness. From being able to camouflage like a chameleon to bursting into fast sprint like a cheetah, Michiru has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. Not to mention, her arms and tails can transform and stretch as well, and it’s animated perfectly. It all plays a pivotal role in Michiru learning to accept her dual life as a beastman and a human and her journey of self-discovery is ultimately made fulfilling as her rise to being a force for change in Anima-City is genuinely impactful with how it connects to her gaining an understanding of her abilities.
While Michiru is sort of a guide for newcomers in Anima-City, Shirou is much more of veteran and has much deeper connections to both the city’s hierarchy and criminal underground. Where Michiru is a bubbly, warm presence, Shirou is broody and shadowy figure that’s recognizable to everyone in Anima-City and someone that criminals fear – and for good reason. He constantly thinks that he knows better than most of the people around him and carries this disdain for human for a past tragedy and their current persecution of his kind. More importantly though, he’s an absolute bad-ass and a main part of why the action in BNA is so awesome.
Right from the first back-alley fight we Shirou in as he takes down some festival bombers, you can slowly feel your jaw drop and your eyes widen with the raw power that he has. He’s breaking rhino horns and deer antlers left and right and fears no fight. There’s literally a moment where he stops a car by stepping in front of a moving car and stopping it with his foot. Even more so, he harnesses a greater ability that not only makes him completely invulnerable and overly powerful, but carries a deeper connection to his past, his role within Anima-City, and a prominent mythical figure for beastmen. He’s literally the epitome of a certified anime bad-ass and easily one of my favorite characters of the year.
Although they are total opposites, watching Michiru and Shirou grow together as they make Anima-City a better place is a total blast and there’s a great through-line narrative between the series that connects everything and adds to their character depth. While most of the episodes feel procedural as they put a special focus on a smaller story or cultural aspect, like sports or religion, within Anima-City, there’s one main plot thread that’s maintained and built upon with every small story that occurs. As Michiru and Shirou deal with new problems that arise, they also deal with personal challenges that stem from a secretive plot developing from Sylvasta Pharmaceutics.
BNA is mostly about corporate corruption having a tight grip on a small population and taking advantage of their weaknesses to perform ethnic cleansing, which is just evil as hell, but its also about so much more. The way that the series tackles other issues like persecution, city living, and building a safe-haven for asylum seekers is incredibly impactful and hits very relevant chords that many viewers can relate to or understand based with what happening in our current reality.
Even more so, the personal growth that Michiru goes through in accepting her new life and attempting to understand the issues and scrutiny beastmen around her have faced is incredibly endearing and the realizations that Shirou has about his hatred towards humans that legitimately change everything for him. It’s really great how the series is never afraid to challenge its characters’ views of the past or each other and it makes for a legitimately touching journey that could be further explored with the way this season’s ending could set up for more – which I’d love to see.
With how it hits on relevant social themes, contains strong and compassionate characters that viewers will adore, and builds it action-packed world of humanoid animals, BNA is for sure one of the best shows of the year, a total hidden gem for Netflix, and one of the most fun and compelling animes I’ve seen in quite some time.