Brand New Animal and Systemic Racism

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With racism being such a prevalent problem in today’s society, there can never be too many stories with anti-racism themes. Anime has had a long history of progressive themes, such as anti-racism, usually showing that hatred and violence is wrong and that people should come together to love each other. Brand New Animal is yet another addition to anime with anti-racism themes, but it doesn’t just show that racism and hatred is bad. It also shows how society keeps minorities in a bad spot.

WARNING! Spoilers for Brand New Animal.

Brand New Animal takes place in Anima City. It’s a paradise for beastmen, people with the power to transform into beast-like forms. They are discriminated around the world, so a city solely for beastman is supposed to keep them safe and free from discrimination.

Unfortunately, things don’t work out that way. Anime City is anything but safe. There is high levels of crime. People get violent easily. It’s a mess. And it’s the perfect justification for racists to be racist.

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The city is funded by Sylvasta Pharmaceuticals, a medical organization. While this should allow the city to operate, it really just allows the humans to have a foothold in the city. Alan Sylvasta, the leader of the organization, plans to cause the beastmen to lose control due to the Nirvasyl Syndrome. If too many beastman crowd together, they will get stressed and lose control. His solution is to use a cure that turns them into humans, erasing their beast DNA.

This seems like a viable solution as it will stop the violence, but this is just Sylvasta’s scapegoat. When you consider all of the societal problems in Anima City, it’s no wonder they are so stressed. And when a city unprepared to care for it’s people accepts even more people, it’s only a matter of time before things get bad.

Instead of trying to resolve these societal issues, they decide it’s better to force everyone to go out of control by activating the Nirvasyl Syndrome, then use the drug to turn them all into humans.

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Turning the beastmen into humans is erasing who they are. This reflects real world attempts at cultural assimilation. The majority sees the minority as inferior. The only way to redeem the minority is to make them more like the majority. In America, it would be to take away the pride of black people and to make them more like white people. This shows a fundamental issue with the majority. Some would rather assimilate minorities into their cultures as opposed to fixing the problems minorities face.

To racist white people, everything that impacts black people negatively is the fault of black people. Whether it’s crime, violence, drugs, gangs, etc. Racists see these things as an inherent part of their culture, and it’s up to them to fix this by making them more like the white people. But this line of thinking fails to address why these issues exist in black communities.

Past issues of racism still linger in these places. Even after granting them civil rights, that doesn’t automatically fix the issues of poverty and poor education. While technically “equal”, they were never truly given the opportunity to be on an even playing field as white people. Instead of addressing these issues, black people are blamed for them, and stereotyped as violent criminals.

Brand New Animal’s Anima City reflects these issues. The violence of beastman are framed as an issue inherent to beastman. The only way to fix this is with a drug that turns them human. The only way they can survive is to be more like the majority, to give up who they are and everything they hold pride in. This very racist ideology is pushed by Sylvasta and even this anime’s Japanese government. This is why the title of this article includes Systemic Racism, because society, government, and corporate structures are the cause of these issues.

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As Michiru lived in the city for a while, she began to truly understand the beastman. She doesn’t condone all their actions, but understands their struggles and their desire to live freely and with dignity as beastman. She recognizes that within the population of beastman, there is a wide variety of cultures and lifestyles and that people should be free to express who they are. As someone who embodies this idea with her ability to transform into whatever she wants, it makes sense that someone with her blood can cure the Nirvasyl Syndrome.

It’s her ideal that’s necessary for the future of the beastman. That’s why she stays behind at the end of the anime. She wants to actually confront the issues beastmen face and build a better future free of racism. It’s why Anima City opens up to humans. Isolating themselves creates a breeding ground for exploitation by the humans at the expense of the beastman. By opening their borders, they can begin to understand each other. They can understand each other’s cultures and the core of what makes them proud to be who they are.

It is just an ideal. It’s unrealistic to expect racism to just disappear because some minorities mingle with the majority. But it’s an ideal worth striving for to create a better future, and without striving for that ideal, no progress can ever be made to fix the societal problems that cause or promote racism.

Brand New Animal was a fantastic show that confronted racism with nuance on a variety of topics and from many angles. I didn’t even cover some other interesting topics, such as how the majority sometimes views minorities as exotic and ripe for capital exploitation. But because of how it handles it’s topics, it’s a show ripe for analysis and I would love to see what others have to say about it.

If you liked Brand New Animal, be sure to tell me what you liked about it.

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