Don’t Get Devoured: ‘Animals’ Japanese Drama Review

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After watching the recently-released ‘Animals’ Japanese Drama on Netflix twice, I am entirely devoured. From the pretty makeup looks, chic outfits, the characters’ inimitable chemistry, and the lessons imparted, you would definitely add the 8-episode Japanese drama to your favorites and recommendations.

‘Animals’ Japanese drama is about an overworked employee, Umi, who turns her life around after meeting Kazuo, a photographer, and Hina, a model, who help her get into a startup beauty company after seeing her grueling work situation.

'Animals' Japanese Drama
Characters from left-right: Kazuo (played by Kyoya Honda), Keisuke (Jin Shirasi), Umi (Airi Suzuki), and Hina (Erica Murakami)

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The series is short and light, and while each episode spawned at least 40 minutes, you won’t get worn out of watching it–you’ll even be tempted to finish all eight episodes in one go. Despite that, ‘Animals’ did not fall short of valuable lessons and commentary directed at Japan’s society and our sense of self, maturity, and transformation, especially in setting boundaries.

Like many Japanese or Korean dramas, the ‘Animals’ love story is embedded in a love triangle, which turns out to be inane, as it pivots entirely toward Umi’s character evolution, her unanticipated romantic feelings for Kazuo, and whether she and Kazuo will end up together (yes, at some point, you question this because Kazuo set to leave Japan to make his dreams come true).

'Animals' Japanese Drama
The sensual official promotional poster of ‘Animals’

If there’s one thing I can criticize about the drama, that would be its title. It’s no surprise they named it ‘Animals’ because the startup brand’s name is Animal Beauty. However, from a Western or global English-speaking standpoint, naming a series ‘Animals’ and pairing it with a seductive poster implies a sexual and sensual first impression of the series that is completely contradicted by the drama’s feel-good, amicable, and sometimes hectic mood (in a work sense). There’s nothing sensual about it; perhaps only Umi and Kazuo’s tension is akin to every child-friendly romantic film that doesn’t denote anything sexual (unless someone, such as an adult, relates to the magnetic attraction of the story’s lovebirds).

‘Animals’ Japanese Drama Commentary

‘While ‘Animals’ Japanese drama is predominantly a rom-com series that features the glitter of fashion, beauty, and marketing world, it highly injects personal themes from which people and society can ponder. One is a recurring issue: the toxic work culture in Japan. The Japanese are known to be a hardworking bunch, but the toxicity slips in when Umi herself doesn’t set boundaries and can’t say no to any request or demand, however small or huge, so her colleagues take advantage of her.

The hectic and unfair work of Umi as an assistant director of a talk show is contrasted by an offer of a new job to be part of Animal Beauty’s Marketing team. Animal Beauty is a cosmetic brand that, apart from its glitz and glamour, mirrors the uprising Western open work culture initiated by companies like Google and Canva, where employees get tons of benefits like free food, the freedom to work from home anytime, and best of all, leaders listen to employees in open discussions.

The positive and healthy work culture, where employees are encouraged to take a break after being busy for an extended amount of time, sleep well, go skiing, and go to hot springs after a few hours of work, makes them stay and do their best for the company. “Don’t get devoured. They are that type of company,” Kazuo warned Umi. It was because of this beneficial work that Kazuo got hooked, and he forgot what his real dreams were.

At first, one would think that the drama’s writers preferred the open work culture common in several startups today, only to be astonished in the end when Umi’s character decided to quit. While Animal Beauty was the perfect workplace, far from her previous directing job, she felt she hadn’t grown enough from her stint in the company and was already very comfortable with it.

Conclusion

Animals’ Japanese drama teaches a lesson to ourselves and how we navigate work and our social lives–it inspires us to embrace change and to become better versions of ourselves. That’s the endowment of the drama, apart from all the pretty boys and girls, makeup, outfits, and the perfect chemistry of the characters, not just the central lovebirds, but every friendship and colleague dynamic in it.

Watch ‘Animals’ on Netflix.

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