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Beastars and the Pain of Forbidden Love

I remember the day she told me she had a partner.

I expected as much, but I was only hoping we could be friends. That didn’t stop me from reading her text over and over, my face growing hotter and breath coming faster all the while. I eventually stood up from my chair in frustrated confusion and said to myself, “What’s wrong with me?” as my voice cracked amid sudden whimpers. After a couple minutes of silent shaking, I felt my eyes go wild. I scowled and slammed my fists on the kitchen counter, roaring out a curse as I swept my arm into cans and bottles that flew across the room.

As real as it can feel, I’ve learned that denying my love toward someone can be the most loving thing I can do when it would be destructive to act upon.

I felt my breath catch as pain shot through my arm. I clutched it and sank to the floor, sobbing at who I just was and what I’d found out—I was in love. Two years later, my feelings remain, and I have every reason not to hold onto them. Yet they remain.

I’ve had little clue what to do with my feelings until I watched Netflix’s Beastars. It made me realize I should give voice to my feelings because I need to be at peace with them. I want others to know that, as real as love may feel, I’ve learned that denying it can be the most loving thing you can do for someone when it would be destructive to act upon.

Beastars takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals where carnivores (predators) and herbivores (prey) struggle to live in harmony. Think Zootopia but with a high school setting filled with intense drama. The main character, Legoshi, fits his wolf species as a quiet loner. He’s a gentle, awkward, caring soul who has never wrestled with his carnivore instincts until he meets a rabbit named Haru. The show follows his emotional and physical turmoil in his increasing love toward her. Is he subconsciously masking his desire to eat prey in his affection? How does he reconcile his intrusive thoughts and fleshly instincts with his rationality and heart? I think the Apostle Paul would’ve understood Legoshi’s struggle from another angle, but the wolf has a more relevant Paul-like figure in his life.

Gohin is a panda: a rare carnivorous species that can subsist on an herbivorous diet. He tells Legoshi that carnivores have gone mad resisting their instincts, which is why they resort to the “Black Market,” where they can buy meat procured from doomed prey in hospitals and nursing homes. It’s morbid, yes, but Gohin says it allows carnivores to get by without causing mass murder, let alone completely tearing apart the social fabric that incompatible species have tentatively woven together. Legoshi initially rejects Gohan’s advice to settle for that and romantically dissociate from Haru. Legoshi later admits, “It’s not love. I was just confused. I’m used to repressing my feelings. […] I just need to go back to my old self.”

When he later sees someone romantically touch Haru from afar, he says, “I’m always left for breath, suffering, left in a fix. Haru. Haru. Haru! I’ve just realized something very clearly. I love you.”

If you bind yourself to someone whose morality, sexuality, and purpose are rooted in the shifting standards of the world and self, conflict will always arise from irreconcilable differences over how to conduct life.

When I pursued a relationship with a wonderful Christian woman last year, we seemed perfect for each other, but deep down, I knew something was missing that I couldn’t provide among other personal issues, so I broke the relationship off. Shortly thereafter, I had an unexpected chat about that and romance in general with a nonbeliever in a relationship. I told her this happened because I loved someone I couldn’t be with who didn’t love me. I dared not to say it was her—the one I had sobbed over.

There’s a female wolf named Juno in Beastars who wants Legoshi to be hers. She rightly remarks that they’d “make a perfect gray wolf couple,” and that pursuing Haru would only result in pain for her and him. Haru herself tells Legoshi, “As long as there’s instinct in this world, it’s inevitable to make yourself and others suffer.” The Christian woman I dated? I knew we had it all, but like Legoshi with Juno, I didn’t truly love her. That was apparent from my tearful realization that my love lay elsewhere—and I can’t do anything about it.

Legoshi’s carnivorous nature reminds me of my romantic desire. It screams at me that this unbelieving woman could be a part of my life, but my faith and intuition tell me this is wrong. Paul is my Gohin when he warns that Christians should seek partners who are “only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). After all, if you bind yourself to someone whose morality, sexuality, and purpose are rooted in the shifting standards of the world and self, conflict will always arise from irreconcilable differences over how to conduct life.

The female wolf tells Legoshi, “The strength of carnivores does not shine in the shadows. No matter how much you fight in the darkness of society, it will be just a burden on you [to be with Haru].” Even though Juno is likely a bad match for Legoshi, there’s some truth to her words if we see them in light of “unevenly yoked” beliefs amid deep relationships (2 Corinthians 6:14). It’s no wonder that Beastars leaves Legoshi and Haru’s relationship on a cliffhanger. Even though she says she could love Legoshi, the show doubles down on how much they’re literally risking their lives in loving each other. Everyone roots for them, including me. But this is a fairy tale.

I will still feel pain over the beautiful, strong, intelligent girl whose heart and beliefs lie worlds apart from my own, but there’s peace in knowing she and I are loved accordingly in not loving each other.

It’s one thing to have unbelieving friends—it’s beautiful and expected of Christians. But the romantic unifying of the two often leads to ruin. When believers reject this path, they answer Jesus’s call to bear their crosses and lose their lives in order to gain them. It’s not only for His sake, but also for the sake of the person you might love (Matthew 16:24-25).

When I grieve over my forbidden and unrequited love, I forget love isn’t denied to me, for Jesus extended the greatest love in dying for His followers (John 15:13), and if it continues to this day and beyond, how powerful and life-sustaining it must be (Romans 8:38-39). Life’s trials often make me doubt these promises, but as Gohin tells Legoshi, “Tame the beast inside you. That’s what a mature man is supposed to do in this world.” 

I will still feel pain over the beautiful, strong, intelligent woman whose heart and beliefs lie worlds apart from my own, but there’s peace in knowing she and I are loved accordingly in not loving each other. And peace…that much Jesus promises to those who cry on his shoulder and believe in the rest He provides (Matthew 11:28-30).

Associate Editor
Joey Thurmond is a dragon in disguise. Other than that, he has two degrees in communication and English. He loves quiet rainy days with tea or coffee. Games of the shooter and survival-horror variant are his favorite, and he's a living repository of Star Wars and Bionicle lore. He writes for Common Sense Media and has bylines with Game Informer and Push Square. His own content can be read and watched on saveasdoc.com.

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