Even in a series which ascribes personhood to animals, anthropomorphizing them and mapping human conflicts onto them within and without, the premise of a hen selling her unfertilized eggs to the school store–as with all things in Beastars–took me aback. Nevertheless, as with all things in Beastars, I submitted to mangaka Paru Itagaki’s worldbuilding whims and read on. And to be fair, hens lay eggs. It’d be a waste to just throw them out, so why not make some extra spending money while contributing to the carnivores’ vitamin intake? As readers of the series know, carnivores are prohibited from eating animal flesh, so unfertilized eggs are a great source of protein.
Itagaki could’ve revealed this idea in bonus material for a tankobon and left it as the scrumptious nugget of worldbuilding that it is. Instead, through the hen named Legom who takes center stage in Chapter 20, she serves up a chapter which can be read as a study of the creative process and the validation one seeks as a creator to have their works recognized.
Legom is a hen who isn’t in the egg selling game for the money. The extra cash is a convenience, no doubt, but she is a creator who takes pride in her eggs and the delicious flavor they grace upon the carnivores’ tongues. Legoshi, the series protagonist, is not only her classmate, but her favorite critic. Every Wednesday, he snacks on an egg sandwich after class and Legom knows that it is after her eggs Legoshi craves. For every Wednesday the sandwiches are made with a nest’s worth of her labor and pride. Like a painter casually strolling through a gallery featuring their art, straining their ears to pick up the viewers’ comments while insisting on an air of nonchalance, Legom keeps her anticipation of his critiques on the down low. Though she tells the reader through narration that she lays quality eggs for herself, her anxieties over Legoshi’s critiques betrays her desire for outside validation to reward her hard work.
If Legoshi expresses his usual satisfaction in his meal, Legom leaves class validated and praised without his even knowing. Like many a creator, though she works to appear unmoved by the opinions of others, she can’t help but find some joy in hearing her work praised by a trusted critic whose palette she values.
It follows then, that psychological disorder would be the result of Legoshi suddenly finding her eggs subpar. As many a creator can imagine, to have a trusted critic you depend on for validation suddenly change their tune on your works when you’ve done nothing to change your process can be shocking, if not stressful. It’s quickly revealed the school store simply started selling her eggs on a different day and it’s some other hen’s lesser product Legoshi was eating, but until this is revealed, Legom is caught in a spiral. She knows that if she’s stressed and anxious about her output, the quality of her eggs will go down. She even exercises and goes to bed early every day to maintain the quality of her creations. But stressing out about being stressed only makes one all the more stressed, so she decides to balance more rest and relaxation into her life and attend one of the late night movies with friends she always refuses for the sake of her eggs’ beauty sleep. Balance. That mythic idea that if one manages work, sleep, and play their life will improve in all aspects, including creative output. Can barely imagine it.
As a writer, I deeply understand Legom. Yes, part of why I write is to get ideas out of my mind and onto digital paper where I can work through them and feel satisfied in the act of creation. And yet, no matter how much I tell myself and others that engagement, reactions, and opinions from critics, peers, and friends hold no value in my eyes, I get my feathers in a ruffle. I wish I could just be satisfied in making a thing. I know I won’t be truly satisfied until at least one person reads it and tells me it’s good. Like many creators, I suffer from a want of validation and for my work to be recognized. It’s one thing to write a piece. It’s one thing to lay an egg. It’s another to have that piece, that egg, consumed by someone else and another thing altogether to then be told that it tasted good. Beastars is a series deeply interested in consumption. Sometimes it’s interested in exploring the carnal, sexual aspects of consumption. Here, it is interested in linking literal consumption to the psychological effects critics have on creators and the validation one seeks when their work is consumed and recognized as valuable.
As of this writing, I don’t support myself through my criticism and though I would absolutely like to, I write pieces like this less for the prospect of money and more so I can watch a trusted critic or friend read them and hear what they have to say. I can all too easily place myself in Legom’s shoes, sitting at her desk in class, sweat pooling between her feathers as she steals glances at her favorite lupine critic as he literally wolfs down the eggs she takes care and pride in forcing out her cloaca. I know it shouldn’t matter whether or not your work is validated by others and that one can find validation within themselves. Like Legom, however, I want to want to watch you, reader, eat the words I take care and pride in writing. I want you to tell me how they taste.