Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

One of the most intriguing aspects of the world of A Centaur’s Life is the evolution of humans from six-limbed animal ancestors. While the various characters in the series appear at first glance to be made up of a wide range of differing humanoid species, in fact, they are all sub-species or races of “humans.” Yes, this means they can have children together. But how is this possible?

The series of A Centaur’s Life revolves around Himeno, the titular centaur character, and her friends and classmates of a world where “humans” developed into a collection of “races” or sub-species that resemble mythical creatures from our universe’s lore. The external gene expression makes it hard to believe the equine centaur humans, the mermaid humans, the winged humans, the sheep/goat humans, and the cat humans are all one species. Only the snake people, the Antarcticans, are of a different evolutionary line.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

Yet in the very first episode, we learn that they are all humans—all sharing a common six-limbed ancestor. Yet, it must be one which is more recent and more human than perhaps one might think. While this seems entirely fantastical, it’s not necessarily completely out of the realm of possibility, allowing for a bit of suspension of disbelief mixed in with our evolutionary theory. It certainly represents a very clear expression of parallel universe theory. That theory, of course, states “if it’s at all possible, a parallel universe exists where, in fact, it must be the case.” Many scientists already marvel at the seemingly astronomical odds against our own version of humanity existing at all, so perhaps A Centaur’s Life is less fantastical than it first appears.

In order for all of these human sub-species to actually be one species, there had to have been that common ancestor. Mostly likely it was some kind of “great ape” primate with six limbs (imagine some kind of gorilla or chimpanzee like early hominid with six relatively identical limbs). Given the geography of the Earth in A Centaur’s Life seems identical to our own, this six-limbed “great ape” ancestor would have probably developed in Africa and moved out in waves.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

These waves produced clearly distinct yet genetically compatible groups. This isn’t even science fiction. This is science fact in our own universe. Homo Sapiens (us) not only were, but in fact DID intermingle with Homo Neanderthalensis. There’s strong evidence that other Homo groups (such as Heidelbergensis) probably were also close enough to modern Homo Sapiens to be cross-compatible. Despite very different physical features, humans are humans are humans. 

The wide variety of body shapes to be found amongst the characters in A Centaur’s Life does point to a period where the waves from Africa were separated and isolated long enough to evolve limbs into what best helped these isolated groups to survive. There may have been some intermingling on the edges, but a profoundly long period would be needed to develop the wings of the angels and draconoids (themselves two sub-sub species of a single sub-species) or the centaurs, and even more so, the merfolk. Pay particular attention to merfolk limbs, however, and you can clearly see that they are, in fact, legs which have grown together over time.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

An astute reader probably knows that evolution takes millions of years or more. It would be a simple critique to say, “hey, wait, these are pretty major evolutionary changes, there wasn’t enough time! Humans are too new!” However, it’s generally understood that the first bipedal hominid existed around four million years ago, the first tool users around three million years ago, the first homo genus member appeared around 2.7 million years ago, and the earliest exit from Africa was about 1.9 million years ago. There’s even evidence to suggest convergent/parallel evolution might have led to bipedalism in the human line at seven million years ago! So depending on where we place the starting point of our current crop of humans from the series, it might be possible—especially if, in certain environments, evolutionary pressures were severe. 

The wide range of body shapes present in A Centaur’s Life would seem to present a problem for producing offspring. Even if the genes are compatible (as they would be, since the genome of the various sub-species would have to be above 99%, despite extreme differences in physical gene expression), in fact, we do know some births are more difficult than others. This just makes logical sense, given the wide range of sizes and shapes.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

Whenever a centaur human is involved, there will be particular difficulty. We know that births for centaurs are notoriously difficult, because Kyouko tells Himeno and Nozomi that this is common knowledge. In fact, Kyouko shows her friends a government pamphlet which explains the extra help the government offers. The difficulty of being a non-centaur mother to a centaur offspring is also pretty obvious, because of the sheer size of centaur offspring. A conjecture, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a cesarian section was a normal procedure in those cases. 

The clearest evidence we have in the series for how the sub-species cross-produce offspring successfully is in the family situation of Tama. Tama is Himeno, Kyouko, and Nozomi’s class president. She’s an angel, and presumably her mother was an angel as well, but her father is a cat person. Tama seems to take after her mother entirely. She has four sisters, three of which are triplets who take after their father. They are not only all cat, but even their coloring is the same as their father’s. This would indicate, as does the general lack of mixed features amongst all of the other characters, there are dominant and recessive traits. Gregor Mendel is very happy he’s been remembered.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

However, Tama’s youngest sister, Sue, is a different matter. She demonstrates a mix of traits from both her parents. She has typical hair color that matches Tama and other angels (silvery white), she has short, stubby wings (this could be due to her age, as she is a toddler, or it could be that they’re just half-size due to gene expression), and she has tiny little silver furred cat ears. She also lacks a halo. Tama explains that while the halo is actually just hair, and it will grow back if accidentally cut, it’s illegal to intentionally remove it. Doing so implies a rejection of one’s own racial characteristics, and is a type of “self-imposed discrimination.” While some angels, like Sue, are born without a halo, it is necessary for the hospital to issue a “certification of deficiency” in case the police stop and ask what happened. 

Sue is, thus far, the only obviously “mixed” character that we have seen. However, Tama’s family is not the only mixed family we have seen, and honestly, the lack of comment might imply that either this is completely normal (and perhaps many individuals merely have very dominant gene expression, despite their parentage), or perhaps as much of a minority as Tama’s family might be, it would be illegal to discriminate against such families. Is Sue unique in her gene expression, merely unusual, or perhaps there just haven’t been enough characters shown yet to give us an idea? We don’t really know.

Image source: アニメ「セントールの悩み」公式 on Twitter

And finally, we know more typical human features (from our vantage point) are also heritable. Himeno’s red hair is really actually red. We learn that in Japan, such a hair color is quite rare, and Himeno’s ancestry isn’t just whatever the dominant ethnic group is in Japan, but also has some, presumably, European ancestry in her maternal line. The red hair appears to be a dominant trait, no matter how many generations removed Himeno is from her forbear. 

The world of A Centaur’s Life is a very weird reflection of our own for several reasons. It’s hard to miss the use of evolutionary biology, political philosophy, and culture and national history to explore issues that we face ourselves. All of the characters in the show come from human sub-species that are, in fact, fictional human creations. These mythical creatures existed long before we had progressed to the point of seriously studying biology as a scientific endeavor. Evolutionary theory is itself quite new. Most fantasy sources rarely even try to take a scientific approach to explaining the origin of mythical creatures. That A Centaur’s Life gives us so much to work with when considering the evolutionary origin of the several human sub-species is one of its greatest aspects (and it has several).

Or maybe we’re just nerds. 

A Centaur’s Life can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

Comments (2)
  1. We have seen a few other “mixed” characters besides Sue. For example; The mermaid demonstrating the walking assistant in episode 2 has sheep horns.

    • Good catch! I remember that scene, but I didn’t notice the sheep horns at all. I was mostly focused on the centaurish aspects of the walking assistant itself.

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