“Step into my shop,” says Count D.
“I have something that I think you’ll love.”
This is probably the quickest turnaround I’ve ever had between writing a First Impressions and a full series review. Truth be told, Pet Shop of Horrors isn’t so much an entire anime series as it is a set of four OVAs, which is a crying shame. Anime this good should be at least twelve episodes, or better yet, twenty-six!
I mentioned the story in my review of episode one, but I’ll sum it up again in more detail: in LA, in the district of Chinatown, there lies a pet shop run by a mysterious and elegant man known as Count D. He sells all manner of exotic and rare pets, and if it’s an exceptionally unique animal, the purchaser has to sign a contract before buying. The conditions of the contract change in each situation: sometimes the animal can only be fed certain foods, sometimes it must be surrounded by incense, but most of the time there is an unchanging stipulation that the buyer can not show the pet to anyone else. Breaking this contract relieves Count D and his pet shop from any liabilities (or casualties) that may arise as a result. Unfortunately for the people of LA, someone almost always seems to have trouble following the rules.
This tale plays out in a series of four one-off episodes that follow different people who approach Count D looking for one of the incredibly rare pets. A grieving couple, a man who’s lost his fiancée, a washed-up movie star, and an aspiring political duo all find their way to Chinatown in search of something “different.” As a gracious shopkeeper D obliges, but he never seems terribly surprised when people ultimately fail to follow the binding terms of the contracts that they sign. Oh, and these incredibly rare pets all have a rather extraordinary common denominator: they each appear to be human. Of course, they are all more than meets the eye. Count D is the bridge that connects one episode to the next, as well as Leon, a gruff detective who suspects that D is up to no good.
I raved about how wonderful episode one was earlier, and I’m happy to say that the rest of the series didn’t disappoint. In fact, each episode got better and better. The art is perfect for horror: dark, detailed, and slightly dated, all of which adds to the ambience. The music is, well, phenomenal. I can’t stop listening to Kazuhisa Yamaguchu and Ichirou Imai’s hazy 80s-inspired melodies that manage to be both sexy and dangerous at the same time, and Legolgel’s atmospheric end theme, “Melody,” has made me their new biggest fan. (Thank you, anime, for turning me onto so many great Japanese bands.) The stories themselves are fairly predictable, but just as with Hell Girl, the fun isn’t in the ending itself, it’s in how we come to the inevitable conclusion.
There are all manner of mythological critters that pop up in these four short episodes, which delights a fantasy-lover like me to no end. No tale is truly horrific; in fact, I’d say that this is horror-tinged at best, which as I’ve mentioned in my About section is my favourite type of horror. D himself is positively delightful; I would love to have tea and sweets with him while exploring his shop. Leon… becomes slightly less obnoxious as the series progresses. Luckily the stories don’t revolve around him. The “pets” are the real stars, and I loved seeing what each new episode would bring. I enjoyed this short series so much that I wanted to read Matsuri Akino’s manga. Sadly, like so many good series before it, Pet Shop of Horrors was part of the now-defunct TokyoPop. Once I discovered that fact, I did some digging and read about what happens in the manga. It turns out that this series is much more involved than the one-off OVAs would lead you to believe, and I was truly sad both for the loss of the manga and the shortness of the anime. However, I definitely plan on adding this series to my anime collection as soon as possible. Though short, Pet Shop of Horrors is a fantastic shopping experience, one to be savored all the more for its brevity.