We like MVM here at Animetion. They may not pick up too many of the headline titles, but they release a hell of a lot of quality titles that may be under the radar of a lot of fans. Pet Shop of Horrors is a case in point, it's more than ten years old, it's based on a manga published by Tokyopop back in 2008 but it's a title that is well worth a look.
Chinatowns can be alien places, full of unusual and exotic shops, but few are
stranger than the pet shop tucked away in one American city's Chinatown.
The pet shop is run by the enigmatic Count D, an effeminate man with a sweet
tooth and a penchant for the kind of pets you are not likely to find in any zoo.
The Count claims to sell dreams, hope and desire, and his pets offer comfort to
those who have lost loved ones or have a hole in their life. But his pets
also come with a contract to uphold, an contract which contains three rules
pertaining to the individual pet, a contract which can lead to terrible
consequences if broken. Police detective Leon Orcot comes across the pet
shop whilst investigating the mysterious death of a wealthy Chinese businessman,
and he immediately believes that Count D is engaged in some dubious activities.
The businessman was mauled by a large animal which Leon thinks that the Count
supplied, and he also thinks that the pet shop is a front for a drug operation.
With no hard evidence there is nothing he can do, but when more bizarre deaths
occur in and around the city to customers of the pet shop Leon doubles his
efforts to pin the mysterious Count to them. It's not easy though, there's
never any evidence to prove that the Count has done anything illegal, and the
explanations the Count gives are too fantastical to be proven.
Nevertheless Leon is determined, and maybe the mysterious deaths of a washed up
actor and a popular singer prove the evidence he needs...
Even if you include the tentacle-filled gorefests of the mid-nineties there is very little horror anime available in the UK, so any new horror release - even one that is a few years old - piques my interest. Pet Shop of Horrors is a deliciously dark and macabre collection of four unrelated stories of misplaced desire and obsession which succeeds where many anime horror tales fail in actually being pretty creepy. The stories follow a similar pattern, with a customer visiting the pet shop and leaving with a 'pet' which could make them happy, but only
if they can keep to the seemingly simple rules...which they generally don't. Linking the stories is detective Leon who acts as a kind of outsider point of view to the Count's strange world and also strikes up an unusual kind of friendship with him as the episodes go on. The first tale is by far the creepiest, starting with the killing of the Chinese businessman and then proceeding to show a bereaved couple come to buy a pet to take their mind of the death of their daughter. The pet the Count sells them is a rabbit which outwardly looks like their late daughter, and his only conditions are that they feed her only vegetables and water, don't show her to anyone and keep some incense burning. The story may be a rip-off of the film Gremlins, but Pet Shop of Horrors gives it a new and much darker edge with some of the most memorable and disturbing scenes the episodes have to offer.
The next episode is in a similar vein, focusing on a man picking up a creature
ordered by his pop singer bride before her death. The creature looks
exactly like his dead wife, and leads him down a dark road of obsession that
could lead to a horrific conclusion. The next story sees the series change
tack somewhat, moving away from the dark morality tales of the first two
episodes to a slightly more positive (but still dark) direction. The first
of the next two stories sees a washed up actor forever typecast by his first
role and unable to reinvent himself being left by his wife and devoting his
energy to caring for his pets. He's a reptile lover and decides to get a
new pet from Count D's pet shop, but this time the pet he receives is not a
normal lizard. His new pet gives him a new lease of life, but despite his
new happiness he needs to get a new acting job if he is to continue to keep his
pets, and life may not be ready to give him his break. The final episode
sees a congressman and his aide come to the pet shop attempting to obtain a
Kirin, a mythical beast which is said to bring power and glory to its master.
The congressman's aide has found evidence that a previous president had one and
hopes that it will give his womanising, lazy boss the edge in the forthcoming
election. Count D claims not to have one but if he did would the
congressman really be worthy? And what price would he have to pay for the
The stories are well crafted little vignettes of power, obsession and love with interesting characters and some excellent scenes, but it must be said that the first episode is definitely the darkest. None of the others really live match the disturbing air the first one creates, although the second tale about the pop singer and her husband comes close, particularly at the end. However, all of the stories on the disc are pretty good, with intriguing stories that are interesting to watch, even if they are a bit derivative. All of the stories have a bit of the
Twilight Zone/Outer Limits about them, and you generally can see the direction they're going to go in quite early on. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and a lot of the interest is in seeing how they get to the conclusion, but you do get the impressions that if the series was longer it could start getting a bit repetitive.
Pet Shop of Horrors is easily the best anime horror I have seen in a long while, although it is admittedly not competing against a large pool. It's well paced and suitably disturbing, with some truly memorable and creepy scenes (the tiger exiting the tapestry in episode 1 and the freaky babies in the screenshot above spring instantly to mind), and the stories all work well. The art and animation has dated somewhat, but the design is excellent, evoking the feel of some of CLAMP's more dramatic works and mirroring Matsuri Akino's manga style impressively. Pet Shop of Horrors is an extremely effective horror anime that rises above some predictable story elements, and as a one-shot, single disc release it's very easy to recommend. There's little of a similar style available at this price and if you like your romance dark and creepy then this is for you.
Clean closing and trailers. A gallery of the manga artwork would have been nice.