Pet Shop of Horrors
"Our motto is to sell love, dreams, and hopes."
Those words, from Count D, owner of a mysterious Chinatown pet shop, seem to fit nicely with the ironic twists of Pet Shop of Horrors. Count D may sell pets with honorable intentions, yet it is the customer which fails live within their hopes and dreams that often results in tragedy.
Pet Shop of Horrors is one of the latest horror-themed anime to be released by Urban Vision. It was originally based on a Japanese shoujo manga, and may draw favorable comparison to Vampire Princess Miyu, another shoujo horror anime of similar tone. It should also be noted that it has nothing in common with the similarly titled Rick Moranis musical.
Pet Shop of Horrors is made up of four episodes, each telling an individual tale about a customer of Count D's pet shop. The customer has typically under gone some sort of personnel loss, and Count D attempts to sell them an appropriate pet to fill the void. The pets that Count D sells are typically quite exotic, and always come with three simple rules. Violation of these rules usually leads to dire consequences, of which Count D cannot be held responsible (it's not like he didn't warn the people, right?). While each episode is an separate story, there is some continuity throughout the series on the part of Leon, a hotshot detective who seems to thinks Count D is dealing in more immoral practices. Leon and Count D have numerous encounters and often exchange words as Count D reveals the nature of his customers and the pets.
I'm hesitant to classify Pet Shop of Horrors as a horror title, since the horror elements are often overshadowed by the tragic nature of each tale. The general pace is somewhat relaxed, with events and revelations slowly building on each other to a fairly subdued climax. Character development is more or less secondary to atmosphere and pacing, since most of the characters are incidental to the episodes themselves. This isn't to say Pet Shop of Horrors eschews traditional horror elements, and there are some rather gruesome instances which might not sit well with more squeamish fans.
The animation is fairly minimal, but given that Pet Shop of Horrors was originally created for television, it certainly holds up well. Count D's pet shop itself seems to forever bask in a subdued reddish glow, and most other scenes are typically moody with thanks to careful attention to artwork and lighting. There is also some computer animation used for the brief narrative introduction, and creates a mild contrast with the cel-like work in the remainder of the production. The music itself blended well with the flavor of Pet Shop of Horrors and enhanced the mood more often than not.
Horror fans expecting a overdose of blood and gore may be put off by the somewhat slower nature of Pet Shop of Horrors. It is the style of Pet Shop of Horrors, however, that makes for a rather enjoyable viewing.
The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)
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