This is probably one of my most favorite anime's of all time. The characters are just amazing, and really well developed. Theres some serious subtext between Detective Orcot and Count D, so if your a shonen-ai fan, you might like it. (Also since Count D dresses/looks like a girl. All of the pets have such interesting stories, and I was never bored on an episode! A definite must watch!
Sometimes hideous animation and character design, incredibly weird, and highly episodic, but for some reason, Pet Shop of Horrors kept me completely captivated throughout its ridiculously short (4 episode) run. It's not one of my favourite series, no, but it did make a firm impression.
Also, it really made me want to read the manga, since the art is rather pretty. I'm just hoping the volumes will be somewhat easy to find now that Tokyopop has bit the dust.
Pet Shop of Horrors is set in a strange town with a sprawling Chinese district. The smooth-tongued eccentric Count D owns a pet shop here, but this is no ordinary pet shop - Count D sells 'love and happiness', usually tied to an 'exotic' pet of some kind, so long as you keep to a rigid three-term contract. If you don't, well, bad things happen...
Naturally, due to all of these mysterious happenstances, a homicide detective by the name of Leon Orcot is assigned to investigate him, but he is always foiled by Count D's impeccable talents for wriggling out of any implications that may arise.
OVA are strange little beings, and are basically the straight-to-DVD movies of Japanese animation, whether they are sold in a bundle, with a series, with a manga volume, etcetera, they are usually low budget but generally of an okay quality, unless it's an extremely long production such as Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
Pet Shop of Horrors fits perfectly into the 'low budget but okay' category. The anime art doesn't really replicate the manga art, using dark, muted colours, less-is-more animation, and fairly unappealing character designs, with the exception of Count D and his adorable pet, Q-chan. It's a very 1980s-1990s-style anime, and yet I didn't really care, because I was awed yet frightened into paying attention to these stories about how miracles are often worse than you'd hoped for.
Take episode one and two, for example. In episode one, this poor family loses their daughter, but D tricks into buying a rabbit that, to them, appears to be their daughter. The rules in D's contract state that the parents can only feed this rabbit vegetables and water. So what happens when they give her some sweets...? Night of the lepus! No, seriously.
The second episode focuses on a love rat who was about to get married, but was caught by his jealous lover, who immediately threw herself overboard. Count D sells the poor lothario a giant fish, that to him looks like a mermaid version of his betrothed, and this mermaid is not a happy-go-lucky Disney songstress, using her wiles to get him obsessively in love with her only for them both to meet a rather sticky end.
Maybe my threshold for horror is quite low, but all four episodes were enough to give me a bit of a chill working its way up and down my spine. They're very simple stories of how obtaining the impossible becomes a living hell, and all glued together by their compelling storylines and the otherworldly Count himself, even if he isn't in much of the episodes - often, he'll be seen at the beginning and the end, selling the poor schmucks who come into his shop their hopes and desires, then a fleeting appearance in the middle and narrating how he can't be seen as guilty at the end.
Toshihiko Seki does a wonderful job as the Count, an incredibly androgynous role that was very pleasant on the ears, and Masaya Onosaka voicing Leon and doing a pretty good job. Unfortunately I have not seen it dubbed, but I have heard it's a fairly listenable dub.
Now, PSOH does have its flaws that I have gone into. However, you can't really blame it for its low production values or for its episodic elements - it's a set of 4 OVAs that has to adapt a 10 volume manga series. It can't pack everything in, so it just goes for the episodic approach, which serves it well. It's still just as creepy, reminding me of (yes I know PSOH came before) the episodes of Hell Girl I watched out of order that often gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Pet Shop of Horrors is one of those anime that sounds like it would be worth watching. Honestly, I wasn't too impressed. I do plan on reading the manga at some point because I do like the character, Count D, but the anime is far from appealing.
It's an OVA that only has four episodes. With every contract Count D makes, there are three rules. They always include that they are never to show the creature to anyone and if they break any part of the contract, there are bad consequences.
The first, is about a couple who lost their daughter. They go to Count D, an androgynous pet shop owner, who gives them a rabbit. This rabbit is very rare and looks just like Alice, their daughter. The second episode is about a singer who falls overboard a ship during her wedding to her manager, Jason. Jason goes to Count D and is given a pet, a mermaid that looks just like his late wife. The third is about an actor whose every role is the same type. His wife leaves him and he become reclusive and spends all his time with the reptiles he loves. Count D gives him a rare species, a Medusa, that is half beautiful woman and half deadly reptile. The fourth is about a politician who is seeking a Kirin. Kirin grant wishes of their owner with other's blood.
Each case is about how the contracts are breached. There is a detective who is trying to connect these strange occurrences to the pet shop. His name is Leon Orcot. Other than information about the characters who take on contracts with the pet shop, there's no other information that you receive. Count D is a very interesting character. You want to know everything about him. Where did he come from, why is he here, and exactly how old is he? Leon Orcot loves to stick his nose in everything, which is why I usually don't like the detective characters, but it's his role.
The Count is such a mysterious character. I really do wish I knew more about him. Once I read the manga, I'll definitely do a review so that I can tell you about him. Perhaps the OVA wouldn't be so bad for someone who has already read the first manga and know's a little more about it, but it does absolutely nothing for someone who hasn't.
As far as music and voices, they are incredibly forgettable. They aren't horrible, but their also not good. Everything is just so-so. The only good thing that I can say about this anime is that it does get you interested in the Count and you'll want to read the manga to find out more. Other than that, harshly put, it's crap. Save your time with the OVA and just go straight to the manga. The manga is 10 volumes, but there is a secondary manga called New Pet Shop of Horrors, or Pet Shop of Horrors - Tokyo, which is 8 volumes.
I loved this series, even though it was only 4 episodes. I wish that their were more.
For those who do like the series, using the 1st episode to reference your like/dislike is not wise. It is probably the worst of the bunch. Have you ever heard the saying, "Saving the best for last"? My favorite episode was of course the fourth and final episode... followed by the third episode. Try it again and see if you have a change of mind. I don't think that it would hurt to watch the episodes out of order.
If you don't believe my interpretation... believe this:
The best way to learn is through others mistakes.
People tend to have a flexible approach towards certain conditions whenever they enter a contract but if they happen to be customers of Count D, owner of a mysterious pet shop, an attitude as such can prove to be fatal. The first 3 episodes of this peculiar OVA are dedicated more or less entirely to the depictions of what might happen once you purchase an animal from the protagonist only to ignore the rules he provides.
Sounds repetitive? It certainly is but then again it could have been much worse and thanks to a decent execution and plenty of new material in each tale, the show manages to stir away from boredom and instead ventures into increasingly bizarre realms. We get to witness parents consumed by love for their dead daughter buy a rabbit that attains her form as the result of either delusion or magic; as well as several men blinded by their love for creatures they’ve purchased. The story as a whole spends quite a lot of time following the not-very-convincing decisions of an investigating detective who constantly interacts with the shopkeeper. These segments were generally the weakest points of the story that also had a tendency to rely more on atmospheric value than intriguing writing. As a whole it ended up being reasonably successful even if there’s lots of wasted potential involved.
In terms of visual quality, Pet Shop of Horrors is a double-edged sword with artwork on the sharp side and actual animation on the dull one. Viewers are served beautiful and disturbing still images in abundance but are still likely to find everything else more or less mediocre in nature. Character designs range from okay to eccentrically interesting; I personally found the shop keeper and the creatures he sold to look either hauntingly pretty, disturbing or sometimes even both.
Another thing that deserves mentioning is the occasional outburst of grotesque content that comes along with buckets of blood and disturbing artwork. These segments were quite suitable for a title within the horror genre and achieved just the right amount of repulsiveness to be appropriate rather than excessive.
Voice acting was a pretty standardized fare with the shopkeeper sounding appropriately bishounen as well as infinitely mysterious. Compare him to similar characters from similar titles such as the medicine seller in Mononoke to understand my point.
Musically speaking the show had a minimalistic but nonetheless bold soundtrack that managed to support the overall eerie atmosphere with brilliance. Whenever it chose to use actual melodies they were often simplistic and repetitive but the haunting female voices frequently heard in the background provided the story with an even higher eccentric flare.
At the core of each moral tale dealing with love, passion and betrayal we find the mesmerizing shopkeeper. Driven by an unknown agenda his products rarely fail to spread despair within the customers as soon as they break one of the aforementioned conditions. The fact that we never get to know anything about the protagonist other than subtle implications is a mixed bag of both pros and cons.
Amongst the rest of the cast we find a bland and obnoxious detective as well as several interesting characters that don’t appear in more than one episode. As far as personality goes they were mainly simplistically constructed but I felt like the struggles they went through compensated for lack of development.
Anime fans interested in bizarre tales with creatures from Asian folklore have several other titles they should prioritize before tackling this OVA. As a whole the show isn’t that far from being mediocre but excels in establishing a creepy and unique atmosphere which is why I still highly recommend it to anyone with 80 minutes to spare. Despite being based around tropes you’ve seen countless times before, the overall product ended up being an original journey that, except for a somewhat weak last episode and lack of real conclusion, drew me right in and entertained me enough to probably want to re-watch it at some point in the future.