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.