ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:00 - 5th April 2013, by John Turner

Pet Shop of Horrors

Pet Shop of Horrors began life as a manga series by Matsuri Akino (who also penned Genju no Seiza), and has gained a cult following thanks to its horror theme. As such, this four-part OVA has some real appeal for a niche market of manga fans. The elaborate shoujo style of the title will no doubt win it some attention from those most accustomed to fawning after the work of manga powerhouse CLAMP, but anyone who has a soft spot for supernatural anime or manga should check this out.

It's a saving grace for this title that there are only four episodes on offer here, as the plot setup feels rather repetitive, even in this short duration. The mysterious Count D, relaxing in his impossibly opulent pet shop in Chinatown, offers the comfort of some rare and exotic animal to grieving families and individuals, who have lost a loved one. The creature bears a striking resemblance to their lost love, despite the Count insisting that it's a rabbit, or a giant fish, or a lizard. They take it home, under strict instructions from the Count to ensure its safe keeping with some relatively simple rules, that they invariably break with horrendous consequences. It's only in the last episode, Dual, that the formula breaks up slightly, as Count D's customers require a creature to help them obtain power, rather than to restore someone they love.

All of the stories are inescapably touched with a particular brand of exaggeration that we can only label as slightly kitsch and camp - with the first episode being a particular example. Two doting parents lose their angelic-looking daughter, Alice, and turn to the Count for a replacement, which he provides in the shape of a rabbit that's the spit of her. Warned not to feed her anything but vegetables and water, the parents nevertheless feed their new pet with junk food. Pretty soon, Alice is giving explosive birth to hordes of evil rabbits, who are intent on eating human flesh... And to think, all this started because Alice's parents just didn't know when to say no to drugs - quite literally. This type of melodrama feels dated now, and the moral lessons on offer are laboured, but even this heavy-handedness has some retro-charm when taken with a very large pinch of salt. Woven into the narrative is a cop called Leon, who is investigating a series of strange deaths that he's tracked back to the mysterious Count D. He provides some clumsy humour and a much needed narrative link between each story.

While the repetitive storylines and themes are just about kept in check by the short length of the series, much more glaring a fault is the truly terrible animation, which sees static shots used whilst characters are clearly talking, reused sequences, and poor character modelling. The animation morphs into goofy slapstick the likes of which is hugely reminiscent of '90s cartoons from the US, which is slightly disconcerting. On the up side, the American voice acting is actually pretty good here, with the exception of the Count's very dodgy faux-Chinese accent...

Pet Shop of Horrors is perfect as 90 minutes of campy horror, and we're glad that the concept wasn't laboured with more instalments - there's just about enough here to satisfy supernatural cravings without the formula becoming too stale.

Camp, retro, and also surprisingly creepy in places, Pet Shop of Horrors is supernatural fun that doesn't outstay its welcome.
SCORE: 3.5/5
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