Pet Shop of Horrors (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2001
What They Say
Welcome to the most magnificent pet shop in Chinatown. The Count has some of the nation’s prestigious clients. Join the line to find the perfect companion hidden deep within the Count’s incense laden folds. Leon, a homicide detective, is certain that the Count is up to no good. But a word of warning; appearances can be deceiving.
Parents in an attempt to console themselves, they approach Count D. who sell them a rare based of rabbit, which just happens to look like the couple’s dead progeny.
Iason’s, new wife, commits suicide by throwing herself off the ship where her wedding reception is being held. The count sells the guilt ridden Iason a mermaid amnesiac who washed ashore the same night that Evangeline leapt fro the ship’s deck.
Robin Hendrix was a one-hit wonder actor who could never break the mold that he was typecast into. One of the Count’s favored customers, Robin receives a truly special new reptilian. This exotic lizard appears as half woman, half snake, with mythical magical power.
They holy beast known as the Kirin, referred to as the legendary king of all animals, has the power to make a sovereign of his or her master. In “Dual”, two men are brought together to wield this awesome force, and only one will survive. Pet Shop Of Horrors is truly a trip from reality and back again, examining the real desires and intuitive morals of people. What you purchase from this store is exactly what you deserve. It forces us to wonder, of all the creatures on Earth, who are the real animals?
The four episode OVA series, Pet Shop of Horrors, has been something of a cult following among anime fans. With the DVD release, Urban Vision has gone and made this a special edition by including all the episodes on one disc, adding in a deleted scene and then going and recording a commentary track with the principle actors and the voice director. In the end, this is a great little package.
For our primary viewing, we listened to the Japanese audio track. While practically the entire show is dialogue with very little in the way of serious action sequences, this was a solid sounding track. Dialogue was clean and undistorted throughout and the music sounded quite good, which was about the only part that really benefitted from it being a stereo recording. We did check out the English 5.1 track in places and that also sounded good. The main difference being better separation of the voices and a bit more added clarity. But as mentioned, the majority of this is simply dialogue based and there's not a huge benefit in the 5.1 track beyond the separation. Good job all around.
Being a more recent production, Pet Shop of Horrors definitely stands out compared to Urban Visions earlier releases, two of which came from the 80's. The visual design for this show tends to focus on the darkly lit reddish interiors of the Pet Shop which with the intentional softness, looks wonderful. Exterior shots, often brighter and more detailed, come across quite striking at times. Throughout all four episodes we didn't notice any rainbows and even more amazingly, no line noise during camera pans or other fast movements. Combined with the quite attractive character designs and animation, this is a great looking disc.
Other than the fairly mediocre cover art, which has the Japanese creator credits rather prominent on it, the packaging is pretty decent. The back gives a good summary of the show without spoiling too much and all the features are listed. About the only thing missing is the region coding tag.
Though not animated, the menus do contain music and get you into the feel of the show. Selections are accessed somewhat slowly at times, but everything works without issue. Scene selection got to be a bit of a chore with the slow movement between screens.
The two extras included are pretty good ones. The first one, the deleted scene, is a music video opening sequence that was used for the shows original broadcast in Japan. The second extra is the audio commentary by the voice director and the two primary male lead voice actors, which runs the length of the entire disc and provides comments on each episode as well as the process of dubbing and translating anime. There's a number of interesting tidbits throughout, such as the fact that the show originally aired in roughly 2 1/2 minute increments at the front of a music video channel during a late night broadcast in Japan. Watching the show with that knowledge it's interesting to pick out the sections where it fades in and out and realize how well it works in both a flowing version and in a bit by bit version.
At times, the commentary does slip into a MST3K format which is pretty amusing. Some serious subtitle fans may get irked by comments made by the voice director, but I found the commentary track to be quite a bit of fun. It's too bad more of the VA's couldn't get involved, but as this was the first viewing of the completed product by these voice actors, there was some interesting comments on it all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Pet Shop of Horrors is a rather intriguing show and one that slowly pulls you in. The show revolves around two characters at opposing ends. The main one is Count D, the mysterious owner of a pet shop in Chinatown. The rather effeminate looking and sounding man provides rare and unique creatures to customers with very stringent contractual agreements. His opposite number is the headstrong detective named Leon who is convinced that the Count is behind the local drug and gun trade and the cause of many deaths associated with the shops customers, which surely must be a front.
Each of the episodes comes down to morality plays of sorts, often with a creature of myth from the past that actually exists, such as a mermaid or a medusa creature. Through the pet shop, Count D sells them to certain customers who agree to the contracts, which always end with the terms of his responsibility being terminated if the rules he lays down aren't obeyed. And as with human nature, the rules aren't obeyed.
Each of the episodes is self contained and resolves itself, much like older OVA series that worked in a similar manner. The show reminds me of Vampire Princess Miyu OVA's in some of its style and general feel of eeriness and in its pacing. This isn't an action packed show but rather a more suspense oriented show revolving around the lives of people who come to the pet shop.
As each of the episodes progress, the complexity of the story and the morality issues grows. The simple story at the beginning that revolves around a couple whose daughter has died eventually leads into a story about a congressman who wants to gain more political power. Within each of the stories, both Count D and Leon square off against each other in varying battles of words and ideas, though Leon is at a disadvantage in not knowing exactly what kind of creatures are really being sold.
The animation in the show is quite good with some great looking character designs. Count D definitely pulls off the effiminate Chinese male both in appearance and in voice while Leon plays up the cocky American plainclothes detective. The cast of secondary story characters gets quite a good deal of attention. Evangeline Blue in her mermaid form has some great detail in the hair design and I particularly the designs for the cast down actor. Just about every character and creature was treated in a very realistic way and without much sense of being out of place in the real world.
Pet Shop of Horrors was a complete surprise in just how well thought out and designed the show was. With so many horror/suspense anime out there of varying quality, most often on the poor side, this title is really a gem in the rough. Very recommended for those looking for something more dialogue oriented.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Deleted Scene,Audio Commentary by English language director and actors
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Urban Vision
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pet Shop of Horrors