Wherever there are people who have a need, however shady, there are usually people who exist to fill that need. A petshop may not sound particularly shady, but Count D deals in some rather unusual pets - pets whose purpose is to bring their owners' wishes to fruition in ways that they really wouldn't expect - or want - them to be...
What They Say
Welcome... Tonight you will find something you desire!
In Chinatown, NY, there is a little petshop that specializes in particularly exotic animals. The owner, a mysterious man known as Count D, has a pet to suit almost any taste. But if you come seeking an animal to help cope with a tragic loss or fill a gap in your life, be wary... the Count may have what you're looking for, but if you're not careful about taking care of it, your pet may get the better of you in the end.
The story follows Leon, a detective who always seems to stumble upon the cases of people who have come to a bad end and have something to do with the Count. Through their eyes, we are treated to four short and tragic tales of the macabre.
1 - Daughter
2 - Delicious
3 - Despair
4 - Dual
Audio is provided in both English and Japanese, with both tracks being in 2.0 stereo - not that you can really tell, as at least with the Japanese track that I listened to for this review there was very little that wasn't simply rooted to the centre of the soundstage. There were no obvious encoding problems.
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect. The series was produced way back in 1999, and to be honest it's beginning to show its age. It's an OVA series, from the era when that usually meant that a decent budget would be thrown at the production, and to a point the show does seem to have benefitted from that - there's good use made of colour and detail and the animation itself is decent enough. There's frequent use of dark scenes to create atmosphere, but sadly that's been overdone in places to the point where you can barely make out what's going on. The transfer also doesn't really do the show justice, with an almost off-focus look to it and some visible blocking in places. Not great.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
In keeping with MVM's usual style, the menus are a simple affair - the main menu is a dark & atmospheric static screen with options for Play All, Setup, Episodes and Extras. Flicking between the sub-menus is an easy business, thanks to the lack of transition animations.
You get a clean version of the show's closing credit sequence, and that's your lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
The mysterious Count D runs a pet shop in Chinatown, but it's not your normal sort of pet shop, oh no. The Count deals with the rare and unusual - and usually with a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. He's also not the sort of person who should ever be crossed - as a string of his customers have recently discovered: the animals supplied by the Count usually come with a list of strict requirements, including that they must never to be shown to anyone other than the purchaser, and heaven help those who break that contract. His latest sale is a very special rabbit, one that takes on the appearance of anyone its owner wants it to be - in this case, the dead daughter of some grieving parents. But, as is so often the case, "Alice"s' new owners don't seem to have paid attention to the contract they just signed...
Alice's story is the first of four that Count D and his petshop supply us with, but it's typical in tone and content to the other three - each story sees the Count providing a very special pet that, in theory, will fill a very specific need for its new owners - if only they were able to keep to the terms of the contract they signed. No prizes for guessing that in each case they break the terms of the agreement, with gruesome results. Of the four, though, there's only one - actor Robin Hendrix in episode 3 - who you feel any sort of sympathy for. He's a genuine sad case, stereotyped to the point where he can no longer find work for himself and rapidly loses the will to live. You can't help but feel sorry for him & the way his life falls apart around him, and the Count's 'pet' provides him with the ideal way out of his problems.
The petshop's other customers, though, are a mixed bunch of the arrogant and obsessive whose ultimate demise falls well into the "they deserved that" category, with those who are obsessed with power, wracked with guilt or unable to say no to the demands of their offspring all featuring. The ultimate moral of each story is that you should be careful what you wish for, lest you get it, and it's a lesson that few of Count's customers seem to live long enough to learn from.
Into this moral play comes homicide investigator Leon, who has found that the Count is the connection between a number of recent deaths. He's very much convinced that the Count should be held responsible for at least some of them, but belief is one thing - proving his involvement is quite another, and Leon's job soon becomes an exercise in frustration. In the opening episode, Leon comes across as arrogant and, frankly, a bit of an arsehole, which really doesn't help make him much fun to watch. From the second episode on, though, his personality mellows somewhat, taking on a more humorous tone as he learns that there are ways of dealing with the Count that will make him more amenable to providing information. There's no doubt that Leon will never be able to pin any of the deaths on Count D - the Count is far too well-prepared and well-connected for that to happen - but Leon eventually comes to find him a good source for learning the truth about the deaths he's investigating. Even if the truth isn't something he'll ever be able to put in an official report.
For all that it's billed as the 'pet shop of horrors', there's very little in the series that's truly genuinely horrific - macabre and unusual, yes, and the way the stories are presented do manage to create a suitably ominous and gloomy atmosphere. There's only very limited gore and violence, though, with your imagination being given the job of filling in the details of our victims' various downfalls. That's not a criticism, mind you - the imagination often works far better at such things than any attempt at portraying them on screen ever could. It's good to be aware of what you're actually getting, though. The overall package is a short series that draws you into its own litle world very effectively, ands a good mix of the everyday (in the form of Leon's working world) and the supernatural.
I found myself enjoying Pet Shop of Horrors far more that I expected to. There are flaws to the release, partly down to the age of the show but also a side-effect of the four stories following the same basic template - you're not going to find much in the way of surprises here - but the way the stories are told balances those failings out to leave a short series that's well worth watching.
Japanese language 2.0, English language 2.0, English subtitles, clean closing
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.