by Maria M. Rider
Based on the popular horror manga by Akina Matsuri and published by Ohzora Shuppan, Petshop of Horrors is now an animated series. Produced by the famous animation studio, Madhouse, the stories tell of a quaint, yet mysterious Chinese petshop and its owner, Count D. Petshop of Horrors aired on the WoWoW cable network as a spring animation special during the month of March 1999. The series is an anthology with four different tales of horror centering around Count D's petshop located in Los Angeles' Chinatown. Count D is a very private man, who tends to his different unique and odd pets throughout the day. He helps people find "love" and "happiness" by selling them pets to take away their sorrows. Each person is given explicit instructions for the care and maintenance of his or her pet which must be followed precisely. If the purchaser fails to follow these instructions, the petshop assumes no liability for what may occur and the purchaser must suffer all the consequences. Suffice to say, that purchasing a pet from Count D's petshop will most likely result in an untimely demise.
Leon, an LAPD investigator, first learns of the odd pets in the first Petshop of Horrors episode, "Daughter", which tells of a couple who have lost their daughter and are looking for a pet to take her place. Count D relieves their loss with a rabbit who looks just like their daughter, Alice. He tells them to do the following: feed her only water and fresh vegetables, never let anyone else see her, and light special incense everyday. The couple agrees and signs the contract with Count D and the petshop.
The second episode, "Delicious", tells of Ian, a widower, whose new bride plunged to her death from the oceanliner they were married on because of a misunderstanding. Ian grieves for his bride Evangeline, who is also a famous singer, as he goes to visit Count D for a pet to ease his pain. Count D has the answer, a fish, but this is no ordinary fish. Count D shows Ian a beautiful fish, the likes of which Ian has never seen. Ian agrees to the contract and brings the fish home. What mysteries does this particular pet hold?
The third installment, "Despair", weaves the tale of an actor, Robin Hendricks, who becomes famous for his role as a ghost prince at the age of nineteen. Unfortunately, he has been unable to get any other roles that are more convincing than that one. Distraught, Robin goes to Count D to purchase a pet. Robin had cared for pets on occasion, but asked Count D for a special creature. After Robin loses yet another acting job, he decides that there is no reason to live and his new pet may help his sorrow. Leon finds he must get more information out from the mysterious recluse, Count D, and finds out the Count likes sweet pastries. With this ammo, Leon finds out a little more about what happened.
The final story, "Dual", tells the story of a presidential candidate, Roger Stanford, who is a charismatic, all-american man running for the position of the President of the United States. Roger is friends with Kerry Vincent, his campaign manager and long-time best friend since childhood. Roger and Kerry have been close friends since grade school. Roger was always the popular one and the one who was loved by all. Kerry, on the other hand, was always in his shadow, the quiet, intelligent guy who never got any recognition. In between, the two men is their mutual friend, Nancy Grayson, who is the fiancee of Roger and is loved from afar by Kerry. Kerry does not believe that Nancy is happy with Roger and wishes he were in Roger's shoes to give Nancy the love and attention she deserves. With the presidential campaign going on, Kerry does not have the time to spend with Nancy and begins to take her for granted. The two men go to Count D's petshop in search of a pet that will bring good luck to the oncoming election. Count D provides the men with a little chinese girl. What secret this little girl holds is only answered later in the episode and the effects are not at all expected.
This author enjoys stories that remind her of the original Twilight Zone episodes where most of the characters in the episode end up in an odd predicament. Count D is so mysterious and beautiful, but that makes him strangely likable. The character designs are well done and add a very modern, eclectic look.
The beautiful art and animation add to this already unique and bizarre series done by Madhouse, which is famous for anime such as Ghost in the Shell. The music is foreboding and dark, much like the main character Count D. Seki Tomokazu (Kamui in X) does a wonderful job as the effeminate, mysterious petshop owner, who seems to have no remorse for his customers' demises. This series is really weird to the average fan, but there are many interesting fantastical stories that make the viewer sympathize with the petshop customers. This fanciful series is sadly only four volumes, all of which TBS/Polygram has already released. For fans who like horror anime such as Vampire Princess Miyu or the live-action television show, "Friday the 13th, the Series," Petshop of Horrors is definitely one to check out!
Petshop of Horrors Vol. 1 - "Daughter"
Polygram/TBS POLV-3281; 8 May 1999; 24 minutes CAV; ¥5800
Petshop of Horrors Vol. 2 - "Delicious"
Polygram/TBS POLV-3282; 5 June 1999; 24 minutes CAV; ¥5800
Petshop of Horrors Vol. 3 - "Despair"
Polygram/TBS POLV-3283; 7 July 1999; 24 minutes CAV; ¥5800
Petshop of Horrors Vol. 4 - "Dual"
Polygram/TBS POLV-3284; 1 Aug 1999; 24 minutes CAV; ¥5800