Horror is an intriguing and vast genre as its meaning changes depending on the person perceiving it. We all have our own personal view of what horror is and what haunts us in our nightmares. For example; my fiancé loves to watch the works of Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street), but on the other hand his mother can’t even sit through an episode of Doctor Who. As for me, I’ve yet to be truly terrified by a film or TV series, but let’s see if Pet Shop of Horrors can send a chill down my spine.
Within the centre of Los Angeles’ Chinatown lies a unique Pet Shop run by the Count. This pet shop sells anything from cats to dogs, reptiles to birds, and some of the most fascinating creatures rarely seen by man. However, a string of peculiar deaths have occurred and all of them were customers of the same pet shop. When Leon, a police detective, sets out to investigate the store, he gets more than he bargain for.
The disc includes all 4 episodes of the OVA original released back in March 1999 in Japan. Apart from only a handful of recurring characters, all episodes are self contained and follow a similar pattern and story structure; a crime scene comes up, Leon suspects the work of the Count, the Count recalls his meeting with the deceased and we slowly uncover how his magical pets play a part in their deaths. None of the stories are overly complicated, despite trying to sell itself as a mystery, and the over-arching plot has no direction of sorts but that’s doesn’t make them any less meaningful or interesting. More often than not, when the victim involved in each episode gets a pet from the store, the same animal serves as a form of punishment for the human’s previous actions or perhaps deeds they commit while with their new pet. The creatures themselves take human form whilst having unusual animal traits that separate themselves from the rest of the cast and give a haunting edge to the show. Because of their humanoid forms, their buyers become enticed by their new best friend and shape their own fates as a result. The Count has a villain aura about him but has time passes you see that his role is not as simple as that; he clearly states the terms and conditions of owning his pets but his customers seem unable to keep their end of the bargain, so the Count becomes the misunderstood seller rather than intentionally seek to cause malice. Plus the fact that the Count has a sweet tooth and gets very excited when offered cakes makes him quite a likeable man (yes, he’s a man, despite what the purple lipstick, long finger nails and feminine kimonos may suggest). Detective Leon serves as the programme’s comic-relief, mostly because he seems unable to grasp the magic that flows from the pet shop and that fact no one in the police department listens to him. He also becomes a sort of friend of the Count and helps each story reach its conclusion.
Even though the series doesn’t actually go anywhere and only serves as an introduction to the popular manga series; the OVA is actually quite enjoyable. It’s different to what’s currently on the market and the fact that it’s an older series will allow older anime fans to relive ‘the good old days’ or perhaps newer fans to see the quality of anime back when we had to rely on fan-sub VHS’ to get our fix.
Produced by Madhouse, you know you’ll get decent animation; each action flows nicely and character designs are pleasing to look at. Sure you can tell its age (the small 3D effect used in the opening reminds you of how retro it used to look) but it’s never-the-less good quality.
The audio side is slightly unbalanced; starting with the soundtrack it’s at its best when its simple, such as just a piano piece or a female singing. But more often than not they add crashes and techno pulses on top of the said musical elements and in the end becomes more distracting then atmospheric.
The Japanese track is well done with some very experience voice actors (including Toshihiko Seki). The English dub is decent enough with John MeDita playing the Count very well; however Leon’s dub voice (provided by Alex Fernandez) pretty much shouts every other line, because apparently his hot-headedness doesn’t come off enough in the script. Speaking of the script, it’s quite close to the original Japanese dialogue but they often add insults to pad out the lines, including an inappropriate ‘fag’ in episode 1. Subtitle text is perfectly readable but it’s not provided in the English dub, so you won’t be able to sing along to the closing theme or read the shop signs I’m afraid.
Extras are abysmal with only a clean closing and trailers for Fate/Stay Night and X, surely with a series over 10 years old you would have more to offer. It’s a shame as the lack of extras make the total running time of this DVD less than 2 hours.
Pet Shop of Horrors will most likely fall under your radar with the flow of new anime releases lately, but if you’re looking for something different or just want a break from the flashy HD offers as of late, this is a good choice.