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Friday, November 3, 2017

Selah's Manga Mania Reviews: Pet Shop of Horrors

June 17, 2003
Genre: horror, fantasy, myths & legends, mystery
Demographic: Shōjo
Original run 1995 – 1998
Volumes 10 (41 chapters)
Welcome to Chinatown! During your visit, be sure to stop by Count D's pet shop, where love and dreams are sold in the form of mythical creatures - but not without a catch. The buyer must adhere to a set of rules, which if broken, may result in death...or worse. Count D's shop features: Dream - young Angelica learns the tragic nature of breeding the rarest of birds - the Strelitzia; Despair - out-of-luck actor Robin Hendrix has always preferred the company of reptiles, so it's only natural that he would fall in love with a very special, and dangerous, one; Daughter -there is no love stronger than a mother's love for her daughter, but one mother is about to learn that love can be quite painful; and Dreizehn -they say that a dog is a man's best friend - but for the recently blinded Karen, the bond with her new seeing-eye dog is even closer.

I was debating what other horror series to look at this month, and while I was leaning toward Godchild, I don’t think that’s really fair given the similarities to Black Butler (totally going to review it at a later point, because that one is not to be missed). So we’re going to go way back and take a look at one of the first manga series I ever read: Pet Shop of Horrors.
The basic premise is that Count D’s pet shop in Chinatown specializes in rare and exotic pets…excepexceptionally. He always seems to match them up to the owner who needs them, although sometimes that owner also needs to learn a lesson. A lot of the pets have strange or almost humanoid appearances (though how the owner sees them vs how the police and others see them at the end of each episode can differ), and an owner must enter into a contract with three points to own one of these pets. If the contract is broken, bad and even fatal consequences can occur, but of course, the pet shop isn’t liable. Enter Leon Orcot, a detective who’s determined to connect Count D’s shop to a string of murders in the area.
The Good: This is an older series, so it’s already finished, and is only 10 volumes. It’s also mostly episodic, so if you can’t find a book (save for like the last two), you really won’t miss a ton, save the occasional later reference. I really like the Twilight Zone meets manga flavor this series exhibits. It’s pretty to look at, which also makes the macabre elements really stand out. On my second reading of the series, the issues/punishments are a little contrived, but I also feel like on my first reading it wasn’t easy to see where things were definitely going. I knew something was going to happen, but I wasn’t sure what. The odd build of friendship between the count and Orcot is also interesting and entertaining. I also really like the sheer variation of types of stories – some are the typical shock ending, others carry a layer of sadness that was almost haunting. You can’t help but either feel for or actively dislike some of the pet owners, so the emotional level is played really nicely without feeling like you have to get hugely invested into the series.
The Bad: The thing to remember is that this was written a while back, and while dialogue fits the characters it’s coming from, I can see certain things making people knee jerk. There’s a lot of commentary about how pretty the count is or the fact that he wears robes instead of pants, and there’s some commentary about Chinatown. It isn’t overtly disconcerting, but on my reread I did definitely go ‘wow, right, yeah, guess that still happens.’ That and Count D mildly flirting with Orcot to rile him are nothing foreign to manga (I mean, if you’re gonna read shojo alone you’re gonna have to get used to variations on sex jokes for a lot of series), but I think if anything it struck me as a little dated. There is also a little gore, because this isn’t totally all about the psychological factor.
Ick Factor: A little gore, but nothing weird or over the top that made me stop reading. This is pretty light horror compared to a lot of other things.
Overall, it’s an interesting combination of elements and is an interesting twist on the anthology horror style. If you’re looking for something totally new that will shock you at every turn, this isn’t it, but if you want a fairly easy introduction to manga with some great story and horror elements, you’ll want to check this one out.

3.5 Sheep

About Selah Janel:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.