Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Don’t Feed It After Midnight... [Pet Shop of Horrors (1999)]

From http://i.animecrazy.net/pet.jpg

Dir. Toshio Hirata

From http://ani.me/site_media/media/articles/2012/10/27/pet-shop-of-horrors-1_png_650x10000_q85.jpg

In Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984), the younger buyer of a Mogwai is given a set of rules of how to take care of it, including the rule the title of the review is taken from. If not followed then the seller is not accountable of the misery the results lead to. Pet Shop of Horrors, a four part anime mini-series adapted from a manga by Matsuri Akino, follows this same idea. Morality tales are a vast part of human storytelling. In the West it has been with us since the fairytales we heard as children, and while slasher films got too puritanical for their small britches at one point, moral warnings still exist in the horror films we watch as adults. In Japanese pop culture, morality tales are quite common in horror fiction. You could argue that the morality tale could be viewed as a way to distract people from the truth of certain things, used to scare anyone into conformity with public fears and old wives’ tales, but they also exist as warnings from wiser people to others of having common sense and to avoid making mistakes that will cost you dearly. The old phrase “be careful for what you wish for” applies to a lot of horror tales, especially with ones like Pet Shop of Horrors and its characters who may be far from innocent in the first place.

From http://www.watchcartoononline.com/thumbs/Petshop-of-Horrors-Episode-1.jpg

Housed in Chinatown in Los Angeles is a pet store owned by the mysterious Count D, a soft spoken man with a sweet tooth and a feminine demeanor, who sells “dreams” to his customers as well as regular pets. The ‘dreams’ however are bizarre creatures that require a strict contract of three rules to be signed to acquire hem, that cannot be broken by the client at any point. If the rules are broken, the pet store is blameless for what happens and something exceptionally gristly is bound to happen. Officer Orcot, a homicide detective, believes D is clearly behind the deaths after buying these pets, but the true nature of the customers is far more morally grey than one would immediately presume. Bear in mind that this mini-series is only four episodes long only, single stories that do not get deeper in terms of  connecting plot as the manga may do*. Also like some of the horror tales I’ve seen in anime and in manga, it is full of elaborate explanations after the events to explain them and the morals of the tales, which could be seen as off-putting for being over explanatory. It became quite obvious with this work that this over-elaborate explaining, all from Count D himself and his philosophising, is the main meat of many of these tales as well as the gruesome conclusions, and the mystical creatures in this mini-series that may be real and hallucinations, so to view the work with this in mind markedly improves it greatly. Count D effectively becomes a one-man Greek Chorus and Crypt Keeper as well as the one who gives them the object (ie. the pet) that causes the events to happen. The four episodes play off the conflicts of human emotions and their follies, the old chestnuts that are still great themes to tackle, but adds the additional fact that, like in many Japanese stories, the person involved may have willingly let themselves be damned. Why Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) became such a legendary horror film as it has was probably both its premise of the cursed videotape, but also its theme of the complicity of people, in how the tape came to existent and that a victim, anyone of us viewers in reality too, could let this happen to us even if we knew going in that viewing the tape could kill us after seven days, gambling our life on such high stakes and scepticism. Pet Shop of Horrors plays with this concept nicely in such short a space of time.

From http://www.randomdestination.com/members/mj/amvscreencaps/Embrace_Your_Fate.jpg

If there is an issue with the mini-series it’s that, despite being hand drawn animation before the use of computers after the Millennium that became standard in anime production, it’s not the best it could have been even for television. The first episode, which I read in some form in a sample catalogue of manga from a distribution company, is naturally going to be superior in most exceptions on page, even if this version includes a bit I may have been deprived of from the sample that will disturb female viewers more than the male ones, but despite the virtues of the story itself, it lacks the complete punch an animated adaptation could have had. Pet Shop of Horrors is a solid ninety minute DVD, but it wasn’t allowed to fully form into something special because of the lack of episodes and the clear faults of the visual look and design. It may be a one-off viewing for many only because of this, unless you become enamoured by the material, but within the context of morality tale fiction, and what this does right in just four episodes, it was a great one-off viewing to have regardless.

From http://www.vendadeanimes.net/imagens/vendadeanimes.net/produtos/pet_shop_of_horrors_2.jpg

* I have yet to read the manga, but something that is ten volumes long as it was after it ended either went to a major narrative by its end or at least added to the backgrounds and the natures of the main characters within it. The four episodes of this anime adaptation are one shot tales only. 

From http://i.animecrazy.net/q-chan.jpg

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