PET SHOP OF HORRORs (and homoeroticism)
Anime. We all knew it would come to this one day. It was unavoidable...even destined if you will. If you plan on reviewing (making fun of) whatever random strangeness comes across your television set, you're a fool if you don't at least give a nod to one of Japan's greatest exports: Totally Insane Crazy Cartoons. When I was younger, anime (known as "Japanimation", which some found to be pretty racist) already had a good foothold. Voltron coursed through our veins, followed by a healthy dose of Akira, Vampire Hunter D, and the best anime to have a bad guy control women by sticking his fingers inside them...Ninja Scroll. We all thought we were so cool back then. These days it's hard to avoid anime as Japanese culture seems to be all encompassing. From our infamous karaoke show American Idol to the fact that Manga has its own zip code in the local book store to the constant flood of Survivor/Fear Factor/"make people do stupid dangerous things for money" shows that the Japanese have been enjoying for over twenty years, Japan is everywhere.
fPet Shop of Horrors seduced me the moment I saw it on the shelf at the video store. My eyes passed by it. The synapses in my brain processed the images received. This prompted an error message that made me look back to reconfirm that I did indeed read the title correctly. Holy crap, it's really called Pet Shop of Horrors. Just so we're clear: It's not a comedy. It really is about a pet store where you can buy an evil hamster that'll eat your little sister. Well, sort of. I'm only going to review the first two episodes because ultimately there's only so much horror a Pet Shop can handle. Each episode is pretty much a complete story, like some cross between "Animal Planet" and "The Twilight Zone." I'll get to the pets of HORROR in a moment, but let me introduce you to the two recurring characters. First, the "straight" man:
Oh wow, it's the manly cop that doesn't play by the rules. Leon is this big macho stereotype that will, for reasons that will become clear, henceforth be known as "Butch". Butch really doesn't matter as a character since he really just exists to create homosexual tension between himself and this man:
That may be a terrible picture of him, but that rather fetching fellow in the foreground is "Count D". Besides having the worse code name for Count Dracula ever (I don't really think he's supposed to be Vlad, but the name can't be denied), Count D runs a spooky pet store where he grants people's wishes and fulfills their dreams by giving them animals that will ultimately eat them. In the two episodes that I saw, he gave out three pets and all three ended up eating their owners. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Pet industry doesn't require repeat customers. Back on task, take a closer look at the Count and tell me if you see anything unusual:
Let's ignored the whole "holy crap his hair is magically cut around his eyeballs" thing for the moment. Call me whatever you want, but that is eerily a very attractive man...in make-up...in a dress. Count D has quite a fan following amongst Yaoi fetishists. Yaoi, a word you never want to google, roughly refers to men with men in romantic situations. Sometimes that just means a comic book about two men out on a date while other times it means little boys doing horrible things to one another. It's apparently aimed (at least in Japan) at a female audience, which I suppose is fair, since hot girl on girl action has been a staple of the male perversion diet since the dawn of time. Dear God, I need to stop before I start quoting gender theory papers. So why the HELL am I talking about something that most people are better off NOT knowing? Because the whole "holy crap" he's gay thing is pretty much Count D's gimmick....I mean, besides giving out gerbils that eat their owner's brain while they sleep. Count D's dialogue helps support this, particularly if you take it out of context:
C'mon Butch...give it a taste. You know you want to. :sigh: Maybe it's not fair to share that out of context, but even if you watch it, it's implying exactly what I'm joking about. The fact that it's being spoken by a feminine man wearing the big fake eyelashes helps cement the observation. Still not convinced? Let's check out a particular moment in slow motion. Butch is in the police station, talking to himself about how he's afraid he can't trust his instincts as a cop anymore. Suddenly, a hand with big painted press-on nails lightly grasps his shoulder.
"I was counting on your so-called wild instincts." Dear Lord, Count D likes it wild.
Count D materializes behind Butch, looking not at him but at us, the audience. Which only gets creepier the more you think about it.
Butch suffers from "Delayed-Reaction syndrome" as it slowly dawns upon what's apparently pressed right up against his backside.
Butch is freaking out as any insecure macho heterosexual would...and there's the joke. Holy crap, Count D made our protagonist sexually uncomfortable. Hahahahaha. So what is Count D actually doing here rubbing up against Butch?
He brought him a picnic basket. If this wasn't a television show about killer pets (of HORROR), I'd say this was pretty much a romantic comedy of Butch coming to grips with his sexuality. He even reciprocates Count D's love token with one of his own:
Overlook the whole whole "fruit tart" joke...it's beneath both of us and far too easy. The more interesting thing there is the name of the baker of said fruit tarts. "Madam C"? Tarts from Madam C to Count D? What is this, the Letter People? (B is for Beautiful Buttons, kids!) Yet another random thing with that name Count D's got there. (D is for Dhampir, who dies at dawn.)
Talk about tangents. Pet Shop of Horrors is, ultimately about pets. And horrors. Count D and Butch play only minor roles in the episodes, but that doesn't stop us from watching them less than subtly court one another. The Count is this gentle and loving soul who, like the Devil in all those Faustian fables , shows up to grant desperate sinners temporary reprieves before sending them off to hell. Maybe that's a little extreme, but let's look at it.
Two parents come into the shop. Their daughter has just died of an overdose. Later we find out the parents couldn't say "No" to their daughter, and even gave her drugs while she was in the hospital, making them responsible for their daughters death. Of course, we the audience don't know all this yet, but it helps put Count D's actions in perspective. He already knows (he's got magic know-it-all powers, most Japanese pet store owners do) that the parents have lost their daughter, so what does he offer them?
Oh wow. It's their daughter. Only Count D says that it's a rabbit that they mustn't give any sweets to. I'm sure nothing bad could come of this, right? The parents take the little girl that's really a rabbit away (it's magically mysterious as we the audience only see the little girl too). After being home with her for ten minutes, what do the bumbling parents do?
Now admittedly, Count D isn't TECHNICALLY responsible for this. I mean, if the parents couldn't take care of their daughter he had a reason to let them be responsible for taking care of an evil shape-shifting rabbit girl, right?
The rabbit girl starts having horrid stomach craps before falling over, dead. The parents start weeping...until the side of the corpse rips open. Horrid beasts come out of the wound. What beasts you say?
Dear God, Japan. Did I really just see an army of babies crawl out of a little girl's corpse? Yes. Yes I did. Long story short, the evil babies are actually rabbits...as revealed by the Count who mysteriously knows the exact moment that the parent's screwed up with the magic rabbit girl. I know this is supposed to be a moral tale about how parents should take better care of their kids, but there had to be a more acceptable way to teach it to them. I mean, having one of the parents eaten alive by killer self-replicating bunnies...what kind of lesson is that?
Again, I don't think Count D gets a lot of repeat business.
The second episode isn't much better...though it is a bit higher on the masochism chart. A guy's wife died...so he buys an exotic fish from Count D that looks just like his wife. Noticing a pattern yet? In this case she's a mermaid, so this a totally different from that last evil pet that looked like a family member that ended up eating its owner. Oh wait. The mermaid eats him too. Huh. There's a Twilight Zone-like twist at the end where we find that the fish couldn't have really been his dead wife reincarnated as a mermaid, but it's too little too awkward too late.
While this one is pretty straightforward with the husband not taking good care of his new pet that looks like his dead wife and getting eaten because of it, at least there's an extended scene involving a mermaid erotically licking blood off her owner. For someone, that's a fetish jackpot right there.
And that's it. In the first two episodes we get a killer bunny and a killer....mermaid. There was also a brief scene in the first episode where a man was eaten by a painting of a tiger he bought from Count D before the show started, but since it was there to establish that Count D sells dangerous pets to people he knows will eventually get eaten by them, it's not worth mentioning (any more). He also sells a little girl a bird...but I feel it's safe to assume it started eating her cooling corpse about fifteen minutes after she left the store. You know, because Count D is just that kind of guy.
Now don't get me wrong. I liked Pet Shop of Horrors. I mean, who wouldn't love to watch the homoerotic adventures of a pet store owner as he systematically kills all his customers one by one. If you're really interested, I'd suggest checking out the comics and the further episodes. I mean, if watching grown men cuddle while fire-breathing cockatiels ravage the city is your thing. I'm joking, but only mostly.
In closing, I think that Count D might truly be my favorite of all the Letter People out there. Especially because he spreads man-eating animals across a city with reckless abandon.
D is for Dracula, who dresses in Drag
Copyright 2006 jared von hindman, except for images which are use via Fair Use for review purposes. Oh and please don't be offended by anything you see here. It's really not meant to be taken seriously and I've got nothing against Japan. Canada on the other hand, you can go to hell. You perverts with your 14-year-old age of consent. I'm aghast with moral superiority.