Mangaka: Matsuri Akino
My rating: 4 of 5
Deep in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown is a petshop, run by an enigmatic individual calling himself simply “Count D”. But this is no ordinary petshop. It is rumored that you can get any creature imaginable there: normal pets, illegal imports, even creatures believed by most to have never existed. Stranger still, for some buyers, their pets appear to have human form–but only sometimes or to certain people. Regardless, the pet and the buyer are always perfect for each other, specifically chosen to suit each others’ needs, or D won’t sell. Furthermore, each sale comes with a specific contract . . . one that must be followed carefully, or horrific results may ensue. Following the trail of some of these horrific results back to Count D’s petshop, detective Leon Orcot is determined to put D behind bars–if he doesn’t end up becoming fast friends with him first. Bother that mysterious count and his innocent-seeming charm!
I think Petshop of Horrors is a manga that delivers a lot more than it promises. At first glance it seems like, well, a horror manga. And it can be that at times; there are certainly episodes that involve super-creepy circumstances and lots of blood and gore. But as the story progresses, it becomes more and more about character and story development, even though the chapters are still episodic, each chapter featuring a different buyer and a different creature. The plot is interesting but mysterious–it seems like you’re going to find out more than you actually do in the end, and I really like that about this manga. I hate it when stories try to explain too much and end up with some super-lame explanation; it’s much better to leave a lingering sense of mystery, and Petshop of Horrors does that exquisitely. I honestly feel that the biggest draw of this manga isn’t the horror or the weird creatures at all; rather, it’s the development of the characters. Seriously, D has got to be one of the most enigmatic individuals ever–he reminds me a lot of xxxHOLiC‘s Yuuko Ichihara–and also one of the most complex people. I think one side of his character that’s particularly fascinating is the fact that he doesn’t see from quite a normal human perspective–if in doubt, he sides with the animals, for sure. Mixing D’s unusual character in with that of detective Orcot is sheer brilliance, Orcot being the upright, bright, American sort of guy he is. One facet I found unusual and interesting is that this manga is set in the U.S. . . . convincingly! I’ve read other manga with small sections set in the States, but they always feel extremely artificial and unresearched–at least to an American reader. This one doesn’t stray too far in weird directions, but is convincing (other than the fact that there’s a lot of weird fantasy thrown in with the petshop itself). On the whole, for older teen and up readers (because seriously, language and horror are definitely present here), I would definitely recommend Petshop of Horrors as a fascinating, unique, and beautiful manga.