Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review: PET SHOP OF HORRORS: TOKYO

Let's wrap things up with the sequel to one of my favorite horror manga.  Will this return to Count D's mysterious shop be just as wonderful as before, or contain horrors beyond imagination?

PET SHOP OF HORRORS: TOKYO (Shin Pettoshoppu obu Horazu), by Matsuri Akino.  First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

After fleeing from Los Angeles (and the attentions of a particularly stubborn detective), Count D has established himself in Tokyo.  He's ready to offer his exotic, shapeshifting pets to anyone who needs them, be they a yakuza henchman in love, a single mother running from her abusive ex, or a frustrated wanna-be novelist.  Meanwhile, the landlord's son is deeply suspicious that Count D's business is not all that it seems...

STORY:

Let me reassure anyone who might have been wondering: if you enjoyed the original Pet Shop of Horrors, you will enjoy this series.  Akino picks things up right where she left off and continues in very much the same vein.  It's still more or less the same series of unconnected vignettes where sad or frustrated people find ways to connect with others through their pets.  They're still connected by a plot thread between D and an intrusive investigator, although this version has D taking on a slightly more antagonistic (or at least needling) role and is far less homoerotic and comedic than the previous version. 

I will say that this time around, there seems to be a lot more emphasis on tragedy than there is on horror.  It's hard to tell whether this is simply due to Akino's whims or the shift to a new magazine, but there's a definitely a lot more romanticized deaths in this first volume and I'm not complete sure what I think about it.  Expect a lot more noble sacrifices to save loved ones and not so many girls spewing rabbits from their stomachs. 

This approach comes to a head in the side story included in the end.  It focuses not on Count D, but his lookalike grandfather.  The story whisks us back to 1930s Germany, where a desperate young woman wants a child to keep her powerful lover by her side.  She receives a beautiful golden creature that the couple take in together, even as Europe is overtaken by war.  As Berlin falls, her lover takes her as his bride at last, together forever in death.

Sounds romantic, doesn't it?  Here's the twist: the desperate young woman is Eva Braun.

Yes, THAT Eva Braun.

Unless you are living under a rock or purposefully shutting out the daily news, then you'll be aware that Nazis and fascism have been something of a hot topic lately.  There's been a lot of discussion about how previously hateful, unthinkable ideas have become normalized and how troubling that is. So you can imagine how I felt reading this, hoping for a momentary respite from an awful world, only to see Nazis LITERALLY ROMANTICIZED WITHIN ITS PAGES.  Because of that, I couldn't even enjoy the

It's a shame this happened because aside from that, the volume is perfectly fine.  While I question the shift away from horror, it's still good entertainment.  Alas, all it takes is one poorly aged and culturally insensitive inclusion to spoil the entire experience.

ART:

The better part of a decade passed between the end of the original series and the start of this one, but you'd never guess it from looking at the art.  Her characters (be they human or otherwise) are as beautiful as ever, and this is doubly true for the beautifully androgynous D and his many elaborately patterned robes.  While her pages always have a lot going on upon them, she directs the eye subtly yet skillfully with well-placed staggered panels or poking her characters up through the frames to guide the reader.  It's the work of a mangaka in her prime, confident and elegant.

RATING:


Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo should please fans of the previous series, as most of its best qualities are continued here...just so long as you skip that side story.

This series was published by Tokyopop.  This series is complete in Japan with 12 volumes available.  8 volumes were published and are currently out of print.

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