[31 Days of TV Anthology Terror] Pet Shop of Horrors: Delicious

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To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.

As much as people write off cartoons as being nothing but child’s play, more are dismissive of anime. What was once a niche hobby has become a full-fledged, mainstream and global experience. It’s still considered “weird” to like anime, but fans aren’t alone anymore.

Anime has its stereotypes like anything else does; everyone knows the ones associated with it so there’s really no need to pull out that laundry list. However, it should be said that anime contains more diversity than it or its detractors let on. Horror has been a frequent element, yet few properties use it in its truly undiluted form. Matsuri Akino leans heavily into the genre with her series Pet Shop of Horrors, which began as a manga like most anime. However, the animated adaptation from 1999 was a limited miniseries that lasted only four episodes.

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While it is more of a soft anthology, Pet Shop of Horrors has the same setup as other more traditional series. The story follows a Chinese immigrant named Count D who lives in Los Angeles’ own Chinatown; he procures and sells exotic creatures at his pet shop. Every animal he sells comes with very specific instructions that must be followed to the letter. Otherwise, there will be dire consequences for the buyer. A skeptical detective named Leon Orcot provides the linking element for every tale.

The second episode “Delicious” introduces widower Jason, whose fianccée, a popular singer named Evangeline “Eva” Blue, tragically died before their wedding. When Jason goes to retrieve the fish Eva ordered from Count D, he instead finds a mermaid waiting for him. The sea creature even resembles Eva and wears her engagement ring. As the grieving man becomes more and more obsessed with his new companion, Detective Orcot’s suspicions about Eva’s death lead to a disturbing revelation.

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“Delicious” plays out exactly like it’s supposed to. In fact, the writing all but tells the twist long before the episode even ends. They try to pad the time with meager Count D and Leon tension as well as sensual, if not awkward, moments between Jason and the voracious mermaid. They also get their money’s worth by playing the same clip from Eva’s one song, over and over. Quibbles aside, the art is handsome enough and on par with its contemporaries. The outcome is also eerily fitting given the episode is about a supposed mermaid.

As alluring and eerie as Pet Shop of Horrors objectively is, there is a formula that can get monotonous if you’re expecting anything more complicated, story-wise. It is always a case of humans ignoring Count D’s rules and getting themselves into trouble. The very valid comparison to Gremlins has been made before, too. Regardless, the Gothic tone and imagery along with the visceral beauty make up for the show’s overall repetitiveness.

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