I don't talk about it a lot, but my favorite manga in the entire world is Pet Shop of Horrors by Akino Matsuri.

YOU GUYS, IT IS AMAZEBALLS.

It's basically The Mikado as applied to Tales From the Crypt. There are four chapters in each tankubon (paperback); each one follows a customer to a pet shop in San Francisco's Chinatown, operated by the mysterious Count D (who's running the place for his missing grandfather). The customer finds a pet--typically exotic, usually startlingly human in appearance--and D sells it to him (or her, or them) with very specific instructions. The instructions tend to be weirdly focused on burning incense and the pet's dietary needs, but mostly not that strange. D is very clear, however, that failure to adhere to ALL the rules leaves the customer vulnerable to...whatever happens, and that neither he nor the shop will be responsible for what happens next.

Here's a hint: a lot of people break at least one rule.

Here's a hint: a lot of people end up dead.

Seems fairly straightforward! Actually, it seems like it'll be pretty boring for 10 volumes. But that's okay, because in the second tankubon we meet Detective Leon Orcot, WHO IS AMAZING. Seriously: he's a loud-mouthed, meat-eating, beer-drinking detective who would be a womanizer if women actually, you know, responded to guys being cheerful lechers. (He's not really that bad. If he did it to you, there's a pretty good chance you would call him a douche, but fondly.) He meets D when he's investigating him for murder. Never mind that the crime was actually committed by an animal and that D has a legal document protecting him and the shop from culpability in the death because the victim bought a wild animal and then did something stupid and it ate him. You know. As wild animals do.

Leon then spends another seven volumes--eight if you count the last one, which is batshit crazy--following D around and trying to arrest him for murder (or illegal animal smuggling; he doesn't really care which) in the same manner small children pull another child's hair: to show him he likes him. You guys, seriously. Seriously, he does this. D alternates between being bemused at Leon's reeeeeeeeally obvious and poorly-hidden confused-straight-guy attempts to flirt via threats of prosecution, and being legitimately pissed when Leon does something to piss him off. (Those happen when you're further along and D has, to his horror, started to catch ~feelings~.)

D also befriends Leon's much-younger brother Chris, who's living with their aunt and uncle. Chris is totally on board with a pet shop where animals are also people, at least in part because he doesn't actually speak out loud and hasn't for a couple of years now. (Their father, or fathers--it's not clear--aren't around, and their mom died shortly after Chris was born.) Chris ends up really good friends not only with D, but with Pon-chan, a little girl who's also a small dog, and Tetsu, a carniverious mythological goat-tiger that's also a 20-something kid with horns and a vest-sans-shirt, like he's Disney's version of Aladdin.

(Tetsu once tried to sleep with D before then trying to eat him. He also bites Leon on the ass every time he sees him. I sort of love Tetsu.)

Things get BATSHIT CRAZY in tankubon 10, though, when we find out that D's the last member of a different species that was almost entirely wiped out by humans several centuries ago; said species swore vengeance against humans and reproduces asexually, through what appears to be parthogenesis. (They're basically hermaphrodites.) D's grandfather, who's supposedly been in Asia for the entirety of the book, has actually been his little bat-bunny friend Q-chan--no, really--spying on him to make sure he doesn't turn out like his father, D (seriously, all of them are named D). D2 (D's father) has basically trained himself as a mad scientist that's about to unleash a virus designed to destroy humanity--except, possibly, D2's own version of Leon, an FBI agent named Vesca who is basically D2's bitter ex-boyfriend.

SERIOUSLY.

D2 ends up de-aged to a baby so Grandpa D can try and raise him right this time, and D and Leon end up on a magical flying boat that's transporting the pet shop away from San Francisco, because what with everything going BATSHIT CRAZY, they really need to relocate. Leon is confused but clearly game, and eager to see what's next.

And then D--WHO IS CRYING, OKAY, ONE PERFECT TEAR LIKE HE'S ERIK LEHNSHERR--says that Leon can't stay because humans haven't earned the right to see the land of the gods yet, so he SHOVES HIM OFF THE GODDAMN BOAT. And then Leon wakes up with a really mild concussion in the hospital. Because D clearly controlled his fall so he wouldn't actually die.

WHAT.

AND THEN, we jump ahead to twenty years later, when a now-adult Chris Orcot--who is now an FBI agent, okay--goes to a new exotic pet shop in Chinatown, where D2 (who is now a young man, remember: de-aged) is running things. Chris isn't investigating him or anything; he just wants to tell him that nineteen years ago, his brother Leon up and quit the police force to try and find D and has D2 heard from him since?

YEAH. THAT HAPPENED. A totally straight macho police detective mopes around for a year, then quits his job to travel the world and find the guy he's been trying to arrest for, like, a solid year and have a talk with him. Or live on his god-boat, whatever, NO BIG. TOTALLY NOT SLASHY AT ALL, NO SIR.

Okay. Now. All of that is awesome enough on its own. BUT THEN:

A couple years ago, Akino Matsuri started a sequel, Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo, following the adventures of D and the pet shop--now located in Tokyo, obviously--and how he's basically being stalked by a local Yakuza head named Wu Fei who's convinced D can bring him ultimate power and, I don't know, really great sex. (Wu Fei is basically panting after D something fierce.) I am personally of the opinion that Wu Fei, being a total bastard and also a criminal, will end up buying a pet that will end up eating him or something, because for real: I do not like that guy.

In the back of a couple of the tankubons, there are side stories. They basically follow D in the time between leaving San Francisco and settling down in Tokyo; he's had the pet shop in a couple of other places, you see, but he keeps having to move. It seems a blond-haired young American man, calling himself a police detective, keeps tracking him down, but D always manage to escape just as the...blond-haired young American detective, who is never named, arrives. We actually see him at one point, but it's from behind; he's wearing Leon's jacket, though, and he has Leon's asinine long-ass ponytail and he's carrying a duffle bag.

YOU GUYS. LEON IS TRACKING HIM DOWN. HE IS HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF, OKAY.

And then, because the world is a cold and gray place, we've been stalled at tankubon 6 for going on two years now. The first one ran 10; I see no reason we couldn't wrap this one up in another four.

THIS IS KILLING MY SOUL, OH MY GOD.

There is also an OVA consisting of four episodes. The animation is...early 90s anime, but not bad for all that. I AM RIDICULOUSLY FOND OF THIS ENTIRE THING. Seriously, I never thought they'd animate the episode where candy is used as a metaphor for heroin and bunny rabbits eat people, but that happened, and it is amazing.

Dear Japanese animation studios: you did two seasons of Kuroshitsuji, you can do a full season of this. You should do a full season of this, if only to see the whole thing with Tetsu and I can watch Leon flail his way through "no, I am totally straight and just bringing you snacks to bribe you about crimes you may or may not have committed! POLICE PROCEDURE ALL THE WAY."
.

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