This Week: Petshop of Horrors and Le Portrait de Petite Cossette.
I’ve noticed I’ve been on a Horror and Romance kick recently, but that certainly hasn’t been intentional.
Petshop of Horrors
While the title itself tends to make me constantly think of Audrey II from a different shop of horrors, this was a surprisingly solid little psychological horror miniseries. The set up allows for an easy episodic style, and Count D is very forthcoming with what the rules are in the contacts he makes his customers sign for the terms of sale for his supernatural animals.
It actually reminds me very much of things like The Twilight Zone, wherein each of the episodes wants to explore its characters personal horrors and twist moral lessons. As a result, also much like The Twilight Zone, one isn’t watching it so much to be surprised that a ball drops, but to see how and why a ball drops. It’s less focused on gore and trying to scare the viewer into jumping out of their seat and more on trying to get into human decision making. Count D taking the time to go over the rules for his sales is a great little narrative gear, since it allows the viewer to never feel lost (as “what are the rules” is so key to horror in general), to be on the lookout for how the protagonists who signed off on them need to adhere to them.
Really, he’s a great character on his own as well. He carries himself in a slick style befitting a man who has been around the block a few times selling hopes and dreams that he knows will bring happiness, but with potentially unfortunate results. And on that point the fact that we see several side examples of his longstanding customers being perfectly happy with their purchases, like the mayor and police chief, is a nice touch. It indicates that what we’re seeing as the primary episode stories really are “let me show you something special in the backroom” affairs, and that the business operates fine selling perfectly normal wares to people every day too.
The show has pretty excellent pacing overall, providing enough information to make each episodes characters sympathetic while still being able to give a satisfying little moral lesson wrap up.
Le Portrait de Petite Cossette
While both horror and romance are quite subjective, since it’s such a personal thing, I don’t think this series worked.
It’s oddly shot and the cinematography is very awkward, but not in a way that I think actually helps it. There’s an extravagance of long distance shots as characters interact or converse with each other, and it’s generally almost forcefully aggressive in trying to draw as few lip movements as possible. Mixed in are a number of quick jump cuts and occasional surrealist imagery, which when combined with the other mechanics and a script that was often about as clunky as a pile of hammers tended to create less of a “What’s going on, this is strange and uncomfortable” atmosphere and more of a “being overly obtuse so it doesn’t need to explain itself” mindset.
Now, it does do a handful of interestingly designed visual set pieces in all of its exuberance, and I will give it credit for that where it’s due. This is Akiyuki Shinbo going hog wild and throwing practically anything he can think of at the screen in one little three episode package. And I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had about the merits of trying to make ornate or “beautiful” horror, as it often wishes to live and operate apart from that. But, as a narrative, it’s extremely cluttered and amazingly messy for how little running time it actually has. And I watched Genocyber last week.
I think I actually would have preferred it to have been recut as a film rather than a three episode miniseries, as it would allow for it to run its whole course in a single glory run of unbridled force without the further breakups hitting the credits cause, since that introduces the mechanical aspect of the viewer getting to have notions filling their head about how excited (or not) they are to see the next episode. It’d create fewer potential gaps for the viewer to want to give up on the production, which with its narrative I feel would be helpful. Thematically, it would have worked out in its favor as well, about the protagonist just pushing forwards.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.