Manga-ka: Matsuri Akino
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: May 2009
Synopsis: “When Count D is caught between two yakuza families in a modern day Romeo and Juliet-style romance, will his advice result in an ending as tragic as Shakespeare’s woeful tale? Or will he be able to bring the star-crossed lovers together without causing mafia warfare? And when a popular actress is having trouble with a stalker, Count D comes to the rescue with the perfect pet!”
Count D is back with more surprises for readers here in the fourth volume of Matsuri Akino’s Pet Shop of Horrors as the owner of Neo-Tokyo, the building in which Count D has set up his new shop, continues to follow the Count around in hopes of discovering his ‘true’ business. The owner’s shocked expressions are never short of entertaining with each new discovery about his mysterious tenant, and after learning just how deep Count D’s connections go, now it may be more a matter of whether Count D is best kept friend or foe, instead of merely deciding the fate of his shop.
Episodic tales in this volume include two young crime-family heirs seeking sanctuary in the Count’s shop, a rare cat hoping to find peace for the couple who care for him and a famous movie star seeking her own peace when a stalker threatens her life. As usual things are never what they seem but always worth sticking around to see exposed.
One thing that continues to make me sad about this sequel series is the lack of Leon. Readers got a tease of his hunt for the Count in previous volumes but nothing since. Every moment the story even poked at him getting ever closer to the Count’s new location, I’d be giddy with excitement! The contrast between the personalities of the Count and Leon were never short of entertaining, especially when now Count D is so feverishly against needing to ever deal with the brash cop again. Though I don’t expect every volume to cater to my fan-girlish whims, I certainly hope this is an aspect of the on-going story revisited in future instalments.
On the vague note of character personality, something I’ve really begun to take notice of is Count D’s growing empathy with humans. The prequel series, Pet Shop of Horrors, had consistently darker stories that punished humans for their own faults on a continual basis. Count D now not only seems to be interacting more with humans, but I also feel he’s become a bit softer in his interaction, and judgements, with them as well. The shift between Count D’s callous nature, and now his more frequently seen empathetic side, continues to make him one of my favourite fictional characters. Sprinkle on-top his often cheery disposition and love for sweets, and you have a character that easily embodies all that makes the series entertaining: beauty, mystery, humour and a dose of harsh reality.
Going back to the specific volume in hand, the book itself may feel odd to readers due to a distinctly different paper quality. While visually it looks the same, the whole book is lighter and much, much flimsier. Though I really dislike books that are too stiff, I think this is the first time (short of a book falling apart completely) when I’ve felt it was too loose. Once you get over the initial need to flop it around, however, it doesn’t really impede reading but it did take a little getting used to the different feel.
Volume four of Pet Shop of Horrors Tokyo ultimately proved to be a lighter read in a variety of ways, with Count D’s empathy and the book’s weight offering subtle changes to the series, while still offering the same creepy imagery, satisfying plot twists and Matsuri Akino’s consistently attractive artwork that always makes new volumes of this series a treat to read.