Manga-ka: Matsuri Akino
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: July 2009
Synopsis: “The mysterious underworld takes on a whole new dimension in this volume of Pet Shop of Horrors! When all the pastries in Shinjuku disappear, it’s just the beginning of a mystery involving a couple desperate for a child and a chef desperate to create the perfect dessert. Then there’s the case of the lovely lady who saves Taizuu from an assassin’s bullet, only to reveal her own deadly ulterior motives. And when a young runaway finds the perfect home, questions arise as to whether it’s a non-traditional school for girls – or a sinister cult.”
This fifth volume offers up some of the funniest moments of the series’ history and I had more than a few good laughs, albeit at the character’s expense. Taizuu steps up on his attempts to flesh out the truth behind Count D and his mysterious pet shop, going so far as to buying every sweet and cake in the entire city district! It’s one thing after another as Taizuu continues to fill the role of the absent Leon, except for a key-difference: Taizuu comes with a plethora of resources at his disposal.
When this plan falls through, he resorts to ordering that everyone in his building have full physicals, ensuring that poor Count D is subjected to every invasive diagnostic test that he can think of. Count D is pushed to his limits of sanity and I can only imagine the lengths of vengeance he would enact upon Taziuu should the opportunity arise. The inadvertent backlash caused by some of Count D’s apparent test results do warrant a good laugh at both Taizuu and Count D’s expenses however.
Amidst these moments of hilarity, there are other overlapping episodic stories regarding clients that interweave amidst Taizuu and Count D’s not-so-subtle one-sided war. Two couples wish to have children but for their own reasons are unable to conceive. At the same time a young man struggles with making the perfect Western style desserts when the exact ingredients aren’t available in the East. The needs of these different people all overlap accidentally, leaving Count D in a momentary panic, though one that allows Taizuu a chance to show readers (and the Count) just how much he’s begun believing in what Count D tells him.
Following these humorous pauses in the story’s potent severity, there’s a nostalgic cue to the past when Count D offers a pet to a young woman in need of solace after an accident claimed the life of her lover. “You must make me three promises,” Count D states, a line familiar to fans of the series and a welcome sight to those longing for some of the Count’s previously dealt justice. Such a call to the past though does continue to showcase the subtle changes in the Count’s dealings with humans. He’s less quick to assume the worst of his clients and in most cases seems genuinely apt to help, and in many situations his kindness is rewarded in more ways than he would’ve once given the opportunity for. There’s an irony then that this story takes the path he believes most often travelled by man, a chillingly blood-soaked end to a good deed attempted done.
Other stories in the book include one of a young girl who undergoes a complete transformation after joining a cult of young runaways, and the other follows Taizuu after a woman takes a spray of bullets to defend him from an assassin. Both stories serve as good episodic stories with their own shares of twists, but they’re also continually interesting in relevance to the involvement, or sometimes lack there of, of the recurring characters.
Though the funny moments were easily the most memorable of this book (and more than reason enough that I implore fans of the series to swiftly pick themselves up a copy), there was still just as many thought-provoking stories that balanced a fine line between eerie and just plain ‘ol scary. There’s never any shortage of surprises in Pet Shop of Horrors and this sequel series continues to deliver on that in all the right ways.