Tempest’s Downpour – Shojo Gorefest

Posted on May 01 2011

Warning: SPOILERS for Pet Shop of Horrors and X/1999 — even the pictures are spoilers. Also should not be read aloud in polite company.

“Shojo” is typically synonymous with fluffy mascot characters, pink dresses and enough floating hearts and bubbles to fill an elevator shaft. The plot is tied with emotion, which is driven by characterization. Typically, shojo isn’t associated with severed heads, bloody intestines, excessive character death and so much violence that the artists were told to tone it down or risk removal from publication.

Fluffy, pink and cute with a mascot character = the recipe for shojo.

But what about those of us that love horror films, but also enjoy characterization? Thankfully, X/1999 and Petshop of Horrors have the best of both worlds: character-driven, emotional plot while remaining obstinately gorey.

Pet Shop of Horrors takes place in San Francisco, California, and revolves around situations caused by a pet shop owned by an effeminate Chinese man whose love of sweets rivals his love of animals. The owner, Count D, claims he is in the business of “granting wishes” and always has the perfect “pet” for his customers. Interestingly, when the right animal presents itself to its person, it takes the form of a human, and typically the human they most desire to see.

Count D from the OVA.

Sounds pretty shojo so far: a man granting peoples’ dreams by picking out the perfect companions for them. This all comes with a twist: the owners have to follow a set of three rules. If they stray from these rules… well… let’s not think about that.

It’s all simple enough to follow, and Count D never charges anything extravagant. The owners take home their beloved pet who resembles their dead daughter/ex-wife/mistress/girl of their dreams. However, it becomes harder to follow these three rules as time goes on. Either the animal begs and pleads for the owners to break a rule, or else the owner is far too tempted by the taboo of Rule #3. Either way, this results in the karmic death of the owners, indirectly through D’s hands.

… except when it doesn’t. There is an instance of a blindfolded lizard-woman named Medusa who is bought by a struggling actor. They celebrate a slithery romance together until the man discovers that he doesn’t have enough money to provide for Medusa. He decides to go out in style: a candle-lit dinner with his cold-blooded lover, giving her makeup and jewelry. Then he unties the mask that covers her eyes… You’ll have to read the rest to find out what happens from there. It’s a story so good that it made it to the OVA.

Count D, left, Medusa, right.

Of course, any good shojo series isn’t a one-trick pony. Yes, D sells a pet just about every episode. But the police are on his tail. Well, one police officer is on his tail – possibly in more ways than one.

Meet Leon Orcot: low-level detective by day, self-proclaimed womanizer by night. Leon doesn’t do much in the beginning except, you know, figure out that D is possibly behind all these murders. Everyone just laughs it off because he’s lazy and kind of a failure at most policely things.

Look at that mullet — he’s obviously American.

Orcot decides to investigate by following D and questioning him when he least expects it. D has a weakness for sweets that Orcot quickly exploits. But D is one tough nut to crack. Eventually, Orcot starts to figure out more bits and pieces about D’s trade, but he starts to develop a close friendship with D, which gives him conflicting feelings about this whole ordeal.

To complicate matters, Orcot’s mute and traumatized little brother falls under his care and then subsequently under D’s care. The little boy, Chris, can see these animals as human and makes friends with them.

Over time, the story evolves, as all stories do. D starts to care for Chris and eventually for Leon, even though D’s philosophy is very humans-are-bad. Some friends become enemies while other friends become better friends and all sorts of obscure things like that. The gore element calms down a bit as deeper psychological horror sets in. You start to really feel for the characters, and then all at once the ending strikes swiftly. Thank goodness there’s a sequel.

X/1999 on the other hand is an emotionfest littered with death until the good stuff arrives. You’ll have to take my word on it because I got through 17 chapters of the manga as well as 12 episodes of the anime, and I’m apparently still not at the good part yet.

Mothers seem to be the main target in this series.

If you saw the movie (you poor thing) then you’ll know there’s rampant character death to a hilarious degree, as well as the joys of clutching severed heads. It’s a recipe for a disaster, and disaster is its first, middle and last name.

The tv series and manga have a lot more room to spread out. However, that translates into a series of chapters/episodes featuring everyone’s favorite anti-hero, Kamui. “Oh, I’m Kamui. I’m supposed to save the world and crap but I’m too busy hating my life to care. Look at me and my stupid hair.”

Thankfully, the other characters make up for his mere presence with their bubbly attitudes or fascinating whorishness, but every episode seems to be: “Get to know me better so you’ll miss me when I’m dead. Ooooh, feel the buuuuuurn.”

He was adorable just so that this moment would hurt more.

When Kamui finally does make his choice (finally, jeeze), THAT’S when the show starts to rock. The prophecy they keep stuffing down our throats three times an episode finally comes true: there will be two Kamuis (but there can only be ONE – sorry, got carried away).

Who’s the other Kamui? None other than Fuuma, Kamui’s kinda-best friend/cousin. Destiny takes over Fuuma’s brain and turns him into a righteous bastard who murders his own sister and gets a bit handsy with Kamui just to make the main character have an emotional meltdown. It works. AS IF HE WASN’T FULL OF ENOUGH ANGST.

Throughout the course of the story, lots of people die in fantastically gruesome ways. Blood sprays, intestines fly. People spontaneously combust, leaving behind swords and enough blood to make Evil Dead look tame.

People die in dreams, people die in tsunamis, people die on crosses. Religious symbolism? We got it. Kicking the dog? Done to death. Pissing off the wrong people by killing people they care about? Boy have we got it covered.

Your daily dose of religious symbolism. Oh, CLAMP…

X/1999 claims to be about the end of the world, and CLAMP wasn’t shy about exploring the most horrible ways to go. There are no heroes and no villains, but if you’re rooting for humanity, prepare for the apocalypse in a big way.

Pet Shop of Horrors is a compelling, fascinating story that reflects on the darker side of human behavior and the consequences that can happen when the helpless fight back. The characters are imaginative, even if Count D has popped up in other media (I swear he was the inspiration for Johnny Depp’s version of Willy Wonka). The series begins with chapter-centric plots that eventually unfold into an overarching plot.

Just don’t break one of the Rules…

X/1999 is an emofest, but once the main characters recover from this, the story gets fascinating. You get to see some old favorites like Seishiro, Subaru and Hokuto. CLAMP loves reusing characters, so prepare to see these guys in their other works as well. It carries on an overarching plot the entire time that repeats itself until you can’t stand it anymore, then repeats itself some more until it finally reveals the meaning behind all the cryptic logic.

Nevertheless, both series have an abundance of characterization, emotion and, of course, gore. Happy viewing.

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  • Gannon133 May 2, 2011 at 6:36 AM

    Man, I loved Pet Shop of Horrors and all the episodes I have watched back then. I totally forgot about how I felt in all those episodes back then. It is one of those shows that makes me wonder in retrospect.

  • nerdwerld May 2, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    X is one of those great movies, it is possible one of my favorite anime movies of all time.

  • nerdwerld May 2, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    To each their own, I did laugh way too many times the dubbing was pretty bad and at times it didn’t make any sense.

  • Jubilee May 2, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    When the first pic of an article is Sakura…I know I will enjoy it. 😛
    And I did… granted she seg-wayed to horror…
    even better! 😀

  • Asterose October 6, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Your humor while you were handling X/1999 was fantastic, I thoroughly enjoyed that part of the article enough to read it twice XD I don’t have much else to say there.

    With Pet Shop of Horrors though, so much seems to reference the OVA instead of the manga ;-; The art is so much lovelier (I’m looking at you, eye-on-top-of-hair D), and the stories are much more varied! Ahh, still makes me want to pull to pull my volumes and reread some, such as Dreitzhein with the temporarily blind girl who’s handsome doberman protects her and helps her heal, and is also the first to deal with the question of what the pet’s human form really is.

    It’s one of the most interesting parts of the series, I think, the handling of reality versus unreality. When is which form is seen when and by whom, right down to how the owner handles feeling, hearing, and seeing a human if other people only coo over the owner’s more or less ordinary animal? How does the owner adapt to an apparently human pet displaying animalistic characteristics and needs? And then there’s the delicious variations of outfits and hair/eyes/etc across creatures from dogs to mynah birds to kirin (oh, oh the luxurious ethnic outfits!).

    Unrelated afterthought: hmm, traumatized-mute, traumatized-blind, D only needs to help a traumatized-deaf to round out the platter

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