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In an anonymous U.S. city, there is a neighborhood called Chinatown, and in Chinatown, there is an exotic pet shop. The proprietor is Count D, a beautifully androgynous young Asian man with mismatched eyes - who might well be Yuuko of xxxHolic's long-lost cousin. Because, of course, this is one of those unusual establishments that include not only Yuuko's store, but also the Department Store of Heart's Desire in the science fiction classic Norstrilia. According to its proprietor, it actually sells love and dreams - to a clientele of the mentally disturbed and the emotionally wounded. Like Yuuko, Count D does his best to make sure each customer gets exactly what he or she needs - or, sometimes, deserves.

The series is categorized as horror, but only one out of every half a dozen stories is especially horrifying. Mostly, the tales are odd or whimsical, and as in the first several volumes of xxxHolic, there's no real continuity from story to story except for a few principal characters. There's the Count, of course, and also his would-be nemesis, a young blond police detective named Leon Orcot. Later on, Leon's sweet but disturbed baby brother Chris shows up to live with him - giving the Count a continuing additional role as the world's most unlikely babysitter - and there are also several continuing animal characters.

Did I mention that none of these "animals" is quite what he or she seems? I imagine you've guessed as much ... .

Anyway, the series is quite a lot of fun - creepy fun, in most cases. Much amusement is derived from the apparent cat-and-mouse game between Leon and the Count, whom Leon suspects of drug smuggling, white slavery, and every other crime stereotypically associated with Chinatown ... because the Count is also playing cat-and-mouse, but he has a different idea of who is in which role.


Pet Shop of Horrors, vols. 1-9 (review)

I feel rather silly, blogging this with only one volume (apparently) to go, but I'm not sure when I'm going to get hold of volume 10, so ... Certainly I've read enough at this point to appreciate the several Springkink fics involving Count D, who really is a character to warm the heart of any slightly kinky fantasy fan, what with his appetite for sweets and Officer Orcot - of whom he says quite plainly, early on, "I do enjoy your company. One of these days, I may not let you leave." (Not to mention the Count's willingness to sacrifice body parts, if necessary, if it means obtaining the rarest creatures ... .)

A lot of the stories cover roughly the same ground, with a greedy or rapacious character getting his or her comeuppance, or a shy or defenseless character coming into his or her own. The fun is in seeing how the different animals - many of them mythological - are worked into the modern-day scenarios. The mangaka is much better at constructing a plausible U.S. city than is the author of Fake - and coincidentally, the drawing style is very similar to that series. Leon, in particular, would looks right at home in the squad room with Ryo and Dee.

I think my favorite story is the one about the bossy younger sister who gets tired of her doggie. This story also later gives rise to one of my favorite Count D lines: remembering this child, the Count remarks that she was "a little hellion who deserved to eat her own feces." I'm also fond of Ten-Chan, the young male nine-tailed fox spirit who manages, very diplomatically, to be all things to all people when he's with the various members of the very argumentative family who buy him, but who's always very sassy with the Count. (And yes, I like the little monster Tetsu ... but so does everyone, right?)

I've now got an urge to fic something involving all these strange shop owners ... perhaps Kisuke Urahara (Bleach) and Dr. Kou (Wild Adapter) should come along as well!


( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
Well, in volume 10 you only have...every revelation ever...

And the sequel is out now.

I have to say that Leon having D babysit Chris, while still accusing him of every crime he could think of, is probably one of my favorite things ever.

Anytime I read anything int his shop owner sub-genre(such as when I was reading the first Nightmares for Sale) last week I start imagining them all meeting each other and there's all this tea and politeness and "fu-fu" handwaving and secretive backstabbing. (actually, I think sanada and I discussed that in my latest Slayers post...) Except I can't bring Yuuko in...I somehow think she'd think the competition needed to be disposed of.
Mar. 1st, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)

I really, really like the idea of Count D and Kou together, but that's just my usual passion for slash coming out. And she shouldn't get rid of Kou - I bet he'd have something good for her hangovers ... . And I'm not sure she could get rid of C'william (the Department Store of Hearts Desire guy) - he has powerful connections.

I like how Chris just accepts everything! And he and the little raccoon girl are so cute together. It took me a while to figure out that she was the raccoon.

Mar. 1st, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
As Kou is drawn by Kazuya Minekura, I doubt D objects to you're slashing him. Esp. if Kou has any interesting pets. (Sadly, I couldn't get into Wild Adaptor...it crossed the line to where I felt like I have having my face rubbed into the dark and moody too much...)

Does C'William make gods in his spare time? I figure anyone who takes a couple days off to create gods can get rid of any competition she wants, no matter how well connected he/she is.

It's been a while since I read Petshop(it was only a couple volumes in when I started reading manga, and I was reading it as it came out) but I remember that one of the few problems I had was that I wasn't always sure what human-looking character was what animal.
Mar. 2nd, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
I'm still waiting for Cho to get the latest WA, as volume 5 is a longer storyline with a lot more attention paid to the emotional bonds between the characters -- there are comical-yet-poignant misunderstandings and jealousy, and Kubo going to great lengths to protect Kou and Toki from involvement in a police investigation he's gotten mixed up in, and really just a stunning number of "awwwww" moments for a story arc involving prostitution, drug dealing, murder, and police brutality. And the next volume promises even *more* backstory, wheee!

Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)

Volume 4, right? I have it now! It came all shrink-wrapped, apparently because OMG, boobs ... .

Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
Ah, typo/thinko, yes...I was reading Vol. 4 at the same time as I was reading someone's summary of the Japanese Vol. 5 (more backstory, wheeeee!) and got 'em all messed up.

I've enjoyed the series as a whole so far a lot more than some -- dark-and-gritty underworld stories work for me -- but this one's definitely the most squeefully emotional so far. Jealous Toki and weary Kubo showing more openly how attached he's become (in that odd Kubo sort of way) just made me giggle happily and go "awwwwwwwww" right out loud. Which probably got me funny looks 'cause I was in the Pentagon City food court at the time...
Mar. 4th, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC)

I'm going to want to blog it before I say much more, but I did enjoy the increase in emotional level. The reporter is starting to give off a slight positive Gojyo vibe - Tokito seems to notice this too and comments about it, to Takizawa's bemusement.

Edited at 2008-03-04 06:34 pm (UTC)
Mar. 4th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
After that conversation I had with kispexi2, I'm more and more seeing Toki as sort of elements of Gojyo and Goku simultaneously, and ditto for Kubo as a blend of aspects of Sanzo and Hakkai...

(Although with Anna's little flashback story, the psycho-Hakkai side was particularly strong in this one...)
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)

I blogged WA! We can talk about who's like whom over there!

(Obviously if I were a doggie, I'd have some kind of herding dog in me ... .)

Mar. 5th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* There's an amusing little "what dog breed are you?" game here...
Mar. 5th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)

Hmmm, there's something odd going on with that site - it tooks me a while and some well-timed clicking on a menu bar that kept disappearing to get the game to run. But I was a field spaniel!

The temperament seems apt, but they should have had a question about hair type and length - my hair probably would be like that if I let it grow ... .

Mar. 6th, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
IIRC the last time I took that little quiz, when it was making the rounds on all the dog lists, it scored me as a Shiba Inu...not bad, as they're one of the few small-dog breeds I really like:

This time, though, I got Eskimo Dog:

...and laughed myself silly at their breed writeup, because it was all wrong -- whoever put that page together seems to have confused the toy-sized Eskie, which isn't actually North American or a sledding breed, with the real Inuit qimmiq, the big working dogs from the same sort of village stock that the modern Alaskan Malamute was developed from. Eskies are also spitz breeds, but they're originally from Germany; they were renamed in WWI, much like the GSD -> Alsatian renaming in the UK.

(My Nobilis girl's canine form was your basic yellow dingo-ish pariah dog.)

Mar. 10th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I always thought of those dogs as the pomeranian (toy-sized version), spitz (later American Eskimo - medium-sized pet version), and Samoyed or whatever - the full-sized arctic dogs.

I love the way those dogs look, but I'm not sure they'd be a good match for my personality.

I was disappointed that I didn't turn out to be a shepherd dog of some type. But 5 personality traits are not a lot - I tried again with a slightly different selection and got an eastern European shepherd dog - the kind that blend in with the sheep (Old English) rather than the wolfish (collie) kind.

Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)

Kou only knows people who have interesting pets ... I'm joking. When Kubota first picks up Tokito, he tells Kou that he's found a stray kitten!

This is where the different types of scenario collide. Norstrilia is SF (although the "S" part is mostly history/sociology, and it's rather mystical at times), so - no gods. But C'william (a/k/a "the Catmaster") works for someone who's changing the destiny of Earth, and thereby the known universe, so I guess it's pretty close. And the kami that Yuuko messes with aren't all-powerful, either.

Yeah, that's quite true, about which is whom - confusing!

Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
I seem to vaguely recall the stray kitten line from the little bit that I read.

Hmm...it sounds like C'William knows people who are on Yuuko's level. It would probably come down to who's meaner.
Mar. 4th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)

Oh, Yuuko, probably, although C'william could be ruthless at need.

Mar. 4th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
Well, he was one of the cat-stock underpeople, wasn't he? That's just feline morality at work. ;)
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)

Yes, he was ... some of my favorite bits in there are when Rod is disguised as a cat-underperson. I like the underpeople cafe where there are all kinds of specialized meals, and the proprietor is freaked out by what C'mell orders for "C'rod," and then later, when he's being questioned by the police and is acting all dumb, and A'gentur explains that the catman is just "breeding stock."   XD

Mar. 3rd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
Is she an actual North American raccoon, or a tanuki?
Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)

I think you're right, she's a tanuki - Pon-chan, her name is. But the translation actually has him mentioning a raccoon at one point, and I just glommed onto her as what he meant.

Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
*nod* I was wondering because SO MANY anime/manga translations conflate the critters, and it drives me a little batty...
Mar. 4th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)

Yeah, and I think it gets confused in other Japanese-translated-to-English contexts too. I seem to recall it in some translated folkd tales.

Hmmm ... Wikipedia (not always the best of sources) says it's not actually a badger: sp. Nyctereutes procyonoides or "raccoon dog," confirmed at this university site. It does look rather like a raccoon.

Mar. 4th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
I've seen the "badger" misidentification in some print sources of folktales and such, but "raccoon" seems the more common one for manga and anime. They're neither true badgers nor raccoons, of course; they're canids, and aside from the facial mask they look much like cold-climate fox species -- smaller rounded ears, long coat, shorter legs. (Heck, if not for the long, uncurled tail, they'd almost look a bit like Pomeranians with really elaborate highlights!) The shape of the skull, the set of the legs and the compact paws are all very canine.
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)

Yeah, they do look like arctic foxes, shape-wise. But the mask markings are a pretty freaky example of parallel evolution!

Mar. 1st, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
Hehehe, but volume 10 is when the shit really hits the fan... It's not D's inhumanity that comes as a surprise, it's his humanity... he does stupid, reckless, emotional things sometimes, and that's why I love him as much as I do. ^_^;

I think the mangaka actually went to L.A. at some point for research, so it generally does feel authentically American. (The sequel is set in Tokyo and I miss the silly skewering of my culture!) Leon is like an affectionate play on the gun-toting, loud-mouthed "American" stereotype that you see in 90s manga. I like how well the series can go from slapstick to philosophical, and how Leon and D can be bitching about eachother one minute and then risking their lives for eachother the next, or giving subtly significant little hints of something more to the relationship... *heart*

Oooh, creepy shopkeeper crossover!

Mar. 1st, 2008 05:50 am (UTC)
"Oooh, creepy shopkeeper crossover!"

That is probably the only crossover fic I'd ever really read...

(Since it's going on in my head anytime I read one of these, anyway.)
Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:25 am (UTC)

D can go really nutty when an animal's in danger! Maybe that's why he likes Leon so much ... . I notice Leon doesn't seem to have been out with any girls since he ran into D.   XD

Mar. 1st, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
You'd need to add Mr. Yang from The Antique Gift Shop to the crossover mix. :D Alas, the company that was translating and publishing them vanished and we only have four volumes of the series translated, so all we have are his mysteries and the actual store owner's issues starting to be revealed.

It's the same sort of thing as Petshop, only with antiques. And the store is owned by a young woman who is the granddaughter of a shaman but who doesn't want to be one herself and who will be outta there as soon as she sells all the stuff. (If the spirit world will let her, that is...) The tall, longhaired Mr Yang shows up one day and is hired to work as a salesman in the store. He is, of course, more than he seems.

GAH I want to know who has the rights to it now! Are they langushing somewhere, or will someone else pick it up? ARG
Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:28 am (UTC)

Heh, I hadn't heard of that series ... just ordered 'em all! Even though it'll be more of the Legal Drug aggravation if I like them ... .

Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
The mysterious Mr Yang, from a post wherein I was doing inking tests. :)
Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)


(I was actually seriously thinking about a D/Kou encounter last night ... they're a little too much alike in some ways, but who knows?)

Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:37 am (UTC)
Heck, I think there needs to be a bish_a_day post on 'em all. XD Seeing as how I keep not getting around to posting the contest there and all... :/
Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC)

I know, I keep forgetting also. Maybe when I have my new scanner/printer set up so I can have more than one shot of Kou (that pic with the cranes is the only one I've found of him online) ... I actually got a whole new iMac Saturday night, and I'm terrified to mess with it, mainly because of the issues of moving my data over and wondering whether my current version of Photoshop will work on it.

Mar. 2nd, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)
And there's always the mysterious shop in Fritz Leiber's Bazaar of the Bizarre (Count D might like the giant furry spiders..), or the antique shop in Dream Stories of the Rainy Willow Store...
Mar. 3rd, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)

Yeah, the store is related in concept, but the wacky little shop keeper (I'm avoiding spoilers) doesn't have much personality compared to the other candidates here.

I do love that story, though.

I'll have to look at the link some other time ... our firewall here at work thinks everything on that site is naughty.

Mar. 4th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
It's a woefully-unavailable-in-English tanbi about a Meiji-era antique shop that sounds a bit like a cross between Petshop of Horrors and Mushi-shi. The shop-owner's grandson can see spirits, and many of the objects brought into the store are haunted by ghosts or have become tsukumogami; he ends up trying to set the customers (and stock) free of the sad attachments that are binding them.
Mar. 4th, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)

Sounds like it has a dash of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service thrown in there too, what with the unhappy ghosts.

( 37 comments — Leave a comment )


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