The adaptation of this two-decade old manga shows that old dogs can learn new tricks--if those tricks are diving into the brains of the traumatized and building a playground. Micchy and Nick leap into the world of conspiracies to see if Pet is worth watching.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Micchy, I know what happened this past week was tough. I understand how much you personally were looking forward to covering Interspecies Reviewers, but don't worry! There's thankfully a different show about monsters we can cover.
0/10, not enough hyena pegging. But I have to at least give Pet
credit for not being cowardly by limiting its awkward sexual tension to heterosexual pairings (?), even if what we do get is uncomfy in other ways.
OK so this season's Pet
isn't actually about people fucking monsters. It's about people being fucking monsters. Which for my money is still less objectionable than the guys trying to bang snakes or whatever.
Sure doesn't save it from the talking vaginas though. But that's neither here nor there.
The premise of the show is pretty simple - in a world where rare individuals develop super-powered telepathy, they seemingly all use these rare gifts to commit lots of crimes for...I think the Illuminati?
An Illuminati where all the Chinese members are way more comfortable speaking Japanese than whatever garbled nonsense the poor voice actors try to pass off as (probably) Mandarin, yeah.
It's not entirely clear who the Company is, but point is they're shady, international, and committed to doing the most crimes, so they're pretty much all you need for a mysterious villain organization in a show like this.
Pretty much. They mostly work as a catchall for giving the show's main cast of ESPers something to do each episode, which usually involves delving into a target's inner psyche and mindfucking them. Which all told is a pretty decent idea for you grim and gritty underworld sci-fi drama.
It's a pretty neat concept! Imagine someone going in and tampering with the memories you hold most dear, both your greatest joys and deepest fears, the experiences that made you who you are. That's gotta screw with your psyche. Now the question is, is all this psychological horror building to a point or is it just horror for horror's sake?
Yeahhhhhh. That's the question hanging over Pet
. Every episode is more or less centered on a surreal deep dive into a character's memories and emotions, and they universally involve some level of child abuse, sexual abuse, or usually both. It's striking and visceral subject matter that, so far, mostly feels like window dressing for the show's convoluted conspiracy plot lines.
And boy does it dig into the childhood sexual trauma, by which I mostly mean Freudian nonsense.
Though as far as the titular pets go, they've got us pretty well figured out.
They ARE telepaths after all.
Like this season's other crime-adjacent sci-fi thriller, ID:Invaded, each episode's centerpiece is a visually inventive deep dive into a different person's inner workings. But instead of solving murders, our heroes(?) manipulate memories and emotions to change or control their targets. So like Inception
if everyone was a huge asshole.
You'd think being able to literally enter people's subconscious minds would be helpful in psychotherapy or something, but nah, everyone in this show is a huge jerk with even bigger unresolved emotional baggage. Which I suppose makes sense if your entire identity rests on mooching off other people's identities?
It makes sense in how the show presents it. The only way any given ESPer awakens their power is by coming into contact with somebody else like them, and everyone like that's already working for The Company. What's funny to me, though, is how the show likens their powers to suped-up empathy but then seems to lack any concrete empathy for...basically anyone in the show.
Well, it's super-empathy as exploited by absolute psychopaths. The telepaths are so vulnerable that they build emotional walls around themselves, allowing the world's most unfeeling monsters to take control. The implication is that over time, they stop being so tuned into other people and turn into the kind of folks who can just say this to an old lady.
Is this communicated effectively? Debatable. But I think that's what the show is going for there.
To be fair, that's Katsuragi speaking, and I'm pretty certain he was born complete bag of crap with a cigarette already clenched in his miserable little baby fist.
But mostly what I mean is how the delivery of each character's baggage and trauma feels too voyeuristic. It's shocking material presented with a ton of impressive visual impact, but it only ever seems like it's there to prove how dark and serious and NOT FOR KIDS the show is. Which is ironically close to what the ostensibly psychopathic main characters are doing.
What, you mean the abstracted murder scene pulled from the foot fetish wiki isn't perfectly tasteful?
I'm more talking about the Gordian Knot of Yikes that is episode 3's tour of imagination. Which is sadly the worst part of the show despite featuring the best cameo ever.
It's okay Takahiro Omori, we'll always remember the beautiful insanity of Samurai Flamenco even if Aniplex doesn't want us to.
Alas, simply referencing one of the greatest classics of last decade isn't enough to carry an episode this convoluted and, frankly, pointless. Besides, I'm pretty sure a later season of Durarara snuck in a Mr. Justice or two at some point, so perhaps Harakiri Sunshine's cameo here isn't quite the best.
For real though, no amount of Harakiri Sunshine can make episode 3 not feel like a morbid waste of time. It's part of some needlessly complex conspiracy by The Company to accomplish...something with a gang lord and a Chinese ambassador. And it revolves entirely around digging into and reawakening the trauma of an abused yakuza enforcer to get him to kill a dude for...reasons. Like even the characters admit they don't know why they're doing all this for.
Was it ever established why the Chinese embassy was even doing stuff there? I'll admit I zoned out a little by the time they got to expositing about Inui's ~traumatic past~, so I can't tell if there was much of an explanation besides "Illuminati idk".
Nope, we're left in the dark about it. Which makes the whole plot line of Tsukasa mindbreaking Inui into reliving his crazy grandmother forcing him to crossdress and being abandoned by his father feel even more like pointless torture porn than it already did.
Okay, I get the manga is nearing two decades old at this point, but that backstory veers a little too close to the "parents of trans kids are pressuring them into transition too early" narrative for my liking. But even real-world implications aside, that's a whole lot of suffering to portray in a few minutes, all to justify why this guy's preferred weapon is a baseball bat.
And it's still not clear why anyone's murdering anyone else!
You could make an interesting story out of this. Crass as it is, there are moments where it feels like real thought was put into Inui's character - like a match cut between him kicking his grandmother's dead body as a child to him curbstomping someone as an adult communicates a lot with very little. But the show and episode aren't really interested in Inui as anything but a tool, so that what he's left as and all that heavy subject matter ends up feeling like shlock.
The problem is the Pet never quite commits to being an episodic series about psychological horrors. Everything points towards fitting in an overarching plot, but the Company stuff is so vague that that's not satisfying either.
If every episode were a real deep dive into each client or target, then sure! But ultimately very little of it matters because you know the larger conflict is something happening just outside our view.
Yeah that's the other major issue. While the show's sprinkled (very interesting!) tidbits of characterization for our main cast, it's also distanced the most likable and engaging characters from the plot of most episodes. You'd think from all the promo material that Hiroki would be the lead here, but he's spent the last 2 episodes manning a fish store.
And posting advice on r/relationships, it seems.
Hiroki, probably: LEAVE [clap emoji] HIM [clap emoji] QUEEN [clap emoji]
See that's what makes his so interesting! While his handler is off playing MadLibs with people's trauma, Hiroki's getting into funny shenanigans where he brainwashes a woman into dumping her boyfriend.
And also he's having an existential crisis but that's less fun.
Meanwhile his boyfriend's off making bedroom eyes at some guy who went MIA two years ago and seems to subsist on a diet of ramen and not much else.
Whether the feeling's mutual or not, well, that's questionable. Though given the nature of training and handling Pets (giving them purpose by sharing your most valued memory) I would not be surprised if there's some convoluted love/attachment chain extending to whoever started this thing in the first place.
They certainly keep it guessing. Hiroki's attached at the hip in an almost childlike way, but when they're separate Tsukasa talks about him in the same callous way Katsuragi does.
With just how two-faced he is, it's hard to tell if that's Tsukasa's actual feelings or just him putting up appearances, but it makes for the most effective dramatic tension in the whole show imo.
The only other dynamic worth getting invested in is the love (obsession?) triangle over Hayashi between Saburo, Tsukasa, and possibly Katsuragi. Seriously, though, what I want to know is who the hell's been seeding the 'peak' they've been sharing. Who Is OP, tell me!!
Or, at the very least, get into how this pet-adopting mechanic breeds dependent relationships. Or something.
Whatever's going on between the characters is still mostly a mystery, and while that's part of the narrative's driving force, it also means there's not a lot to grab onto if you're not entertained by the episodic thriller stuff. Which, to be fair, can at least be fun in the moment when they're just delivering neat, surreal imagery. I was genuinely surprised at how arresting the visuals for episode 2's mind dive were.
Meanwhile I'm trying not to dwell on Hiroki's awful fish face. Leave this Aquaman garbage in the Best Buy bargain bin where it belongs!
Oh it's terrible, but it's neat to look at! And the show manages to come up with visually distinct mind palaces for each character to keep things fresh, at least so far. In terms of just delivering cool, sort of trippy eye-candy Pet
is doing just fine, even if the story's tripping over itself.
Oh it's delivering the candy (among other non-infringing snacks) alright.
Hey they managed to sneak in everyone's favorite Code Geass sponsor at least.
Yeah, I'm really gonna get the hankerin' for Pizza Hut after watching [checks notes] disembodied limb pudding.
Fair. After seeing that you'd probably be more in the mood for Papa John's.
Wherever you end up getting your pizza from, just make sure you tip your driver.
Don't be Katsuragi.