Pet – Anime Preview
Synopsis: The power to infiltrate minds and manipulate memories. Those who have it are feared, hated and referred to as “pets”. Hiroki and Tsukasa both possess the power. It would have consumed their fragile hearts, were it not for the special bond they share. But their wish to be together is callously exploited by underground organization “the Company”. What consequences will distorting their bond have? (Official Amazon Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Pet opens strong, choosing to introduce us to this poor young boy whose special abilities have trapped him inside a painful place within his own mind. It’s an emotionally gripping way to introduce the show’s whole concept of mind reading/mind control and one that’s likely to grab the attention of most viewers. The story of this young boy, however brief, is touching and tragic, leaving an intense impression not only due to the sadness in it but the way in which it’s coupled with shocking visual imagery. However, once the focus shifts from the young boy, after a sort of a cathartic resolution, Pet heads down a rather different road.
Tom: Pet changes gears entirely, flashing forward (I assume anyway) to a totally different story, with mostly different characters. That initial, more emotional tone is abandoned in favor of a more direct attempt to hammer home the concept of the series. The basic idea is as the synopsis describes above. We follow our character of the week, Kenji, who runs a dive bar near the ocean front. He also has a side job, doing dirty work for a certain criminal organization, recovering evidence dumped in the nearby harbor. Kenji eventually starts to question how corrupt the work he’s doing is, and finds himself targeted by crushers, people with the supernatural mental powers showcased in the show’s opening minutes, capable of invading and reworking people’s minds. While the concept isn’t that hard to understand, what follows is a mess of an episode, filled with questionable storytelling choices. Not only is the whole thing a bit hard to follow, likely a half-baked attempt to make the audience question what is real, but there’s a streak of sexual based dialogue that’s either serving as uneven comic relief, pure homophobic content, or even just simple homoeroticism, depending on which particular sequence we’re talking about. It gives the entire production this edgy, ‘look at me so adult’, vibe that actively ruins whatever goodwill the first five minutes offered.
Linny: It is indeed disappointing how Pet is yet another show that decides to throw homophobic lines into the mix for no good reason. It’s possible it’s part of an attempt to portray the very real disgust for same-sex relationships so prevalent in Japan, if not across the globe, but that it features a dark skinned man as a low life character running dubious errands for extra cash isn’t a point in the show’s favor either. Pet tries to use sexual imagery in an attempt to upset but it again comes across with a homophobic or perhaps exploitative tinge. These are things that hamper a show that’s already struggling in other ways, such as the lack of compelling characters and a disappointing cut from a touching story to a significantly inferior narrative involving what amounts to an all new set of characters. Pet fails to present anything deep or engaging past its opening sequence and this first episode is filled with what comes off as try hard edgy imagery. Overall, Pet seems more likely to turn out to be another failed attempt at a dark psychological thriller and a skippable show for most this Winter season.
Tom: Pet might be able to weather such an uneven first episode if it at least looked good. Sadly Pet is another anime suffering a ho-hum production that from episode 1 alone isn’t even coming close to impressing. About the only thing I found enjoyable, outside of the first five minutes, was a killer song by TK From for the opening credits. I don’t truthfully know much about the manga this anime is based on, and had trouble finding anything at all about it through a quick google search online. Part of me wonders if the edgy, kinda homophobic dialogue and at times oddly sexual elements are meant to depict the struggle gay people suffer in society, particularly when I read in the synopsis that Hiroki and Tsukasa, two characters briefly depicted performing sexual acts on each other, have a ‘special bond.’ It’s hard to say though. But this first episode’s presentation doesn’t give me much hope that even if the series isn’t suffering from some latent homophobia, and is even a positive portrayal of same-sex love, that the narrative is going to be all that well realized either. Right now I think Pet is a safe pass for this season, even if you’re a bit eager for a psychological thriller.
Pet is available for streaming via Amazon Prime Video.