Season aired: Winter 2020
Number of episodes: 13
Genres: Mystery, Psychological, Fantasy
Thoughts: Originally meant to air in Fall 2019 before being pushed back to Winter 2020, Pet is an anime adaptation of a short manga series about a corrupted corporation and the people who work for it. It’s not just any corrupted corporation either. As its employees consist of people capable of infiltrating other people’s minds and memories using images (it’s hard to explain), which also gives them the ability to change personalities and even mentally destroy their victims. However, after one employee goes rogue, things begin to spiral out of control as manipulation, lies, and straight-up murder comes to the forefront of the story.
I had waited excitedly for this series because of the premise alone. The trailer showed a glimpse of what happens when the protagonists dive into people’s minds, and we find out that entering minds means entering a different world because of how each individual’s mind shapes their respective memories. Some memories mean more than others, and the story shows how powerful a particular memory is by labeling them as peaks and valleys. Peaks are the happiest memories that inspire you, motivate you, and change you for the better. Valleys are the most harmful of memories that drag you down, that insert self-doubt, and can potentially destroy you.
The anime illustrates that artistically. Peaks are represented as beautiful sceneries tinged with a positive, magical element, such as the aurora borealis, while valleys are represented through dark colors and destructive magic that threatens to kill you. It’s the type of world-building creativity that can’t easily be found (although another Winter 2020 anime series, ID:INVADED, also happened to feature such creativity). Since I am a firm believer in the idea that your history shapes so much of who you are as a person, I absolutely loved this idea.
I think that theme held strong and true through the entirety of the series and was the anime’s strongest point from the beginning.
Despite that strength, it can be hard to sit through this series due to the fact that the characters aren’t very likable. They are clearly committing morally wrong actions for the sake of money, and only two out of all the characters in the show were truly good people at their cores.
Satoru, a man who was trained and raised lovingly by Hayashi, is probably the most likable. Awkward, inherently kind, and conflicted, Satoru is a character whose heart means well and that he oftentimes only did as he was told because the corporation controlled every aspect of his life and made rebellion difficult. Hiroki, a naïve but passionate boy, is another who clearly dislikes the corrupt corporation and wants an out. He’s dependent on Tsukasa and dreams about running away together to live their lives outside of the influence of the corporation.
Unfortunately, you can’t really root for them until the latter half of the series, because you spend more time with the antagonists. These antagonists are in no way your Makishima Shougo (Psycho-Pass) or Fukuda Tamotsu (ID:INVADED) sort of charismatic bad guys. These characters are actually despicable, disgusting, and people you want dead. You constantly watch them win and gloat, with very little moments where the protagonists are happy or having a relaxed moment.
The relationships also don’t provide any reprieve for the audiences. Tsukasa, though also one of the victims of this corrupt corporation, survived by learning to become extremely manipulative. He manipulates Hiroki beyond belief, taking advantage of the fact that Hiroki is clearly emotionally dependent on him and very much in love. It’s the perfect example of how toxic relationships operate. While Tsukasa does have genuine feelings towards Hiroki, it comes in the form of lies and controlling behavior to the point that he reacts violently when Hiroki begins to question and defy his opinions. Even their happier moments are tainted with negative feelings towards how poisonous this relationship has become.
I had another issue that bothered me beyond belief: the weird-sounding Mandarin. The corporation’s members and the antagonists are all Chinese people who speak in Mandarin for a good chunk of their screen time, but I simply couldn’t take the voice-acting seriously. I couldn’t understand a single word except the simplest “no” that comes out of their mouths. Worst of all, these discussions in Mandarin are very important to the plot, and I ended up spending more time cringing at them than reading the subtitles.
This might be less of a problem to those who don’t know Mandarin, but I still couldn’t help but feel extremely bothered by it, to the extent that I wanted to skip entire scenes to avoid listening to the lines. On the visual side, the art will turn some people off. While the scenes regarding minds and memories are always drawn in detailed animation, both beautiful and grotesque, everything else is incredibly mediocre and sometimes straight-up bad.
However, I still must give credit where credit is due. I certainly loved the plot’s complete unpredictability as the characters become more unhinged throughout the series. Plus, throughout the last three episodes, the show becomes absolutely riveting thanks to its plot and character development. The ending is also impactful and serves both as a warning and a beacon of hope. Your actions and mistakes define who you are, but that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of becoming better because you’ve made bad decisions. The future is still in your hands, and it’s up to you to do something about that future while acknowledging your past.
In the end, I am left with conflicted feelings. The art, characters, and my own particular gripes about Mandarin made me dislike it. However, the soundtrack, voice acting, and, most importantly, the theme, made me invested. I think anyone who likes psychological thrillers will enjoy the series regardless, but people who don’t digest heavy and depressing stories well should avoid it.
Voice acting: 7.5
FINAL SCORE: 69