OP: 「蝶の飛ぶ水槽」 (Chō no Tobu Suisō) by (Sigure)
「The Crushers」 (Tsubushiya)
Director Oomori Takahiro’s new project has me absolutely stumped. Unlike the name suggests, Pet is not a series about cuddly furballs looking cute and going on an adventure. In fact, it’s the opposite. This first episode is pretty convoluted and I can only guess at which direction it wants to go. Pet’s premiere might not have wow-ed me but it has inspired me to convince you to give it a chance because I want to too.
First, let’s go through the episode together. The opening scene focuses on three characters: a young boy, a handler, and a mind-bender. The young boy has been mute for as long as his mother can remember and his condition has been a point of contention between his parents. What the people around him don’t realize is his extreme sensitivity to their emotions and thoughts. Because of it, he’s been trapped in a mental space where only other people’s intrusive and negative thoughts exist. Throughout his entire life, his consciousness was never offered the space it needed to surface, meaning he’s never experienced the world as others have. In an instant, at what seems to be a regular check-up with a pediatrician, his whole world shifts when he meets Hayashi (Kase Yasuyuki) (a crusher?). He recognizes himself in the young boy consequently saving him by offering a safe space he refers to as a “Peak”. How does he do this? By entering the mind space the little boy has locked himself in for so long. Intriguing, right?
Before I go any further into the episode, I thought this scene was really profound. My first reaction to there being a “Peak” and “Valley” was thinking about CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). We have tendencies towards detrimental behaviours (such as Satoru is doing in this scene), so we create strategies to help cope with what’s happening. The goal is to create healthy strategies rather than living in a cycle that might be deterring the mental state. In this case, the boy has already gotten “stuck” or “trapped” by this behaviour but he has managed to create a tool that might help: “the door to everywhere.” But without memories of his own, he had no means of using it. Essentially, to solve his problem, he uses this door (image) to transition between the two spaces. I was as impressed by the fact that something so metaphorical was the essence of a series’ introduction.
My interpretation of this scene might be entirely different from someone else’s but I can definitely appreciate the discussion this scene opened up around mental health and stability. Note that my description of CBT is limited so if you want to know more, Google is your friend here.
What I loved about this episode is the ‘insider’ point of view. The OP never emphasized the Kenji, the rastafarian bar manager, but instead had pointed to Hiroki (Ueda Keisuke) and Tsukasa (Taniyama Kishou) as our main characters. So as the episode unfolded, I knew we were watching an inconsequential side-story part of a much larger set up. This episode was key to understanding the roles “crushers” play in a very well established criminal oganization. A criminal organization, I might add, of which Mr. Katsuragi (Sakuya Shunsuke) is at the center of.
Now would be a good time to mention that Pet had a two-episode premiere on Amazon Prime Japan, whereas only the first episode was released with subs for North American viewers. If you were a bit confused, it might be because you don’t have the whole picture just yet. I assume the second episode will fill in all the blanks.
Usually, these types of short story episodes are explored after extensive exposition, however, I really came to admire the choice to introduce the main characters as supporting ones. Had I not paid attention to the OP, I might not have the same opinion.
Walking away from this episode felt unsatisfying but I think for the right reasons. I can’t put my finger on why I’m willing to sit and watch the rest. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker from crime-thrilling narratives, or maybe it’s because this first episode did a good job of planting seeds. There were definitely moments where I felt I was watching Monster or Gangsta for different reasons, not that Pet has provided the same intensity (yet) but it has succeeded in provoking me.
From here, I’m definitely interested in seeing what stories lay ahead. Will we learn more about this young boy, Satoru (Ono Yuuki), who now finds himself working as Mr. Katsuragi’s new right-hand man years later? Will we learn more about this crime-ring through short side-stories? Or will we be following crushers Hiroki and Tsukasa a little more closely? There is so much ambiguity and a lot of mystery but that’s the fun in a series like this one, isn’t it?
I’m open to a little change in narrative.