[Series Review] PET [2020]

There are elements of the anime series PET that I enjoy. Three specific qualities are its psychological analysis of characters, its new approach to storytelling, and the depth at which it goes, however, there is one quality that weighs it down for me. This review will meander through those thoughts for a while since while I don’t like some aspects of this show, I would rather see more shows like this than generic isekai shows.

Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]
Spoilers for general events

My primary complaint is that PET is too hard to follow.

Part of this is its psychological depth. Characters will think to themselves as they’re in conversations with others and what could be easy enough to follow for Japanese speakers is lost in the English subtitles. This could be like when I write my fiction and have characters expressing themselves in similar ways, where the story might seem to go in one direction, then there could be diversions and sidesteps that can be interesting but also confusing to read.

I wonder if it’s hard to follow because it’s so slim in episode counts?

The first half of the series is more coherent, but it’s also less exploratory in narrative complexity. There are still psychological examinations, and that was actually the main appeal to me in the first episode and on. I wonder, then, how much of my criticism here of the show’s confusion stems from my slight break in watching the show’s first half and second half? It’s not like there were years of time separating those viewings, but I suppose if you don’t have character names and motivations memorized, more than a few days between viewings can leave one forgetting those finer details.

Would recap segments have been more useful here?

I can’t write from the perspective of an anime producer, because I’m a fiction/essay writer, so I would say that from my perspective, if I were to write out scenes like the ones in this show, I might try to work in recalls and other approaches to decrease the narrative density of a psychologically complex scene. Let’s say two characters are talking. Tsukasa, in particular, would say something to, say Satoru, while thinking another. It’d be easy to denote this well enough with italic font, but that has to be presented simply for the audience before it becomes a dramatic stake and even directly before, so we remember that this is an aspect of Tsukasa’s character where he might say one thing but think another.

It becomes a balance, then, of experimental and traditional narratives.

A more traditional narrative might not even include scenes in that arrangement. We might not hear what Tsukasa is thinking at all, and if so, that would take the forefront rather than watching the contradictions unfold before us. Experimental narratives should build on the traditional framework but expand on it. Elements that were much easier to understand in that regard were how characters spoke in Japanese and Chinese, often using that as ways to convey alternate meanings or to obscure their thoughts from others.

Code language is common elsewhere, but not so much in anime.

It would be cool to see how other anime will take influence from PET in the future, or if, considering that this is much more of a character-driven show than a plot-driven show. Once we know the characters, and can empathize with their plights, then we can return to see how their actions might have led to other consequences. This is more contemplative than a show, like say Eizouken, which is more about how those characters overcome a certain circumstance. That is more easily relatable, even if the material is similarly experimental but from a visual rather than psychological perspective, because we can all relate to wanting to overcome circumstances, but we can’t all relate to the events specifically portrayed in PET.

I am looking forward to the mangaka’s next work.

However, I’m not sure how much replayability PET has for me. It’s a narratively-dense show featuring many elements I do like about fiction, and I can appreciate its attempt at broadening the scope of anime. For me, I would return more to analyze how it tells its story rather than to actually watch it unfold, because honestly, after I completed the series I had to go through and read what had just happened. I’m not a huge fan of confusing narratives. When I throw my characters into confusion situations, where they go through overwhelming or difficult situations they don’t quite understand, I will still lean into that confusion, but I try to bring them through to a clearer conclusion.

With PET’s latter half, I was left confused and nearly frustrated.

I suppose this is by design. Through tackling dense psychological issues like how we shape our identities from others, there is a meditative quality required to the show where we think about the scenes after they unfold to consider their larger implications. If we take these concepts as analogies for real-life scenarios, then when others give us access to their “peaks” or their creative utopia, it’s the same as getting to know someone so well that we can empathize with them thoroughly. When those scenes are dense with material and proceed perhaps too quickly, it’s easy to let them fade from our imagination. That might be where my opinion ultimately lies; while I appreciate what was experimented on here, I don’t think it told enough to keep me captivated enough for another rewatch.

Who would I recommend PET to, then?

If you want something different from anime, particularly with a psychologically-challenging narrative structure, then there’s enough to dig into here. There are also elements of narrative experimentation that might be useful if you’re a fiction writer or maybe visual storyteller, to see how one show handles the idea of having characters say one thing but think another.

If all that doesn’t seem particularly appealing, however, then you can probably pass on watching PET without feeling too bad.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My viewing and writing experience.
Inspirations: When I complete media, now, I want to write about them to explore my thoughts, mainly.
Related: Other Series Reviews and Media Meandry essays.
Screenshot: A late-episode shot but with no spoiling content.
Written On: 2020 April 07 [From 9:27pm to 10:14pm, listening to PCP OST]
Last Edited: 2020 April 07 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.