This volume is composed of four stories and something at the end that has the feel of an extra. The cover art features Soji and Tama, the characters from the volume's second story. It's important to note that the "animal-human hybrids" stories only take up half the volume, despite what the cover art may lead readers to believe.
First story: Norio Kameyama is the president of a company that has fallen on hard times. In an effort to save the company, Norio visits the Kemomimi Corporation, an elite placement service that provides human/animal hybrid workers (they look like people with animal ears) to animal-loving employers, and hires a bunny. Shiro Inaba can do, or learn to do, just about any job that needs doing at the company, and he quickly becomes a favorite of the others workers. When he's at home, though, he needs care and attention just like any other pet. Norio takes care of him, his jealousy over Inaba being so good at everything he tries at work warring with his reaction to Inaba's neediness and cuteness at home. Inaba's contract is only good as long as Norio's company needs help, however, so what will Norio do once Inaba needs to leave?
Second story: Soji Okana is the author of the hugely popular Momo the White Cat-Detective series, inspired by his beloved cat, Momono. When Momono died, however, Soji had difficulty continuing the series, so he sought out the Kemomimi Corporation, hoping to find the perfect cat (er, cat-human hybrid) to renew his inspiration. The cat he hires is Tama Mikezaki, a bad-tempered loner. Although their relationship has a rocky start, Tama gradually warms to Soji and tells him a little about his life prior to working for the Kemomimi Corporation. Tama decides he wants to be more than just Soji's temporary pet, but can he convince Soji to buy him?
The extra bit at the end of the volume is a continuation of Soji and Tama's story.
Third story: Makoto is a rich kid who has always wanted a pet dog. However, his lungs are weak, so being around dog fur all the time wouldn't have been good for him. One day, his father brings home a temporary pet from the Kemomimi Corporation, a dog-human hybrid named Kuroshiba. Unfortunately, Kuroshiba isn't cuddly and playful, the way Makoto thinks dogs should be, and it seems like all Makoto ended up with was a super-strict tutor who happens to have dog ears. Eventually, though, Makoto realizes that Kuroshiba's serious expression hides deeper emotions, and he remembers that he first met Kuroshiba years before.
Fourth story: This is the longest story, taking up half the volume, and it has nothing to do with the Kemomimi Corporation or animal-human hybrids. Enishi Amuba is a koimiko, a young priest with the power to grant love. Those who touch a koimiko grow more beautiful, those who kiss his lips will gain success in love, and those who have sex with him will find true love. As a result, Enishi is constantly sought after by people who only care what his body can give them. The only person who doesn't seem fazed by him is his homeroom teacher, Suzumori, a nice, friendly guy. Enishi realizes he has fallen in love with Suzumori, and, because a koimiko can't grant himself love, he offers himself to Suzumori so that Suzumori can find love elsewhere. It is only later that Enishi learns that the person Suzumori loves died five years ago. Somehow, Enishi has to stop the man he loves from killing himself.
I bought this one used. I was a bit nervous, because I knew nothing about it other than it looked like it might be cute. It was wrapped in plastic, so I couldn't even flip through it to get a sense of how I might like it. I just crossed my fingers and hoped it wasn't too rape-y.
Despite having “explicit content” written on the front cover and “ages 18+” and “mature” written on the back, the sexual content in this volume was actually pretty light. There was kissing and blushing and a surprisingly small amount of sex. The few sex scenes didn't show much on-page. It's not a volume for the kiddos, but, at the same time, readers hoping for lots of graphic sex scenes will probably be disappointed.
While I was happy to see that, aside from minor characters' failed attempts to sexually assault Enishi, this volume wasn't rape-y, I still wasn't comfortable with most of the sexual content. In the first three stories, human characters developed sexual feelings for animal-human hybrids they referred to and, for the most part, thought of as pets. In the fourth story, a teacher with a past history of falling for his students fell in love with yet another one of his students. And there was Enishi, whose brother and sister wanted to pimp him out like he was a prostitute and said it was all okay because it counted as “divine ceremonies,” not “sexual favors.” Amagi didn't treat it all seriously enough to truly enter into “ick” territory, but the semi-taboo nature of every single one of the stories meant I was never quite able to settle down and just enjoy them.
This volume was pretty much just fluff, with the animal-human hybrid stories designed to appeal to readers with a particular fondness for men in suits and human characters with animal ears. There was no world-building to speak of – I assumed that the animal-human hybrids were bred and developed by the Kemomimi Corporation, but I was proved wrong when Tama told his story. Character development was minimal, at best, but that's not unexpected for yaoi. The humor was nice, but it was never quite enough to help me forget the aspects of the stories that made me vaguely uncomfortable.
Those who'd like to see if the artwork is to their taste might want to check out Deux Press' page, which includes a preview. I liked the artwork, for the most part, although there were a few panels in which Inaba (the rabbit-human hybrid in the first story) seemed ludicrously huge.
Of all the stories, I'd say the first one was probably the weakest. It made absolutely no sense. I mean, Inaba was supposed to be a pet who could barely take care of himself, and yet he was a whiz when it came to workplace tasks. And what kind of company president answers the question “How do I save my company?” with “I should hire a pet rabbit-human hybrid!” Enishi and Suzumori's story was second-weakest. I found it to be kind of boring, and I don't think Amagi made the best use of her extra page count, because the story and characters didn't seem to have much more depth than the volume's single-chapter stories. The second and third stories, with their slight hints of angst (Tama was a loner who hated that he couldn't seem to get along with clients, and Kuroshiba used to be a wild, dangerous stray), were the most enjoyable, in my opinion.
I have a feeling that readers' opinions about Part-Time Pets will probably depend largely upon how much tolerance they have for fluff and taboo/semi-taboo relationships. I'm fine with fluff, but I could never quite manage to get over my unease about the relationships, particularly all the “you're my pet, you're so cute - wait, now I'm lusting after you!” stuff.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Pet Shop of Horrors (manga) by Matsuri Akino - While I was thinking about my discomfort over the relationships in Part-Time Pets, I couldn't help but think of this series, which also has pets that are depicted as humans with animal characteristics. In a few cases, pets' relationships with their owners verge on being romantic, and yet those relationships never made me as uncomfortable as the ones in Part-Time Pets. This series doesn't have sex in it, as far as I can remember, and maybe that played a part in my reaction. Like Part-Time Pets, this series features a lot of short stories. Although there is some humor, the series leans more towards horror than "light and fluffy."
- Secretary's Love (manga) by Tohko Akiba - If you'd like another yaoi one-shot featuring humor, guys in suits, and not much in the way of sexual content, you might want to try this. Don't expect it to be anything more than light fluff.
- Wolf's Rain (anime TV series) - Be warned, this is much darker and more serious than Part-Time Pets. Those who liked the idea of animals with human forms might still want to give this a try, though. The series stars a group of wolves, maybe the last wolves in existence, who are somehow able to hide themselves from humans by appearing as humans. However, physically, they're still wolves (it's confusing, I know). I've watched most of the series and thought it was absolutely gorgeous, but I quit when it started to seem like a tragic ending was on the horizon.
- Mr. Tiger and Mr. Wolf (manga) by Ahiru Haruno - Those who'd like another "animal-eared human" yaoi manga might want to try this. I haven't read this and can't say much about it, but the publisher's website has a little more description.