Thursday, April 22, 2010

First Look: House of Five Leaves 1

EPISODE 1: In Name Only

Yo! Lu here to blog about one of Jute's Spring 2010 anime line-up. House of Five Leaves (Sarai-ya Goyou) is based on the manga of the same title by Natsume Ono. Now I'm not familiar with the author nor am I a huge fan of samurai dramas but we'll see. The anime is produced by Manglobe, the same studio responsible for Ergo Proxy, Michiko to Hatchin and Samurai Champloo. Not a bad set, if you ask me. Already this is sounding good. Now the first episode. Mm, don't like the opening theme so don't care to mention what it's called. One thing I can say about the music though is that the BGM really, really fits the time period. I wouldn't buy the soundtrack because why the hell would I listen to Japanese musical instruments? But in all objectivity, the BGM is probably great, just not something I would listen to on normal days.
Akitsu Masanosuke is a down-and-out ronin in desperate need of a job

House of Five Leaves has a potential to be a comedy. That's good news. Otherwise I don't know how I will be able to stand blogging a show about something I'm not that much into. It's a story about this wimpy ronin, Akitsu Masanosuke (voiced by Namikawa Daisuke), who keeps getting fired from his job as a bodyguard. From this, you might assume that maybe he's just not suited as a bodyguard. Well, yes and NO. Yes, he is wimpy and when was the last time you've seen a wimpy guy fill up the role of a supposedly intimidating bodyguard? Never, right? The funny thing about it is that Akitsu has absolutely NO CAUSE for being wimpy. He is in fact incredibly strong. It's just that he is so painfully shy and oddly cowardly for someone so strong that makes him a total mess.
The House of Five Leaves' Umezo (left) and the leader, Yaichi (right)

Enter the charismatic and laidback gangleader of the House of Five Leaves, Yaichi, seductively voiced by Takahiro Sakurai. I have never heard of this seiyuu because I'm not usually interested in the voice actors/actresses, but this one I had to look up. He has such a hot voice, I just had to.
the burn scar on young Seinoshin's back, the source of the name 'House of Five Leaves'

Yaichi has a sob back story. He's apparently the adopted son of the wealthy samurai Saegusa family but may have been neglected later on when his adoptive mother gave birth to the true heir of the family. Yaichi is not even his real name. It was Seinoshin and Yaichi is merely the name of the manservant who was closest to him as a child.
Yaichi and Akitsu's first meeting

So Yaichi becomes a gangster and one day he finds that he is in need of a bodyguard so he strikes out to hire one in name only. He finds Akitsu, whose cowardly appearance is just what he needs, only to be surprised when he discovers the man's true strength. After that, he wants to retain Akitsu's services, relying on the principle that a samurai's word is his bond. Akitsu is in a bit of a pinch because his sense of honor prevents him from accepting Yaichi's offer. Then he hears about the House of Five Leaves' real dealings from member Umezo's daughter. It turns out that Yaichi's gang is a bit into Robinhood types of crimes. By that, I don't mean they steal money from the rich to give to the poor, but they kidnap rich merchant's misbehaving sons and ransom them off. It's kind of like what a vigilante does and this strikes a chord in Akitsu. Yaichi himself doesn't believe for once that he's doing something right. He's just making a living. This disparity in their world views is going to play a huge role in their characters' dynamics and that's something I'm interested in seeing more of.

Overall, seems like a pretty interesting series. The odd art style may take some getting used to. The character designs are almost ugly in that semi-realistic way. Hm. It fits the show though so there's that.


House of Five Leaves @ ANN 



Kat said...

I am kind of surprised that you felt the background music matched the time period. When was the last time you heard an accordion in traditional Japanese music? lol. I myself find the BGM to be charming, though there are some I found a little grating, like the music playing when Ume takes Masa to the Elders house for the first time.
The music has a split personality, it fits Masa, compliments the art, suits the show. I am looking forward to the soundtrack release, and I hope you end up enjoying the show as much as I am, samurai piece or no. ^__^

Lu said...

Oh. Well, I don't really know much about music but I think there was at least one track with a shamisen playing. Or I think it was a shamisen. Anyway, I probably over-generalized. In hindsight, I can't even remember what the BGM sounded like.

I am quite enjoying the show. It's not a very absorbing series but the art style is growing on me and the story is interesting, if a bit slow-paced.