Friday, July 9, 2010

Final Thoughts: House of Five Leaves 08-12

Matsu gets caught

I came into this show without any real idea what it's about. All I really know about House of Five Leaves is that it's vaguely about samurai and like I said in my first impressions post of this series, I'm not a huge fan of that. Then I saw the first episode and thought yes! the premise of a cowardly swordsman thrown together with a bunch of gangsters is definitely a recipe for pure comedic gold. So I stuck with it, just to see how it all plays out.
as if Masa's life isn't complicated enough...

I wasn't wrong in that department. House of Five Leaves does have its funny moments. It's only to be expected, considering the situations that the show's bumbling, cowardly protagonist Masanosuke frequently finds himself in. However, unlike Arakawa Under the Bridge, another funny anime that I've been following and which just finished airing, House of Five Leaves isn't on the air only for the gags. Rather, it's a serious anime -- character-driven, slow to unfold and softly dramatic.
it's strange how much we know about Yaichi and Otake's relationship and still it remains vague

House of Five Leaves is really a show about two people: the aforementioned Masanosuke, a former castle samurai turned ronin and freelancing bodyguard; and Yaichi, the leader of the Five Leaves gang with the mysterious past. As audiences, we are watching the whole show through Masanosuke's eyes so while we feel that Masanosuke's character is changing the more he interacts with the gangsters, we are at the same time witnessing the fascinating unfolding of Yaichi's life story. The realistic approach of this anime, from its treatment of the characters to its overall design, ensures that irony is pervasive. After all, life is supposed to be ironic, isn't it? But also full of wonders.
you can't run away from your past

The other members of the gang, side characters really, are also given sufficient airtime for us to get to know them a little better. Their sob stories, after all, are what makes them who they are at present. But an interesting thing: out of all five, Otake is the only one who doesn't get her own episode. The only thing we really know about her is that she used to work at a brothel (it's a sad yet common enough situation for girls during that time; fathers would sell their daughters in order to pay off their debts), where a young Seinoshin met her, until someone bought her freedom. I like to think it's romantic and maybe it is but you know, it's probably just two people who are so miserable in life they are naturally drawn to each other.
and he is human

As a character-driven story, House of Five Leaves may be slow to unfold. Some people might find the lack of anything happening in each episode to be frustrating and tiresome. But this is how this anime is meant to be and it's not for everybody. Even the oft-commented art style ought to give you a clue. Word: this isn't Rurouni Kenshin with the gentle and polite former assassin and his merry band of friends and how they all work together to make Japan a better country. House of Five Leaves is a small, encapsulated story about a group of people who are just beginning to become friends. It could be a story about anybody, set anywhere in the world and in any time period.
life comes full circle for these two


House of Five Leaves is a softly dramatic anime with a quirky premise and unexpected depth. The character designs can take some getting used to but the overall production values are sufficiently consistent to leave any nit-picking audience satisfied.