I have this weird attraction towards shows that are sluggish and don’t appear to do much. Although, the latter would be an understatement if we consider the in-depth character study here in this show.
- Episodes: 12
- Genre: Historical drama
- AKA: Sarai-ya Goyou
- MAL Rating: 7.9/10
- Studio: Manglobe
- Trailer link: House of Five Leaves – Official Trailer – YouTube
- Directed by: Tomomi Mochizuki
Setting and characters
Set in the Edo period, the story deals with a gang of kidnappers, five of them to be exact. I went in expecting some action for obvious reasons (this is samurai-related stuff) but was pleasantly surprised with something softer, along the lines of slice-of-life. In fact, the action scenes, which are hardly there to begin with, are short-lived and are often resolved and concluded without having any scope of tension build-up. This attributes the show with space to throw light upon its characters instead.
Akitsu Masanosuke, a hungry and desperate ronin, becomes a bodyguard for Yaichi, the charismatic leader of the gang called “Five Leaves.” Although initially disturbed by the gang’s sinister activities, Masa begins to suspect that Yaichi’s motivations are not what they seem. And despite his misgivings, the deeper he’s drawn into the world of the Five Leaves, the more he finds himself fascinated by these devious, mysterious outlaws.
Here we are provided with one/two episode(s) long stories of their misdeeds as we get to know more and more about their motives and past lives. Masanosuke, although the main character with events unfolding with him at the center, is a dull, timid, and listless fellow. Yaichi, on the other hand, is a much more complex and shady figure and seems to draw admiration from women and men alike.
As already mentioned, the show focuses more on its characters so the events of kidnapping and gathering ransom and that stuff are just there for the sake of it. The story has sort of a closure but I doubt you could call it a proper ending (the manga goes beyond what was in the anime).
Story and characters
Plot and pacing: Episodic, but consistent with an intricate central storyline playing behind the scenes.
Credibility: Characters play the part of villains but each of them has that human touch that comes to light when we see them care for their families, be loyal to that stranger who had helped them a long time ago, or come to their comrades’ aid without a second thought.
Conclusion: Tries to draw some sort of an ending but many knots in the story remain unsolved.
Character persona: Distinct, and complement their own life stories pretty well.
Development and catharsis: The anime appears as a character-driven drama:
- A detailed backdrop of each character, that in turn aids to their characterization.
- The supporting roles are equally good; everyone plays a vital part in the story.
- Yaichi’s development is remarkable, and the way his relationship with Masanosuke turns out at the end is awe-inspiring.
Background/scenery, animation, and character design: The art part fits well with the time period the story is set up in.
There’s one good thing about the art of this show – it draws you into the story. The palettes are filled with dark and depressing tones, but it makes you feel like you’re enjoying the evening with the members, having a good time, discussing trivial stuff, enjoying each other’s company. The streets of Edo come alive with its everyday activities.
Voice editing: Particularly worth mentioning is Takahiro Sakurai as Yaichi; he brought out the charisma of the character to the max. Masaya Takatsuka also resonated well as Umezou with his simple yet always concerned about his family and friends act.
Tracks: The ending theme is kind of out of place, but the background music is engaging and does a perfect job at setting the correct mood.
Values and entertainment
Aesthetics, memorability, and entertainment: As much as I’ve enjoyed it, I think this type of shows suits only a particular set of audiences since they emphasize on essence and subtlety instead of going for straightforward approaches to draw the viewers in.
Overall: Composed and unruffled as a whole; gives off the initial vibe of not much going on with it, gets even slower in the middle part, with a well-executed but incomplete outcome.