Anime Review: House of Five Leaves Episode 1

(Originally published on Livejournal on 5/6/10)

Anime Review in a Minute:
House of Five Leaves

What This Is All About: I am going to attempt to watch at least the first episode of every anime show of the new season that is subtitled. The review will be divided into three short sections: “The Elevator Speech”, a quick two-to-three sentence synopsis of the episode; “The Skinny”, my initial reactions, and “The Verdict”, a simple Pass/Fail grade that determines whether to continue to the next episode or not. For those with a passing grade, I will follow-up later with the second or third episodes for a re-evaluation.

The Elevator Speech: Masanosuke Akitsu is a ronin who is down on his luck: broke, depressed, and without any luck finding a job — until he meets up with Yoichi, who impulsively hires him as a bodyguard. It turns out that Masanosuke is quite skilled, but has a very off-putting personality that has prevented him from succeeding in life, so he jumps at the chance for a bit of money and food. However, he is soon horrified to learn that Yoichi is part of a group known as “The House of Five Leaves”, which kidnaps people for ransom. Honor-bound, he completes his job, but is then left torn between the promise of steady pay and the suspect morality of his employer. After meeting the whole group, Masanosuke learns that they only rob from the evil and immoral “who deserve it”, so reluctantly decides to join the group in their Robin Hood-esque existence.

The Skinny: Anime about samurai? Strike one. Downright ugly character designs? Strike two. So, what does this show have going for it? Pretty much everything else! The House of Five Leaves has been one of the most anticipated shows of the entire season by the Otaku Snob-Blog community, and it doesn’t disappoint. Interesting story, interesting characters, well-paced, and a clear direction. Aside from my personal dislike of samurai/ronin/Edo Japan shit, the only real complaint is the rather…unique…character designs. And it certainly has people divided quite sharply, some calling it refreshingly different, others getting hung up on calling it flat-out ugly. I fall in the latter camp, the style is so unusual that it *distracts* from the story itself. And any time a storytelling element breaks down the fourth wall and distracts from the content (whether it be poor animation, laughably bad voice acting, or, as in the case of Tatami Galaxy, speed-reading delivery), that’s a bad thing. The only question is whether I can get used to it so that it is no longer a distraction.

The Verdict:

More Info:

Random Curiosity Review: http://randomc.net/2010/04/17/sarai-ya-goyou-01/
Anime News Network entry: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=11176
Episodes streamed online on Hulu courtesy of Funimation: http://www.hulu.com/house-of-five-leaves

The Scorecard So Far (first episodes only):
Thumbs-up: Working!!, Angel Beats, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, K-On Season 2, Heroman, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Giant Killing, The Tatami Galaxy, Shoka

Thumbs-down B Gata H Kei, Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, Mayoi Neko Overrun, Uraboku, KissXSis, Senkou no Night Raid, Ookiku Furikabutte Season 2, Hime Chen Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri, Shin Koihime Mousou Otogi Tairan, Ikkitousen Xtreme Xecutor, Hetalia World Series, Rainbow Rokubou no Shichinin, Haiyoru Nyaru-Ani, SD Gundam Senshi Sangokuden: Brave Battle Warriors, Jewel Pet Tinkle, Tales of Symphonia: Tethe’alla, Major Season 6

Up to bat next in the lineup:
– Sex Pistols, Magic Kaito…and that’s pretty much it!

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