Dead Leaves is so glorious that I would help it conquer the world and enslave Belgium. It is so crazy that it makes the guy who rubs his head on billboards trying to remove the letters because he's "an eraser" seem like Doctor Phil. It is so cool that it can stop global warming and protect us all from nuclear winter when the apocalypse happens.
What is truly great about Dead Leaves is that it does not try to be something it's not. Fast paced, ridiculously over the top, quirky, funky, and most of all just fun - but trying to define this short OVA is an exercise is futility. There is something very special about a short piece that in the end is a perfectly self-contained yet open-ended story, that doesn't try to do anything and just does what it does.
I get why some people may not like it, because as for every anime that does its own thing, there are people who just don't care for that. People might try to compare it to FLCL because of the sheer amount of rapid fire insanity that happens, but that misses the point entirely. While both shows take pride in their fast pace and over the top antics, that is where the similarities end. For myself, this was one of the singularly most enjoyable views of my life.
Writing (aka Story and Characters):
Heroes start with amnesia, do crazy things, beat up the baddies, end up where they started. In the middle everything happens. It is a better than average story, but the point is the sheer amount of crazy that just happens all the time. What is truly great is that it creates some twisted logic in which everything makes everything a sort of sense.
The characters in themselves are silly and proud of it. The story is ridiculous. But the writing is about creating a place where normal is a combination of adrenaline and some form of high that makes me want to meet the writers' dealer. In a world where rationality gets thrown out the window, then all that is left is to sit the ride out and see where it takes you. And you know what? That place is awesome.
While I gave a 7.5 for the story (ridiculous yet awesome in its own way), and an 8 for the characters (really, there isn't much in the way of development and they are over the top no matter how cool they are), the writing overall is near perfect. Nobody enjoys Alice in Wonderland for the story or characters - they love the insane world that is created. This is exactly such a case where trying to break the writing down to details just distracts from the single fact that overall something truly special is done here.
Atmosphere (aka Animation and Sound):
Don't expect subtle. Dead Leaves is not about subtle. Don't expect refined. Dead Leaves is most definitely not refined. Don't expect gorgeous. That would be the last word to describe this monstrosity. What you can expect is simple and to the point, unnatural and proud of it, and a form of fun that just does it for the hell of it.
Everything is amped up. Raw characters with raw character design. Over the top fight sequences that abandon any realism in the first two minutes. The voice acting is as far away from subtle as you can get. The soundtrack doesn't even try to be gentle with you, and the effects even less. But you know what? When so many shows just try so damn hard to wow us with technical skill and painstaking attention to detail, Dead Leaves just scoffs and says "nuts to that".
The animation in and of itself is nothing spectacular, and while it has artistic merrit, from a technical standpoint it is lacking compared to the modern offerings a decade later. The sound is excellent but still not at the top tier of what has happened since. How fortuitous that Dead Leaves is more about visceral madness rather than anything subtle. The animation and sound set the perfect tone for such a creation, and the art direction is really one of those cases where the flaws are turned into strengths. That does not mean flaws do not exist, but if you really want to nitpick then you are wasting your time watcing this - time better used to have fun.
For me? A standout ten out of ten. Some people will hate this, others will say "meh" and move on. But if you didn't find FLCL's madness daunting but rather enjoyable, and would like something not quite as pretentious and more focused on fun, this will rock your world.
As you can see by the ratings I've given, this is one of those shows you aren't supposed to discect. Sit down, strap in, and enjoy the ride. That's what I did, and for that express purpose you will find only precious few better.
What I Liked: The breakneck pacing never leaves you bored. The character designs were interesting, if not mostly crude or just odd. The flat but fluid and colourful animation, which just explodes with energy. Plot is odd but surprisingly coherent for the most part.
What I Didn't: Lots of crude humor for the sake of it to the point that the sheer amount of crass humor in this movie may get old quickly for some viewers. So much violence. Animation felt somewhat ameteurish, like it was one big animation test. The plot goes off the rails (literally) towards the end, almost like it had one-upped itself too much.
Final Verdict: Dead Leaves is the very definition of juvenile: it's loud, brash and revels in its own vulgarity. The avant-garde animation is as chaotic as the plot, which screams through its runtime at breakneck speed without stopping to catch a breath, and the characters are just as wild as the rest of the ride.
This anime is an epic work of art. Everything about how this is drawn and animated is just amazing. The figurative story requires critical thought and you take away as much as you put in. I wish there were more people that appreciate how truly awesome this is.
With that being said, I can understand if you don't like it. It's absurdly crude.
Also, I don't recommend taking LSD before watching this ;)
Technically, I just going to describe mostly everything about this anime with its style being which like Studio GAINAX and their latter works like Gurren Lagann, FLCL & Panty and Stocking with Garter belt but to some of you that don’t know that the director of the OVA, Hiroyuki Imaishi, did work for GAINAX since 1995, first as an in-betweener for Neon Genesis Evangelion and then him and the crew with him that did Panty & Stocking left the company to form their own studio, Studio Trigger, but I did sense a bit of inspiration that was brought onto the animation.
Pandy and Retro, two unlikely renegades, awaken naked on Earth with no recollection of their past. After embarking on a devastating crime spree for food, clothing and transportation in downtown Tokyo, they are captured by authorities and sent to the infamous lunar prison called Dead Leaves.
Now the plot is pretty basic and simple as it was described on top of the paragraph above. You know that, coming in this isn’t going to be some deep psychological anime that gets into your cerebellum, considering the main characters are a guy with a TV for a head and this crazy-ass woman with a “punk”-ish attitude and don’t expect much character development in here and I wouldn’t question why nor would I care for it and yes, the shit that they get into is very, very insane as possible……but then again, it’s not up par with FLCL when it comes to massive insanity since in FLCL, it’s set in the real world Japan with it is very unexpected and with Dead Leaves, you know what to expect out of this. I’m not going to be surprised when watching this especially when leaving the synopsis of this. Don’t get me wrong, I do like this movie but I would not put it on my top favorite list.
Now for the animation, I keep saying on and on about GAINAX being an inspiration to this and yet even though GAINAX was part of the In-Between Animation, it wasn’t in charge of this production. That credit goes to Production I.G. and with that being said, where any of you surprised that they did the animation for this? OK, I was for a bit, but then again they were a part of FLCL, too, but I did felt that GAINAX was head honcho for that production and with that, the animation is a bit divisive among fans, some love it for the extreme avant-garde style that’s close to American animation while some don’t like it as much because it felt like a mess as if the team just did a lot of doodling instead of actual work….and also the cover of it might betray a few people once they get into it.
For the Manga Entertainment dub, there was a lot of energy put into the making of this with Amanda Winn Lee not only voicing the character of Pandy, but did the English script and directed it and I really did felt the connection and dialogue exchange with her and Jaxon Lee, who voiced Retro.
FINAL VERDICT: I can easily say that I would recommend that you watch this movie and it’s not much of a hassle to get through considering it’s posted on YouTube for free by the same distributing company so, hey, if you love the zany and wackiness of GAINAX or something close to it, then I would say watch this or FLCL.