There is so much unified hate towards this short little OVA that it’s difficult to really give a standard critique of the show that rates each category in the abstract.
Instead, it’s obligatory to start with why I think most people will hate this. In short, this is an anime that flips the audience the middle finger. The creators make a conscious decision that story, characters, or any real meaning whatsoever are completely unimportant. What's more, the humor is beyond tasteless, the character designs are far from appealing, and the show feels almost like a visual assault in the way it barrages the audience with flashy colors, sharp edges and constant motion.
This mix, I think, alienates just about anyone who would ever watch the thing. Pure action lovers will have never heard of such an obscure title, people who watch anime for things like “story” or “character development” are going to be sorely disappointed by an almost total lack of either, and even fans of abstract, demented stuff are going to be disgusted when they find that the show has no meat in it to analyze.
In addition, this is a show that is impossible to take the higher ground with. Unlike similar (but completely different!) works like FLCL, Paranoia Agent, or Texhnolyze, no one can get away with saying pompous shit like, “oh you didn’t like it because you didn’t understand the deep and philosophical meaning behind it.”
The problem is that Dead Leaves has no message whatsover, let alone a hidden one; everything that the OVA brings to the table is as brutally obvious as that one guy’s giant, metallic penis (don't ask).
So why, in spite of all of this, did I enjoy the OVA? I think the answer is that I appreciate the raw, prodigious talent that went into making this. The creators are so skillful at what they set out to do, so completely in tune with their own personal vision, that I enjoyed the work despite its numerous flaws.
In the end, the creators’ total commitment to making something completely unique wins out. Even if the core concept is patently retarded, the fact that an idea that has never been done before is executed so flawlessly makes the anime worth the small amount of time that it asks.
I think people place far too much value in the traditional anime look – the disproportionate girls with giant, insectoid eyes, the generic male protagonist with spiky hair, etc. I’ve found the look to be somewhat tiresome and uninspired after the 2 hundredth or so iteration.
Dead Leaves, on the other hand, has a strikingly different visual style, a far departure from anything I’ve seen. A lot of people have called this style ugly, but I loved it. It’s edgy, bold, and very memorable.
That, and the actual animation is absolutely top notch – this has the most fluid, inventive, and frenetic work I’ve seen since… ever?
Thumping techno + weird voice acting. Generally solid.
I think many people who have enjoyed this might be staying silent in the face of so much negative buzz. After all, saying, “Yeah the story and characters suck, but the action was good and I liked it!” is very difficult to do without sounding like a complete dipshit. Nonetheless, for those that enjoy the wacky wtf stuff, this should be a more than entertaining diversion.
We can skip the part where I say this is weird. If you're at all interested in this series, you already know that it's weird.
Perhaps you like FLCL. Or that Milk...thing that was on Adult Swim once upon a time. Perhaps you building up a repertoire of anime to delight or disgust your friends.
Enough speculation--you are not sufficiently prepared for this anime, but you will probably still watch it. And then you will have experienced weirdness, rather than simply knowing of it.
Along the way you may vomit.
Here's the story: Two people start out naked on Earth with no memory, get sent to a prison that is the movie's namesake, kill a lot of stuff, do a lot of weird shit, and then end up back on Earth.
I'm skipping a lot of material, but it doesn't matter. The plot is a vehicle for dick jokes, sight gags, and cartoonish--even for cartoons--ultraviolence.
This is not to say that's it no good. Just that you could have a plot about giant caterpillars and it would still work for the premise.
Wait, there is a giant caterpillar in this plot. Okay, nevermind. Moving on.
The animation feels like something you would have come across on Liquid Television in the 80s. It's hyper-cartoonish, composed of simple lines and garish colors. If that's your thing, it hangs together pretty well. The colors got a little overdone in my opinion, but it was an intriguing attempt.
The detailing is simple enough that from time to time I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at. This is a blessing in scenes though, where the constant squishing of bit characters would have been extra nauseating if rendered with any sort of detail. I mean, I wanted humor and oddities, not an Adult Swim sanitized version of Genocyber. With poop.
The artists do get props for the sound effects, which had an animated component in many scenes (think "WOOPWOOPWOOP" floating across the scene when an alarm is going off). I can't say that it actually added anything, but it was sort of neat and fit in well with the art style.
The soundtrack was largely bad rock, which seemed utterly appropriate for the material at hand. It was fairly innocuous, and tempos generally matched the pacing. I guess that's a win. I don't know, I'm not a music guy.
There were characters? I thought there was just a collection of sight gags and ambulatory pistols.
Okay, I jest. There is a teeny bit of characterization. Panda is a sarcastic chick that kills people, Retro is an overly enthusiastic, clueless macho guy who kills people. With a TV for a head. There's your characterization.
They were entertaining, but they weren't really developed. But in anime that I think is 60% pistols being shot at each other, that may be all you need.
I'd like to say you'll enjoy this. Or you won't. But I can't really tell. I'm not really sure if I enjoyed it.
But I didn't vomit.
Even though I sort of wanted to.
Dead leaves is awesome. The mindless and gratuitous violence is great. I think there should be a lot more like this.
I don't even know what to say. This anime is so bizarre.
Story: The story is obviously not the focus of this movie. There is very little sense to be made where the story is concerned. I have watched plenty of animes where the story didn't stand out over the animation. This was one of those situations. There is so much to look at that I find that my brain has no room to pay attention to anything that's happening. All that I was able to make complete sense of was the show's vulgarity. I grow tired of that kind of humor very quickly and that is what most of this movie is. The second I saw a man with a drill for a penis I sort of checked out. The plot, as far as you need to know, is about two beings (of somewhat unknown species) named Pandy and Retro. They have lost their memories and proceed to go on a crime spree. Once they are caught they are taken to a wild and technologically advanced prison. I don't think the explanation needs to go beyond that.
Animation: I am so torn about this animation style. I cannot deny that the animators made something very unique when they styled this. I also couldn't help but think that this show definitely had talented people behind it. But I could barely keep my eyes open. I will admit that I do have eyes that are fairly sensitive to light, but I have never found animation that truly hurt my eyes. I am not joking. I could hardly keep my eyes open to watch it. I have watched some insane animation but this is the one and only anime that had me wishing I were wearing sunglasses to watch it. This animation is so wild and colorful I can only call it sensory overload.
Sound: Once again, we have sensory overload. The sounds were loud, vulgar, crass and ultimately pretty unpleasant to listen to. Yet, this felt intentional. The creators obviously wanted some of these situations to feel uncomfortable, in which case, they did an excellent job with it. It was not an enjoyable experience but I can appreciate what they were doing.
Characters: The characters are vulgar lunatics. Need I say more? We have an admittedly creative array of criminals, all disgusting in their own right. Everyone just seems to be a new character introduced to cause more chaos. I am fine with that. The action was entertaining but it doesn't leave room for much character development.
I am so utterly confused by this anime. It's so crass that I want to say this anime is just inane but there is a part of me that keeps wondering if there is a genius to it that I'm not getting. I would say that, even if this movie is secretly genius, it is still one of the most painful movies I have ever watched.