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.