Masanosuke came to the city of Edo to prove himself as a warrior, but the man’s lack of confidence is so obvious that he’s perpetually unemployed and can barely afford to eat. So when the mysterious Yaichi offers him a job as a bodyguard - room and board included - the ronin jumps at the chance. But little did he know that his new employer is the head of the Five Leaves, a gang of kidnappers, and that his fees will be paid from the spoils of their crimes! Masanosuke never expected to find his home with a band of criminals, but as he grows more entangled in their world, his dreams of honor begin to fall by the wayside...
Saraiya Goyou, or House of Five Leaves, is the latest work by cult studio Manglobe. Now, while it isn't generally a good idea for a critic to speak personally, it bears mention that this is the first time I have ever seen anything by Manglobe, so I can't really comment on how it compares to their previous works. However, the fact that Manglobe already have a cult following in spite of only having four previous works to their name (Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy, Michiko to Hatchin and Seiken no Blacksmith) says quite a lot about this studio. Now, I don't know if Saraiya Goyou is in the vein of their other works, but this is likely considering that Manglobe are known for having a completely unique style and presentation, both in story and visuals, and Saraiya Goyou not only delivers on this, but it does so in spades. The show revolves around a swordsman for hire. Right now, you may well be thinking of some underrated master swordsman, a badass with amazing skill, who slays men in their thousands. This could not be further from the truth. Whilst the swordsman, our main character Akitsu Masanosuke (usually called "Masa" for short) is a competent swordsman, he is completely human. There is nothing truly special about him. He is, however, rarely hired, in part because he looks so harmless. But this all begins to change when he meets a strange man calling himself Yaichi, who actually agrees to hire him. However, as Masa soon discovers, he's been hired to work for a group of kidnappers. He initially tries to leave, but soon finds himself more and more immersed in the criminals' world. Now, it's worth noting that this show has a very unusual art style. This can be extremely offputting to some people, which, alongside with the slow pace of this show, probably account for the incredibly low ratings this show had upon airing. This is a great shame, because as of writing this is probably the best anime of 2010. It starts off quite slow, making it hard to rope viewers in, but it slowly but surely hooks the viewer. The pace is often considered to be the best and worst thing about this anime. It seems boring, but at the same time, utterly captivating. It's strange, but no matter how slow the show is, you never want to stop watching. At the same time, the slow pace can make the important moments all the more impressive and memorable. When it comes to the cast, most of them are good characters, and there are no bad characters in this show. However, the ones everyone remembers are the leading pair, Masa and Yaichi. Lesser characters like Ume and Matsu are memorable, but they aren't nearly as impressive. While Masa starts out as awkward, spineless, and mildly annoying, over the course of the series he gradually comes out of his shell. He comes to impact the plot strongly, form bonds with the Five Leaves, and prove his worth repeatedly in a fantastic display of character development. While he isn't as impressive as Rock from Black Lagoon, another character who started out in a similar fashion, he's certainly a character worthy of praise. Yaichi, on the other hand, is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He is the mysterious leader of the Five Leaves, and a highly interesting character. To speak of his past is to ruin the entire plot of the show. Now, while the art style is offputting for some, it is by no means bad. It doesn't take long to get used to, and the art is produced to a high standard, as is the animation. Both are joined with an interesting style that focuses on a subtle, yet rich darkness. A large amount of the series is set at night, viewed only by candlelight, if even that. The daytime scenes are often indoors, under shadow. And the high-quality production extends to the soundtrack as well. The background music is distinct and memorable, giving a unique feel to the show. The opening theme, "Sign of Love", is a great song that grows on you more with each passing episode. The only problem I have with the soundtrack is the ending theme, a fun, bouncy song that invariably seems completely out of place at the end of each episode. While Saraiya Goyou is by no means a show for everyone, it is a great watch for those who can appreciate it. Some patience will be necessary for viewing it, but it will not go unrewarded. Final Words: Watching every other Manglobe show just shot up significantly in my priorities. Animation/Graphics: 9/10 Story/Plot: 9/10Characters: 8/10 Sound: 9/10 Overall: 9/10
This is an anime I most definetely enjoyed. It's different, most visibly in the unique art style but also in the content. It's a character-driven anime with some good character development. In some ways it reminded me of Samurai Champloo; what I really appreciated in SC was the subtle way in which the characters were portrayed and how the relationship between them was developed. And while not reaching the masterful level of SC, House of five leaves is on the same track. The story is quite simply about the relationship between two men with very different personalities and how their chance meeting affects each other and the people around them. The setting is feudal Japan. Our protagonist is a ronin who is incapable of keeping any job because of his "personality", he gets embarrassed when people watch him (usually succumbing to the urge to run away and hide) and totally lacks self-confidence - so he always comes across as an unreliable klutz, while as a matter of fact he is an extremely skillful and accomplished swordsman. The story starts when he meets Yaichi, the enigmatic and attractive leader of a band of kidnappers who appears to be fascinated by Masa's personality and decides to draw him into the band. Masa is initially very uncomfortable with this line of work, but nonetheless he finds himself increasingly drawn to Yaichi and to the people who surround him. There's more to the story which reaches its climax when the riddle that Yaichi himself is gets unravelled - I don't want to spoiler anything so I won't say more. But I will say that the storytelling is very good - despite being slow-paced. The plot is well thought out and through flashbacks and subtle hints it leads you to a satisfying end. I also commend the ending as it does not magically resolve all the characters' problems, it echoes real life where there never actually is a real end but things just go on as one day flows into the next. As for the characters, they are all portayed and developed well - main ones as well as side characters. The most interesting one is Yaichi, of course, as the core of the anime revolves around figuring out who he is and what his story is. As already said, I enjoyed watching how the relationship between Masa and Yaichi develops. The animation style is very distinctive and artsy. Different from the standard anime style. The soundtrack is also fitting; it combines different musical styles but it's never jarring. The voice actors did an excellent job, too. In conclusion, this isn't an anime that most people will enjoy because of the pacing and the lack of action, superpowers or romance. But for those of you who appreciate a good story and value character development, I'd recommend to give this a try.
House of Five Leaves. The anime that I had low expectations for coming in, but now just finishing it I realize it's bound to throw your mediocre expectations away and captivate you. Lacking any real action since its main focuses are story oriented with the divulgence of character backgrounds and interaction, House of Five Leaves is still extremely intriguing. We have lovable and well written main characters, great development, and enchanting tales of their pasts as well as their present to serve as our entertainment. And damn does it not disappoint. Our story is placed in feudal Japan with a timid and cowardly main character Akitsu Masanosuke. In contrast to his coy nature he is a skilled swordsman on the hunt for a job after being let go from his last one because of his meek personality. While he was on the hunt for a job he stumbles upon an unusual member of the Yakuza named Yaichi. Yaichi hires him as a body guard for his gang out of interest to his personality, once Masa realizes this gang's activities he tries to pull himself away. To no avail Masa continues to find himself drawn to the gang and its members as Yaichi uses his charm to try to get Masa to join. From here on is a great journey that Masa embarks on from the gang’s illegal adventures, somehow earning growth from these felonious people. One aspect I loved about this show was the distinctively peculiar artstyle. Many are opposed to the unorthodox character design as well as artstyle of this anime because of the unusual looking faces. Each character having bulbous dilated eyes and gaping mouths that look similar to fish I can understand the shock. However I didn’t find that a problem, I actually liked it a lot. I loved how well it could capture the personality of a character as well as how unique it is. With the slow unraveling of each character’s background and how it intertwines with the gang serves to give them more depth and likability without rushing it. From this, House of Five Leaves is relaxing but never in a boring way. I found myself becoming more interested in the characters and liking them more and more with each episode I watched. Figuring out the character backgrounds, struggles, personalities, and watching them interact was the main fun of this anime. The events that unfold with their pasts were super entertaining and made the characters that I didn't like become redeemable. Compared to the rest of the cast the only two that really undergo character development would be would be Yaichi and Masa. As the story goes along Yaichi tries to cut ties with his painful past and move on from his criminal activities in an attempt to gain closure. For Masa he tries to shake off his cowardly appearance and learn from Yaichi’s easy going personality. While both attempting to overcome their personal problems they manage to unconsciously help each other. Watching this growth first hand was all super enjoyable. We see Yaichi’s morally ambiguous exterior and the questionable chivalrous thievery that the gang partakes in from Masa’s point of view. As well as him trying to see past their line of work. This lead to some humorous moments and some heart felt moments where we see different more intimate sides to a character's story. While the members of the House of Five Leaves are very different from each other as well as naturally contrasting in personality they all come to terms with each other from Masa’s presence in the gang. They aren’t just reduced to thieves anymore, they’re almost like a family. I had a really great time watching this anime. I binged it because of the enchanting characters, amazing stories, and great growth. This is a short anime so again I was left kind of sad that the fun ride had ended but nevertheless it managed to wrap up a great story. I definitely recommend if you’re looking for something short and relaxing yet still engaging.
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