Tuesday, June 1, 2010

House of Five Leaves

The only spring anime premiere that I'm still kind of following is Manglobe's House of Five Leaves, based on a manga by Natsume Ono, who also provided the source material for last year's Ristorante Paradiso.

Airing as part of Fuji TV's late-night noitaminA block, House of Five Leaves, like Ristorante Paradiso, is an anime geared toward young adults who might not normally watch cartoons.  It's a slice-of-life period piece about a skilled but cripplingly timid ronin who, after losing his bodyguard gig, is inexplicably recruited by the charismatic leader of the "Five Leaves,"  a shady yet nobly intentioned gang specializing in kidnap and ransom.  It is devoid of graphic violence or pseudo-intellectual babble, but is "mature" in a truer sense.  There is no melodrama to be had, no sickeningly cute prepubescent girls, and very little in the way of action or adventure.  Frankly, I don't even know what that leaves, but the lightness of it all makes for one of the most pleasantly relaxing viewings I can recall having had.  It is breezy, almost ethereal, with a subtle sense of humor--a perfect match for its delicate visual style unlike anything else out there.

I suspect House of Five Leaves is also very boring.  I say this because, every time I tune into a new episode, the first five minutes have me feeling like I missed the previous episode.  As the dialogue begins, I have no idea what the characters are talking about, and it is not because they are being cryptic.  They discuss events in clear terms but which ring no bells for me.  At first I thought maybe the story was just jumping around, but I now believe it to be the case that I have been falling asleep during the episodes without my realizing it.  Perhaps I blink, but then my eyes only open five minutes later, and because I am so groggy and the show's plot so secondary to its mood, I don't even notice that I missed anything until I start up the next episode more alert.  Sure enough, even now I cannot recollect what happened on the most recent episode.

So, yeah, House of Five Leaves puts me to sleep, and oddly I think that's almost a compliment in this case.

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