Name: House of Five Leaves
Published by: Siren Visual (Australia), Nippon Ichi Software America (North America)
Audio: Japanese Dub ONLY
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Full Frame, Original Ratio
Runtime: 280 minutes
Classification: This title is classified M for Animated Violence
Blurb: This is the the third Noitamina title released from Siren Visual to the Australian public, and currently their score is 1:1 (Good:Bad), but you will be pleased to know that this title brings the ranking to 2:1 in my opinion. Taking on a much more serious storyline from the other two Noitamina titles, taking place in the Edo period of Japan, you will be introduced to a young ronin and a group of people known as The Five Leaves, and be captivated by a rather interesting storyline and some very appropriate design features for the time period.
Special Thanks: Special thanks goes to the team at Siren Visual for providing me with a review sample of this title.
This is the third of the Noitamina titles released by Siren Visual, and the previous two…. have had vastly different reviews, with Welcome to Irabu’s Office getting close to a standing ovation to me, whilst The Tatami Galaxy, despite the positive feedback I have heard elsewhere, was more or less shunned by me. Compared to the other two, House of Five Leaves is much more of a serious series in comparison to the other two, with it being driven more or less by storyline then funny (or unfunny) comedic routines. What are my thoughts on this series? Read on to find out in my review of House of Five Leaves.
A single maple leaf… calling card of The Five Leaves
In Edo period Japan; a timid young ronin named Akitsu yearns for the respect and courage of his peers and elders. He meets Yaichi, a mysterious yet charismatic man who hires him to train as his bodyguard. Educating the young samurai in the warrior tradition, Yaichi builds Akitsu’s confidence and skill as he tells him of his dangerous life in the right light districts of Japan, and the calling card of a secret kidnapping organisation: The Five Leaves.
For those that do not know, the Edo period is a period of Japan which runs from the years 1603 to 1868, therefore the entire storyline does not revolve around anything relating technology or anything we consider the norm today, pretty much everything in the storyline relates quite well to the time period, from the building design to the types of clothing people wear. The series also remains realistic in the way that the characters and events, from what I can tell, were pretty much uncommon, but still present occurring in that time period, and that there are no demons or anything like that roaming around the streets (Devil Summoner, I am looking at you even if it is the wrong time period). This storyline is not one that I was able to get into easily, infact after the third episode I put the title down for a week and then came back to it, as it was not what I would usually watch. Whilst this is an alternative interest series, much similar to Irabu’s Office and Tatami Galaxy, coming back to it and actually watching it, whilst initially feeling like a chore, actually got me interested in the storylines after a while.
Whilst the storyline is overall enjoyable, possibly a bit bland at points, the characters do have some rather interesting personalities. The main character, Akitsu, the main character of the series is the one followed around the most, and for the most part he seemed a bit wary about the prospect of the group, I mean, he has his samurai’s honor to deal with, however kidnapping people for random is more or less questionable to any man’s honor. However, his actions within the group seemed quite interesting every episode, and every episode felt like it had worth to him, and/or other characters. Whilst there were some action scenes, for a samurai, I was actually expecting more fighting then there was (As a big fan of the Dynasty and Samurai Warrior Games), as the story was more or less focused on development of the characters.
In terms of design detail… the only word that can be used to describe it is “O_O”, and yes, I am aware that the word is not a word, but an emoticon. The design levels are of an extremely high quality. Character designs are just what are seen on the box, not realistic, however still hanging onto realism by a thread that makes the character designs seem very appropriate for this era. The outfits characters wear are very yukata-like, and hairstyles are simple, quite often tied back which are very effective. Animation is appropriate and the lip-syncing is accurate with the words being vocalised. In terms of environment designs, take the level of sophistication of the character designs, and add a bit more to it. The backdrops, while not always being vibrant and cheery, are always pseudorealistic and work well with the character designs to give off a feeling of realism, all of which are appropriate for the Edo era. Even with the duller backdrops, they include appropriately placed holes in the walls or a few extra fittings that does not make them feel like they have just been quickly drawn.
Sign of Love by Immi
This song wasnt in my genre preference, however it was a suitable song for the series, and was not earsplitting by any means. The animation is similar to that of The Tatami Galaxy, where the camera scrolls (This time backwards) showing the buildings and characters of the series. Lyrics are okay.
All I need is… by Rake
All I need is… not to listen to this song. I do not know what, but I personally hate this song, the animation was very bland and the song just didn’t suit the theme of the series at all, giving off more of a disco feel to it.
The music in this series is actually pretty decent, utilizing a lot of more simpler instruments such as drum beats and string instruments, without them being heavily digitally modified. However, the major complication with the music is that the voice acting is loud enough, and the music so low, that you don’t hear the music most of the time. I just sat through an episode typing up this review, and I could only really hear the music when I was intentionally listening for it. Up to you on this aspect, there were some appropriate tracks here through.
It might be because I am used to the English voice acting now, but I still find it slightly frustrating to listen to Japanese voice overs, primary because I do not have the will or attention span to read and listen at the same time, most probably, as was the case with The Tatami Galaxy, due to the fact that in both series, the designs were very good and they kept me more occupied then the subtitles. Despite my objections however, the voice acting cast is solid with a number of good voice actors, however I feel this series, unlike the other two previously mentioned Noitamina series, would benefit from a English dub alongside it.
In terms of extra content, as usual, there isn’t much. Included with the DVD is the obligatory slipcase, which whilst I prefer the actual DVD cover, isn’t that bad and has a decent artwork on it filled with red, five leaved leaves (or see the cover art above). There are a few minor bits of pieces of extra content which includes a textless opening, textless ending (Not that I would ever watch it again) and trailers for Welcome to Irabu’s Office, The Tatami Galaxy, House of Five Leaves (Generally getting a trailer for a title you just finished watching still seems weird to me) and Durarara!!. Nothing special, but at least it is something.
Personally, this is a series that, if you enjoyed The Tatami Galaxy or other series like Samurai Champloo, Afro Samurai or other series set in this time period, you are more likely to enjoy the series then one who exclusively enjoys other Siren Visual titles such as Durarara!!, Clannad or When they Cry. Personally I am in the second group, so I cannot say I overly enjoyed this series, but it was a good enough watch in my opinion.
Character Development: B+
OP/ED Themes: D
Voice Acting: B
Personal Opinion: B
Overall Score B