When frequently watching anime TV shows, no matter how long they are, they usually have a tendency to make one feel incomplete. Whether the series in question ran out of steam midway, dragged its feet to the finish line or just stopped abruptly to just leave fans scratching their heads and patiently want until next season rolls around for another show. House of Five Leaves is a perfect example of a series that makes one feel whole on multiple levels. Every plot thread, every character arc comes to an exquisite finish and maintains an artistry and integrity that is rarely found in the medium. Based off of Natsume Ono’s eight volume manga that takes place in the ancient city of Edo, we follow Masanosuke Akitsu, a ronin that has been exiled from his post and moves to the city for a better life. While being broke, hungry and down on his luck, he comes across a mysterious man named Yuichi. This new friend treats him to some food, drink and gives Masanosuke a way to break out of his shell. He comes to find out that Yuichi is the leader of a gang called the House of Five Leaves, that kidnap people for ransom all across Edo. Little by little he becomes entangled within the group and must decide if its in his best interest to stay or get out while he can.
Just like the other shows that Manglobe has produced, like Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy, House of Five Leaves is something truly special. Everything from the awkward character designs to the muted color palette of entire series stray from typical anime shows that set it apart, immediately. The series begins with a tragic flashback of Yuichi, that not only sets the overall tone and his character motivation, but the theme of House of Five Leaves. Every single character in the show struggles with something in their past that effects them currently, whether it be a debt to someone or a tragic event that happened to them. With each and every one of them having this background, it always comes to the point of coming to terms with the past and it propelling one to the future. Friendship, loyalty and trust is something that all of the Five Leaves want and must work with one another to achieve that goal. While doing many things for the House of Five Leaves, it is director Tomomi Mochizuki’s script that sells it. Be it Masanosuke’s inability to interact with others or Yaichi’s true intentions for the Five Leaves, the story always progresses and manages to stay compelling till the very end.
NIS America has done a splendid service bringing House of Five Leaves to the states, in their typical fashion. The show is presented on two DVD’s, six episodes each and nice 30 page hardcover booklet, with sketches, concept art, storyboards and tons more. All of these things are encased in a gorgeous slip case that mirror all of NIS’ other limited edition releases. The series is subtitled only, but with an anime show that’s rooted in ancient Japan, seems very fitting.
Overall, House of Five Leaves is an excellent anime series about friendship, loss and finding one’s self. It is a pure blessing that a series like this got made, as well as come over stateside. NIS America has continuously provided anime fans with quality shows and bonus extras and packaging that always make their shows worthwhile and this show is just another one for the win column. House of Five Leaves may not be like other shows, but that’s what makes it so rewarding and refreshing. Highly Recommended!