First Impressions: House of Five Leaves

Utilizing smooth writing, a calm mood and superb visuals, House of Five Leaves is a series that I could definitely recommend to those who love character development and dialague over action. The story follows Masanosuke Akitsu, a samurai with great combat ability, but with personality issues that render him undependable at times. After getting fired by his employer, Masanosuke is left jobless, leaving him in a pretty desperate situation. He then meets a mysterious man named Yaichi, who offers him a job as a bodyguard. After successfully protecting the man and proving his reliability to him, Masanosuke starts to believe that he has found an honest job that will provide him with a stable income. That is until he discovers that Yaichi is acutally the leader of a gang called the Five Leaves, a group who kidnaps people for money. Having huge moral issues with this, but fully aware that he needs the job in order to stay alive, Masanosuke refuses to join at first, but through repeated interaction with the members of the organization, he starts to become more fascinated with the individuals in this devious organization.

What makes House of Five Leaves such a good show isn't the action or story, as the action is pretty much non-existant, with the story being pretty hard to follow at times. It's the writing, characters and visuals that make this a show worthy of a watch.

The dialogue is smooth and slowly delivered, giving the show a calm mood to it. This is nice, but it also results in the show having little to no energy. Those looking for an energetic action show will want to stay clear, as the only action scene is one short sword fight in the first episode that I found to be poorly done. The emphasis is on more character development, each episode delivering small amounts of information regarding their personality and background. The only major flaw is that the pacing is slow, which is good for people with high levels of patience, but bad for those who can't stay sitting without a few explosions or deaths in their entertainment.
The highlight of the show has to be the art, as it's unique and works well with the post-fuedal Edo setting. Lots of detail also went into the character models, making them look unique. What makes them unique is that they don't look that attractive, as most animes will have strikingly pretty female leads with little detail or realism. House of Five Leaves is a bit more realistic, as the characters aren't really pretty, but look nice due to the realism of their faces and body motions.
The opening would also be worth mentioning, as the theme song,  Sign of Love by Immi is an outstanding tune that I wouldn't mind having on my ipod. The visuals look nice, but it's mostly a slideshow of the characters, meaning the animation is pretty bare bones. The ending isn't really worth watching, as the tune and visuals fail to match the mood of the show.

Those who love highly energetic shows will find House of Five Leaves to be boring as hell. However, those who rank character development and interesting dialogue over action scene should follow the series.

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