House of Five Leaves is the first show this season that has really stood out for me, personally, and could be the one I end up remembering this Spring for. Like a lot of other people, samurai shows are one of those genres of anime that I adore, whether they come in flavours like Rurouni Kenshin or Samurai Champloo.
House of Five Leaves, however, is unlike either of those two. It’s the story of a Akitsu Masanosuke, a samurai bodyguard dismissed by his lord on account of his frail personality. Unwilling to let go of his samurai pride and work as a labourer, half starved, he drags himself across Edo, trying to find meaningful employment where he can make use of his skills. Unfortunately, this turns out to be harder than he assumed it would be.
Eventually, he ends up being taken in by a man named Yaichi, leader of a clan named “Five Leaves.” Initially unaware of the group’s true nature and intentions, Akitsu agrees to be Yaichi’s bodyguard. Soon enough, however, he finds that there’s more..much more…to the Five Leaves than meets the eye, and that he’ll have to choose between defending his samurai honour and personal desires. Note that this is the super-simplified, entirely spoiler-free version of the events from just the first episode.
If I had to draw comparisons with a game, I’d say House of Five Leaves is like Spring 2010’s version of Muramasa: The Demon Blade, except to a far greater extent. It’s deeply entrenched in medieval Japanese culture and its nuances — an absolute delight for those of us that are into that sort of experience — even more so because it abandons the “typical” anime art style you’re used to seeing, and replaces it with a still stylized, yet more believable aesthetic.
It’s also surprisingly peaceful, rather introspective, and doesn’t feel like it’s in a hurry to rush its story along faster than required. I’m already hooked, and amazed that I’ve found yet another show this season that I really like.
House of Five Leaves is based on a manga by Natsume Ono, which is licensed by Viz. Funimation have acquired simulcasting rights for the series.