What if there was an anime, an anime that was about samurai. This anime wasn't about "the strongest samurai" or "the path to glory" or even a "demon sword," but instead it was about meek looking samurai with slightly above average skills. He wasn't looking to fight the strongest fight, or defeat the overlord and free his people, but maybe, he was just looking to make his living and help his little sister back at home. That would be, if not anything, interesting. That's exactly what Sarai-ya Goyou (House of the Five Leaves) is about. This anime isn't for those who live to see explosions
and special effects and isn't even for people who want to see some fight scenes - there's only about two or three in the entire series, and for an anime that has its main protagonist as a bodyguard, that's pretty strange.
Welcome to the Five Leaves, an association of almost chivalrous robbers (I say almost because, well, they keep what they "earn" but do their jobs for the greater good). The story follows our already stated protagonist, Masa, the not-so-scary swordsman. Masa is in need of a job, since he keeps getting fired, because well, he just isn't good at being a bodyguard. It doesn't suit him. This is when he runs into the Five Leaves. The leader of the Five Leaves, Yaichi, is a bouncer at the local brothel. After a chain of events Masa joins up with Yaichi to take on jobs such as smuggling, theft, kidnapping, and so on. Also in the group are many other interesting characters - Ume the tavern owner, Okinu his daughter, Otake a local prostitute, and Matsu an unfriendly swordsman. The stories behind each of these characters are all eventually divulged, thus I don't want to ruin any of the fun here. All I can say about the story is that while at the beginning of the series it looks pretty weak, and by the end, it comes and hits you in the face pretty dang strong.
Er well... If you don't like the art then well, there's no hope. You won't like this anime. The art I believe, is incredibly important to setting the mood of the anime. Awkward. No not like "that's so awkward" but like... It brings you out of your comfort zone of what you usually see in anime, while not being CrAzY like Trapeze or Yojou-han. The Animation is fine, but there really isn't a whole lot if it. The anime heavily relies on dialogue to explain things, unlike other samurai anime like Sword of the Stranger that heavily relies on animation to tell it's tale. If you liked the artist behind Ristorante Paradiso, you're in luck because well, it's the exact same one - Ono Natsume!
Simply brilliant. Each track of this anime got me snapping or tapping my finger, even if just a little bit. Every song sounded original and interesting and just... fun! The sound is like elevator music, infused with light techno, and a little jazz. It doesn't distract you from the anime, but you simply can't ignore it. The opening song, "Sign of Love" by immi is also just awesome - a light technopop opening in MY anime about samurais? Magnificent. The ending was nice too, but barely compares to the soundtrack and opening. The voice acting was great too. Namikawa Daisuke (Hohenheim from FMA:B) and Takahiro Sakurai (Suzaku from Code Geass) voice the two protagonists, Masa and Yaichi. If you like either you now have a very good reason to sitting your arse down and watching this anime. But fear not! The rest of the casts voices are also just so... right! So spot on! Takahiro Ai (who I've never heard of before until this anime) voiced Okinu, the young girl who assists at the tavern where the Five Leaves meets has such a cute voice it's deadly! I hope to hear more of her in the future. Overall, the sound is a feast for the ears and skipping out on it is like saying you don't like your ears. Your ears would be very sad if they heard that.
I've actually addressed most of the characters at this point. Yaichi, the "lone mysterious cool guy" actually gets some of the most character development I've ever seen and part of the second half of the anime hinges on him alone. To be blunt, he isn't as cool and suave as he is first introduced to be. Masa obviously is a deeper character than first presented and I noticed a lot of people complaining how much of a "wimp" and "loser" he is. Let me say this, if all the protagonists in anime were AWESOME and COOL then anime itself as a medium would suck. Masa actually doesn't even whine or complain at ALL throughout the series, and saying he's a wimp is like calling Shinji from NGE cool. It's just not gonna fly. He undergoes some serious character development and by the end of the series he well, can be seen in a different light than before. Matsu is another character I'd like to talk about. He at first appears to be another cold and unfriendly character, but by goodness this anime manages to make even him look good. The secondary characters are all strong and interesting in themselves but a few here and there are kind of shallow (not many, but some). Whilst not perfect, House of Five Leaves has some of the most realistic characters I've seen to date that are simply just - human.
Even with all these awesome aspects, the show can at times be a mixed-bag. Flashbacks at confusing times, with confusing material addressed, in a confusing way, and backgrounds that usually don't have much color or vibrancy in them (but seeing as a lot of the anime takes place at night I can accept that). The weird pacing that takes place early in the series, while very different, can be a major turn-off. The latter half of the series is totally amazing and ties off and puts a nice bow on top of everything occurring at the start of the series. It's not hard to miss something in this anime too, which was kind of a problem, because if you space out for a little while, you can miss some serious plot. If you don't like heavy dialogues and minimal action, then I don't recommend you try this anime, but if you could see yourself giving it a try, then heck, go for it.
There's nothing disappointing about this anime while I believe there could have been improvement. It's an intelligent anime that is better watched alone, and focus is definitely necessary, but a rewarding anime it is. You'll be glad you checked out House of Five Leaves.
This anime will never be popular. You will never see someone wearing a Sarai-ya Goyou T-Shirt. You will never see someone pretend to be Masa and do his samurai techniques. It's not that kind of anime. It's an anime that is doomed to be unpopular and only spoken of on the smallest portions of internet forums and be referenced as "a hidden gem." I don't know why all gems have to be hidden, but the statement stands true with Sarai-ya Goyou. It's an anime that can easily be overlooked if you didn't take the time to check it out, so go take 12 episodes of your time (and a fast 12 it is) and enjoy yourself with House of Five Leaves.
Saraiya Goyou is about a gang called “Five Leaves” during the Edo period in Japan. There is very little action, the artwork is nontraditional, and the story moves at a snail’s pace. So why should anyone pay attention to this? Actually, I’d say that those points work to Saraiya Goyou’s advantage, resulting in a well-written, mature story.
Story & Characters
The members of Five Leaves make their money through undercover jobs such as kidnapping, but they are not the usual rough and tough gangsters. Most of them appear to be friendly, thoughtful people who spend their time lounging around in a relaxed environment,
discussing personal issues until their next job. The gang includes a charismatic leader, a shy swordsman, a shop owner, a metallic ornament craftsman, and a woman. Their varied personalities make them an unlikely group to hang out, but they manage to work together on behalf of Five Leaves.
This series is completely character-driven and wastes no time in exploring the member’s personal backgrounds, revealing each of their motives for joining the gang in the first place. Perhaps the most intriguing member of Five Leaves is the leader himself, Yaichi. He is admired for his calm demeanor, yet he is perceived as mysterious because he seems to hide a lot of information about himself. The show delves into how the other members feel about Yaichi, particularly the shy swordsman who is new to the group.
The scenes move slowly and quietly as you watch the characters contemplate about things, plan their missions, and embark on a few short travels. You won’t see a lot of sword fighting or other eventful action here. Even when the members carry out a job, it is more about information gathering and sneaking around places rather than fighting. That is not to say that the show never has its intense moments though; it masterfully weaves in tension and drama just at the right times.
The characters are so down-to-earth and believable that the pleasure of this series comes from observing their close interactions, facial expressions, dialogue, and the subtle changes in their personalities. If you don’t particularly enjoy concentrating on such details, this series might be perceived as a bit dull.
Artwork & Animation
I know a few people who thought that Saraiya Goyou was quite interesting, but they couldn’t continue watching it because they were distracted by the character designs. They're distinguished by having dark, gloomy eyes, pointy noses, and low, wide mouths. Some people just say "frog faces." Even though they are a little odd, I find the designs to be personally fitting in the context of this series. I've also known them to grow on viewers who have given them a chance.
The amount of detail in the animation is very impressive. For example, I appreciate how well they animated the momentum of water in a cup while it was being swayed or tilted, the breeze effect on a lighted candle after a door was just closed, and the fluid movement of the characters. The artwork is finely detailed as well and really captures the look and feel of the Edo period.
There always seems to be a dark cloud looming over the characters. Their minds are heavy with thoughts of their pasts and current responsibilities. Some viewers say that the show is merely all about "gloomy people," and they are right to a certain degree. The characters aren't that upbeat, but despite that, the atmosphere doesn't feel depressing all of the time. I found that there's also a lighter air of relaxation and occasional amusement which adds to the enjoyment of watching.
The opening song, “Sign of Love” by Immi, is a melodic, electronic beat which surprised me. I took a liking to it, so I had high hopes for the rest of the soundtrack. Fortunately, the background music has been superb. Nearly every musical piece is a calm, soothing melody that enhances the show’s atmosphere. Some of the tunes are also catchy, and I’ve found myself randomly playing them in my head.
Without a doubt, Saraiya Goyou is a must-see from the Spring 2010 season. Rather than relying on action to tell its story, the show excels in rich characterization, detailed animation, sound, subtleness, and realism. Saraiya Goyou is an example of maturity in anime at its best.
Every now and then a show is needed to unwind to. Something to break the monotony of the typical over-the-top anime shows with "in your face" color pallete and the overused tropes. We seek these melancholic shows to provide temporary release from the norm, a sort of meditative experience if you will. House of Five Leaves is that kind of show. A show that understands its audiences' desires and executes it with a delicate balance. This certainly isn't for anyone seeking an adrenaline rush or intense action flick but rather serves as an oasis for anime fans that want to just kick back and relax.
The story follows our protagonist Masanosuke as he searches for a purpose in which he can excel at. However being a wondering ronin limits his options to bodyguard duty and through this he becomes acquainted with the "Five Leaves": A band of kidnappers that target affluent people of questionable business behaviors to receive ransom. It isn't structured as a clear cut point A to point B narrative but more of a character driven one. The show follows several mini arcs, each either involving the mission of the team or showing the main overarching story, which involves slowly unveiling the gangs' boss Yaichi's life and backstory. This slowly exfoliates throughout the show's duration with a ending that wraps everything up nicely by coming full circle. The effectiveness of the story is within its simplicity. Since its structured in such a simple way it allows the characters in it to breath life into their world as they remain the primary focus throughout. It's simple storytelling done right.
Everything from the opaque backgrounds to the character's visual aesthetic was handled with great care. It's like a painting brought to life. The world building was also handled well, as you're immediately sucked into the setting and time period that the story takes place in. You can also tell that the animators had a grasp of capturing a sense of depth of frame, as there was a clear distinction separating the foreground from the background, something many shows tend to neglect to do. They use an acid washed color palette accompanied with rich blacks and other textures to help build an aura that looms over the entire show, bathing in a distinct tinge of melancholy while still being easygoing. They were also aware of when and how to use color, as they would limit color choices given the kind of mood they're trying to capture and convey. This was evident with flashbacks and key episodes throughout the show. It's an impressive display of color theory and color placement that was spearheaded by a talented and impassioned crew of creators.
The character designs of Five Leaves are far from conventional. They all share a distinct facial structure with gaping looking eyes (as shown on the anime art cover), which, despite the obtuse expression, was actually pulled off well. They become a part of the environment they're presented in and are uniquely designed when compared to the "run of the mill" brightly colored haired bishounens we're used to seeing. This unique character design gave the show its trademark identity that made it stand out from the crowd. Whether you like it or not comes down to preference but there's no denying its distinct look.
It's hard pinpointing the soundtrack for the show. Sure It had its somber piano ballads, traditional Japanese song instrumentals and other pieces to accompany its usual easy going setting, but there are some tracks that are clearly inspired by French/European flavoring with an Accordion playing throughout certain songs. Seeing that this anime is set during an Edo period Japan, the cultural clash of European influenced music seems like a rather odd choice. One would think they would stick to only traditional instruments of that era of Japan's history, such as the more common placed Biwa or Koto stringed instruments for example. This does not take away from the music used but it would have certainly set a better tone if the show would have taken a stricter cultured route. If they were going for a self-aware cultural mash-up like Samurai Champloo it would have been understandable but they clearly wasn't. It's certainly a unique choice but sometimes it doesn't fit the mood as well. Seeing that music is subjective to one's tastes, how much this bother you as a viewer will vary. Hell, it may not even register with you at all, which in any case it doesn't do much to hinder the show's overall quality to begin with. You can see this as more of a personal nitpick than an actual problem.
The voice actors were also well composed. Everyone came across like they were in their element, this made the character interactions to show great chemistry. Almost like listening to a conversation between old friends, which in turn allowed for great immersion.
Our main protagonist Masa suffers from a clear case of inferiority complex. Although this approach isn't new it's handled well and not made out to be simple melodrama. It's nice to see him strive for self-worth without sacrificing his ideals as a person, with him being a man with a decent moral compass. Another refreshing aspect is that he doesn't throw this ideal around like a bishonen MC would, but rather expresses it to show his distaste for certain actions. Due to his timid behavior, however, he doesn't seem to fight against the actions his companions take. This may make him out to be a push over but due to the character interactions it's never abused for unnecessary drama. Slowly but surely he opens up to the lifestyle of the group and proves his worth.
Yaichi is by far the most enigmatic and captivating character, mostly due to his ambiguous and collective personality. He always steals the spotlight in whichever scene he's in, as we as viewers are constantly trying to piece together his true motives. He isn't simply clear cut as "the cool guy" but more so a person that seem to dabble in the grey, which makes his presence unnerving at times.
Ume is a man of stubborn pride that only seem to care for those who he's close to. He takes on the role of big brother to the others and is often the one with the sharp tongue. He isn't afraid to speak his mind but is also protective of his friends and family. Just like Masa he has a moral compass, but unlike him, he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty if it means protecting the ones closest to him.
Matsu seem to be a closed off individual that is all about business and fulfilling his obligations. He's the information gatherer of the group and his job reflects his personality. He can be summed up as a lone wolf. He only show respect to those he's indebted to and shows loyalty to the group but never brings up anything regarding his personal life. Due to his detachment to others he isn't quite explored until later into the show with his individual arc.
Otake is a rather carefree woman, she doesn't seem to take anything too seriously but still composes herself to a degree. She seems to go about things on a whim with a smile always on her face and always find pleasure in the company of others. Her past, like the others in the group, is revealed later on, which brought another aspect to the story involving Yaichi. There isn't much to her in layered characterization but she is still a nice addition to the group.
the rest of the supporting cast also play their roles well and don't need over the top quirky personalities to be understood. They simply play their roles in the story without overstepping their boundaries.
Together these characters are all subtle in execution and are down to earth enough that their presence feel natural. The air of maturity complimented the melancholic tone of the show quite well. This brings forth nice organic character interactions between them, making all their time on screen a pleasure to watch. All the characters show a sense of honor as to be expected among Japanese customs. This mutual comradery for each other is what makes this cast among the better ones anime has to offer.
I entered this anime to seek escape from the usual dime a dozen shows and that's exactly what I got. It's soothing, got to the point and didn't overstay its welcome. For that, I can easily recommend this to anyone seeking the same kind of escape as myself.
Don't be fooled, this anime will not be everyone's cup of tea. It's not trying to impress the audience nor is it trying to be more than it is. It's simply an anime that slowly unfolds a simple story on its own pace. If you're looking for a show to relax to or just something to offer a break from anime's usual tropes then this might be just the remedy. But if you're looking for intense samurai action flick and a grandiose story I advise you look somewhere else.
As for other recommendations, I point you towards:
Mushishi: A show that also captures the familiar melancholic atmosphere, accompanied with unique character designs and tranquil presentation. It also takes its time exploring its world and individual stories. However, it lacks an overarching story as oppose to House of Five Leaves.
Shigurui: You won't find the tranquil easy going nature of House of Five Leaves here but what they do share in common is that sense of mutual comradery, slow pacing and similar Edo period world setting with samurais. Also, it has a slowly unfolding backstory of certain characters as well. Be warned though, it's a VERY bloody show and follows more of a grittier approach. If you're one who doesn't want to see a bloodbath, stay away.
Upon closer gaze, a pattern of five-pointed leaves stained with a fiery red flutter in synchronized elegance, encapsulating the essence of an enigmatic tale told in the 12-episode anime titled Saraiya Goyou or House of Five Leaves. Based on the manga by Natsume Ono, Saraiya Goyou tells a slow-burning narrative revolving around an unemployed samurai named Masa, who in simple desperation, finds himself hired by Yaichi – the leader of a small band of thieves who call themselves the Five Leaves.
The bulk of the series focuses on the dynamics between the members of the Five Leaves, specifically Masa
and Yaichi. Naturally then, this series is an entirely character-driven drama that entices with a very clear handle on its ambitions. Surprisingly enough, the fundamental strength of this series comes from its ability to deceive; from the characters to its progression. The series keeps itself under a veil, revealing in perfect doses, what’s necessary to tempt and assume, only to taunt those assumptions back into their flawed origins. It is in no way a standard samurai tale featuring spectacular sword fights or thrilling wars between conflicted states; rather it aims to do something far more basic than that and that is to tell an unassuming story about individuals trying to find their place in a fragmented society, where meaning is lost, and relationships are forged through coin and sin.
The character’s journey to find sanctuary, belonging, and one’s self - when there seems to be very little hope - is a premise that echoes throughout time and land, and can be found really in every medium. What sets Saraiya Goyou apart in its story-telling is the mechanics it uses and the subtlety it does it with. All of the characters that are part of the “Five Leaves” find themselves together, bound by an unspoken contract and sense of camaraderie, but what’s important here is: why? The manner in which the series examines each individual’s motivation for doing so is nothing short of magnificent. Under the ruse of “criminal activities” whether its kidnappings, or thievery, or blackmail, the activities of “Five Leaves” are never the focal point, but rather it’s the interactions, reactions, and the impact of each respective crime on the band, and the individual characters themselves and that's what elevates the series. Thus, the show is able to streamline what it wants to do at all time, which is fleshing out the characters with every scene, and it does that, without skipping a beat.
As the crimes escalate in risk, so do the vulnerabilities and traits of the characters regardless of how deceptive they may have seemed, initially, which brings up the strengths in the development of the individual characters. From the naïve, black-eyed Masa who suffers from a lack of confidence in his craft and himself; to the enigmatic white-haired, powder-blue eyed Yaichi with a seriously deceptive smile; to the reserved, lone-wolf-type Matsu – the gang’s spy – who is as reckless as he is reserved; to Take, the sultry geisha with a sharp tongue and undying loyalty to the gang; to Umezou, the unofficial member with a stained past trying to clean up his present and future, yet offers the Five Leaves his tavern as their meeting place. All of these characters with their idiosyncrasies and quirks are a pleasure to witness as they try to fulfill their own goals while maintaining the House of Five Leaves. It is astounding the amount of meticulous effort that went into each gesture, interaction, and conversation when evaluated elementally, and how those come together to give dimension to each character, and the relationships that come as a product.
The last defining point of the characters is their design. Saraiya Goyou is not only unique in its content, but also in technical achievement and aesthetical quality. The art-style of this series is very peculiar. Uneven lines, big circular eyes blobbed with a simple pattern and one color, mouths drawn in a way to make the Joker envious - the way the artistic design comes together is indeed very different, but for a series as out-standing, as it is, it complements it perfectly.
Even the background art and the music that accompanied the story-telling were equally fitting such as the subdued use of color except for very intentional markers such as the crimson leaf, or Yaichi’s eyes, or objects that consistently enhanced the mood or scene, contextually or situationally. The serene shamisen accompanied by the jubilant accordion and flute seemed to be the instruments of choice and bode well, as they really heightened the time-period it was depicting. Overall, every element seems to have been crafted only to tell this story, and Saraiya Goyou is that series where everything just came together in just the right way.
As slow-burning as this show is, it’s worth experiencing for all those who enjoy a well-seasoned, character-driven tale. It isn’t flashy. It isn’t in your face. Saraiya Goyou is more like an impressionistic painting, which requires patience to fully appreciate the details. The strengths lie deeper than a first-look like within its stylistic choices, its clandestine characters, its simplicity, and unparalleled elegance.
Though, don’t be deceived; even though it may run at a relaxed pace and seem indifferent to action, the impassioned crimson-hearted House of Five Leaves and their members will surely persuade you to stay until the end…
Peace and serenity, independence of the mind, graceful beauty, resting, & death; the rich magnificence of a maple leaf as it falls at the closing of its years. Before we begin, I would like to say that no other symbolism can effectively associate itself with Saraiya Goyou moreso than that of a satin maple leaf.
At this very instance, the broad versatility of references that exists within this beautiful piece of nature constructs a focal point for everything that Saraiya Goyou is and stands for. To me, it simply opts to convey every aspect of the rich symbolic context of a maple leaf through its character
driven drama, plot, and art.
For story, I want to take note of the way that Saraiya Goyou handles its episodic nature by overlapping many of the stories into other episodes to effectively condense the series and maintain a level of fluid consistency between each episode and cleverly allowing minor points in these plots to serve a purpose later on in the series. Building on that, what I am more particularly fond of is the fast-paced "snappy" style of storytelling. For example, in many cases an episode will go into immense depth on tactics that will be used to carry out a crime that the characters are planning to execute and then suddenly, after this discussion of tactics and such, the actions that they were discussing have taken place and in the very next scene the characters will be dealing with the consequences or an issue that was encountered in the off-screen event. It's not a generally favourable story-telling style but it allows room for more development of the characters that is far more down to earth.
This style also allows room for heavy interpretation of many events that take place off-screen and is essentially fast-paced, focused story development that never looses an ounce of its vigour. It's a case where the producers seemed to know exactly how long to make the show which is a problem that I have had many times with anime.
Another thing that I wish to emphasize is how the show adapts its dialogue in such a way that it is constantly melded into each characters personality and essentially never falls into the pit of telling the story rather than showing it. Sure this kind of observation has been made on other series before, but in my mind Saraiya Goyou is one of the best examples of dialogue driven storytelling that show-cases an equilibrium between the audience and itself.
Another dimension that I appreciated of Saraiya Goyou was the Robin Hood nature of the scenario's that it looked at, but unlike Robin Hood, all the scenario's were not left morally ambiguous but were "heavily in the grey" from the criminals perspective (e.g. the entire main cast) or the one's being subjugated to the criminal activity. In many respects it is quite suspicious that many of those at the receiving end of the criminals activities were more or less deserving but the best thing about it, is that it doesn't make a clear cut judgement on the themes that it explores, which are (at their core) very mature and sensitive topics and Saraiya Goyou takes a stance for a tasteful perspective on the mature themes that it explores which earns it extra credit in my book.
I rarely hand out a perfect score for anything, but this is one part of Saraiya Goyou that I really cannot find a flaw, simply put, its characters are nothing short of remarkable. Saraiya Goyou is essentially a character driven drama and the series comes across as completely aware of that. It is rare to find an anime where the characters are so well developed with such little time, so the character development I can allegedly say is masterful, no member of the cast is left out of the equation (yes including minor characters that are only on-screen for an episode or 2) each character has a fully orchestrated history that is highly detailed. Taking it a step further, to truly emphasize the beauty of the characters within this series is that the show has not one occasion where any character does anything "out of character" and when questionable actions take place, the context of the series steps in to justify those actions fair and square.
The art in Saraiya Goyou whilst it is an acquired taste, is nothing short of beautiful in its detail with lavish background settings, the character designs are very interesting and hardly comparable to anything with a possible exception of Kaiji and Fantastic Children's noses (those noses, I can't get them out of my head), that said the ending product in the animation department is fascinating in that whilst it does not allow itself to revel in an exercise of romanticism of the Edo period what it does do is somehow allows an attachment to be built that tugs at my "heart-strings" inviting me into a world of rich depth, making me wish that I was a part of the whole ordeal unfolding between the characters. That said, I cannot quite put my finger on what it is about the art that makes me feel that way, is it perhaps a combination of its art and the simple exchanging of words as one hikes down the main road or even partaking these everyday activities through the streets of an Edo suburbia?
I haven't got much to say on the sound department except for the fact that it gets the job done. The OST is oozing with tracks that set the mood and allow me to become engaged and invest in the emotional aspects of the series. Like the rest of the series, the music used remains sincerely reflective of a story that is constantly providing subtle questions from the grey area, and the music recognizes this, with that taken into consideration it kind of pains me to say that the score is the series weakest point.
One thing that is possibly wrong with the series; is that it lacks entertainment value. Now I for one enjoyed the series immensely but as I mentioned before in my comment that the art in this show is an acquired taste, this statement also applies to the entire series. That said, to fully appreciate the series you may need to be a more experienced anime or manga fan, so it is not favourable for many that Saraiya Goyou excels in every other department except for high-octane stimulation but with all of this said the fact that Saraiya Goyou takes up this bold sense of direction remains a benefit to the show. It serves as a reminder that simple stimulation can only achieve so much and sometimes we need to step back and take our time to divulge in a shows inner essence, which is something that Saraiya Goyou does very very well.
There really isn't much else in the way of negatives and to be honest I am scratching my head trying to find a major flaw (there are 1 or 2 unbelievably-obscurely minor flaws that the only way that they would become major problems is if you kicked out logic in the first place). That said, there was one major flaw but quite contrarily the series managed to effectively rectify it in the end which makes it even more easier for me to say that this series is deserving of every bit of praise that it gets.
Saraiya Goyou is a great anime, almost no flaws, amazingly well developed characters and top-notch execution all around.
I believe that a review should let you decide whether or not you should watch a show, and if I was the ronin in this series, I would invite you all to spend a quiet moment with Saraiya Goyou.
Saraiya Goyou, or House of Five Leaves, is the latest work by cult studio Manglobe. Now, while it isn't generally a good idea for a critic to speak personally, it bears mention that this is the first time I have ever seen anything by Manglobe, so I can't really comment on how it compares to their previous works. However, the fact that Manglobe already have a cult following in spite of only having four previous works to their name (Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy, Michiko to Hatchin and Seiken no Blacksmith) says quite a lot about this studio. Now, I don't know if Saraiya Goyou is
in the vein of their other works, but this is likely considering that Manglobe are known for having a completely unique style and presentation, both in story and visuals, and Saraiya Goyou not only delivers on this, but it does so in spades.
The show revolves around a swordsman for hire. Right now, you may well be thinking of some underrated master swordsman, a badass with amazing skill, who slays men in their thousands. This could not be further from the truth. Whilst the swordsman, our main character Akitsu Masanosuke (usually called "Masa" for short) is a competent swordsman, he is completely human. There is nothing truly special about him. He is, however, rarely hired, in part because he looks so harmless. But this all begins to change when he meets a strange man calling himself Yaichi, who actually agrees to hire him. However, as Masa soon discovers, he's been hired to work for a group of kidnappers. He initially tries to leave, but soon finds himself more and more immersed in the criminals' world.
Now, it's worth noting that this show has a very unusual art style. This can be extremely offputting to some people, which, alongside with the slow pace of this show, probably account for the incredibly low ratings this show had upon airing. This is a great shame, because as of writing this is probably the best anime of 2010. It starts off quite slow, making it hard to rope viewers in, but it slowly but surely hooks the viewer. The pace is often considered to be the best and worst thing about this anime. It seems boring, but at the same time, utterly captivating. It's strange, but no matter how slow the show is, you never want to stop watching. At the same time, the slow pace can make the important moments all the more impressive and memorable.
When it comes to the cast, most of them are good characters, and there are no bad characters in this show. However, the ones everyone remembers are the leading pair, Masa and Yaichi. Lesser characters like Ume and Matsu are memorable, but they aren't nearly as impressive. While Masa starts out as awkward, spineless, and mildly annoying, over the course of the series he gradually comes out of his shell. He comes to impact the plot strongly, form bonds with the Five Leaves, and prove his worth repeatedly in a fantastic display of character development. While he isn't as impressive as Rock from Black Lagoon, another character who started out in a similar fashion, he's certainly a character worthy of praise. Yaichi, on the other hand, is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. He is the mysterious leader of the Five Leaves, and a highly interesting character. To speak of his past is to ruin the entire plot of the show.
Now, while the art style is offputting for some, it is by no means bad. It doesn't take long to get used to, and the art is produced to a high standard, as is the animation. Both are joined with an interesting style that focuses on a subtle, yet rich darkness. A large amount of the series is set at night, viewed only by candlelight, if even that. The daytime scenes are often indoors, under shadow. And the high-quality production extends to the soundtrack as well. The background music is distinct and memorable, giving a unique feel to the show. The opening theme, "Sign of Love", is a great song that grows on you more with each passing episode. The only problem I have with the soundtrack is the ending theme, a fun, bouncy song that invariably seems completely out of place at the end of each episode.
While Saraiya Goyou is by no means a show for everyone, it is a great watch for those who can appreciate it. Some patience will be necessary for viewing it, but it will not go unrewarded.
Final Words: Watching every other Manglobe show just shot up significantly in my priorities.
This is a most perplexing anime, one that waits until the end to tie everything together. It’s actually very boring at first, and what redeems it is that the show keeps throwing out little bits of exposition and development, keeping an interest going while moving at the pace of a turtle. I would expect most action-oriented and plot-oriented anime fans to be bored our of their skulls, and character-oriented anime fans to be frustrated at first.
If you notice the details, it is even more perplexing. It is an extremely high quality anime, the art is in this strangely solemn style, where the characters all
have very low set jaws, large empty eyes, and a sort of thick-stroked gauntness which is somehow extremely emotive (a mere shift of the eyes is enough to convey as much emotion as an gasp/cover mouth in surprise would in other anime). The quality of animation shows a good budget went into this. The incidental music is very fitting, although the OP/ED music is completely in a different style than anything else in the anime. Despite that, the OP/ED is very good and somehow refreshing.
So, why all this effort to make such a boring anime? Well, the trick is, it isn’t actually like nothing is happening. It’s actually quite a tense anime, but the tensions aren’t revealed until the end. Throughout the series, lots of meaningless actions and gestures will go right under our noses if we aren’t paying attention, but in actuality if we had been paying better attention, we would have caught the tensions that these actions and gestures really conveyed. A sideways glance in episode 5 might have actually revealed what we learn in episode 9, and in that way, I’d have to rematch the series to be sure, but I think there wasn’t any such things as meaningless actions or gestures, that every thing had a purpose, and that’s part of what made this series great.
I can’t talk too much about the ending, but suffice to say, it ties the anime up, reveals everything that had been under the surface up until then, and quite frankly the way the ending made the rest of the anime make sense was literary. So, beautiful art, literary story, good music... yeah, I’d say this anime is pretty good :)
Contrary to popular belief this anime is not calming...If anything it made me angry at how annoying and pathetic the protagonist is. In fact he is so pitiful that nothing ever progresses in the plot.
The one good thing about Saraiya-goyou is its unique art style. Saraiya-goyou is set during the Edo period in Japan and the art style is sort of a modern reflection of the art style from that period. Unfortunately I would never watch or recommend an anime solely for the artwork so if you are thinking of watching it disregard this paragraph and move on.
I understand some people are
going to say "But I really just want to watch calming anime and I've heard that this fits thats description..." As I have said above, that statement is horridly incorrect, its not calming...only tiresome and dull. If you want something calming, watch Aria.
Story & Characters: 9
A rather timid and shy samurai, Masa, comes across a yakuza, Yaichi. For the first time he isn't ridiculed for the frightening gap between his personality and occupation and is offered a job. When Yaichi notices Masa really has skills he tries to pull him into the Yakuza.
This is a realistic story about how someone gets sucked into a yakuza group, and about becoming 'nakama'. While Masa struggles with his own demons he gets accepted by the 4 members of Sarai-ya Goyō.
Within these twelve episodes we get to know fragments of their past and how Sarai-ya Goyō came to be.
The backgrounds are done beautiful. This is a style looks drawn. The faces of the characters are ...not realistic. Watching the anime however, it all fits. When I looked into it I found out those faces were typical for the mangaka's (Natsume Ono's) work.
The opening tune was a shock to me. Some electrical beat for an anime placed in the Edo era? WTF?! After a few episodes I've come to like it and found out the songtekst couldn't be more fitting.
Overal the sound is nicely done. The rain pours realistic, floor boards that make sounds etc. The music is fitting to the scene and the voice actors really seem to fit their characters.
For the very first time I have come across a seinen anime that has adult characters without flashy fighting moves. The story is simple and has a nice slow pace. Watching a realistic, slice of life, yakuza story without unnecessary violence and all that jazz? It really is possible. The way awkward emotions are conveyed is also nicely portrayed.
Looking at the whole picture it is a story that is nicely set and really grabbed my attention. This is the first time I went ballistic searching for the manga after watching only the very first episode. This anime really grabbed my attention.
After seeing the last episode, I've now added this anime to my top 5 favorites.
The first word I'd use to describe it is "quirky." The art style is quirky, the music is quirky, and so are the characters.
A shy, sensitive, and naive samurai (Masa) who can't keep a job is hired to be a bodyguard for the boss of a small gang called The Five Leaves. The boss (Yaichi) is an utter mystery to most of the other characters, especially Masa. At the heart of the story is Masa discovering who Yaichi really is. And the need each human has: the
need to be loved and wanted.
I watched this anime as it was coming out. I gave it a rating of 8 until the very last episode. The ending was so good, I had to raise it to 10. It really packed a punch, and gave me a lump in the throat.
I began watching it because of the style. I LOVED the quirkiness of the art, and the music. And the beauty of the animation in general, which has a sort of dark, film noir-ish look. The sets and backgrounds are beautifully realistic, albeit the general color scheme is natural colors (browns, black). It also takes place in winter, with chilly clear days, and no foliage but for the red-leafed maples. At the end comes the frost and snow.
I appreciated that it's easy to tell which scenes are flashbacks. They are green-tinted.
And the music is quirky (think of the music in xxxHolic; I'd call that quirky too) just with a folk-music style.
As I said, it was the style that hooked me. But then I started to like Masa. Or identify with him. He has to come to grips with his social awkwardness, and decide if he really wants to work with an illegal gang. He envys Yaichi and his contentedness, and hopes that attitude will rub off on himself. "I wish I could smile like you do," he tells Yaichi.
As the series nears the end, we begin to discover clues about who the enigmatic Yaichi really is; this man who goes about with an air of ease, sliding through life, carrying his constant smirk. Masa begins to delve into Yaichi's past, despite warnings to not get involved with him. And Masa discovers that the most influential things in a person's life often hinge on the simplest things. One choice by one person can forever change someone's life: for good, or evil; for happiness, or for tragedy. And that even the strongest-seeming person has the same needs and vulnerabilities that everyone else does.
The only detraction for me was keeping track of the characters. I have to admit that I have a hard time remembering Japanese names. And since this is supposed to be fairly realistic historical Japan, the characters look realistic. They don't have purple or red hair to help you tell them apart. So I kept mistaking some of the characters for others. Yaichi is the only exception--the creators make him really stand out.
The overall feel of this anime is slice-of-life. The pacing is pretty slow. This is a drama. But it doesn't drag too long, since it's only 12 episodes. If you ONLY like action, romance, or conventional anime styles, it probably isn't for you. But if you're willing to relax, take it easy, be sensitive, and appreciate something different, I definitely recommend it!
EDIT: After watching it a second time, I wanted to share another thought. It's as if the entire series was created for the sake of the final 5 minutes of the very last episode. Nay, for the last 30 seconds. Everything builds up to that very final scene. As I said before, it packed a punch. And it was a lot easier to keep track of who's who the second time around.
And again, this series is pure drama, and rides on emotions and human interaction. If that doesn't interest you, you probably won't enjoy it.
Saraiya Goyou is a very sedate work that received less attention than the noitaminA time slot generally receives, and was something of a critical failure for this reason. Some people were put off by Saraiya Goyou, and more ignored it entirely.
A year after it's airing, the show deserves another look.
Sairaya Goyou's story is understated and slow paced, with little of the action that might be expected from a period samurai drama. Much is expressed through silence, and scenes unfold lazily, interspersed with brief segments of tension. The primary focus is on the mysterious Yaichi and his criminal associates, and
the curiosity masterless Samurai Masa and Yaichi regard each other with. The plot is character-driven, and gradually learning more about the cast, their motivations and past becomes the primary focus of the anime.
The artwork is extremely distinct, to the point of being off-putting to those more comfortable with traditional anime styles. The illustration lends itself well to the moody, contemplative nature of the characters, and acts as an additional means of characterization for the cast. Edo is lovingly displayed in a realistic manner. I found the strange art reminiscent of the Ukiyo-e and nostalgic of the period Saraiya Goyou sought to portray.
The sounds are at once out of place and at purposes with Sairaya Goyou's feel, and the first indication of this is the opening. Electronica that would seemingly be completely out of tone feels a natural fit- and in the show itself, jazz and other surprising influences can be detected in the soundtrack. For the most part, the music is subdued and subordinate to the events unfolding (slowly) on screen, and makes for an excellent fit. There is nothing astounding here, and I would not call the soundtrack memorable, but it does serve the series well.
Characters are this anime's greatest strength, and the compelling force around which the show is built. Masa is a gloomy protagonist who never wallows in his misfortune, but quietly suffers with concerns about his own inadequacy and failure as a Samurai. Yaichi's motivations are inscrutable, as are those of the burglar Matsu. Some characters, such as Masa himself, Souji, or the tavernkeep and his daughter are immensely likable.
The show lacks fanservice or flashiness, but is extremely good to sit down to with a hot cup of tea for a quiet evening. It is thoughtful, and promotes feelings of calm and contemplation as each episode ends. In this respect it is similar to the Iyashikei moé slice-of-life series. Although Saraiya Goyou is filled with tense moments and conflict, it ultimately leaves the viewer more at peace than they started.
There is a fine line between "at peace" and "bored", and Sairaya Goyou will never have a wide fanbase for this reason. I owe the show a debt for helping me through a difficult time, entirely thanks to its capacity for calming disquiet and engrossing the viewer in the lazy, dreamlike intrigues of an Edo-period tavern. Sairaya Goyou deserves praise for telling a story without pandering to audience expectation or action for its own sake. The art, music and events all feel designed to work to a specific purpose in the story's mood, and nothing is allowed to remain solely for its own merit or flashiness.
I would absolutely recommend this anime to anyone who likes Japanese history, a good character-driven drama, or someone interested in a distinctively drawn and painstakingly-developed story.
House of Five Leaves is an utterly mesmerizing Samurai drama that follows the dealings of a gang of thieves called Five Leaves in Edo Japan, who focus on kidnapping and ransom to make a profit. Despite the intriguing premise the show sadly went overlooked by most at the time of its release. This is likely due to the focus on dialogue and character interaction rather than swordplay and large-scale fights. It's a real shame too because the characters themselves are really something to behold.
Each member of the Five Leaves gang receives a small character arc that delves into their motivations and attitudes towards
thievery. The show constantly explores the idea of when it is and isn't okay to commit a crime. Some are earning money to support another, others are following a code of loyalty, but each of the five members has their reasons. The audience is really allowed to reflect on what they would do in the situations of these characters and that is why the drama is so easy to resonate with. House of Five Leaves understands the importance of family, and the limits one would go through to maintain a relationship. The fear of isolation looms over everyone in our cast, and abandonment is a demon that can inflict scars deeper than those on one's skin.
These scars come to light little by little through the character Yaichi. A lot of times mystery-box characters are handled poorly because they're too distant to care for, but in Yaichi's case his cool composure and mysterious aura just add to his overwhelming charisma. He is drawn with a long face and snake-like eyes, which speaks volumes about his character's constant scheming. His distance actually makes him all that much more intriguing, and it fits very realistically within the realms of his character considering his history, which all comes full circle in the show's very emotional finale.
That isn't to diminish the rest of the cast however. The main character Masanosuke is clearly depressed and suffers from social anxiety, but he never wallows in self-loathing and is always doing his best to better himself which makes him extremely likable and relatable. His depression never overpowers the show however, as it's handled in such a subtle way that it blends into the background, which keeps the tone from getting too morbid. His honest and innocent yet cowardly nature gives him great chemistry with the aforementioned Yaichi, who acts as his composed and secretive and foil. Masanosuke also has a nice dynamic with a cop named Yagi, who acts as somewhat of a mentor figure to him, and allows Masanosuke to discover a lot about himself. His gradual growth towards the Five Leaves members is something really pleasant to watch, as by the end it feels like they've created their own little family inside Ume's bar.
While Take, the girl of the group, got the short end of the stick in terms of screen-time, (as she is the only one who isn't fleshed out through an arc) she and the other members add some very valuable life into the series. House of Five Leaves opts for a very relaxed and slow paced atmosphere rather than one of tension and excitement. Despite its slow burn feel the show never becomes dull due to the brilliant character interaction. In fact, this atmosphere gives the show a very unique identity. It exudes the same feelings one would receive sitting by the fire, and smoking a pipe as the clouds float gently through the sky, and the feeling is sold through its masterful presentation.
The mystery and serenity generated by the music harken back to a simpler Japanese time, while the earthy yet faded colour pallet simultaneously captures the clouded and distant minds of the characters as well as the natural beauty of the time period. Characters are designed with unnatural eyes and triangular noses, creating a feeling of unease; a feeling that something is clearly not right with these people.
This really shows how well directed the series is. There are no long bouts of exposition or inner monologues used to tell the story. Instead, the show utilizes the environment to give itself depth. Little things like curtains creating barriers between characters, wide shots displaying isolation, or dark lighting conveying scheming and negativity. It's these little nuggets of cinematic expression that keep House of Five Leaves engaging.
The biggest issue I have with the series is the ending. It is very emotional ride and even has a clever throwback to the first episode, but there is a lack of closure regarding Masanosuke. I would've liked to see a more distinctive change in his attitude, and while it seems like he's found his place in life amongst Five Leaves, he hasn't fully worked through his social awkwardness. That said, the other character arcs were all tied up nicely, and for a show so small in scale the ending is satisfyingly humble.
Overall House of Five Leaves is a very rewarding experience with a very tranquilizing atmosphere and a well written and mature cast of characters. I would recommend it to almost anyone as the drama has such a wide appeal, but if you're in the market for raw spectacle then you should look elsewhere.
Saraiya Goyou is a distinctive, mature work that takes a refreshingly honest look at the Edo period, romanticising it in the only sense it should be idealised; an aesthetic sense. We follow an oddly honourable band of kidnappers in Japan’s Feudal age. Yaichi, the leader of this group, the Saraiya Goyou, and the bashful ronin that becomes involved with them, Matsu, are the central characters. The pace of the series is intentionally slow, allowing it to be a completely character driven, subtle, perfectly crafted narrative. If you are looking an anime that is clash and slash, hard rock- look elsewhere; this is a skilful,
meandering zither solo.
The first aspect of the series that might catch your attention may be the artwork. It has a Ukiyo quality to it; perfectly reflecting the Japanese artwork created at the time the story is set. This woodblock-print style (from which all anime styles have descended), set against an accordion score that would be more at home in 1920s France, welcomingly but unexpectedly settles you into this distant time and place. The art direction lets the series down somewhat; though it’s good, it isn’t superb.
Character truly does drive the series and though every character is a well rounded and unique, three-dimensional person, much of the series centers on the interaction between two characters in particular. Little more need be said than that one has naïve, circular pupils that sit in his saucer shaped eyes, while the other has small, perceptive, green globes that peer out from behind intelligent slits with quiet, ambivalent menace.
The plot is by no means spoon fed to the viewer, the majority of the important plot points are in fact left only implicit. The story itself is, however, only as complex as an engaging narrative need be. The perceptive viewer is always given enough information to see one step ahead of the story, but never beyond that to where the real questions lie. Japanese media doesn’t pander to its audience and is often as complex as the writers choose it to be, but narratives like Saraiya Goyou show that how powerful a narrative is has no relation with its complexity.
First of all, some people seem dissapointed in this series due to its lack of action. Don't let the edo setting fool you, this is no samurai epic. It's not about fights and blood, it's more interesting than that.
Our hero is a bit of a pussy. He's a sumurai, but so unintimidating that he can barely hold his head up without running away. His hidden skill rarely surfaces, but somehow he still manages to impress a local bandit enough to be invited into his group. Forced to betray his morals due to poverty, he befriends the members and joins their kidnapping ranks.
So starts the
series. Later episodes focus on the leader of the gang, Yaichi, and his mysterious personality. Along the way the other members are also exposed in a somewhat limited fashion.
It's all done very nicely and extraordinarily elegantly.
The subtlety of the plot's delivery is only matched by the fabulously detailed, gorgeously believable backdrops. The edo-era wooden buildings are charmingly stunning and accurate. The warmth of the lantern-lit streets and shops is exactly Japan, equal parts past and the best of the modern. Even in Tokyo you can find little streets illuminated only by lanterns, lined with wooden buildings. If and when you do, you'll be reminded of the sumptuous images from the House of Five Leaves.
The character designs are also excellent. One of the big failing points in modern anime is the lack of original (or even particularly convincing) facial expressions. Natsume Ono creates faces with a grown-up eye towards realism without pushing too hard. The elongated mouths and droopy eyes, both with recognisable Japanese features, portray emotion far more convincingly than the vast majority of other efforts, and need massive credit for that.
The music was so good and I'm so rarely impressed by anime soundtracks that I could barely focus on anything else. The tunes are varied, but invariably upbeat and original. Predominantly traditional instruments with more modern beats; every track was great.
The Japanese seiyuu did a good job, too.
The OP and ED are rubbish, however. I see what they were trying to do, but it failed. The result was like putting Geri Halliwell's version of "It's Raining men" at the start of Monster, finishing with Lionel Richie's "Hello".
Although I did like them, I would have liked to see a lot more development all round, and especially from the promising female characters. The lead could also have done with being slightly less of a pussy. A dimension of the storytelling I also would have improved would be the lead actually being the lead at all. Seeing as how Masanosuke's part wasn't actually as big or significant as it was initially presented to be, I would have started from the perspective of the gang first. In this way perhaps we wouldn't have expected him to deliver where he ultimately didn't.
One character I was impressed with, however, was Matsukichi. A tenderly treated vision of depression.
Very good series. Though not particularly inspiring in its premise, something happens to this anime which makes it attract and engage the viewer (i.e. me) surprisingly well. I can only call it the sum of its parts. The art, firstly, draws an interest both in backdrop and character; the music chipperly increases momentum, and the sly story ties it all together in a charming and satisfyingly dignified package.
Not a lot happens, and it's hard to see this series as anything other than an introduction to something longer (despite its low ratings let's hope we can see more manga-material animated), and as that it is an excellent piece of TV. A longer, faster-paced sequel would be an great way to continue this anime.
When you think of Samurai, what images flash into your mind first? Courageous warriors clad in their traditional hakama? Fierce sword fights to the death? Or maybe a lifelong journey to achieve some form of enlightenment? Saraiya Goyou, or The House of Five Leaves (I’ll refer to the show as “Goyou” for the rest of the review), is none of these. In fact, it doesn’t come close to anything our culture has widely perceived about the behaviors of these swordsmen.
Akitsu “Masa” Masanosuke is a ronin, or a masterless samurai, who lives in Edo period of Japanese history (a time period that lasted from
the early 1600’s to the late 1800’s). Despite his swordsmanship skills and his humble personality, Masa never seems to be able to hold down a secure job as a bodyguard. His slightly naïve nature and aloof presence is his Achilles heel, and he often finds himself being fired because of them. One day, after being fired from yet another job, Masa runs into a charismatic, white-haired individual only known to the viewers as Yaichi. To Masa’s dismay, Yaichi beings to gain interest in Masa’s character and offers him a bodyguard position. However, it doesn’t take long for Masa to realize what he’s getting himself into. Yaichi reveals himself as the leader of the mysterious group, “The Five Leaves”(Goyou), and he expresses his desire to admit Masa as a new member.
What plays out from here is a bit odd.
It’s extremely difficult to pinpoint a specific genre for the series, since the story plays out as a sort of pseudo-mystery that has light dose of drama, slice of life, and very limited action. With that said, the show is definitely not what one would expect from any samurai show. It is heavy on dialogue, and it relies on its characters to drive its plot rather than relying on a coherent storyline. Although the show does work with the aforementioned “mystery” through carefully placed flashbacks or hints through conversations, there really isn’t much else when it comes to direction.
However, this is what makes Goyou such a unique and entertaining experience. It’s different to a point that the premise becomes a risky task to execute well, but it really doesn’t do anything noticeably wrong. Throughout the series, we get to learn a good amount about the show’s main cast, and the way we find out about each individual’s pasts and reasons behind joining Goyou comes off naturally, without any unnecessary drama or nonsensical development. Unfortunately, that is the extent to its unique nature. Despite providing such a different experience, the series doesn’t do anything in particular to “wow” viewers. As a result, the series will draw a niche crowd, but it will likely be doomed for obscurity. Nonetheless, the story of Goyou relies on its execution, and it definitely delivers. It does just enough to keep an interested viewer interested, but it doesn’t go the extra mile to draw in a larger crowd.
Manglobe has always been a studio that doesn’t shy away from taking risks with its art style, and Goyou is no exception to this pattern. Unlike the studio’s other samurai-related show, Samurai Champloo, the atmosphere of Goyou gives off a heavy, melancholic feel. Covering a wide variety of locales from the Edo countryside to its red light districts, the richness of the setting is often overlooked due to this gloomy atmosphere. As a result, the color palette limits itself to duller colors in order to consistently fit the almost depressing setting.
Matching this sullen tone are the character designs of our main cast. Characterized by their detached stares and wide mouths, the designs aren’t the prettiest anime have to offer, but they surprisingly fit the equally sullen environment of the series. Animation is decent throughout the series, but it doesn’t really stand out (mostly due to the lack of sword fights, the most common form of showing off animation skill in a samurai-related anime). As a whole, the art and animation of Goyou is solid. Defined by its uniquely dull (sounds counterintuitive, I know) atmosphere, Goyou makes its visual achievements noticeable and appreciated.
At this point, I should stop trying to doubt Manglobe’s ability at composing quality soundtracks that match the show perfectly. The OST of Goyou is comprised of 26 tracks, most of which enhance the gloominess of an already dreary, dreamlike atmosphere. Tracks like “Umaku Ikusa” give the viewer a sense of regret, melodic yet haunting. Such tracks are amongst the most common in the OST, with the anime’s main theme of the same name as the title seem almost like a tango remix of the aforementioned track. Even the more lighthearted tracks such as “Chokko Tokurri” possess the same melancholic tone as the others, despite its attempts at being a bit more upbeat. Despite being the near perfect addition to the technical set of Goyou, the OST’s limited diversity in tracks is a flaw that, although doesn’t deter much from the overall experience, is still a noticeable flaw.
The opening sequence, Sign of Love, is in a genre probably somewhere in between electronic pop or trance that, although does not fit the time period of the series at all, is still a very catchy and uncharacteristically upbeat song that surprisingly, works very well with the anime. The ending, All I need is…, plays out similarly to the opening but is a bit more generic and forgettable. Voice acting is cast well in general, with each voice seeming almost reluctant to play the role. However, the disinterested tone of each voice is again a characteristic of the series that after a while, I just began to simply accept. Sometimes the voices seem as if they are being performed through a filter, which adds to the atmosphere.
Overall, the sound set of Goyou is both strong and memorable. With few and almost unavoidable flaws, everything from the OST to the voice acting is done with the utmost attention to detail.
If there is any other category that stands out in Goyou as much as its OST, it’s the amount of depth put into its characters. The series boasts a very strong cast that, although may seem to be dull at first, are all properly fleshed out and have distinct personalities. From the humble and awkward Masa to the cynical, yet caring Ume, each character’s persona is built off of well-developed backstory and feasible interactions. What really surprised me other than the diversity and odd likeability of each character was that each individual had a certain human aspect to them. Every character is multifaceted, and it’s hard to describe them using a simple archetypal word or phrase. The series does a wonderful job at making the characters interesting enough to not only drive the series, but to provide the needed depth in order to make the overall experience a well-planned out one.
However, it’s this very mature handling that somewhat dooms the cast. Despite the very human approach at developing and reasoning out the motives of each character, the results might be blander than a typical viewer would expect. To put an example to this reasoning, viewers won’t remember a character like Yaichi as much as they will remember a character like Lelouch (Code Geass). Despite both being charismatic leaders of their respective “groups,” there’s no “selling point” to the cast other than their realness. Although this is by no means a fatal flaw, it’s an unavoidable gaffe that unfortunately just happened to hurt the experience.
Nonetheless, even the lack of flashiness in the cast isn’t enough to discredit the thorough characterization and overall quality of the character crew. Although you won’t be seeing Masa or Yaichi skyrocketing to the top of the favorite characters list on this site, you will appreciate the care put into their personalities.
I’m a sucker for slower paced shows because I love kicking back after a hectic day to slow things down. Goyou does just that, but it doesn’t bore you to death doing so. As stated in previous sections, the story has some drive and direction and keeps it present enough to keep a viewer slightly pulled into the experience. Although it’s by no means a psychological thriller, the languid pacing was a welcome change of pace that I happened to enjoy a good deal. Although I had no problem getting through the series, if you’re walking in expecting something like Samurai Champloo, you’ll definitely be disappointed.
At the end of the day, Saraiya Goyou is a thankless anime. Despite its excellent execution of multiple categories, its achievements will likely be as hidden and humbled as is Masa’s personality. It’s aimed at a rather niche crowd, but it does a great job at satiating that crowd’s desires. Nevertheless, I would urge viewers to give Saraiya Goyou a try if you’re willing to try something pleasantly different.
Average score: 8.7/10
Weighted score: 7/10 (Liked it, recommended)
(if the rating confuses you, take a glimpse at my rating system on my profile for clarifications)
Now don't get me wrong by looking at the mark i gave this anime. On my scale, 7 is very high, way above average. And Saraiya Goyou really is just that. It is not a masterpiece, or even close to that, but it beats the majority of the anime we get to watch.
The story is the best part of this anime. It is not linear. Even though it is told in a chronological order with a few flashbacks, you can't discern the series of events till the very end. And even then, when you can remember all of the events, and put them together
systematically, the story that appears in front of your eyes is not generic or simple. It involves a lot of completely different and unique characters. And they are unique compared not only with each other but with the whole anime medium. A sissy skilled samurai, a prostitute with a sense of justice and so on. While some characters might seem generic when you first get to know them, they appear to be quite original and well developed later on in the show. Yaichi could be a good example of that. A mysterious and cool chick magnet who is also awesomely skilled in fighting. But later on, we get more development on him and the real truth is revealed. But if we consider character development as a whole, I'd say it's not exemplary. I've seen better and deeper characters, but like anime, it's way above average.
The art might repel a lot of potential viewers, but I liked it. A lot. First of all, it's very original. I don't think there are any more anime with such art. But if we take a closer look, it's only the characters that are drawn originally. They have goofy eyes an such, but it kind of adds up to the whole atmosphere. However, if you look at the background, and things around the characters, you will see awesomeness. Detail everywhere, textures, lighting - everything. It was really spectacular.
Another aspect of this anime that I loved a lot, is it's sound track. It was amazing. It built up such a relaxing mood. And if we add it together with the soothing coloring of the anime, we might just fall asleep watching it. The music itself was not something spectacular. I would not download and listen to like a song. But what makes it good in the anime is the matches with everything else.
I enjoyed watching Saraiya Goyou. It did not make my brain melt, it let me relax after a hard day and just forget the world around me. But an important thing is that you have to catch every little detail there is to fully understand the story. So a complete relaxation is not an option. You should just turn of your muscles and let your mind do the work.
To sum up, Saraiya Goyou is a fresh whiff of air among all the crap we get. I wish we could watch more anime like this. But then again, it is not and it won't be popular for quite some time and therefore, we should not be expecting that. That's why people who like such intelligent anime with no fan service, dumb action scenes and generic storylines and characters should not miss any of the good ones like House of the Five Leaves.
The story is set in Edo period Japan, where a highly skilled but highly gullible and unreliable samurai is finding trouble securing a job as a bodyguard. The starving "ronin" soon catches the attention of the misterious and charismatic leader of a local criminal gang known as the "Five Leaves Gang" who hires him to serve as his bodyguard and soon, starts persuading him into officialy joining the gang. Though reluctant at first, the samurai ends up joining the gang, partly due to his critical financial situation but also due to his growing interest in the gang and its members; as time goes by
and their relationship deepens he discovers that there's more to each member than meets the eye, especialy the always elusive and misterious leader.
The beauty of this anime isn't in its art style which accurately depicts the landscapes of feudal japan to the tiniest detail; or in the beautiful music which is a perfect mixture of contemporary and classical japonese; its in the characters and their development. That is the keyword in this anime, development. The pace in which this anime progresses is absolutely perfect, the pieces start falling into place at the perfect timing, resulting in a smooth and crescent experience that, just like a roller coaster, will carry you softly to the top only to send you crashing down to the floor.
Those are the strongest points of animes such as House of Five Leaves, and don't misjudge, I'm not saying that crazy fantasy, battle, oriented, superpower, samurai stories aren't good; most of my favorite animes fall into those categories. What I'm saying is that there are such a vast collection of these types of manga already, and that is precisely what makes more obscure, down to earth animes like House of Five Leaves such a special and unique genre. So give it a chance, you won't fall in love with it at the first sight, but talk to me once the ride is over.
While indubitably a good one, this anime might not be just everyone's cup of tea. Speaking of cups of tea, Saraiya Goyou is very much like a good cup of tea on a winter's evening, when you're snuggled up in a chair with a warm blanket and a good book. It's a cup of green tea, gently warming your freezing palms, with delicate yet sweet taste and subtle fragrance.
While one may call it slow-paced, and there's not much action to be seen there, its beauty lies precisely in its slow, meditative storytelling. It's a genuine drama in its portrayal of people with unique circumstances,
how their fates, pasts, motivations, hopes and fears cross, clash, grow together. It's a show about forgiveness and reconciliation, with the world and with yourself, a show about how everyone starts out with different dreams and goals but, in the end, is just searching for a place in this world that they can call their own, about how letting people in and loving people is so hard, how it doesn't happen smoothly or easily, but how when it does happen, it's what matters most. It's a show about how what one may perceive as one's grave fault may very well be one's merit. It's a great slice-of-life in a historical setting of late Edo period (for those who are studying Japanese, it gives a nice sample of Edo period dialects), showing the frailties of everyday life and how unimportant and mundane things are often the best in life. One of the greatest strenghts of Saraiya Goyou is that while this is a show featuring samurai, yakuza and geisha, kidnappings and (some) swordfighting, it successfully escapes the tropes that usually go with it all. It discards the bombastic, bathos-laden, overly dramatic, move-flashing, testosterone-flaring, tear-jerking, over-the-top moves for a softer storytelling which makes everything a lot more believable, relatable, and manages to deliver a lot of impact. To continue the drinks analogy I started, it might be like a cocktail in a way: deceptively light and sweet, but packing a punch when you cease to expect it.
The art style is... unusual, especially the character design with angular faces and weird rectangular eyes. The color palette is muted, with a lot of greys, browns, yellows and blacks, underscoring the overall subdued atmosphere of the show. Yet let that not scare you away: the backs are drawn beautifully, you get treated to realistic representations of Edo street life and architecture, and character design, if not always easy on the eye, grows on you over time and is a nice change of pace from the stereotypical huge-eyed brightly-colored too smooth almost-no-nose faces you see everywhere lately. It adds this nice, tingling touch of uniqueness to the show.
The sound is absolutely fantastic. I will no doubt buy the soundtrack for Saraiya Goyou given the oppotunity. The score is heavily influenced by traditional Japanese music, using many traditional instruments, but retains a modern feel to it. It is very atmosperic, brimming with emotion, and compliments the action perfectly. Not only the music is outstanding, but the VAs did a damn good job too, conveying the complicated characters and their emotions perfectly. Masanosuke is completely believable with his soft, low voice, and Yaichi shines with his contolled intonations.
The characters are the core and the driving force of this show, so, naturally, for the show to work, they have to be good, and they are indeed. It's a shame that the show contains only 12 episodes, because there is not enough time to provide a proper background and exposition for everyone, but it's getting to know the cast and seeing them interact, clash, soothe and change each other that is the most enjoyable. The tones of their voices, their clothing, the faces and poses they make, their silences and gazes even, there's a lot more to the characters than just what they say, and it looks way more real and interesting than endless dialogues or narration. It's a shame that not everyone gets to shine, but everyone gets a unique personality constructed with love and care.
If you like fast pacing and action, this is not something for you. But if you're looking for a deep story with a lot of character development, room for thought and emotion, this is definitely something for you. This story might make you reconsider your own life - for, really, how many small coincidences, meetings, word exchanges that seemingly mean nothing occur every day in your life? You might not know it yet, but it is those small meaningless things that make up our lives and that weave the threads that will someday show bright and strong on the tapestry of your life. What is later perceived as fate always begins small and insignificant. This show teaches one to treasure it.
This anime receives far less attention than it deserves. If you've never heard of Saraiya Goyou, definitely take a moment to see if it's up your alley.
The anime follows a strong, innocent, and timid samurai as he joins a enigmatic group in feudal Japan. The interactions between our uncertain protagonist and the group's charismatic leader resemble "Of Mice and Men." Overall, the story focuses on uncovering mystery, loss of innocence, and slow-paced atmosphere.
One strength of the anime is that---while it has few action scenes---each of these scenes are crisp and impactful. Characters are nuanced and develop into more complicated individuals over the course of the
show. Foreshadowing is well done. The show blends its slow-moving plot with a sense of increasing mystery.
Perhaps one reason that this anime is not better known is the art style. The plot is slow moving, and it is sometimes unclear where the show is going. The anime does a better job of capturing its characters than telling a story.
I would recommend this anime to viewers who enjoy slow-paced, introspective anime, or anime that are based on mystery and complex characters. This show is suitable for people in their 20's.
If you are looking for more action, or want a positive, uplifting vibe, then I would look elsewhere.
Story (10): This is one of the most sober animes I've seen. In a quietly daily basis, it presents you with a society filled with hardship, cruelty, injustice and yet, people struggling to survive between cynicism, indiference and a little bit of hope, as fragile as a candle light.
Art (10): The art is very particular and mesmerizing. This is one of my favorite aspects of the anime. It suits the entire feeling of the characters and story perfectly: lazy deep eyes, expresive innocent eyes, mouths that look like translucent sketches of expression, gorgeous dark landscapes... not mentioning the atenttion to detail the
artists paid to develope parts of the story without needing to use dialogue.
Sound (9.5): Although I'd have liked the op and ending to have a more traditional sound, the sound as a whole does an excellent work, sometimes to simply acompany the scenery. And other times, to tell in a subtle way a whole different story, when you are only watching two people drinking.
Character (10): The characters are very well developed, they are not stereotypes, you can really see flesh and bones here. From the straight forward Masa, to the enigmatic Ichi, they all have a very rich inner life, that moves their actions and reactions in very particular ways. Showing the greys in white and black, or perhaps; turning from black to white and from white to black over and over.
Enjoyment (10): Well, I got to tell you, if you don't enjoy slow paced animes or expect to see fighting, well... you might not enjoy it too much, but give it a chance, this is a real psychological/artistic candy.
Overall (10): I'd really suggest you to watch it, this is a nice piece of work, artistically and philosophically. I mean, just watching the way the titles were chosen made me chuckle with pleassure.