Saraiya Goyou – House of Five Leaves (episode 2)
April 23, 2010
In the second episode, despite his intentions, Masanosuke gets deeper enmeshed in the affairs of the House of Five Leaves. The principle characters have all been introduced, and some of the gang members seem to have taken a liking to the timid yojimbo. Now that the setting and story has been established, this show seems to be developing into its potential.
Masanosuke continues to struggle ethically against the gang’s criminal behavior, but his empty stomach, his naivete, and his need for human companionship conspire to implicate him deeply in the business.
The incidental music has really grown on me, and the artwork is very high quality. Some of the music sounds like, or otherwise references Japanese traditional music, including the use of the shamisen, arguably the characteristic instrument of the Edo period. The artwork has turned off some people, notably for the unusual character designs, but it also has a much subtler color palette than is often seen in anime. My watercolor instructor used to call these colors “broken”, that is colors that have been mixed with their complement so that they have been “toned down” (as opposed to tinted) to reduce saturation. One of the advantages of drawing on such a palette is that the occasional use of pure (high chroma) colors really pops.
I find this show really easy to relate to. I’m currently out of work, and have been for over a year, although I have been using that time to finish my master’s degree. I also have had my share of ethical dilemmas, where I wondered how I should behave on the job to maintain my sense of what was right, or if it was even possible to continue working in a particular job at all, without abandoning my moral compass.
Summary: Episode two built solidly upon the setting, and exposition of the two principle characters that was delivered last week. Masanosuke’s dilemma is explored in a very mature fashion, examining it from practical and selfish perspectives, as well as confronting the reality of one of the victims. The other members of the gang are also introduced. Further this is all packaged with rare aesthetic sensitivity.