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Thursday, November 4, 2010

House of Five Leaves volume 1 Impression

A masterless samurai; a band of outlaws; House of Five Leaves is a worthy read from Viz

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Viz’s Sig Ikki line of manga has established itself for rock solid storytelling, stories that don’t fit what the average person may think about when thinking about manga. The art is not always the cutting edge, ‘oh-my-goodness’ awe inspiring flashy art seen in the more mainstream series but it works and such is the case with House of Five Leaves volume 1. This book from Natsume Ono is rock solid in many aspects and should not be passed on just because of how timid central figure Akitsu Masanosuke looks on the cover. That’s the charm of this tale, let’s take a look.

Akitsu Masanosuke is not a bad samurai … he’s just not very confident or fear inspiring. His appearance, his passive nature leads him to lost job after lost job. As he takes on a new job, bodyguard for Yaichi, Masa is plunged into a very different world. Yaichi is the head of a gang called Five Leaves and their main business is kidnapping for ransom. Even after discovering this fact Masa continues to be drawn into this world due to his need for money as well as the passive charisma of Yaichi and those within the Five Leaves.

So my comments about judging a book really emphasizes the unique style of the art in House of Five Leaves. There is a very refreshing simplicity to the art style which serves the story and setting very, very well. At times, as with the cover and chapter art, the lines seem like brush strokes, a style that gets a bit sharper with the main story but retains the set look and feel. This look and feel is of course feudal Japan where samurai are still needed and hired. Masa as a character is timid but it’s his failings that make his interaction with Yaichi so engaging. Yaichi is that mysterious, carefree personality that just has a way with people and as he guides the Five Leaves so too does he guide Masa without his knowledge. The same interest Yaichi takes in Masa I found myself taking in House of Five Leaves. It’s not a violent book even with kidnapping and it’s not action packed, even though Masa shows off mad skills at one point, but it’s a book about relationships, about a man who is more than he seems and a group that’s engaging and fun to follow.

House of Five Leaves won’t blow readers away with its art but its style serves to guide an excellent and engaging story that manga fans should most definite take a look at. The older manga audience that is, not really a book the younger kids will dig.

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