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House of Five Leaves, Vol. 1 Paperback – Sep 21 2010
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About the Author
Natsume Ono made her professional debut in 2003 with the webcomic La Quinta Camera. Her next works, not simple and Ristorante Paradiso, met with both critical and popular acclaim. Her current series House of Five Leaves (Saraiya Goyou) is running in IKKI magazine, and Gente (a continuation of Ristorante Paradiso) appears in Erotics F magazine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While the art may take some getting used to for some, I personally fell in love with HoFL after the first chapter. It remains one of my favorites and I highly recommend it.
Despite being about samurai, it's actually a very slow-moving story. Samurai stories mean action, adventure, and fight scenes, right? Well, not so much in this case. The lead character, Masa, is a timid and moping samurai in need of money. While he looks as if he'd be no threat, he is in fact a good fighter. He's trying to find employment, and ends up getting involved with the gang House of Five Leaves. The gang might try to think of itself as a group of chivalrous thieves, but when you get down to it, they kidnap. Masa is appalled, and yet this doesn't stop him from drawing ever closer to the people in this gang.
Taking place in the Edo Period, this manga is more about characters than it is about action. Masa seems to constantly look either sad or frightened, which can get readers to feel sympathy for him. On the other hand, it's kind of hard to get behind such a downer of a character.
It gets more interesting as some of the other characters get to be better known. There are some touching moments here.
The art style is most certainly not that of the average manga. Natsume Ono has her own way of doing things. She's a good artist, but the art is rough. Characters look jagged, scratchy and sloppy, as if they're early doodles and not the finished pieces meant to be published. It's an avant-garde way of drawing, but it's hard to get used to, especially if one is a fan of beautifully illustrated graphic novels.
House of Five Leaves is one of those stories that feels as if it's going to build up, but unfortunately its slow pace may have readers leaving it before it has a chance to get anywhere. It has a simple feel at the same time it has an artsy feel, in the sense that it's artsy by doing something different. It doesn't try to be bombastic like so many other books out there. It may not be for everyone, but it does have fans who appreciate the story's pace and the very unique take it has on the manga format.
-- Danica Davidson
And I was bored to death.
That isn't to say that it's terrible. I just can't tell if it's a poor localization or else the anime was such a superb adaptation. The meat and potatoes of the plot is the same, but something is just not right. This is very hard to follow and the dialogue is poorly penned and broken. The translation appears to be almost too literal. The characters aren't as likable (in spite of being the same) and it lacks the magic of the anime version.
I'll probably stick with this 8-part series to see how it all ends, but so far I'm not liking what I see. Maybe it picks up a bit in the following books.
Part of the reason is the languid pacing, as though it were a movie shot by an European Auteur, where people talk and talk but not much happens. Part of the "hook" of the story line is meant to revolve around Yaichi, the leader of the group of Five Leaves, who is meant to be a beautiful and mysterious character, and the author wants us to be intrigued by him and want to find out more. I thought he was pretty two dimensional (all mysterious airs and no substance). Without an interest in the main plot device, it was hard to get into the story.
The style also did not help as the characters, be they men or women, all seem to be tall and effete, making the main character Akitsu Masanosuke quite unbelievable. He is meant to be shy and reserved but quite good with the sword. The set piece where he shows his "true abilities" and chases off some threating ronin was terrible because he looked too skinny to be wielding a sword properly and did not look threatening at all. There was also no way to distinguish the fact that he is meant to be "tall", everyone looked the same size. The female characters all start to look the same as the manga goes on.
There are some good dramatic parts such as when Akitsu Masanosuke bonds with the child that the group is looking to kidnap, but these good parts didn't outweigh the nagging feeling I had that I had better things to do with my time than read this manga. Also a glossary would have helped, as many Japanese terms such as yojimbo, etc are tossed around and unexplained.
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