House of Five Leaves episodes 03 and 04 – For a Few Ryo More

Despite his misgivings, Masa continues to work with Ichi and the Five Leaves group in a legit job. Or so he thinks. He’s been hired as a bodyguard for a rice merchant’s family, living in their home and generally having a good time doing his job. But it’s really a cover for him to provide information about the family in preparation for a kidnapping, something Ichi and the others don’t tell him since he probably wouldn’t have gone along with it. The parents of the family seem like average merchants to Masa, and he befriends their child one day while walking around the edge of the property. Eventually Masa is let in on the majority of the plan, but even with his ethical problems things still come down to one thing: he needs money. Not just for himself, which he does a minimal job of taking care of, but to support his debt-stricken younger brother back home. Money is certainly the theme of these two episodes, and we also get a some backstory on Matsu and a few more pieces of how Ichi came to be the man he is today.

So many scenes of the characters just sitting, talking, and plotting. I really love the tone they set, as well as just looking cool. All the dialogue reminds me a bit of .hack//SIGN with its rich, languid paced conversations between characters.

Plotting while concealed by the shadows. Ichi also shows once again that smoking is scientifically proven to make you cool. Hell, I’d smoke if it wasn’t so bad for you and didn’t make your clothes smell. Other shows that make you want to smoke: Cowboy Bebop, Honey and Clover, and Darker Than Black.

When Masa meets the merchants’ son. I love the slanted, upwards angle. While it might not seem hugely different, imagine how much less interesting the shot would have been if it was just a straight, level one.

Making friends.

Poor Masa, the friendly samurai.

But at least he gets room and board, and the chance to keep up on his samurai discipline.

Masa is having a great time being a bodyguard for the Oomiya family. He’s able to do a job befitting of his social class, the other servants are pleasant, and he’s made friends with Yutaro recently. But it’s not long before Ichi lets him in on the fact that they are the Five Leaves’ next target. Matsu has also infiltrated the Ohmiya household by pretending to be a maker of hair ornaments, and he visits the lady of the house, a most unpleasant woman who hates the adopted Yutaro, even though she couldn’t physically have children herself. She’s also throwing away the Ohmiya’s money on trinkets just to spite her husband. The next day Ume gives Masa some rice cakes to take along and give to Yutaro, and the two eat them and enjoy the sunny afternoon on the riverbank. But either Masa became too lax and fell asleep or the cakes were drugged, because before long Matsu shows up to kidnap the kid and both he and Masa are lying asleep.

There’s just not a place for someone as honest as Masa in Edo.

We don’t get to hear what’s in Masa’s letter, presumably from his younger brother or sister back home. Though I imagine it’s asking him or more money or implying that they need it. As an aside, I really like Masa’s little apartment and calico cat.

Mmmm, delicious scenery pr0n, the near, midrange, and distant styles all blending together.

Masa runs into Okinu and helps her carry some boards, but then falls backwards down the stairs suddenly. While it doesn’t come up until later, he hasn’t been eating. Either to save money or because he doesn’t feel right about spending money from the Five Leaves.

The samurai that Masa ran into while picking maple leaves runs into him again. I knew this guy would be back! After teasing Masa a bit, he offers him some tea and dango, which Masa gladly accepts. He seems to be in a similar situation as many Edo samurai: part of a samurai family with too many sons and not enough work for them.

It’s such a pleasant scene of home life. Except that I think the cakes they gave to Masa might have been drugged.

Given Masa’s history of being called undependable he could have just fallen asleep. But the way he had to be stepped on to wake him up made me think that maybe there was something else going on.

The end of episode 03 concludes with a flashback to Seinoshin after he was kidnapped, the kidnappers telling him first that they’d kill him, then that they’d just fake his death and invite him to join them. The flashbacks are green-tinted, just as the first one from the first episode, and episode 04 starts with another. In this one we see how Matsu, a lone thief, ended up joining Ichi’s group. Matsu is injured, running away from guards when he passes by Ichi’s window in Katsura-ya. Ichi brings him in and tells him to hide, hiding the blood on himself by having the woman he’s with stab him with  a hair pin. They pretend it’s a lovers quarrel and the guards leave, and from then Matsu is recruited into the Five Leaves. Back at present, Masa is still reluctant about taking Ichi’s money, even after he’s dismissed from the Oomiyas. He even starts making paper lanterns in an attempt to make legitimate money, but Ichi follows through on a promise to get him a job as a bodyguard for Katsura-ya. Masa isn’t quite comfortable living in a brothel, to say the least, and the courtesans keep swooning over his shy, reserved manner. But being there also means that he’s around Ichi more often, and despite his awkwardness Masa starts putting things together and asking Ichi enough questions to make him feel uncomfortable. For someone who doesn’t talk about his past much, he’s finding it kind of annoying that Masa is starting to figure him out.

Seinoshin trusted Ichi, but then seemed heartbroken when the kidnapper told him that Ichi was the one who ordered it. These kidnappers were subcontracted by Ichi though, so his first kidnapping must have been more spur of the moment than the kind of organization that the Five Leaves is in the present.

Excellent, but painful, cover there.

Ichi knows how to press the right buttons.

Masanosuke and Calico, Ltd.

Money is a big motivating factor so far in this show, but especially in these episodes. Lots of talk about money as well as actually seeing it on-screen.

It’s really funny and cute to see Masa trying to deal with living with a bunch of courtesans/prostitutes.

He’s getting closer to the truth, maybe even figuring out more than the other Five Leaves know before too long.

Definitely like the static ‘camera’ set close to the few objects in the foreground, a shot that stays still while the two talk and then when Masa takes his swords as he leaves.

Surprise Masa rape.

Masa is moe.

Masa’s such a chick magnet. I mean, these girls it’s not so difficult with, but he also has Otake seemingly interested in him and Okinu getting all DAAAWWW too.

I could watch Masa trying to fend the girls off him for an entire episode and be thoroughly amused.

The final part of episode 04 is the next day, with the potential for a new job seeming to show up. Masa and Ichi talk once more, and Ichi casually mentions that the Five Leaves will take care of Masa’s old apartment and that Otake may move in. Annndddd she’s already there when Masa goes to check on the place. She’s even got her stuff moved in and his cat curled up in her lap, haha. He’s about to walk with her on his way to work, turning down her offer of lunch until he collapses again. This is when it comes out that he’s been neglecting to eat much of anything in order to not spend money. She takes him to Ume’s where they see him about to burst out of the shop with a meat cleave, Okinu restraining him. Apparently the young master of the house Okinu works in was trying to fool around with her just as he’s about to get married and Ume wants to murder the brat. He’s calmed down, and the incident seems to be full of potential for the group. Ichi prefers to blackmail direct retainers of the shogun since they’d be too embarrassed to report it, and the family Okinu works for is one such family. Stealing the boy’s dowry is suggested, but I’m sure the group can think of more creative means of revenge and profit.

Oh, there might be just a little chance…

Cats are such treacherous beasts, willing to change loyalties to whoever will pet them. But I love them anyway.

Time to break out the emergency rations.

Unless he’s the butcher from the remake of Dragon Gate Inn I don’t think he’s going to stand a chance charing into a samurai’s manor with a meat cleaver.

Son of a direct retainer of the shogun you say?

Final Thoughts: – Explaining Matsu, his role, and his past in such a quick manner was definitely needed in these episodes. He felt like a really marginal character in the first two episodes of the show, so it’s good to have him established as a proper character. Now we just need some more background on Otake.

- Now that it’s been mentioned that Masa has a brother and a sister, I’m more curious about his family’s circumstances. Like how in debt his brother is, and if that means that his sister is in danger of being married off to whoever just for a dowry to pay the debt. Such things would be powerful motivations for Masa to further compromise his ethics by working with criminals, even if the Five Leaves definitely aren’t the worst of the underworld.

- Episode 04 was a bit slower and less significant in terms of plot movement, but I it seems to be setting up some good things for next week.

- Masa living in the Katsura-ya is gold. The proper and/or awkward guy living with a bunch of girls has been done before, but I think it’s used especially well here since it’s Masa living in a brothel, not just with a bunch of regular women. I think it makes it a little funnier too that the series is being fairly faithful to the class differences of the time, and it makes Masa being there, with his samurai class pride, even better.

- I’m not planning on always doing two episode posts, it’s just that by the time I was able to get around to the 1-2 post, 3 had just come out and 4 only a day or two ago. Episode 5 only next time.

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  1. Posted May 9, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    There was another shot with an interesting angle just as Otake is walking out of Masa’s apartment, only instead of from the bottom, it is from the top.

    Also that scene at the end was a flashback as well (notice the greenish tint).

  2. ExecutiveOtaku
    Posted May 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Interesting or unusual angles certainly make a show more fun to watch. Even if they don’t scream ‘unconventional’, they make for a better viewing experience.

    Ah, I wasn’t sure if it was green enough to be a flashback, haha. I guess because it was during the light of day instead of evening or night like the previous ones.

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