House of Five Leaves episode 05 – Green Memories

The events of this episode take place almost entirely in the past, and in particular, Ume’s past. First we’re taken back to the founding of the Five Leaves and their first kidnapping, then even farther back to the end of Ume’s time as a member of a group of robbers. In a linear sense the events and plot don’t move forward, making it feel a little slow, but the past is becoming more and more clear. Even so, we’re not given the entire ‘past timeline’ for Ume, just a substantial part of it. There’s still the matter of the man who showed up at the safehouse in the present, why he’s still around, and why he and Ume now seem so hostile towards each other. Interestingly for someone who’s usually so guarded, the second flashback sequence is presented to the viewer as Ume relating the story to Masa, who’s still resting in the safehouse getting over his bout of ‘Edo sickness.’ While Masa plays a minor role this episode, the events are still relevant to his character development in that they show how perceptive he is, and how he managing to coax out the details about the pasts and motivations of his companions.

An image of Otake is required in all posts. Here being very Yuuko-esque partaking in the free alcohol and teasing those around her.

Ume’s plan for their first kidnapping, more for revenge than profit. Surprisingly, Ichi agrees to returning the hostage with the money around his neck.

Back in the present: Ton-chan! On his way to Masa out at the safehouse.

Masa continues to suffer from the Edo sickness, his legs swollen and weak. With all the samurai, merchants, criminals, and travelers coming into Edo, it must have been a pretty bad mixing pot of different diseases from the provinces. And the dirt in the air probably was an issue for those used to the countryside.

Okinu knows that her dad is a big softy at heart. Really, he’s like a tsundere. “I-i-it’s not like you’re my f-f-friend or anything, I just thought the food would help you get back to work sooner!”

I absolutely love the slight angle, the shadows, the long shot, and the sake bottle in the foreground.

Ume leaves Edo to go out to the safehouse and check on Masa, bringing the softshelled turtle with him. Masa seems to be getting along fine with the house’s owner, and the owner is sympathetic to Masa’s problems with being in the Five Leaves, advising him to bear with it for now, but one day to just leave all at once. Ume chops up the turtle for soup, apparently thinking Masa would enjoy it and that it would help him get better, but Masa ends up not touching it. While it’s now explicitly said, Masa’s look implies that he won’t eat it…because the turtle is cute. Ddddaaawwwww, Masa you’re so moe. Ume then insists on making him eat his vegetables, suspecting that he’s only been eating plain white rice the whole time he’s been in Edo. He really is starting to care for his new comrade, and they get to talking just as a visitor for the house’s owner shows up. He and Ume exchange glances and are coldly cordial with each other before the man leaves. Masa, understandably, is wondering what’s going on, and asks Ume about him. At first Ume condemns him for being thoughtless, and is insistent that he’s not going to talk about it, even while drunk. But he also recognizes that Masa isn’t even aware that asking could be considered inconsiderate, and ends up opening up to him about the man and his shared past.

Ton-chan: it’s what’s for dinner.

Apparently Ume is related to Largo from Valkyria Chronicles. Yasai banzai!

Cue Kill Bill fight scene start sound effect. Dun dun dun da dun dah!

Masa may be awkward, but he has a way of finding things out.

Obviously he knows things aren’t right with the visitor and Ume.

Related all in one flashback, Ume explains to Masa how he met the man, and his relation to the safehouse owner. Back in Ume’s younger days he was part of a group of robbers run by the owner of the safehouse, ‘Saint’ Soji. He’d run with the group for years, but eventually he met a woman and had Okinu with her. With a young daughter to take care of, he asked Soji for permission to leave the group and go legit, a favor he was granted. On his way out he tried to give Soji some money he had saved as a way of expressing his thanks, but Soji told him to keep it for himself. We’re left feeling that Soji is a really nice, understanding guy as Ume departs in the rain. After he clears the courtyard he passes by another man on his way to meet Soji, the man that had visited in the present, Senkichi. He’d been a ‘big brother’ to Ume within their gang, but had left without permission and taken money from them when he left. He explains that he took the money because he needed it to buy his lover out of bondage to a brothel, and now has a daughter with her. Soji wouldn’t intervene to ask the other leader to let him leave, as he had done for Ume, likely because of the circumstances under which he left. Now Senkichi needs money to pay off an old comrade of his who keeps threatening his business by bringing up his time as a bandit. But Soji is having none of it, turning him away. Meanwhile Ume is leaning against another wall of the house, listening and feeling guilty. As Senkichi walks back, Ume grabs his shoulder and gives him the money he had tried to give to Soji. Senkichi seems very grateful, and Ume ignores Soji’s warning that this won’t be the first time, but decides that if he needs money he can go back to less-than-legal means again. One would think Senkichi would be grateful in the present, but whatever happened in the meanwhile is a story for another episode.

Ume and his group moved into Edo from the Chugoku region, coming to the new capital for similar reasons to Masa and many others.

Ume gets curious as to why his aniki is showing up after leaving the group in rather unceremonious fashion. Listening in, their situations seem very much alike.

One of the things that bothers Ume so much is that one of Soji’s reasons for not letting Senkichi leave is that he couldn’t talk the other leader into letting go of two members at once.

Something of a pattern with closeups of Ume’s hand during these moments of decision. The shot was zoomed in on his hand when he tried to offer it to Soji, trying to take an action to leave and maintain good relations. Zoomed in on again when he feels responsible and yet powerless about Senkichi, and again here when he uses what power he has in the situation to help him out. His actions are definitely the focus, and their good intentions and consideration for others seem in contrast to the manner in which Senkichi ended up leaving the group.

Ume seems not to mind, since he’s done a good deed for someone in a similar situation. But perhaps Senkichi kept coming back and eventually he had to refuse. Something definitely happened to sour their relationship.

Masa meanwhile keeps watching and thinking, putting together more and more of a picture of his comrades.

Final Thoughts: - A little slow, though I didn’t mind it so much myself. All the background into Ume, and a bit of development between him and Masa, was a nice way to deepen his character. It also gives him more contrast with Ichi, Masa, and Matsu, the other character’s whose pasts we know something of. Ichi and Masa came to the Five Leaves from proper, samurai class backgrounds, while Matsu was a lone thief. But Ume was some of each. He was a criminal like Matsu, but he worked in a group with a hierarchy and organization like Masa and Ichi. But unlike any of the others, he actually started a family, and in that sense he had even more ties than the two characters with the traditional, establishment backgrounds.

- Are softshelled turtles the new ‘in’ thing this season or something?

- Looks like next episode is going to be focused on the present and something going on with the Katsura-ya brothel, as shown by the narrator for the preview. Should be interesting, and hopefully Masa will be well by then and back in Edo.

NOTE: I’ll be out of town this coming week until midway through next week and unable to make posts. Next week’s post will be delayed a few days, and my next Kare Kano retroblogging post will be pushed back as well. Thanks for your patience.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    “I absolutely love the slight angle, the shadows, the long shot, and the sake bottle in the foreground.”

    Yes! People who claim this show is ugly are truly missing out. It has an extremely refined sense of aesthetics, and offers some impressive and unusual artwork.

    As to the episode, I agree, although it arguably did not advance the plot much, it really enriched Ume’s characterization in many ways. He is shown doing good deeds. He is shown caring about what happens to other people.

  2. ExecutiveOtaku
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Apologies for the VERY late reply, I’ve been out of town without internet access for the past week and a half.

    Some people aren’t liking the art, and I think the show has it hard in terms of mass audience appeal with its style. It’s not conventional enough, but it’s not weird and unconventional enough (like Trapeze, for example) to get people to go on about how unconventional it is. Unfortunately its style, while rich in detail and composition, isn’t eyegrabbingly different enough to get the “wow, it’s so different” sorts of fans.

    Now I’m going to go and eat my caviar and grumble about the ignorant commoners with my aristocrat friends. Good day, sir.

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