House of Five Leaves episode 07 – Progression Takes a Holiday

Let’s start this post off right!

Things kind of plod along in this episode, an unfortunately slow one this week where some things are developed and new information revealed, but precious little of it. It felt more like the show was giving us just a little to tease us with, but things were very sparse in terms of plot progression and character development. You can’t win em all I guess, and House of Five Leaves has been excellent thus far. What does transpire relates mostly to the interactions between Yaichi, Soji, and the new band of criminals that’s making its way into Edo, of which the blackmailer from last time was just the vanguard. There’s also a bit of Masa’s psychology brought out, but only the very beginnings of the issue.

After Yaichi finally comes to visit, tricked by Ume’s story about Masa getting worse, he seems to have gotten very tired of Masa’s questions.

In trying to close down Masa’s questions, he does end up stating out loud what could be surmised from his actions thus far. It seems like more than the simple hiding of his past for practical reasons though, as they way he reflects on the past and the present seems more like someone wanting to forget whoever he was before he started the Five Leaves.

Later back in Edo, Masa bumps into the same ronin that Yaichi had talked his way past when he first arrived. Confrontational again, the ronin picks a fight, but his friend decides to borrow to passersby’s boken to fight it out.

Nearby Yagi notices the commotion and watches the mock fight set up as a crowd gathers.

Masa seems reluctant but fine with the boken duel until the crowd starts gathering and cheering on the match. Despite being such a skilled swordsman, he breaks into a sweat and seems to have a panic attack, meanwhile flashing back to a time that he failed at home due to his nervousness in public. Come to think of it, the only times we’ve seen him fight have been in front of one or a few compatriots and his enemies. Or perhaps it’s the fact that this duel is not a matter of life and death. Whatever the underlying cause, he runs from the duel and while sulking Yagi finds him and asks him what went wrong. When Masa tells him about being nervous in front of people, Yagi offers to let him train at his dojo and treats him to a meal. No training that day, but the offer stands. Later Masa talks with Soji again, surprised at how he seemed to know Yaichi. His past criminal links make Masa nervous, so much so that upon returning to Edo Yaichi notices the change in demeanor. At Katsura-ya the mistress of the brothel wants a little sparring match between Masa and Yaichi, with Masa handicapped to only using his left hand, seemingly on a whim though she professes to want to test him. But like a lot in this episode, it’s brief and inconclusive.

Masa’s panic attack. I’m not sure how I feel about the visual technique. On the one hand it’s nice to have a simple use of a color lens to illustrate something that’s often overdone, but on the other it might be too simple.

Yagi is the one exception to the lack of progress this episode, as he gets a fair amount of reveals proportionate to his secondary character status.

On his brief visit to Soji, Masa isn’t letting things rest regarding Yaichi’s past.

Nice structure to the sparring match setup, even if it didn’t go anywhere.

Masa still has the fangirls.

Masa’s a little too honest for his own good. It wasn’t a problem when he had nothing to hide, and actually endeared him to everyone in the group, but it’s not working so well now that he knows more.

The final scenes bring us more that most of the episode, and these were the most interesting in terms of information and visuals. Masa goes to Yagi’s to train, but the latter is busy that day. He does however invite Masa along as he visits a few graves at the edge of town to place flowers. Yagi’s kindness towards Masa seems part of a larger pattern, as he places flowers on the graves of a neighbor and a friend, taking care of the memory of people he didn’t even seem to know all that well. One grave in particular has no relatives left around to care for it, only Yagi. Here Yagi comes off as the friendly and compassionate person he’s been so far, but it also amplifies the sense of quiet sadness with a smile he seems to have. He seems to be down on hard times (if not as badly as Masa), and he’s lost people he cares about, but he also keeps tending their graves and befriending new unfortunate souls like Masa. In the midst of paying their respects, there is a big reveal: one of the graves is marked as Yaichi’s, and a quick cut to him sitting in a window, appearing to be brooding over something, brings the talk of forgetting about his past from the beginning of the episode back into the picture. There’s also the briefest of hints about developments with Matsu as he visits an old friend and gives him some money, one of two people that he says he owes his life to. The old man seems like a decent sort and inhabits a candlemaking shop, but we’re left until next week to find out anything more.

Your weekly near-background scenery pr0n.

The entire graveyard scene was very nicely animated and detailed, and really put Yagi more fully into the story.

Yaichi seems almost nervous about being found out. But whether he appropriated another’s name or faked his own death remains to be seen. I’m thinking the former. Unless of course this is just a big troll and the grave just happened to have his name on it, hehe.

Matsu’s unknown dealings. Is this perhaps another instance of the new gang moving into Edo and pressuring old allies?

Final Thoughts: - Why do I get the feeling that episode 07 of most series are cursed? While I’d have to look into this further, it seems like episode 07 is the unlucky number where things just don’t go right. That said, if this is the worst House of Five Leaves gets then that’s fine by me.

- Yagi was always kind of an interesting mystery, and it was cool to see him brought to the fore for a while. I want to know about his circumstances and past as much as I want to about the members of the Five Leaves.

- The OP song needs to be released already! I want it SO BAD!

ghostlightning’s thoughts and commentary

House of Five Leaves is successful at something: to painfully portray the pains of the painfully shy protagonist Masa. The problem with this success is that it doesn’t translate to entertainment. While it is easy to sympathize with him, it isn’t easy to be inspired by him. One doesn’t feel particularly moe for him. If you feel this way, I doubt if you feel it strongly.

So the painflul thing about watching this show is how we are given lots of exposition by way of Masa shyly asking people about other people. We find out about the mysterious Yaichi through the patient storytelling of people around Masa who remain quite fond of him, as if showing how we, the viewers should be fond of him.

After his running away from a duel, I don’t think I can be as fond of him as I was. I still respect the storytelling choices made by this show, but I am not pleased with it. I am not entertained.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted June 5, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I actually thought that this episode was really strong in terms of Masa’s character development. The visuals during the sword fight where Masa had his emotional break down really reminded me of Welcome to the NHK!

    But while there’s a visual parallel, the rationale behind Masa’s breakdown is different when compared to Satou. In Masa’s case, he’s haunted by his past and some failure that he incurred at an early age. I feel that the reason why he wants to be like Yaichi is because he admires how Yaichi lives pretty much completely in the moment. Masa feels trapped by his past, and that’s what this episode set up. In many regards, all of the characters in this show are trapped somehow by their pasts. While they all want to move on with their lives, their mistakes and choices in the past have come back to haunt them. I loved the episode for setting up that dynamic.

    But to each his own I suppose. Oh, and to EO: The OP song “Sign of Love” is released already! Go find it :)

    • Posted June 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      My problem with the episode is that, aside from Yagi’s parts, it just didn’t give enough to be satisfying. They don’t have to reveal a lot, and I really enjoy the slow pace that keeps the mystery of the characters’ pasts going, but this was just too little to spend an entire episode on. Most of what you mentioned about the characters and their pasts was to me, mostly from other episodes. I didn’t hate this episode or anything, but I just felt like it only had half the content of a usual episode of this show.

      What?! It’s been out?! Tokyotosho hasn’t had it, I must expand my search! Thanks for the info :)

  2. Dandos
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Amazon.co.jp is selling the CD single, so I expect that it should be downloadable somewhere.

    • Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Thanks to you as well, after searching another site I was able to get a hold of it. Picking a favorite OP from this season is going to be tough.

  3. Posted June 6, 2010 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    I had a different impression. It seemed a bigger deal to me to learn about Masa’s panic attacks. Also we get actual verbalization from Masa about what he finds so interesting about Yaichi. You add in what we learned about Yaichi and Yagi, and it seems like a pretty full episode.

    • Posted June 6, 2010 at 2:53 am | Permalink

      Yar, I thought episode 6 was the one without much character development (for anyone other than Senkichi) this episode gave us insight to Yaichi and Masa, while finishing Ume’s story and setting up Matsu for episode 8. Otake never gets character development…….*sigh*

      • Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Episode 06 made the narrative move more in my opinion than this one did. There’s more quantity of character development in 07 (several characters are touched on), but I didn’t feel that the quality of it was there in terms of depth. It does however set up a lot of interesting points that can be expanded upon to their appropriate depth next episode.

        Hear, hear about Otake needing some character development. She’s the only one to have gotten none so far aside from some interactions with Masa.

    • Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      My issue with it was that it had a lot of interesting beginnings to topics and backstories, but it felt like it only took a single step with them, whereas previous episodes covered some distance with what they started. Masa talking about how he admired Yaichi was more definite now, but Masa told Yaichi that he wanted to live with the same carefree attitude as him in the first episode when they talked on the bridge.

      Speaking of Yagi, I was showing the first episode to some friends today and I would say with a fair degree of confidence that Yagi was one of the two household retainers in the first episode. The one who offered to practice swordsmanship with Seinoshin looks very much like him. Yagi also knew ‘Yaichi’ when he was alive, shown in the flashback and the grave visit. I think this may be the first concrete link to that first scene so far.

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