House of Five Leaves 08 and 09 – The Cutthroat World of Candlemakers AND Oniii-chan!!

Subbing issues have left me in despair!!! CommieSubs hasn’t had a release since ep 07 and I got tired of waiting. Fortunately there have been high resolution releases for episode 09 onwards, so ghostlightning and I will be doing some quick catchup here, and again on Monday for 10-11. The first of the two for this post brings to light the specifics of the old man Matsu is indebted to, a candlemaker who has had his official wooden plaques (used to gain entry to retainers families’ properties) stolen by a rival who is trying to embarrass him and take his business. Matsu is told not to act, but feels obliged and unsuccessfully sneaks in to try and take them back. Now captured, Masa and Ichi notice that he’s gone and get to finding him. After that situation is resolved, episode 09 introduces Masa’s sister, a new arrival to Edo and potential new factor in the characters’ lives.

Ichi tries hard not to get close to Yagi when the three run into each other, but Masa introduces him. Yagi notices him having the same name, but doesn’t make any further remarks.

Ume meanwhile tries going legit and cut pretty bento carrot flowers for all of ten minutes before he volunteers to help find Matsu. No one else seems to notice him telling them to leave the bar as they pretty much continue their meetings there.

An apprentice of the Kiku-ya candle shop runs into Masa and Ume, and they get their clue as to where Matsu is being held.

Not even his daughter believes him for a minute. Ume has too much tsundere-style friendship with everyone to quit.

Oh snap! Masa puts down the other bodyguards beating up Matsu, after using Yagi’s connections to get him hired at the competitor’s house.

Matsu tries escaping several times, but it’s not long before Masa finds a good time to free him. While the master is away with one guard Masa knocks out the other and makes off with a beaten up but otherwise ok Matsu. Matsu doesn’t like being indebted to others, but as he’s now indebted to Masa as well he explains that he has a daughter and the owner of the Kiku-ya lent him money to pay for medical treatment for her. The police show up later that night at the competitor’s property, thinking it’s a fake call since nothing (other than a hostage) was stolen. The Kiku-ya’s owner accepts that he’ll have to deal with the embarrassment of the police finding the plaques, but in a quick shot we see Yagi pocketing them. The next day he returns them to Masa, who in gratitude gives Masa a metal hair ornament he’d been working on so Masa can send it to his sister. Ichi however remain suspicious of Yagi and has Matsu gather information about him. He’s the new police commander for Kitamachi, noted for being unconventional but effective. Yagi lets slip that he’d “heard” that he was adopted into his family, but dismisses this information as a rumor when Matsu inquires about it. More seems about to come to light regarding Yagi, Ichi, and the dead Ichi from the flashback at the start of the series.

Playing all innocent now…

The friendship and camaraderie of the group is brought up again here. Despite them being criminals, the group has become a place where they can belong, almost like a family. Matsu, coming from a life of crime that he can’t or doesn’t want to leave, and Masa originating in a proper samurai family, have both found their home here.

Yagi’s trollface. I’m thinking that he’s playing a deeper game than just being sympathetic to Masa for its own sake. Befriending him and getting him what he needs is a pretty standard technique for recruiting an agent.

Lol, Masa’s honesty strikes again!

So Ichi knows that Yagi was adopted into his family, and Yagi knew the original Yaichi. So where does that place him in the flashback (if he was there at all)? Yagi doesn’t look like he aged much, but if the first episode flashback was long ago enough, could Ichi even have been Seinoshin and taken Ichi’s name to escape his family? Kind of out there, but you never know.

In the second half of episode 09 we get the introduction of Sachi, Masa’s little sister. She’s run off to Edo with a servant because her older brother Bun has tried to arrange a marriage meeting for her. Masa knows that she has her childhood friend back home, but also tells her to return because nothing will come of being in Edo. Masa has to play the big brother in front of everyone but Ichi when Sachi shows up at Ume’s bar, even getting some approving comments from Otake afterwards. Later Sachi follows Otake until she notices and turns around, and the two share some food in a manner similar to how everyone treated Masa when he first arrived. Runs in the family I guess. She had initially thought that Otake was Masa’s girlfriend since she lives in his apartment, but says that she’s relieved that she isn’t and even tells Otake that she thinks she’s too good for her brother. Before the final scene of the episode, there are two brief ones involving the larger story. In one, Ichi warns Masa not to talk to Yagi, that he can’t keep his thoughts to himself and the police commander will have information out of him in no time. But it’s definitely more than that, definitely something related to their likely shared past. In the other there is a run down bar at the edge of town where an unknown man with a scar asks a former associate of Saint Soji about the man who ratted out a gang to the police. Which I’m thinking is Yagi at this point, though it is left with little details. At the end, Masa runs into Otake and Sachi at his apartment, Sachi wanting to learn things from Otake, another topic left somewhat vague. Seems like Sachi is looking to establish herself in Edo to stay away from home. There Masa gives her the hair ornament for another ‘oniii-chan’ moment.

Masa’s observations and speaking truth without thinking just makes this show sometimes.

Making a scene as everyone looks on and smirks. I laughed too.

Onii-chan no baka!

Otake approves, in that lovely sultry way of her’s.

And I do my little turn on the catwalk…

Perhaps I’ve absorbed too many anime tropes, but it seems like Sachi doesn’t like someone moving in on her brother.

Onii-chan is all her’s!

Bow chika wow wow?

Bro-con vibes. Seriously.

DDDAAAAAWWWWWW. I love that cat, and Masa continues to be moe. He’s really up there with Tenshi and P-ko for the most moe characters from this season.

Final Thoughts: - Episode 08 felt a bit slow despite more actual events and action happening in it than in 09. Or maybe it’s just that House of Five Leaves really shines when it’s doing the character backgrounds and discussions between different characters, instead of when they’re actually out there doing criminal stuff.

- The arrival of Sachi was both unexpected and interesting. What exactly she wants to do in Edo is left hanging in these episodes, other than stay away from home. How she’s going to fit in, and the way she seems to have taken to Otake just by Masa’s letters that mention her is going to be interesting to see. And I also wonder if she might perhaps bring Otake some backstory and development by way of her interactions with her. And if she’ll perhaps bring Masa and Otake closer together. What can I say, I’m a shipper and a cheesy romantic at heart.

- Matsu is shown to be quite quick to action and even impulsive, in contrast to his previous image as the most cautious and controlled of the group. Given his skill as a thief, it was rather surprising to see him caught so easily. Perhaps in his haste he forgot some of his usual skill and caution. And perhaps it was because this time it wasn’t just a job, it was for the sake of someone that he owed a lot of loyalty to. The extent of his loyalty even reached to his maintaining a legitimate business making ornaments so that the money he paid back to the Kiku-ya’s owner was clean. Which contrasts with his inability to stop being a criminal otherwise. A big theme in the show has been how the bonds of friendship and gratitude bring people to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. In that way it reminds me a bit of some of the Hong Kong urban drama films from the Third Wave onwards. The setting here is urban as well, with lots of people from all over thrown into one new city trying to make a living and trying even more importantly to find some genuine human companionship. The Five Leaves provides that, as do old loyalties, connections that are more valuable than some combination of maintaining one’s usual behavior, ethics, social class, freedom, or caution for the characters. Matsu drops his usual caution in episode 08 and much of his reserved attitude towards Masa, and Masa was fairly quick to adapt to the underworld for his newfound friends earlier in the show.

ghostlightning’s thoughts and commentary

Here’s my problem: I think House of Five Leaves has a very interesting story, but the way it’s told doesn’t hold my interest very well. The 08th episode was incredibly slow, and the payoff in the 09th is more of another gang member becoming dere-dere from being formely tsun-tsun towards Masa in general.

This is turned on its head when Masa’s ‘growth’ that is taking initiative, then showing a willingness to let others help him (Yagi) now represents the biggest threat to the gang. And for all the progress he’s made with everyone, it’s now Yaichi having problems with him. It’s infuriating, if you reduce the show into relationship ledgers.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted June 27, 2010 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    They don’t really seem to explain why Masa, the eldest brother, is not the head of the family. He continues to provide for them, by sending as much of his money as possible back, and his sister seems to still like him. I guess he gave up the position because of his anxieties. Still, I was surprised that Sachi could take “one of their servants” and head off to the capitol. I guess they are doing fairly well, if they have multiple servants.

    • Posted June 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Masa likely had to leave and give up effective head of the family status due to his being dismissed, so I imagine that’s why his brother is making the decisions. Though he can’t be such a great head of the household if he’s gotten into so much debt that Masa has to send all his money home to him. The servants thing is less clear. Maybe they’re of such standing that the debt was incurred to keep up appearances instead of becoming frugal and losing status. Or maybe things are just tough back home too and there are plenty of commoners (or even samurai) willing to work for cheap as servants. There was a great deal of social turmoil in the Edo period as everyone had to transition from the Warring States Era to a long bout of sustained peace, the servants could be more victims of that.

  2. M.crane
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Since you mentioned subbing issues, I’d recommend the Hulu subbed versions. Good translations and released right after the japan showing. I have fallen in love with the series and characters and can’t wait to see how it all comes together for Masa and Ichi :)

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