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Manga / House of Five Leaves

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"When you're hungry, anything tastes good."

House of Five Leaves is a manga by Natsume Ono (creator of Not Simple, Ristorante Paradiso and ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.) which ran from 2005 to 2010 in the Seinen magazine Monthly Ikki.

The story focuses on a washed-up Rōnin named Akitsu Masanosuke (nicknamed Masa), who possesses great skill with a blade but also a timid personality that often causes him problems. After continually failing to find work in Edo, he meets a mysterious man named Yaichi (nicknamed Ichi) who takes a liking to Masa and offers him employment as his bodyguard. Yaichi is leader of a group called the "Five Leaves", which kidnaps the heirs of wealthy businesses and holds them to ransom. Though initially reluctant to participate in their shady activities, Masa finds himself becoming more and more involved with the other members, all of whom have their own secrets to hide.

Recognisable for its distinctive art style, it is a very beautiful manga with an intricate plot and fascinating characters that teach you that people are often far more than they first appear.

It was later adapted into a 12-Episode Anime by Manglobe in April 2010.

Not to be confused with House of Leaves.

House of Five Leaves provides examples of:

  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: Makes the story seem much more cheerful and happy than it really is.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: Yaichi didn't sell out his old gang, but he did choose not to warn them that the police were on their trail.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The "heroes" are not exactly what you'd call nice, but the "bad guys" are far worse.
  • Book Ends: When Yaichi and Masa first meet in episode one, Yaichi offers a dango to him while saying the page quote. In the last scene of the last episode, Masa offers a dango to Yaichi repeating the same line.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The preview voice in episode eleven. Nyao.
  • Brutal Honesty: Masa, as part of his No Social Skills. His habit of always speaking the truth as he sees it drives much of the character development within the Five Leaves by forcing the other members to confront problems none of them are willing to voice.
  • Caper Crew: Each of the Five Leaves has a specific role during kidnappings. Yaichi directs them, Matsu provides intel and casing, Otake can lure out male targets, Ume holds onto the hostage until the ransom is paid, Ginta plays double agent in order to help with ransom negotations, and Masa provides combat ability if they need it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Masa constantly misunderstands what is really happening around him and other people's intentions, especially Yaichi's. But in the end, he often does get it right, and he has a way of speaking out uncomfortable truths out loud.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone in the Five Leaves, particularly Ume and Yaichi.
  • Death by Adaptation: Jin lives in the manga, but in the anime Yaichi stabs him.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Due to the art style, everyone except Yaichi and Ginta.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Played with. Jin, a former member of a gang known for committing especially brutal crimes, has a prominent facial scar that he's easily identifiable by, but despite entering the story as an antagonist, he turns out to be a principled person who deeply regrets pulling his sworn brothers, including Yaichi, into the Bakuro gang, and he goes out of his way to help keep the Saint safe from other former Bakuro members.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Ryu isn't shown after Yaichi beheads him.
  • Gratuitous English: Both the Opening Theme (sign of love/ show me your soul) and the Ending Theme (everytime I breathe/ I wanna hold you in my arms/ every word you whisper/ makes my heart beat up and down).
  • Handicapped Badass: After eating nothing but white rice for most of his stay in Edo, Masa becomes so malnourished he can barely walk, but that's not enough to stop him from protecting the Saint from an armed robber.
  • Heroic BSoD: Yaichi does not take it well when Jin tells him that he lied about the original Yaichi betraying him.
  • Honor Before Reason: Masa refuses to accept any work he deems beneath a samurai, like manual labour, even though he's too poor to even afford a decent meal at the beginning.
  • I Lied: Jin lies about the identity of the servant who sold Yaichi in order to demoralize Yaichi into not returning home, where his family would have killed him. It works.
  • I'm Not Hungry: Matsu refuses food for three days during his imprisonment.
  • Kabuki Sounds: Used to punctuate important moments.
  • Karmic Thief: Okinu tells Masa that the Five Leaves choose targets who deserve to lose money in a ransom. While this sometimes seems to be true, the Five Leaves members themselves tend to deny it.
  • Local Hangout: The main cast is well-known in-universe for spending half their waking hours at Ume's bar.
  • Manly Tears: In the last episode of the anime, Yaichi breaks down in front of his namesake's grave after finding out that the original Yaichi wasn't involved in his kidnapping.
  • Meaningful Rename: When Yagi asks Yaichi which of his three names to call him by, Yaichi uses his current one because the other two aren't associated with the Five Leaves.
  • Melancholy Moon: In the last episode. Averted in the sequence, when the moon disappears and it starts to snow.
  • My Greatest Failure: Sei the Drifter for Jin.
  • Never Gets Drunk: A lot of characters have high alcohol tolerances, with Otake in particular being famed for hers.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes the show look like it is some kind of happy love story between two samurai (one of them dressed in pink). Don't believe it? Check for yourself.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Heavily averted by the Five Leaves and Jin's brothers.
  • One-Liner: One of the characters always says the episode's title in the beginning of each episode.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Masa, who's terrified of being watched by crowds, kowtows to Yagi on an open street to beg for Yaichi's life.
  • Parental Betrayal: Yaichi's adopted mother paid for his death so her biological son could become heir instead.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Yagi to an often unreasonable extent.
  • Samurai: Part of the feudal Japanese setting, along with Rōnin. Masa is one, to most people's confusion.
  • Scars Are Forever: Seinoshin has a burn scar in the shape of a maple leaf on his back. Yaichi has the same scar on his back, revealing him to be the boy in question.
  • Sixth Ranger: Ginta, the sixth member of the Five Leaves.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Masa in spades. Unusually for the trope, rather than being simply a character quirk Masa's social awkwardness and anxiety have drastically impacted the course of his entire life, as it often can for people who suffer from it to his extent. Despite being by far the most skilled swordsman in the setting, he shamed his family name, can't hold a steady job, and was all but exiled from his birthplace for being too timid as a samurai. He originally joins the Five Leaves because he wants to learn from Yaichi's charisma in order to "fix" his own personality.
  • Slice of Life: When the gang aren't running jobs, the story is often just about their day-to-day interactions with each other.
  • True Companions: Despite their differences, the Five Leaves are emphatically this to each other. At the end of the manga, the six of them leave Edo for good to find a place where they can be together.
  • Verbal Tic: Masa's "de gozaru", an archaic form of "desu".
  • Villainous Breakdown: While Yaichi isn't a villain, per say, he's certainly a kidnapper, mass murderer, and former gang member, and over the course of the story the laid-back composure that initially drew the Five Leaves to him crumbles as more and more of his past catches up.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Yaichi during his years as Sei the Drifter became a favorite of his gang leader for his brutality.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Sei the Drifter went out of his way to murder women and children during burglaries.
  • You Are Not Alone: In the last episode, Masa appears when Yaichi is on the verge of despair to offer an umbrella and his support. Yaichi finally drops his tough face and cries leaning on his lap.
  • You Can Keep Her!: One of the House of Five Leaves' kidnapping plots go awry when one of their targets decides to pay only half the ransom... and tells them to kill the kidnapped heir in secret. This hits a little too close to home for Yaichi.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: What Jin tells Yaichi after his adopted mother pays to have him killed.

Alternative Title(s): House Of Five Leaves