Dead Leaves -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: D

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dead Leaves

Dead Leaves

By Chris Beveridge     September 20, 2004
Release Date: September 28, 2004

Dead Leaves
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
Pandy and Retro, two unlikely renegades, awaken naked on Earth with no recollection of their past. After embarking on a devastating crime spree for food, clothing and transportation in downtown Tokyo, they are captured by authorities and sent to the infamous lunar prison called Dead Leaves.

After a brief incarceration, they discover that the prison is really a top-secret cloning facility, occupied by villainous prison guards and deformed genetic experiments. High-speed frantic action combined with hyper-violent and semi-humorous chase scenes follow as the two decide to break out of the prison with the aid of their fellow mutant inmates.

The Review!
Production I.G. builds a fantastic new world that would have fit in beautifully with MTV's Liquid Television from a decade ago.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this OVA in its original language of Japanese. All the bases are covered here with both English and Japanese having 5.1 mixes as well as their stereo mixes (and a commentary track by the director as well). The Japanese 5.1 mix is a heck of a lot of fun to listen to with plenty of rear channel activity going to it with vocals and action effects. There's some really good dynamic moments used in this show with the 5.1 mix that feeds into the hyperactive nature of the program itself. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released to video in 2004, the OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Visually, Dead Leaves is one of the best looking shows out there right now with its heavy use of bright vibrant colors, very fast movement and the overall style that they used. The bulk of the transfer is problem free, which means no cross coloration, aliasing or even any color gradient issues. The only problem I had with it was that a number of the solid black sections weren't all that solid. If it was on the screen briefly, the blacks retained a very solid feel and looked great. If it was on there for more than a couple of seconds, you could see some significant blocking though and not a solid field of black.

The front cover to this release lets you know right from the start that you're not getting a regular looking anime title. In fact, you may even think this doesn't belong in the anime section if you're at a retail store considering how different this looks from the norm. Giving you full color shots of the two leads in outfits that you don't see throughout the series, you get a look at the rough and tumble Pandy and Retro in a bright and colorful gear. The back cover provides the back end of Pandy while providing a very text heavy series of paragraphs and quotes about the show. The discs features and basic technical information is relatively easy to find but no listing of the shows aspect ratio is included unfortunately. The insert has a slightly cleaner looking version of the front cover and opens up to a four panel mini-poster of the leads. Half of the reverse side has a height comparison chart for the criminals while the other part has the chapter listings.

Filled with the rapid paced animation of the show itself, characters and backgrounds appear and then disappear in clouds and explosions underneath the colorful line of menu selections as some of the instrumental music plays along. It's a very colorful and hyper menu with good access times and easy to navigate menus. On the downside, the disc did not read our players language presets properly and we ended up with Japanese language and English commentary track.

Unfortunately, we could not access the extras on this disc as going to that submenu crashed our DVD player hard (to the point where we had to unplug it to get it to work again).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For the past few years, Production I.G. has worked to put out one mind-blowing OVA a year in addition to all the other work they do for other companies. While Blood became a sizeable hit, albeit short in the anime department, Kai do maru didn't make quite the same splash. Both of those were very heavy on the violence side of things. Dead Leaves takes the same approach and applies massive doses of violence but provides a big helping of comical nature to it as well.

The result is something that I find is hard to describe without referencing a lot of other shows or a feeling of shows. Visually, Dead Leaves is highly dynamic and richly animated. While it's pretty disgusting looking in a number of ways, from character designs to watching characters crap into tubes, there is no denying the highly detailed and vibrant visuals that they brought to the table. Things move so fast and in such a gorgeous way that it puts to shame a huge number of recent OVAs that have come to market that are filled with a lot of panning and stills and only a few brief moments of real high quality animation to it. This really doesn't look like anime in the traditional sense but it has the feel of it. A lot of what you see here is reminiscent of the large number of western based animation shows/specials/one-shots that are created and air on things like MTV used to do years ago with Liquid TV or they show up on science and other low-end cable channels as part of CG animation specials or series where they should the mini-films of them.

The story falls into the same category. There is a story here, but it's only used to fill out the last few minutes of the show and to give the impression that there was something here other than a long series of lush visuals. At the beginning, we're introduced to two naked people outside of a massive city. Pandy, an albino skinned young woman with a circle of pink around her eye like a panda and Retro, a hip young man who has a TV for a head and has a wide variety of exaggerated facial expressions he uses through it. Neither know who they are or what's going on, but when they see the city they decide that they should stick together, find some clothes and figure out what's going on.

Their arrival in the city starts a long strong of non-stop violence to the end of the show where they swipe some clothes, steal a car and then are pursued by the police. Both of them take to violence very quickly and it feels very natural to them, especially as they start joking how they must have been yakuza in their past life. The massive chase scene leads to lots of death and destruction of the cops that follow them but they're eventually caught and sent off to the remains of the moon where all prisoners go. From there, we start to get an idea of what these two are actually about as we meet dozens of deformed and hideous creatures that are kept here under guard. The main warden isn't seen but his two main enforcers are, and their love of violence and general sadistic nature means that the straight jacketed pair has a lot more things to have done to them and to do to others as they deal with prison life and organize a break.

In Summary:
While watching this fifty minute ode to true cartoon violence, there are a few things that got a chuckle or two out of me but that's the extent of it. I can appreciate the technical side of it easily enough and it's impossible to dismiss it; this is a lavish and vibrant piece of work and it's a hugely impressive piece of eye-candy. But eye-candy with such a minimal skeleton of a story doesn't help much. With it reminding me so heavily of so many awful shows that used to come out years ago that were like this in that visually they were engaging but the story was trash, Dead Leaves just did not hold my attention. It's always a bad sign in my book when I'm looking at the countdown timer on the player every five minutes.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Documentary, Movie premiere party,Theatrical opening,Video diaries with director and creative staff, Photo gallery, Original trailers, Interactive game

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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