Masanosuke continues to be drawn further into Yaichi's world, willingly enough unless he's truly that obtuse.
What They Say
Thanks to Yaichi, Masanosuke's found a job as a bodyguard at a rice wholesaler. The work is steady and the samurai hopes to keep the position for a long time - but the situation might be too good to be true.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In talking about the first two episodes of the series, it's easy to see some dropoff occur after the second episode as that one seemed to slow things down a fair bit further while not really progressing anywhere. Some series are really good for handling that, but House of Five Leaves seemed like it would do a little more with itself after that first episode. The show has a very distinct pacing to it as it moves along, which is made all the more apparent through the dialogue, music and the character designs which seem to be a little stunned or uncertain at times. The third episode starts to move Masanosuke into the fold of the Five Leaves a little more, though other members aren't so sure he belongs still.
Yaichi has managed to get Masanosuke a job as a bodyguard which he takes since he wants some kind of basically clean work that he can feel good about. And a job where he can feel good about sending the money home he gets from it. He takes to the job pretty nicely, making friends with those that he's guarding and spending a fair bit of time with one of the kids there. While this is going on, Yaichi has dispatched Matsu to the wholesaler that Masanosuke is guarding and sets him to finding out the last details of the operation there so they know exactly what they're dealing with before their own plan goes into full effect. It's not a plan that's considerate of Masanosuke's nature either as he gets taken advantage of and accused of being poor at his job, since the child ends up being kidnapped and ransomed, with Masanosuke used by everyone in the end.
Once the kidnapping gets underway, the show plays out much better than I expected as it starts to deal with the intrigue and layers to how the event played out. Who is doing what to who, relations and so forth is nicely handled here and nothing is like it seems as every time a new revelation is made, another one is right behind it about who is really orchestrating things. When the show shifts away from the main characters, who are quite intriguing, it takes on a different feeling and actively feels tense and uncertain as you don't know what the kidnappers will do or who is really employing them at first. The uncertainty makes it all work very well and gave the show something it definitely needed.
Conceptually and in execution, I really like this show a lot. It has a lot to offer but still hasn't exactly found its footing in a way that will draw you back earnestly each week. This week does end with a cliffhanger of sorts and that's one that I want to see play out, but it's not a huge selling point. Much of the episode still focuses on Masanosuke and his ways as he takes on the role of the bodyguard while Yaichi has schemes within schemes going on here without a clear idea of what he really wants to have happen. That scheming and the playing out of it is what sells this episode, but it's a particular strength that may not be enough to maintain interest for many. It's easily got me back for next week, but it hasn't sold me on the show as a whole yet.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.