House of Five Leaves 2

September 24, 2011

Natsume Ono – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

This series is why I like Natsume Ono. I found that I was not as fond of her storytelling technique in a relatively modern setting, but here, her roundabout way of revealing facts by having the characters strike up conversations with each other works much better since the setting is pre-Meji Japan. But that technique is used less in this volume. Rather than having Masanosuke slowly prod information out of the characters via his quiet curiosity, or overhear bits and pieces of sensitive information, this volume actually has Ume opening up at telling Masa everything about his past. Others do the same.

The result is that we get a fairly long flashback about the entertaining roots of the Five Leaves gang. We also learn about the roots of Ume’s gang-related activities before Five Leaves, why he’s doing what he does now, and what his relation to Goinkyo is and was. It’s a sweet, touching story though it involves criminal activity. I also have a soft spot for these types of stories about criminals that try to escape gang activity but can’t. There’s some drama in the retelling, and it ties into present events. This climaxes into a situation where Ume’s past comes back to threaten him in a very real way, and Masanosuke gets to prove just how brave he can be. Nothing big, but I did like the show of bravery in a pinch.

This is immediately cancelled out by a duel that Masa is engaged in when he returns to Edo. I like this aspect of his character quite a bit. He’s just not a hero. He’s… well, he’s a regular shy, timid person. He also happens to be a samurai, and a bodyguard for a gang of thieves. Immediately after this soul-crushing scene, Masa meets up with another samurai worth looking up to, and I think he plans on training with him. I wonder how far his desire to better himself will go. On one hand, scenes like the one at the end of the volume can’t keep happening. On the other hand, I like him the way he is.

Earlier in the volume, Masa is quite ill and needs to stay with Goinkyo while his body flushes the toxins from Edo from his system. There’s a funny thread where the characters all try and convince Ichi to go visit Masa, telling him that Masa is dying. We find out later that love of Edo isn’t really the reason Ichi refuses to visit Masa, but Ichi’s story is one for the future.

This is a very slow-paced, quiet, conversation-heavy manga series. One could argue it would also work as a novel, but I find that the character expressions, the subtle body language, adds quite a bit to the narrative. It’s not for everybody, and I think that many might be daunted by the slow pace and the historic setting. But I’m enjoying it quite a bit, and with volume four out this month, I’m looking forward to catching myself up.

One Response to “House of Five Leaves 2”

  1. ame Says:

    the first volume was a chore for me to get through. but yeah at this point, i do really like the series now. i love the mood. she’s so good with that


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