House of Five Leaves: Volume 1 by Natsume Ono (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

November 12, 2010 by  

Entertaining but yet mysterious…”House of Five Leaves” is a manga series that shows a lot of promise!

© 2006 Natsume Ono/Shogakukan. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: House of Five Leaves: Volume 1 (さらい屋五葉)

STORY AND ART BY: Natsume Ono (オノ・ナツメ)


PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Viz Signature/Ikki Comix

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2010

Masterless samurai Akitsu Masanosuke is a skilled and loyal swordsman, but his naive, diffident nature has more than once caused him to be let go by the lords who employ him. Hungry and desperate, he agrees to become a bodyguard for Yaichi, the charismatic leader of a group calling itself “Five Leaves.” Although disturbed by the gang’s sinister activities, Masa begins to suspect that Yaichi’s motivations are not what they seem. Despite his misgivings, the deeper he’s drawn into the world of the Five Leaves, the more he finds himself fascinated by these devious, mysterious outlaws.

In Spring 2010, the anime series “Sarai-ya Goyo” (House of Five Leaves) debuted on Fuji TV.  Prior to the anime series, the eight and final volume of the House of Leaves was released in Japan.

The 8-volume manga was created by manga-ka Natsume Ono (creator of the manga “LA QUINTA CAMERA”, “Ristorante Paradiso”, “DANZA”, “COPPERS”) in 2006 and published in Shogakukuan’s Monthly Ikki.

“House of Five Leaves” is a an interesting manga series as it focuses on the character Masanosuke Akitsu , a samurai who is extremely shy and because he doesn’t look intimidating enough, he has been fired on all previous jobs he had worked.

Hungry, starving and needing money to send to his poor family back home, he takes a job offered to him by a man named Yaichi.  And for Masanosuke, he is thrilled to find a job in which the employer is not to picky nor bothered by his shyness and seems to accept him no matter what.

But during the first job he that he takes for his Yaichi, he finds out that the man he is working for is a kidnapper who charges ransom money.  For Masanosuke, he can’t believe that he is working for a kidnapper but due to his samurai code, he must obey his master no matter how conflicted he feels about the job.

And now, Yaichi wants him to join his group of kidnappers and become the fifth member of the “House of Five Leaves”.

“House of Five Leaves” features the following characters:

  • Masanosuke Akitsu – The main character.  A very shy swordsman who is unable to keep a job because he lacks self-confidence and doesn’t look intimidating.  Tries to find work to make money and send it to his poor family back home.
  • Yaichi – The mysterious leader of the “House of Five Leaves”.  For some reason, to the surprise of the other members, he is allowing Masanosuke to hang out and be part of his group.  Yaichi currently lives in a brothel.
  • Matsukichi – A spy for the Five Leaves, a thief and makes hair ornaments.
  • Umezou – Owner of a tavern where the Five Leaves meets.  Loves making pickles and is head over heels for Otake and warns Masanosuke not to get too close to her.
  • Otake – One worked in a brothel but Yaichi saved her and joined the Five Leaves.

Here is a spoiler-free synopsis of each chapter of “House of Five Leaves”:

  • CHAPTER 1: BEGINNING – The introduction to Masanosuke Akitsu and how he got his job working for the mysterious Yaichi.
  • CHAPTER 2: CIRCUMSTANCE – Masanosuke is conflicted of his feelings of having to serve a kidnapper and upholding his samurai code to protect his master.
  • CHAPTER 3: TRUST – Masanosuke is introduced to the three other members of Yaichi’s group, and three wonder if Masanosuke is even capable of being one of them.
  • CHAPTER 4: COMFORT – Masanosuke starts to form new friendships with the people in Yaichi’s group who want him to join and become the fifth leaf in their “House of Five Leaves”…but will he?
  • CHAPTER 5: PURPOSE (PART ONE) – Masanosuke is introduced to a young boy named Yutaro and everyone is surprised to see how friendly Masanosuke is too him.
  • CHAPTER 6: PURPOSE (PART TWO) – Masanosuke spends time with the young boy Yutaro, not knowing that he is being used for a plan hatched by Yaichi.
  • CHAPTER 7: PURPOSE (PART THREE) – Masanosuke finds out that his friendship with the little boy Yutaro was part of Yaichi’s strategy for another kidnapping.
  • GLOSSARY – A section in which each manga that explains the Japanese terms used in the book.

Entertaining but yet mysterious…”House of Five Leaves” is a manga series that shows a lot of promise.

Rarely do you find a manga series that focuses on a shy and timid samurai.  At first, you wonder if Masanosuke, the main character is a samurai because he is so shy, he is unlike any samurai ever depicted on a manga or anime series.  How can this guy even defend his clients or protect their interests when he’s not very good socially with people and he lacks the self-confidence that samurai’s are known for.  He’s too shy!  But despite his weakness, he is incredibly talented with the sword.

What is also interesting is you see Masanosuke as a guy with a good heart.  Willing to help people and in this case, thinking he is doing something good, while in fact, he is working for kidnappers.  The boss of this group, “House of Five Leaves” reminds Masanosuke that his their goal is to kidnap from corrupt people.

But what is the motivation of Yaichi and the other members of the group?  The first volume serves as an introduction to the characters and what the “House of Five Leaves” are responsible for.

So far, the manga series has been quite enjoyable and you’re really not sure where the storyline will go in the next volume.  But so far, I enjoyed the first volume and enjoyed the unique illustrations by Natsume Ono as well.

“House of Five Leaves: Volume 1” is a story-driven manga series and not as flashy in terms of detailed character and scenic illustrations but so far, I enjoyed this manga series a lot.   Although no major violence is featured in this first volume, it’s easily accessible for everyone and will probably appeal for those wanting a more serious kind of storyline.  Definitely worth checking out!

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