House of Five Leaves: Volume 2 by Natsume Ono (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

January 27, 2011 by  

Natsume Ono’s second volume focuses more on character development as the protagonist explores each character on his own.  This volume focuses on Umezo and it may lack the mysteriousness of the first volume, still an interesting book that will require patience as the storyline progresses.

© 2006 Natsume Ono/Shogakukan. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: House of Five Leaves: Volume 2 (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: December 21, 2010

Masterless samurai Akitsu Masanosuke was persuaded to join the kidnapping ring “Five Leaves” after drawing the interest of its charismatic leader, Yaichi. At Yaichi’s prompting he becomes employed as a guard for Katsuraya, a house of ill repute. However, after succumbing to illness he withdraws to the country villa of Goinkyo, an associate of the Five Leaves, to recover.

While there, he inadvertently learns more about the history of the gang – particularly the gruff but kind Ume – and about the cords that bind each of the members to their pasts. But the more Masa learns, the more the mysteries deepen…

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 samurai manga series as its protagonist is unlike other samurai protagonist in the fact that the main character has a shy complex.  The series 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.

In the first volume, 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”.

Volume 2 features Masanosuke suffering from some illness, meanwhile his intrigue of the “House of Five Leaves” has stayed in his mind and the first person he wants to know more about (outside of the leader Yaichi) is Umezo, the owner of the izakaya and an ex-thief who is very over-protective of his daughter Okinu and is attracted by the female member of the “House of Five Leaves”, Otake.

Masanosuke learns about how things were in the past from Goinkyo, when he was a former head of an infamous gang and how he and Umezo were able to leave the gang.  As a manga volume that focuses on Umezo, we learn about his past life and why he left the gang.

“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” volume 2:

  • CHAPTER 8: RUDE (PART ONE) – Masanosuke Akitsu is ill but at the meantime, he is curious about the stories behind the members of the House of Five Leaves.
  • CHAPTER 9: RUDE (PART TWO) – Masanosuke learns that Umezo was once part of a gang.
  • CHAPTER 10: RUDE (PART THREE) – We learn more about Umezo’s past and how a former gangster has recently found him.
  • CHAPTER 11: RUDE (PART FOUR) – Masanosuke goes to Goinkyo to make sense of Umezo’s past.
  • CHAPTER 12: RUDE (PART FIVE) – A former gangster is trying to blackmail Goinkyo and Sen.
  • CHAPTER 13: A PAINFUL AWARENESS – Masanosuke is challenged to a duel.  Will he fight or will he once again cower in fear.
  • CHAPTER 14: THE SAME NAME – Masanosuke hangs out with Yagi for the day and Yagi takes him to the cemetery.
  • 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.

While the first volume had quite a bit of intrigue because it showcased quite a bit of the mysterious Yaichi, instead of going full force and trying to figure out his character, with volume 2, you have a feeling that the purpose possibly with the next few volumes is showcase each of the main members of “House of Fives Leaves”, in this case, this volume focuses on Umezo.

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.  I will admit that with this second volume and the addition of more characters that relate to Umezo, I often gotten them confused with Masanosuke.

So, while the first volume tries to get your attention by featuring this unusually samurai and his mysterious boss, volume two does take a stepback but is quite necessary as Masanosuke is trying to fit and getting to know the others in the group.

The second volume does have its share of violence, including a man getting killed but it’s a samurai manga series.  It doesn’t show anything uber-violent, nor are we going to see heads flying out but someone does die in this second volume.

Overall, “House of Five Leaves: Volume 2” has proven to be a worthy read and explores the character of Umezo but for those expecting a continuance of the story between Masanosuke and Yaichi, they may be disappointed.  But I’m sure, this is one of those manga series that you stick with and once the character development stories are completed, the storyline will start to ramp up.

If you enjoyed the first volume of “House of Leaves”, definitely give “House of Five Leaves: Volume 2” a try!

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