House of Five Leaves

House of Five Leaves

House of Five Leaves anime series cover art
House of Five Leaves

Series Overview

House of Five Leaves (Saraiya Goyou / さらい屋 五葉) is a historical drama and mystery anime series that takes place in Japan’s Edo period. The series follows a ronin samurai who ends up joining a criminal organization known as Five Leaves.

On the surface, the members of Five Leaves appear to have nothing in common, and under normal circumstances would never interact with each other. However, the one thread that connects them all is the gang’s mysterious leader, Yaichi.

Every member of Five Leaves was drawn in by Yaichi in a different way and has stuck with him ever since. But, that doesn’t mean they all trust Yaichi or each other. In fact, it’s better for everyone involved if they don’t try to learn too much about their co-conspirators’ pasts.

Of course, the entire dynamic of Five Leaves changes once our protagonist, Masanosuke Akitsu, joins the group. Masa, as he’s known, is quite intrigued by Yaichi’s personality and wants to learn more about who the man behind Five Leaves really is.

This interest leads Masa to get to know and learn about the pasts of the other Five Leaves members in his attempt to figure Yaichi out.

While Yaichi’s background is the ultimate mystery that both Masa and the viewer want to uncover, the other members of Five Leaves are just as important. Each one has a role in the organization that we can only truly appreciate once we learn their respective backstories.

Before I get into spoiler territory in the next sections, I want to say that if you’re a fan of series like Mononoke, Blade of the Immortal, and even Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, you’ll like House of Five Leaves. Basically, if you have good taste in anime, this one is for you.

Five Leaves

In this section, I’m going to get into some, what I would call minor, spoilers while I go through the members of Five Leaves. There’s just not all that much you can say about each one of them without touching on their backgrounds to some extent.

I guess I should start with Masa since he’s the protagonist and most recent addition to Five Leaves. Masa became a ronin samurai because his shy personality and tendency to not read the room made him unfit to lead his family. He’s on a journey to change himself and believes he can learn a thing or two from Yaichi after they meet.

Masanosuke Akitsu from the anime series House of Five Leaves
Masanosuke Akitsu

Yaichi is the member of Five Leaves I have the least to say about simply because he’s so mysterious. There really aren’t any minor spoilers with his character; it’s all or nothing. So all I can say here is that he lives in a brothel where he works as a bodyguard.

Take was Yaichi’s first “follower.” Of all the members of Five Leaves, she’s the one who knows the most about his past — though, she won’t speak about it. I actually don’t remember what her backstory was, or if we even got it. But I do know that she used to be a prostitute before joining up with Yaichi.

Matsukichi, or Matsu, was the next member to join Five Leaves. He was originally a solo thief who was helped out by Yaichi (and Take) when he was being pursued. He’s an artisan craftsman of metal hairpins by day and gathers information on the gang’s targets by night.

Speaking of targets, I haven’t mentioned what Five Leaves actually does yet. And this is also where Umezou, or Ume, comes in. Five Leaves kidnaps people from wealthy families for ransom. And Ume is the one who hides the kidnapees until the ransom is collected.

Unraveling the Mystery of Yaichi

There are a bunch of details that hint toward who Yaichi really is sprinkled throughout the series. And, honestly, I probably missed most of them. But, there are three main clues that I want to discuss in this section.

First is the opening scene of the boy with the maple leaf-shaped scar. Second is Masa’s friend Heizaemon Yagi. And third is Ume’s former gang leader “Saint” Souji. While all important, I really liked how just how important they were wasn’t revealed until the final few episodes of the series.

As far as the opening scene goes, I completely forgot about it until it was brought up again late in the series. And, I guess when it was first shown, I assumed that the young boy was Masa. Or maybe I assumed he was unrelated to the events of the story. I really don’t know anymore.

Yaichi from the anime series House of Five Leaves
Yaichi

But, of course, that scene turned out to be extremely important for figuring out exactly who Yaichi is. And, this is also where Masa’s friend Yagi comes in. When Yagi first sees Yaichi, he comments on his appearance. And later on, we learn that Yagi had a friend named Yaichi who died.

This is also connected to “Saint” Souji, the former gang boss who helped Ume escape from his gang. Upon meeting Yaichi, Souji comments on how “Yaichi” is the name he’s going by now. This implies he knew him before and that Yaichi isn’t his real name.

Then, at the end of the series, everything comes together. The young boy from the start is the man we know as Yaichi today, formerly known as Seinoshin. He had two older men as friends back then, the real Yaichi and Kagi. Upon learning that Yaichi had died, Seinoshin took Yaichi as his own name.

And, all of this ties into the actions of Five Leaves. It seems that Yaichi got into kidnapping specifically because that’s what happened to him when he was younger.

Conclusion

House of Five Leaves is a very good anime and I give it an 8/10. The art style is a bit weird, which I know will put some people off. But anyone who can look past or get used to that will find that this series has a lot to offer.

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