Monday, October 11, 2010

Manga Monday: Five Leaves

House of Five Leaves (Volume 1)
Natsume Ono

I've become quite a fan of Ono's since Viz began collecting her material early this year.  Her style isn't like anyone's out there, and she writes such great stuff, very character-driven, which is what I gravitate toward in fiction.  In House of Five Leaves, Ono may have begun a story featuring her best characters yet, all shrouded in mystery.  Akitsu Masanosuke is at the center of the story, a samurai without a job, who begins to be pulled into an organization called "Five Leaves," first as work as a bodyguard.  But it becomes clear very quickly that the Five Leaves is a criminal organization, involved in several kidnappings for ransom money, and while he turns away from the group, his desperation for money to send back home to his family, and to fill his stomach, draws him back to them, again and again.  Akitsu is a very conflicted character, and wants very much to see the good in everybody, which is probably why he's so fascinated by the leader of Five Leaves, who's a very confident, charismatic guy, whom he senses has his own motives for involving himself in such an occupation.  While many of the members claim they do it for the money, it's much more complicated than that, as each of its members has their own history, and such a simple explanation doesn't quite add up for them.  But in the end, The Five Leaves is kind of like a family, where its members protect one another, and come to care for each other, and Akitsu, belonging nowhere, finds himself inexplicably drawn to them, probably for this very reason.  Akitsu also isn't a very good samurai.  Sure, he's quite skilled with a sword, but half of the battle is intimidating his enemy, and his slouching, innocent demeanor frightens off more potential masters than combatants.  Which is why The Five Leaves is an ideal place for him.  He doesn't look like a typical thug, but he has the ability to protect this "family," if only he would welcome them with open arms, which he can't quite do, knowing what they are.  The stories are fairly straight-forward in action in House of Five Leaves, but like Akitsu, you stay for the people.  And Ono's art looks more refined and confident than ever in her latest series, one that I recommend highly.

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