Sarai-ya Goyou – 01
「形ばかりの」 (Katachi Bakari no)
“In Appearance Only”
Manglobe studio and samurai. It’s not the same hip-hop style as Samurai Champloo, but Sarai-ya Goyou, a.k.a. “House of Five Leaves”, takes a seinen spin on the Edo period in noitaminA‘s newly expanded time slot. Admittedly, this series had me quite interested not so much because it was about samurai but because of its roots. As an adaptation of a manga by the same author that created Ristorante Paradiso, I had a good idea of the character designs and realistic depiction I was in store for here and was looking forward to how they’re refreshingly different from the usual stuff. Some people may not be a fan of Ono Natsume‘s unique character designs or her omission of excessive fan-service-oriented action scenes, but I rather enjoy the change up on both fronts and even the slower flow of things in general. With how heavily focused series these days seem to be on satisfying impatient fans, seinen series and their emphasis on dialogue and simple character interactions have always been my escape from the shounen crowd.
This first episode served as a fairly laid back introduction to the story, which entails a timid samurai named Akitsu Masanosuke (Namikawa Daisuke) who is relieved of his position as a bodyguard and desperately in search of a new master. Starving for food, he inevitably ends up working for a charismatic individual named Yaichi (Sakurai Takahiro), only to find out later that he’s the leader of a group of kidnappers called the House of Five Leaves. This revelation in turn makes for some interesting moments, as Masanosuke soon learns that Yaichi and the other members of his gang aren’t your typical sinister-like villains. For one, they only seem to target inherently bad people for ransom money with have no real intention of harming whoever they abducted. Be that as it may, Yaichi’s still not quite the Robin Hood of the Edo period, but his group does appear to have some chivalrous nuances. Now with the timid yet surprisingly skillful Masanosuke in their ranks, I’m curious as to whether there will be any clashes between his sense of justice and Sarai-ya Goyou’s.
While that’s what I’d personally like to see more about, it’s hard to tell which direction the series will take in its short twelve episode run. Seeing as the manga’s still ongoing since 2006 and has seven volumes released, I’m guessing it’s safe to say that they have options. With Twin Spica‘s Mochizuki Tomomi directing and writing this anime, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get one or two really good arcs adapted in this awesome setting Manglobe has laid before us. Like the character designs, the backdrops and artwork in general have a really unique stylistic touch to them and I love the vibe the “Sign of Love” opening theme gives the series as a whole. I was all over that song in the promotional video anyway and have been looping it for the past while, so I’m already in the mood of seeing more of this samurai series that’s very much unlike your typical samurai series.