Great anime series: stylish as hell, slow-burn, and morally ambiguous as all get-out.
The main reason this series really gets to me is its protagonist, Masanosuke. And just to get this out of the way, he’s an Edo-period ronin. If that doesn’t ring any bells for you, it means a wandering (or masterless) samurai. If it does, then you know this concept’s been strip-mined so thoroughly that you already want to stop reading this. However, this particular ronin has a “problem with his personality”- and it’s not that he’s a stolid loner whose lust for battle explosively manifests at convenient plot points. Instead, he has a classic case of what we now refer to as Social Anxiety. Which doesn’t mean he’s a coward or he can’t kick-ass; it just means no one will hire him for honest work.
That’s half of the reason why he falls-in with a group of criminals, the “House of Five Leaves”. The other half is that its leader, Yaichi, has a pathological obsession with kidnapping, and Masanosuke reminds him of someone from his past. It’s all explained in due time.
This is one of those short, sweet deals with a perfect ending, and I mean perfect. It’ll rip your fucking guts out, not because someone you like dies – nothing so crude as that – it’s far more subtle, but if you get there, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s almost as good as the end of The Shield, maybe as good, though it’s an apples-and-oranges thing, since House of Five Leaves is 12 episodes, whereas The Shield is 88.