Dead Leaves

March 5, 2005 on 11:45 pm | In Dead Leaves | Comments Off on Dead Leaves

“Nothing I see shocks me any more.”
Fifty minutes of liquid desensitisation is the perfect summary of Dead Leaves, a sure fire sign that Manga Entertainment throwing money at things can pay off sometimes.

In the middle of nowhere, a man and woman wake up naked. The man has an old-style television for a head, so he calls himself Retro; the woman a ring around one eye, making her name Pandy. Retro and Pandy have amnesia, so naturally the first thing they do is go on a violent crime spree.
Their actions catch up to them soon enough, and Retro and Pandy are imprisoned on the moon. The moon is home to genetic freaks like themselves, and is run by two sadistic wardens and an evil “princess”.
The two criminals break out of their strait jackets and lead the rest of the inmates on a wild escape. There are many casualties on both sides along the way. Retro and Pandy must take on the evil princess before they can fully take their leave.

Dead Leaves never stops moving. This means that it is incredibly fun to watch, but also that it would not do to give it too many repeat viewings. The mind actually boggles at how anyone could write this; Honda Takeichi (alias Imai Toonz) somehow managed to produce a script that represents fifty minutes of energy. The waves of the narrative are so major that to describe them would be to excise the “mystique”.

As the anime itself is one big scene, there is little point in examining storytelling nuance. Dead Leaves is presented in the form of one big comic book most of the time, with the action actually divided into panels and sound effects animated across the top of the picture (language choice here is random).
The colour design is bold and the civilian and police designs simple. For this reason, watching secondary characters actually becomes enjoyable. They are uniform, and therefore unimportant. When the escaped moon prisoners die, it is much more gruesome as each one of them is unique – from the quack doctor to the man who has a drill for a penis (affectionately referred to by the production staff as “Dick Drill”).

The designs themselves are slightly vulgar, but do not cross the line into full-fledged vulgarity until being animated; one character has testicles for his head, which looks bad but not too obvious. Then he starts moving, and white liquid starts spitting out of his top. Still, the action is too frenetic to dwell on any one sickness; each instance kind of mounts upon the next, causing an avalanche of so many things to freak viewers out that they cancel each other into negative space.

The one problem with the production is definition: the characters do not have bold lines to separate them from their environments, so some times this looks like a giant blend. It’s not frequent enough to be a major issue, but it makes something that is barely coherent slightly less so. Dead Leaves is definitely not for the passive viewer; it practically demands wide, open eyes at all times.

A cast of veterans (and relative newcomer Honda Takako as Pandy) brings the OVA to life. Watching supplementary materials, it becomes apparent that the entire cast loved Dick Drill, and Takagi Wataru and Yamaguchi Kappei tried to quit their primary roles so they could take the character on. It is not even as if he says anything particularly memorable; he just has a drill.
Mizutani Yuko goes completely against type as Galactica, princess of the moon. Mizutani, normally known for bubbly, slightly grating types such as Tenchi Muyo’s Mihoshi, plays Galactica as a woman smouldering with hatred.
Watching an excerpt from the recording session, the dedication of the actors and the effort that they had to is readily apparent. How do you voice act decapitations? Mizutani’s energy, Honda Takako’s smooth anger and Yamaguchi Kappei’s shrillness hold this all together.

Dead Leaves is fun. They don’t make anime like this any more, and on the whole that is a good thing; if it were made at the start of the nineties, it would not garner a recommendation. There is nothing for it to float to the top of, and for this reason, the Dead Leaves stands alone.

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