Manglobe may be better known for their work on Samurai Champloo, but at long last a new season of noitaminA shows begins with a very different take on the Edo-era samurai genre in the form of House of Five Leaves.
The series starts by introducing us to some family turmoil courtesy of a child named Sir Seinoshin - An adopted son set to be the heir to his adoptive family's position despite being seemingly loathed by his mother and with a bit of a complex over some scars on his own body.
As a revelation in this particular story is thrown our way, so we move on to find ourselves entering the world of Masanosuke Akitsu - A guy who is most certainly not your typical ronin or samurai, despite desperately looking for work in this field. Compared to the bluff and bluster of most fighters, Masanosuke is brutally self-aware and painfully shy, to the point where he finds himself running from an individually when he finds himself catching their eye. Ironically, it's this retiring personality which finds him hired by Yaichi, a man who is effectively looking for a cowardly bodyguard to help him with a spot of bother he claims to have gotten himself into.
As the truth surrounding Yaichi's intent becomes clear, so Masanosuke finds himself thrust into the world of the Five Leaves... but does he really want to continue working for Yaichi once it's revealed what he really does for a living? It's a dilemma that leaves our protagonist torn between the need for money and his own ideals, with no clear path forward in sight as the opener comes to a close.
Much like its lead character, House of Five Leaves is setting itself up from the outset as a very different samurai anime series. Compared to the stylised action, blood and guts we're used to from the likes of Sword of the Stranger (and of course the aforementioned Samurai Champloo), this series looks set to deliver a far more personal and subtle take on the Edo period and the characters that inhabit it with individuals that shout from the rooftops in terms of how different they are of the normal men and women we'd expect from such a series. Even the animation style of this opening episode dares to be different, with an oddly "neutral" look and feel that somehow manages to work pretty well while occasionally stepping over into being outright stunning.
House of Five Leaves is most certainly not a show to be judged on a single episode so I wouldn't dare to do so - It certainly looks like an interesting prospect however, and its noitaminA credentials suggests that we should expect at least some degree of delivery upon the potential that it holds, to the point where I'm really looking forward to seeing what direction it takes.