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Anime Review: Dead Leaves

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Production I.G.’s yearly anime experiment continues unabated with this newest work, Dead Leaves. Having been feverently promoted by Manga Entertainment as the next big thing since, well, the last big thing, Dead Leaves piqued my interest slightly, if only because the crux of it’s infamy appeared to be it’s wacky visuals and even wackier content. And after taking in a viewing of the show, when I say wacky, I mean wacky.

The story, such as it is, concerns a Retro, a guy who has a TV for a head and Pandy who has a funky birthmark. Still with me? Good. They basically go off on a wild one, shooting cops and blowing stuff up all in the pursuit of food, clothes and a set of wheels. Eventually, the authorities get the better of them and they are sent to Dead Leaves, a penal colony in outer space. It is there that they break out of prison, take a whole bunch of prisoners with them and go on a rampage against the prison and it’s guards. Zany? Oh yes.

That said, other zany anime shows have done well in the past, shows like Excel Saga and FLCL have all found their audiences and possess much that the average anime fan can relate to. Not so with Dead Leaves. The alienation begins with the visuals. When I first saw an advert for Dead Leaves on some obscure web page somewhere, I actually thought it wasn’t an anime at all, but rather one of those crazy MTV adult ‘powered’ animations that seem to be doing the rounds these days. And upon actually viewing the show, I can’t really say my initial impressions were that far off. Everything in the show is very angular and exaggerated, with random lines everywhere in the styling of American comics.

The visuals are completely insane with barely a moments rest given to onlooking eyes, there are explosions that fill the screen, massive random close ups of characters faces, masses of blood, huge gun fights, chases, you name it and the visual style does a great job of carrying these sequences along. It’s just a shame that it all looks so darn ugly, with foul looking characters and lacklustre backgrounds. Still, I do respect the work that has gone into the visuals as apparently no computer aided animation was used and some 18,000 colours were used in the creation of the show. Bravo, but if you prefer your anime more, well, anime looking, the visuals will be a huge turn off.

By association the characters are just as crazy, besides the aforementioned leads, we have a randy guy who has a drill where his genitals should be and *dribbles* a lot, monster mecha, cloned policeman, basically naked prison wardens and much more besides.

While the action in the show is pretty intense and just as wild as the visuals, I felt strangely empty and disaffected about ten or so minutes in. After a little while because it’s all so absurd and stupid, you just get numb to the craziness of it all, but your left with no solace since the meandering plot is banal to say the least and fails to leave you with a single iota of care for either the characters or the plight that they find themselves in.

As an experiment, Dead Leaves remains different but not refreshingly so. It left a bad taste in my mouth because ultimately, under all that craziness and American styling, there really isn’t much to enjoy. Watch it if you’re completely, and I do mean completely burnt on anime right now and crave for something different. If not, don’t give it a second thought.

Overall Rating: C-

Written by bitsnark

January 18, 2009 at 10:33 am

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