Review: House of Five Leaves vol. 1 & 2 by Natsume Ono

House of Five Leaves, Volume 1House of Five Leaves, Vol. 2 

How did I get it: The library.

Why did I read it:  I really liked the concept behind the series as well as its setting.

How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars.

Summary:

Masterless samurai Akitsu Masanosuke is a skilled and loyal swordsman, but his naïve, diffident nature has more than once caused him to be let go by the lords who employ him. Hungry and desperate, he agrees to become a bodyguard for Yaichi, the charismatic leader of a group calling itself “Five Leaves.” Although disturbed by the gang’s sinister activities, Masa begins to suspect that Yaichi’s motivations are not what they seem. And despite his misgivings, the deeper he’s drawn into the world of the Five Leaves, the more he finds himself fascinated by these devious, mysterious outlaws.

Review: So many books focus on loud characters with a lot of drive and ambition as if the two were mutually exclusive to one another. Because of that, I was really thrilled to a find a series that takes a very different approach.

When the first volume begins, Masa is well on his way to being a lost cause. Uncertain of himself in all the ways that a person can be, the masterless samurai initially is doing his best to avoid committing to anything or being anyone as he teeters on the edge of complete incompentence despite the fact that he is skilled. No one looks at him and sees much of anything. Yaichi is really the first to look at him instead of through him. And at first glance, what Masa sees is a man that he really wishes he was capable of being like, confident, relaxed, and ready to face any of life’s challenges.

Eventually Masa finds out that Yaichi is actually the leader of a gang, he too gets very caught up on appearences, not quite able to see what is going on below the surface. Fortunately, hardship combined with the overall lack of opportunity anywhere for such a shy soul results in the samurai spending a lot of time around an unusual band of outlaws who accept him as he is and actually have a use for him. Although his misgivings follow him around through both volumes, Masa begins to find a place where he belongs and a purpose. I loved learning more about each of the members as well as the friendship Masa develops with another samurai named Yagi.

In conclusion, excellent. I am incredibly eager to read more and really pleased with what I have read so far. The artwork is lovely and simple in all the ways that it is intricate. The story is a lot more introspective, quiet, and caught up on daily life than a lot of than the manga I’ve been devouring of late, but the first two volumes of House of Five Leaves are not to be missed.

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About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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