Saraiya Goyou was an interesting series for me. It had really good elements to it, however, I don’t think it was able to live up to the potential that it could have. Don’t get me wrong though, I still think it’s a great series, and one you should definitely get to watching, but I feel that if they had maybe 1 or 2 more episodes, then it could really have been one of my favorites. The ending, while very well done, felt rushed, and some characters didn’t have enough time to be fleshed out, and in some cases just kind of existed for almost no reason. The art style was also very interesting to look at, and the soundtrack was very nice for the series and its style, while the opening song was great to listen to every time. But enough about that, time to get into the meat of this review. The story starts off with a samurai who has obvious social skill issues, and because of this, he is never able to keep a job for more than a few days; that is until he meets a man named Yaichi, who asks him to be his bodyguard. Yaichi is a mysterious man with unclear motives, and an unknown past, causing our main character, Masanosuke Akitsu (or Masa, for short), to be cautions of him at first. The story then delves into the business that Yaichi and, now unwilling Masa are apart of, kidnapping. From here we meet Yaichi’s conspirators: Umezou, (Ume) a well built man who owns a bar, Otake, a former brothel maiden with a quick wit, Matsukichi, (Matsu) an experienced sneak and metal smith, and Okinu, Umezou’s daughter who helps run the bar; they form the “gang” known as, The Five Leaves, hence the title of the series. The story follows the members of this group and how Masa interacts with them, and how he manages to fit into the troubles of their pasts. This series is broken up into several small arcs that occur over the run of the series and each deal with different pieces of the main story, and the makeup of this band of kidnappers. Masa is confused by the trade of this group, as he finds each of the members to be good people at heart, and he starts to wonder why they would do the things they do, all while he is slowly changed from the shy man, afraid to act on his own, into a much more self confident one who’s willing to do the things he desires. The character development in this series is very well done, and well illustrates the kind of people The Five Leaves are, and how they interact with eachother and the people of their pasts, as well as how they change eachother and the people around them. If I had one problem with the characters, I would say that it would be Masa’s little sister, Sachi. While she isn’t a bad character by any means, it didn’t feel like she was really needed much, and had she not been present the story would have been largely the same, and she gets a fair amount of screen time; the only reason that I can think of for her to be there, would be to show a character notice the changes that Masa has gone through, as no one else in the series had seen Masa in his earlier years, but her character was still rather awkward to me. The artstyle, while I thought it was cool, is very different than most series and you might find it off putting, but you should still watch a few episodes before you drop it for that reason, you would miss something really interesting. The soundtrack is great, and I give it a thumbs up. The series is also a slow burner, so if you’re not in the mood for something slow paced, then you might not enjoy this series right now, but if you’re looking for something that isn’t moving at the speed of light, then I would definitely recommend this one. The only large issue was that during the later episodes, Yaichi’s personality seemed to shift wildly without much cause, and had the series been a few episodes longer, this problem could have been handled better, not only that, but the series doesn’t exactly feel complete either, even though the ending was fairly conclusive; there were still some unanswered questions that I would have liked to have seen resolved, but nonetheless, the series was very good in my opinion, and is something that you should look in to. It is a well done series with interesting characters, a fairly innovative plot structure, a beautiful setting, and soundtrack, and is overall a very solid series, I give it an:
8 out of 10.