Mitsuo IwataYuko MizutaniKappei YamaguchiEiji Takemoto
Dead Leaves
Medium: film
Year: 2004
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Writer: Takeichi Honda
Original creator: Imaitoonz
Studio: Manga Entertainment, Production I.G
Actor: Kappei Yamaguchi, Takako Honda, Kiyoyuki Yanada, Mitsuo Iwata, Nobuo Tobita, Wataru Takagi, Yuko Mizutani, Eiji Takemoto, Hidenobu Kiuchi, Hiroshi Shimozaki, Masakazu Suzuki, Masami Iwasaki, Mika Outake, Takeshi Maeda, Tarusuke Shingaki, Yasuyuki Kase, Yumiko Nakajima
Keywords: anime, SF, action
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 52 minutes
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 11 January 2013
It's anime on a sugar rush. "Frenzied" is the word, I think.
Retro and Pandy wake up naked with their memories wiped. (Those aren't their real names, but instead nicknames they give each other.) Pandy is a self-possessed hot babe with a panda-like red mark over her right eye, while Retro is a violent lout with a television for a head.
Naturally they decide they'd like some clothes, although Pandy's keener on the idea than Retro. More unusual is the fact that ten seconds later they're robbing banks, hijacking cars, punching passers-by in the face and murdering policemen.
Refreshingly, they don't get away with this. They're caught, tried and sentenced within another ten seconds, which should give you some idea of how fast this movie's moving. They're going to Dead Leaves, which is a prison on the crescent-shaped remains of the Moon. (That had been Earth, by the way, which freaked me out when I eventually realised.) It transpires that everyone there is a clone, usually with some deviant mutation like a testicle-shaped head or a four-foot metal penis that can drill through walls. Meanwhile the Dead Leaves wardens will kill anyone on a whim, giving their reasons as "overly vigorous toilet functions" or "no one cares what happens to clone scum like you".
Now the story really begins.
It looks insane. Imagine art like Mike McMahon, Adrian Salmon or Shaky Kane. If the lines got any less realistic, it would be a scribble. However this is a good thing, because it lets the animators go hog-wild with action and a demented focus on energy, energy and energy. This is characteristic of Hiroyuki Imaishi, who often works with Gainax (Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, Gunbuster 2, His and Her Circumstances, Re: Cutie Honey, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt). It's the most memorable thing about the film and it's so extreme that you might not have realised you were watching anime if the characters weren't speaking Japanese. I thought it was stunning, but dangerous for epileptics.
This defuses the fanservice, by the way. Theoretically there's a ton of it. Pandy starts out naked, after a while is running around in a shirt and knickers and even that's going to get interestingly torn. There's also a female villain (Galactica) who runs Dead Leaves, goes topless and is being drawn with nipples. However in practice this is harmless, since the art's as erotic as a five-year-old's crayon scribblings.
Instead it's simply of a piece with the general vulgarity. This is a film in which a penis can be used to escape from the police, while Retro's habits include farting.
As for the plot, that's going a million miles a minute. It's an amoral blast. Our protagonists are villainous, but the people they're up against are even worse. At least they're entertaining. Does it have any meaning, though, or is this merely non-stop sensory overload? The answer is "well, sort of". It's definitely sensory overload. That's undeniable. However there's something interesting going on with the contrast between regular Earth citizens (cloned automaton-like people who might as well have come off a conveyor belt) and the violent vulgar freaks (who in some cases really are robots, but who all have personalities and extreme identities). This is a world where reproduction is done by test tube, but Retro and Pandy having sex and producing offspring (!) is a plot point.
In case you're wondering, the story doesn't last nine months. This is Imaishi-speed pregnancy, in which it only takes an hour or two to go from conception to birth, and beyond. If you can see past the chaotic surface, there's something almost Messiah-like going on here.
It all ends with, to my surprise, an explanation for the beginning. We've come full circle! Did I enjoy it? Yes, definitely, even if this was often for the eyeball candy. I didn't get bored, that's for sure, and I'm thinking about checking out Imaishi's Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. (Don't worry, it's not what it sounds like.) However the action is almost overwhelming and the film could easily come across as merely an adrenaline rush. Chase chase fight shoot gun death fight chase. 100000000000000000 bullets are fired. It's wild, but that's not always a good thing. Nevertheless I think this gets away with it. If nothing else, it made me laugh.