Throughout the years of binging on anime, I’ve watched some pretty zany shows and OVA (original video animation) features. Despite the oddities that they present by subtly straying from conventions or even going completely left field in some cases, I’m somehow drawn and fixated to these kind of works. In terms of overall presentation, Dead Leaves feels very reminiscent to the scatterbrained and (at times) over-the-top nature of one of my favorite anime shows, FLCL; it also has a very spunky look and feel to it. Another way I’d describe it is something that a music video director would curate if he was completely coked out of his mind or had an insatiable addiction to Adderall and other amphetamines.
At 53 minutes, this movie is kind of on the short-side in terms of overall runtime since you’d normally expect most movies to be at or somewhere around 2 hours in length. But despite it’s brevity, Dead Leaves is a constant visual assault on your senses. The story is more or less a jailbreak escapade set in a ghastly prison facility on another moon-like planet which is teeming with mutants, abhorrent criminals, and other peculiar creatures. We are first introduced to Retro, who’s face resembles a TV screen, and Pandy, an attractive gray-haired woman with two different eye colors. Both of them have no clear recollection of who they are and their current whereabouts, but they sure know how to cause a ruckus. After splurging in deplorable acts of grand theft and a high-octane car chase, they end up getting apprehended by the police, and are sent to the prison facility that I mentioned earlier. The rest of the movie highlights them aiming to break out of their state of captivity while also trying to remember who they are.
On a visual standpoint, the backgrounds and character designs (handled by Hiroyuki Imaishi) are jarringly strange, yet alluring at the same time. The art style does come off as rather grotesque and disorienting, and it’s also brimming with risqué innuendos in an incredibly self-indulgent fashion. While this kind of comment would normally be a negative aspect when describing any animated work, I think it actually meshes nicely with the chaotic and comically brutal action sequences interspersed throughout the film. So while it is aesthetically unconventional, Dead Leaves is still an incredible joy to watch and take in as a viewer.
After watching the subbed version of this anime, I decided to jump straight into the English dubbed alternative a couple of days later just out of sheer curiosity. While I feel like the English voice-acting falters every now and then when it came to delivery, I appreciate the changes that were implemented in order to give the dialogue a more snarky edge to them while still keeping the story intact, similar to how the Panty & Stocking dub was handled. Also, it was nice not having to juggle between reading the text and watching the scenes unfold since some moments can get pretty hectic at times.
All in all, I enjoyed Dead Leaves quite a bit. Ultraviolence and sexual innuendos are constantly thrown at your face in a brazen manner, yet it never feels tasteless and overly gaudy in my opinion. While the story might be generically barebones or even come off as secondary compared to the extravagant visual flair, I think it’s still definitely worth watching at least once.