DEAD LEAVES (2004) Review

Directed by: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Starring (voices): Kappei Yamaguchi, Takako Honda, Yuko Mizutani

I really had no idea what to expect when I sat down to watch DEAD LEAVES and even after letting it all soak into my brain for a couple of days I still don't have a clear idea of what the hell just happened. I'm not the biggest anime fan in the world but I've seen my fair share and I can say without hesitation that I've never seen anything quite like DEAD LEAVES, both in terms of what goes down on screen and it's animation style.

Pandy (a young woman with a bad case of Heterochromia) and Retro (a dude with a television head) awaken completely naked with absolutely no idea of who the are, where they are or what they are doing there. So naturally they team up, go steal some clothes and a car and start shooting up the city before robbing a bank and then leading approximately a billion cops on a high speed chase, destroying as much as they can in the process. But their crime spree soon comes to an end and they find themselves on route to a prison on the Moon where they are suited up in straight-jackets and thrown in a cell. Pandy and Retro soon free themselves from their shackles by having sex (yes you read that right; sex!) and gather all of the prisoners in a frenetic, fast paced escape attempt. Along the way Pandy and Retro unlock the secret behind their mysterious past and the reason why the prison seems so familiar to them.

It's clear to see that the filmmakers didn't waste any time on a deep story or characterization, which is made most apparent when their mysterious past is explained in a ridiculous 15 second monologue. Normally this kind of seemingly lazy, throwaway explanation would get negative points from me but I was too busy trying not to have an epileptic seizure to really notice any of the weak plot points. Besides a strong story is definitely not the film's strong point, nor is it meant to be.

I always hear people talking about how good certain movies are to watch when you're high. Well DEAD LEAVES is the kind of film that will leave you feeling like you're on an acid trip no matter how sober you are. It's hard not to imagine the writers and animators producing this after a particularly strong batch of shrooms. It's pretty darn difficult to describe the animation style here but if I was pushed I guess I would say that it's like what I'd imagine if Spongebob and Patrick went on a crazy, violent, drug-fuelled crime spree. There are so many bright colors and the scenes chop and change so quickly it almost makes your head spin.

DEAD LEAVES is very entertaining with its unique animations style and its vast menagerie of weird and wonderful characters including a certain prisoner with a drill for a penis. A drill. For a penis. It does however venture into crude territory with the aforementioned drill penis guy and a scene in the prison involving poop extraction. but that's almost forgivable when a film is this fun. It's completely over the top and ridiculous but I couldn't help falling in love with it. it is however a little short at around 45 - 50 minutes and could have been longer, although I doubt my eyeballs and brain could have taken much more. Anime fans will want to see this if only for the animation and pure insanity on display. But DEAD LEAVES is also very violent with the screen sometimes being overwhelmed by explosions, blood and bullets. Not suitable for kids. Highly recommended for anime fans and people who love seeing something a little different.

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