Insomnia Views: Dead Leaves (2004)

Finished at: 12:25 a.m.
Summary: Pandy and Retro wake up on the moon and find out they have no idea who they are. The only thing they do know is that they are apparently badass and really good at killing people. After going on a crime spree, they land in Dead Leaves, a prison for genetic experiments, and are forced into manual labor and pooping on command. They’re not a big fan of manual labor and pooping on command, so they seek to break out and figure out who they are.
MAL Rating: 7.26
Did you expect to be watching something where characters are forced to poop tonight?: No. No, I did not.

This one’s been vaguely on my radar for a while, and I figured since it wasn’t even an hour long, I should finally just watch it. All I knew about it was that it was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (before he co-founded Studio Trigger), and that it was supposed to be a wild ride.

And a wild ride it was.

a wild ride

The action was fun, and fluidly animated. One can easily see how this set the stage for Imaishi’s later directorial works, like Panty & Stocking and Kill La Kill. You can see a lot of Dead Leaves in his Japan Animator Expo piece, Sex & Violence with Machspeed, too.

I am a huge fan of the color palette of the film, and of the extremely stylized art that has  exaggerated movement that you can see even in the still frames.

Aaaaaaaaaand that’s about everything nice I have to say about Dead Leaves.

Somehow, despite all of the ridiculous action sequences and in-your-face humor, I was actually pretty bored. As soon as I got to the big poop room scene, I found myself glazing over. Between all the poop jokes and dick jokes, it was all a bit…much. I’m not opposed to gross-out humor, but it has to, you know, actually be funny.

i hate him_1

Speaking of the poop scene – see that big drill dick guy? I hate big drill dick guy. His whole thing is that he’s horny and he has a drill for a penis. How much mileage could they possibly get out of that? The answer is: not much, but that doesn’t stop Dead Leaves from stretching that joke out as far as they can – and it’s not a very good  joke to begin with. Throughout the movie you get a shit-ton of scenes that have him drilling his penis into other characters and walls. Lots of, “ow, my weiner” and “this is my power dong” and “be my bitch” lines. I hate it so much. I kept thinking he was going to get mindlessly torn apart out of nowhere like all the other characters did in the beginning, but no. You get him for 3/4s of the flick. I would have enjoyed this about 127% more if big drill dick guy was not in it.

whos ur god now bitch
“I got your God right here. Bend over and take it, bitch.” ……okay that’s a good line. I will forgive you, big drill dick guy.

As for the actual plot – is there one, really? The whole amnesia theme is half-assed, at best. In the beginning, Pandy keeps recalling the same lines about a caterpillar and knowing a red-headed girl. It seems like it’s going to build up to some kind of slow reveal woven subtly into the story but then, suddenly, a side character literally just tells you Pandy and Retro’s entire backstory.  There’s no better way to destroy  intrigue by having a rando just say, “oh, hey, actually I know who you guys are and what that eerie children’s book callback in your head is! Here you go!” It’s like the creators got so caught up in their fight scenes and sophomoric humor that they suddenly remembered at the midway point that they had forgotten to do anything else with the plot, so they’d make up for it by just dumping it all in at once.

By the end of the movie, Pandy says she still doesn’t know what her and Retro really are, and Retro replies that it doesn’t really matter. And that’s the end of it. What kind of sneaky bullshit is that? Did this movie really just try to get away with having an absolutely incoherent plot by saying “well, the main characters don’t care, so you shouldn’t, either”? I mean, if this movie just wanted to be action-packed nonsense it shouldn’t have even bothered to have this half-baked plot in the first place.

Dead Leaves works better as a showcase for Imaishi and his art style than as an actual full-fledged film. Without characters to care about or a coherent plot, there’s not as much for the viewer to really…watch other than a bunch of highly stylized dick jokes. Going on a wild ride is all well and good, but it’s really only worthwhile if you feel like you’re on the ride with the characters – not just being drug along and forced into everything. And that’s how Dead Leaves makes you feel – like you’re being thrown into Pandy and Retro’s story and then being left to skid and burn out on the sidelines without getting the chance to truly ride along.

Recommended for anyone who’s a big Studio Trigger fan who wants to see more Trigger style. If you’re more open to low-brow humor and don’t mind an action-packed adventure having little to no plot, then you’ll probably enjoy this more than I did. You can watch it free with an account on TubiTV.

4 thoughts on “Insomnia Views: Dead Leaves (2004)

  1. I had heard of this anime, but I never saw it. Dead Leaves does sound really tawdry and too gross for my tastes. The character designs are too weird and look a bit like a mashup of Jet Grind Radio mixed with a poor man’s Gorillaz.

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    1. POOR MAN’S GORILLAZ IS A PERFECT WAY TO DESCRIBE IT! Yeah, I wouldn’t really recommend it. I don’t generally mind weird art styles or over-the-top content but this one just felt like a waste of my time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. [M. Bison voice] YES! YES! My comparison worked! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

        That’s a bummer how it was a disappointing anime. I can handle weird art stuff like Fantastic Planet and a lot of Satoshi Kon’s works. Same with some over-the-top stuff or dark comedy like Atomic Falafel, but I guess not everything flowed for Dead Leaves.

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