Dead Leaves is the directorial debut for Hiroyuki Imaishi who previously worked as an animator and a manga creator. He also directed Kill La Kill and FCFL. Dead Leaves is a story about two people: Pandy and Retro. They wake up naked in separate escape pods with no recollection of their past but with super natural abilities and powers.
Pandy and Retro embark on a massive crime spree across earth causing chaos everywhere they go. Eventually this lands them into the lunar prison called “Dead Leaves”. Dead Leaves prison holds a dark secret. The warden is conducting illegal and secret experiments on humans with special powers. The warden and his team then sell their mutated creations on the black market. Pandy and Retro realise that they have to escape from the prison along with the rest of the convicts. Pandy and Retro along with the other inmates not only have to escape but to stop the black market trading scheme and kill everyone involved in it.
Pandy is the calm and collective woman. She is more level headed and smarter than her partner but is very dangerous and destructive. A notable aspect her appearance is a red circular dot on her eye that appears to be affecting her hence why she is called “Pandy”
Retro is extremely impulsive, ultra-violent and psychotic. He causes a lot chaos and many people die around him either directly or indirectly as a result of his actions. He has a tv for his head that appears to be also used as a digital map and hence why he is called “Retro”. The chemistry and dynamics between the two main characters are hilarious and interesting.
The main theme of this film is about being a rebel and outsider of society and also human experimentation. Nihilism is quite common as nobody really cares at all about anything that’s happening. Even the most extreme action or tragedy seems commonplace and hardly causes a ripple. Even though the themes in the film are dark, they are handled in a way that is comical and surreal.
The film is very unpredictable as everyone is basically a target to be killed. Frequent plot twists and turns make things even more hectic and unbelievable but surprisingly, it works for Dead Leaves. The atmosphere of the film is strange and psychedelic and the more a viewer watches it, the weirder the story gets. The films pacing is very fast and the it starts straight to the point. There is no room for filler or fluff and it never really slows down as it progresses.
The animation and comic book like visuals for the Dead Leaves is the biggest highlight along with its edgy art direction. For a film in 2004, Production I.G made it very smooth and the coloring scheme is vibrant and bright. Production I.G uses a variety of contrasting and striking colors to give a graffiti like art style to make movie stand out. It is very creative and even today, the animation looks incredible and flawless.
I found the character designs to be quirky and strange but it works and its very creative. I also liked the world design of Earth and the lunar prison Dead Leaves. It is very similar to the designs of The World Ends With You or Jet Set Radio video games. The movie scenes transition without any problems and look slick. The frenetic pace of the action works very well for the film. The cinematography Is also stylized to make it look like a manga comic book.
The black comedy went itself well with the acidic nature of the film. Jokes are often dirty minded and innuendos are placed throughout the film. One character is based off a Penis and his head often ejaculates every few seconds. One of the notable supporting characters Chinko has a drill for a penis, and being sodomized is sort of a reoccurring joke in the film. Other jokes in the film are deadly slapstick with people in the film dying in unusual and over the top ways. Sex and nudity occur in the film occasionally. Dialogue in the films is just as weird and quirky as itself.
The action scenes are fast paced and violence is stylized and over the top. Chase scenes are unbelievable and unpredictable. At one point, Pandy and Retro are chased by cops and suddenly a robot shows up out of nowhere to stop them. Blood and bullets are all over the place illustrating just how extremely violent and fast the movie is. Sometimes comic book like “pow” and “bang” special visual effects appears during the action scenes.
The audio quality is superior and sound and clear and crisp. Music is acidic and trippy and very frenetic. The voice acting is suitable for the characters.
Dead Leaves also has its own confusing flaws but I am not going to rate it down because of the dirty humor or the graphic content of the film. The story is stylized and edgy instead of deep and complex. Character development or any real goal of the story is non existent . The movie does not take itself too seriously and some viewers will be very perplexed by what is even happening as at times. With its very fast pacing and with so many things happening, the movie can be pretty confusing.
Some of the stuff does feel left out or unexplained such as who Pandy and Retro really are? Along with how can having sex while being tied up from top to bottom can lead to them breaking free. The doctor who is locked up with Pandy and Retro knows a lot but never explains how he knows about the events that happened previously. In addition, characters are not developed for the viewer to care about them. But nevertheless, you still root for Pandy and Retro trying to get out of the prison and stopping the warden’s illegal black market business.
The film is fairly short, about 52 minutes and the ending is abrupt and it feels like a cliffhanger. A warning for those who have a history with seizures. This film is very flashy and lights blinker a lot so you may experience some distress when watching this movie. For such a bizarre yet entertaining film I had one strange time watching it but really like it nonetheless.
It’s getting 4 stars out of 5.
Sci fi and fans of bizarre and weird fiction or those who just want to have a fun anime to watch, this film is what you would enjoy. If this was a full fledged manga or anime series, it would certainly have been quite entertaining.