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One of the most surprising and unusual DVDs I've seen in a long while, Dead Leaves is a very odd and violent show that has a unique style all its own. This is going to be one of those DVDs that fans are either going to love or hate, but I found this 52 minute movie to be pretty funny and entertaining.
Retro, a guy with a TV for a head, and Pandy, a girl with a pink circle around one eye, wake up naked in the middle of an empty lot. Neither of them have any memory of who they are or how they came to be where they are. So, having nothing better to do, the pair go on a crime spree stealing clothes and a car in the process.
They are soon apprehended by the authorities and sent to the lunar penal colony Dead Leaves. Here the prisoners are all kept in straight jackets at all times, force feed, and even forced to defecate via a suction tube. Prisoners are killed at random by the warden, and it is a pretty miserable existence. So Retro and Pandy, after having some hot sex while still in their straight jackets, decide to escape. They are able to remove their shackles without any trouble, free the rest of the inmates and spend the rest of the movie fighting the guards and warden, while learning about their past and uncovering the prison's secret.
Dead Leaves makes no attempt to be anything other than what it is; an action packed violent comedy. The meager plot is only an excuse to get to more action. The show begins with an extravagant opening and keeps on going getting more outlandish and weird as it goes on. And weird it is. There is a supporting character with a large conical penis that rotates like a drill, and people who are killed for shitting too much. The violence is very over the top too, with people's eye's flying out of their skulls as they are being squashed and every bullet shot seems to cause the target to explode. This violence actually was the source of much of the humor in the show, and worked very well.
Another thing that helped the show is the very odd look it has. I really liked the style, though I can imagine that many people won't. The angular images remind me of something from British comics like Viz, or maybe some of the odder stories in 2000 AD. The bright colors and outrageous violence would be right at home in Heavy Metal too. If you are a fan of nontraditional animation and aren't turned off by comical violence and potty humor, this would be a great animation to check out.
The DVD has 5.2 and stereo soundtracks in both English and Japanese. I viewed the show with the English 5.1 track (mainly because I wanted to concentrate on the wonderfully odd art,) and spot checked the other tracks. All four sounded very good. The 5.1 tracks make good use of the full sound stage with the music and audio effects coming from all of the speakers. The stereo mixes were also good, if not as dynamic. In all cases the audio was very clean with no distortion, hiss, or other audio defects. A good sounding disc.
The widescreen anamorphic video quality is absolutely wonderful. The show uses a wide range of colors, and they all are vividly reproduced. The lines are very tight and there aren't any digital defects present. This is just a great looking DVD.
This DVD is packed to the gills with bonus material. First off, there is a commentary with the director of the film and some of the creative staff. This track is in Japanese, as are all of the extras, and comes with optional English subtitles. The people commenting on the show had all been drinking before they started on this audio track, so they were all drunk which made it interesting. They talked about how the final product differed from the original vision, and also related some anecdotes about the creation of the film. A good commentary, even if everyone was a little inebriated.
There is a featurette about the film's premier at a club in Japan, and a Q & A session from the premier. A rather odd inclusion that I liked was a game of Truth or Doubt. In this game people take turns pulling questions out of a hat and answering them. If the other players think the answer is true, the hat passes on, but if the others think he's lying they say "doubt" and ask him more questions. If someone gets it wrong, they have to drink a shot of some horrible looking liquid. This was pretty entertaining.
Dead Leaves played at the 2003 Tokyo Film Festival and an interview with the creative staff from that event is included also, along with a clip from a recording session when the voice tracks were laid down on tape.
To round off the disc there is the original trailer for the film, and a 17 minute reel of previews. Altogether a very complete selection of bonus material.
This is definitely a love it or hate it show. The animation is very untraditional, and the humor and fight scenes are very over the top. I found the show to be funny and entertaining, and loved the unique look of the show, but I'm sure others will have the opposite opinion. Still, I find this easy to recommend to people who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary. Recommended.