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Dead Leaves

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese animated film (2004). Production I.G. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. Written by Takeichi Honda. Cast includes Takako Honda, Yuko Mizutani and Kappei Yamaguchi. Music by Yoshihiro Ike. 50 minutes. Colour.

A young couple wake naked and Amnesiac on wasteland at the edge of a City; they respond with a violent crime spree resulting in their capture and imprisonment in a penal colony (see Crime and Punishment; Prisons) on a somewhat fragmented Moon. They are Pandy (Honda), with a red ring around an eye, and Retro (Yamaguchi), who has an old-fashioned television for a head though the rest of him is flesh and blood: their names each derive from their distinguishing feature. The prison keeps all inmates cocooned in full-body straitjackets to suffer a regimented (and murderous) discipline, though this does not prevent Pandy and Retro having Sex and – in a post-coital afterglow – casually removing their straitjackets, then wondering how they knew how to do this.

Freeing the other prisoners, they lead a prison break: killer Robots are set on them, taking out all but our protagonists. The pair (with Pandy now conspicuously pregnant) confront the warden, Galactica (Mizutani), the Cyborg daughter of the previous warden, who is continuing her father's work. This includes cloning (see Clones) prisoners to create living Weapons, using a "mutation gene cluster" (see Genetic Engineering; Mutants), to sell on the black market. Pandy and Retro are told they were spies put into Cryogenic sleep following the death of the previous warden, escaping eight years later and crash-landing on Earth where we began. Galactica tries to kill them, and succeeds in ripping off Retro's head, but is shot by Pandy's child as it emerges from her womb. Galactica's death triggers her experiments into forming a giant caterpillar: "nothing round here shocks me anymore" reflects Pandy. Her own child, now elderly, is swallowed by this creature, which briefly transforms into a butterfly but is then destroyed or transcends. In the chaos Pandy and Retro (who has built himself a robot body, carrying his human one in a bag) escape, departing a now further fragmented Moon to crash to Earth, this time inside the city.

Though the caterpillar is linked to a childhood story told to Pandy, it is unwise to ascribe too much sense to the plot. Towards the end Pandy wonders what she and Retro really were – spies, bad guys, clones or something else? Retro asks whether it matters, and she agrees it does not. Dead Leaves is an extremely bloody and violent Anime, but in such an unabashed cartoon style that only those with the most delicate of sensibilities need fear being traumatized. (The film was co-produced by Manga Entertainment and hence reflects that UK company's somewhat idiosyncratic idea of what early-2000s anime should be.) The action is non-stop, with the animation appropriately frenzied, vivid and out of control: it is a diverting screwball journey into bad taste, whose brevity means it is finished before it can weary. [SP]


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