- Titles: Donten ni Warau Butty Laugh, Unterm Wollkenhimmel: Laughing Under the Clouds – Gaiden
- Genre: Action, comedy, drama, supernatural, history
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Doga Kobo
It’s the 11th year of the Meji era and Japan is slowly changing. The emperor is finally ready to accept foreigners and outside influence is sipping into the country, bringing with it innovation and fresh ideasé It’s an exciting time. But not everyone sees it that way. And when revolt starts to take place, the Kumo brothers are there to help. As scions of the Kumo line, they have long protected the people and kept the peace. But this may be more than they bargained for when a legendary evil rears its head once again. Will their bound help them through this one or will it be the end of the legendary line.
This is a twist, I bought the manga for Laughing Under the Clouds (haven’t read it yet) and only after realized that it had been made into an anime. I got the manga because I liked the cover and hadn’t even read the synopsis. So basically I decided to watch the anime instead of reading the synopsis. I need to shape up.
I think the polite way of putting it is that Laughing Under the Clouds is a modest production. I did like the setting and the character designs were striking. Some of them were pretty fetching as well. But you could also see the limits of the production. Some action scenes were carried out mostly in still shots when they really should have been fully animated to really create the impact they were going for and the backgrounds can be a little sparse and surprisingly similar to one another.
Then there’s the voice acting that was a bit too, let’s call it intense and deliberate for my taste. I would hesitate to call that a flaw though as it does go with the story.
All in all, production had its ups and downs. I have a feeling that if you like Laughing Under the Clouds as a story, you will find it easy to overlook the weaker aspects of the production. However, if the show bores you, those aspects are going to annoy you a whole lot. So let’s talk about that story.
Story & Characters
Might as well let the ca out of the bag since you should know this going into the review. I’m one of those people who liked Laughing Under the Clouds. I’m very happy I have that first volume of the manga now, and unless there’s something unexpected, I’ll likely be getting the rest. I quickly thumbed through it and I can already see that at the very least, events were rearranged in the anime as I came across a scene in the first manga that takes place in one of the last episodes. That’s usually a good sign. It means some thought was put into the adaptation. But I still haven’t read the manga as I finished the show yesterday, so I’m not here to compare the two.
Alright, like I said, I enjoyed Laughing Under the Clouds, but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t have its flaws. In fact, it has a lot and I’m not all that keen on just recommending it to everyone. I think this is the best way I can put it:
Laughing Under the Clouds has all the elements necessary for a great epic but simply doesn’t have time to develop and take advantage of them in the 12 episode runtime. That’s why I have great hopes for the manga.
And I do mean that. For instance, the characters are all a bit tropey and flat. However, there’s a very large cast and all of them have complex histories with great built-in conflict. You can take pretty much any single character and built them up just on the basis of what’s available in the series to a deeply complex and fascinating person.
Similarly, the historical setting that mixes old-time politics with folklore and myth has the potential of becoming Tolkien-like. All the foundations are there, you can see them. But the series barely has time to breeze over them as it has to get to the plot and the action.
As for that plot, epic is the only word for it. As in classical. There’s an ancient evil believed to be all but legend that not only resurfaces but does its bidding by corrupting all those around. No one at all is safe, even the main characters could succumb at any moment. There is one of a betrayal that would have made it into everyone’s top 10s if the series was more popular. Childhood friends reunite and ancient allies make their way back just in time, while old nemesis regroup their powers in unexpected ways.
Of course, through it all, the unwavering bonds of brothers having been left to fend for themselves. Both the frustrating parts, the bickering and rivalries, and the heartfelt love of family. Heck, there’s even a centuries-old love story that resurfaces and the sidelines.
It’s downright opératic. And it delivers all that drama with a lot of comedy. Sadly, there’s just not enough time to do so properly in 12 episodes. At least the story is complete and pretty much all the loose ends are tied up. I didn’t even go into the details of the plot, believe me when I say the fact that nothing was left hanging is very impressive.
I really think that if Laughing Under the Clouds had been given at least 12 more episodes, if not like 36 more, and maybe had been advertised as a shonen instead of a shoujo, it could have been one of those shows everyone talked about for a while. It really does have everything it needs, except time. But time is crucial.
h and before I forget, the shoujo comment reminded me. A lot of I is due to the setting and Tenka Kumo’s personal circumstances, but there is something in Laughing Under the Clouds that reminded me of Rurouni Kenshin. They aren’t really similar and Laughing Under the Clouds is by no means as good as Kenshin, but there’s something in the tone and themes explored that just reminded me of it.
All in all, I enjoyed Laughing Under the Clouds even as I was irked by the wasted potential. At least this isn’t a case where the production was too lazy or the writing lost its way. The series was simply too confined. as it is, there is still something to enjoy in it, but it’s not what it could have been. Still, it did remind me that just keep laughing!
You might like this anime if:
You like epics and don’ mind overlooking constrained runtimes
My favourite character:
It’s Tenka. I find happiness infectious
- Every time Tenka and Soramaru bicker – take a sip
- Every time Chutarou calls someone sir – raise your glass, respectfully
- Every time anyone drinks – join them!
- Every time someone mentions the Fuma clan – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions “the vessel” – take a sip
- Every time Sora practices swordsmanship – take notes
- Every time the Doctor visits – switch to water
- Every time Tenka is (over)protective of his brothers – smile
- Every time the Yamainu show up – take a sip
- Every time Shirasu cmes to the rescue – oh my
- Every time Tenka insists on treating Shirasu like a friend – awwwwwwwwww
- Every time Sora is angry about being left out – spare a though for Chutarou
- Every time anyone cries – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.