Laughing Under the Clouds….or not?

In the eleventh year of the Meiji era carrying swords was forbidden by the government and those known as samurai were slowly fading away. However, there were plenty who didn’t like those changes taking place in Japan and inevitably the crime rates increased. The country’s only solution was an inescapable lake prison. Since the prison had no other way to access it except by water, the three boys of the Kumo family were assigned to transport the criminals to their new “home.” But…is that the only thing they were doing?

(Source: Easy Going Scanlations)

Laughing Under the Clouds [Donten ni Warau] was one of those stories I was a little unsure of, but the second episode did enough to hook me when it left the teaser about ‘the Orochi’. The art of the original mangaka, Karakara-Kemuri, is also of a style that I liked from the moment I first saw it. In fact, unable to resist, I even skimmed through the manga, and found that I did indeed really like the story, and particularly how the relationships between the three Kumo brothers and the young man they’d taken in, Shirasu, was woven through it. I enjoyed how it dealt with family-related issues such as trust, respect, the desire to protect each other and the fear of being unable to do that. And the atmosphere that the mangaka created for certain scenes was very effective in conveying much of this.

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I did like some of the visuals…

Ultimately, however, I would have to say that I was disappointed with adaptation. Of course, I enjoyed hearing Sakku and You-kyan in the same show for an entire cour, and I think that relocating that major flashback/history to later in the series was definitely an improvement. However, the overall execution left much to be desired. Even though there are a few attempts at artistry, far too many shots involved the panning of stills, and the frankly average CGI in the aftermath was actually somewhat painful to watch. The worst part was the way they killed one of my favourite shots in the manga, somehow managing to dilute the pain that one character felt at remembering some difficult memories that borne of a decision he’d made. That was probably the point where I realised that Dogakobo had failed in truly capturing the style and substance of Laughing Under the Clouds.

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…but the action scenes in particular left a lot to be desired…

Nevertheless, I was actually glad to make it to the end of the series just two episodes later. The fact that they remembered to add someone who was, for some reason, missing in the manga finale despite not having died or disappeared, was perhaps the one bright spot about how an otherwise forgettable show ended.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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