Final Score: 8.8
Laughing Under the Clouds, aired during 2014, features three brothers, known as the Cloud Brothers, who spend their time ferrying criminals to a prison known as Gokumonjo. Gokumonjo prison is built in the middle of Lake Biwa and is known to be impenetrable. The Cloud Brothers, Tenka, Soramaru, and Chutaro, find themselves wrapped in a mysterious fate surrounding their cloudy homeland and Gokumonjo.
The first thing you notice with any show is the art and animation. The animation is pretty well done in my opinion. It’s smooth and fluid and I for one don’t remember any obvious problems in the way it looked, which is a huge plus for a show. The art itself is more of an enigma. The mouths were drawn a little funny but it was easy to get used to and personally I liked the way everything looked. The backgrounds were splendid and each character’s design had its own personality. And while it isn’t the best looking series out there, you will find I have little to no complaints on the way this show looks. By comparison the soundtrack was a little lackluster. There are two opening themes used. The first, Biran no Kaze by Ryuuji Aoki, is an average, edgy, little piece that is common for this type of anime. The second, Ryuuten no Hi also by Ryuuji Aoki, is similar but the one I prefer out of the two. The ending theme, ATTITUDE TO LIFE by Galneryus, is a slower rock piece and much more a fit for the series. I’ll admit, even after calling them average, they are definitely memorable pieces. The background music has its moments and in peek scenes it’s really good. The rest of the time I wouldn’t call it more than average.
The best of part of Laughing Under the Clouds is, without a doubt, the characters. This show features a large cast for only being 12 episodes so I won’t go over all of them, just a few. The main three are the Kumoh Brothers (Kumoh=cloud). The oldest, and loudest, is Tenka who appears at first to be the center of the show. He is very powerful and acts as the parent figure for his brothers and yet all the while he likes to drink, laugh, and have fun. The second brother is Soramaru, who is truly our main character. At the beginning of the series Soramaru is uptight and always chastising Tenka. He spends a lot of his time hoping to catch up to Tenka in strength and wisdom without really considering what it means to be strong. The series truly shines through its development of Soramaru’s character. Once Soramaru becomes confident in himself and his abilities he is able to be his own man, and a great one at that. The youngest brother in this family of three is Chutaro. Chutaro is the typical younger brother character. He is carefree and happy and the one that takes situations the hardest. He’s never known the love of his parents and yet has always had a great family. He is naïve and gets in the way, yet refuses to give up when it comes to protecting his family. In the end, Chutaro is truly a child who is trying his hardest to live in a tough world, and I won’t fault him for that.
Other characters include Shirasu, who works in the Kumoh household and has a shadowy past, Abe no Sousei, the leader of the Yamainu, a squad dedicated to destroying the Orochi, and Botan, Chutaro’s teacher with mysterious motives. I really enjoyed the blend of characters in the series, although the large cast makes it hard to get development on all of them. Despite this fact the creators really tried hard to give most of them a good scene or two.
The plot of Laughing Under the Clouds is fairly interesting. It starts out appearing as a typical period piece until you learn of the Orochi. The Orochi is a giant snake monster that is reborn every 300 hundred years under a cloudy sky. The Orochi singlehandedly connects everyone in the story together in a way that is quite complicated during the first half of the series. They really play up the unknown in Laughing Under the Clouds.
And this unknown is what drives the show. Every week ends on some sort of cliffhanger, the kind that upsets you but keeps you coming back. Admittedly I cried several times throughout the show and got mad and distraught at the decisions made by the characters. And it was wonderful. I love when a show lets me forget my own life to worry solely about the characters and hope for their well-being.
Some may have been turned off by the twists in the show, some may have not connected with the characters, but for me the show was great. It was nice, short, and powerful. It was a story of three brothers who would sacrifice anything to save the ones they love, a story of love, in all forms, and, in the end, a great way to spend 12 episodes. You may not like it as much as I did but I do recommend you try it. If nothing else the characters make this show worth watching. I’ll leave you with the single best line of the series, “Keep laughing.”