Serpent-Slaying Is a Family Affair in "Laughing Under the Clouds"

"Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog" checks out the 2014 TV anime based on the supernatural manga by Karakara-Kemuri


No Laughing Matter.


Choosing a new anime to watch may not be as difficult as punching legendary serpents in the face, but it can still be daunting when you've only got a description and some promotional imagery to go on. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help. Each week we provide additional info and cultural context to help fans decide whether or not they'd like to try out an unknown title.



What's Laughing Under the Clouds?


Laughing Under the Clouds is a 2014 TV anime with direction by Hiroshi Haraguchi and animation by Doga Kobo. The series is based on the Donten ni Warau manga by Karakara-kemuri, which was originally serialized from 2011 – 2015 in Mag Garden's Monthly Comic Avarus shōjo manga magazine. Crunchyroll describes the story of Laughing Under the Clouds as follows:



When swords were outlawed in the Meiji era, the mighty samurais began to disappear. Those who rejected the ban rebelled, causing unrest throughout the countryside. To combat this criminal activity, an inescapable lake prison was constructed. Three young men, born of the Kumo line, were given the duty of delivering criminals to their place of confinement—but could there be more to their mission?



Ostensibly a supernatural TV anime, Laughing Under the Clouds features action, light comedy, family drama, political intrigue, and an exploration of themes involving honor, obligation, sacrifice, and showing strength in the face of extreme adversity. All of these concepts revolve around a central premise of a secret police force dedicated to preventing the resurrection of a legendary serpent that seeks to destroy Japan.



Supplementary Culture Lessons: Orochi and Onmyodo.


To understand the conflict in Laughing Under the Clouds, it helps to know a bit about Japanese myth and legend. The story of “Yamata no Orochi” is one of Japan's foundation myths: in it, the storm god Susano-o no Mikoto rescues Kushinada-hime, a princess who was going to be sacrificed to an eight-headed serpent named Orochi. Susano-o defeats Orochi by using eight barrels of sake to get each of the serpent's heads drunk. When the serpent is completely intoxicated, Susano-o cuts it into pieces with a sword.



Onmyodo is a form of occult study descended from Chinese geomancy with a mixture of Buddhist, Shintoist, and Taoist practices thrown in. Its practitioners, known as onmyoji, can purportedly perform divination and manipulate the Five Elements to create magical affects, such as transforming paper talismans into servants resembling people or animals. Some of the characters in Laughing Under the Clouds are descendants of Abe no Seimei, the most famous Japanese onmyoji.



The Strength of a Setting.


Laughing Under the Clouds is set during the 11th year of the Meiji Period, a time of immense social, political, and cultural upheaval in Japan that lasted from 1869 – 1912. During the Meiji Period, the last vestiges of the Tokugawa Shogunate's power crumbled, and the samurai found themselves adrift and obsolete. Anime set in the Meiji Period often reflects a fascinating clash of traditional Japanese culture against rapid modernization, technological innovation, and the absorption of the fashion, architecture, and values of Western countries.



Blood is Thicker than Water (and Magic).


Even more than the supernatural elements, Laughing Under the Clouds is about the primacy of family. Whether it's the close bonds of the three Kumo brothers, the centuries-spanning duty of the Sousei family, or the ninja that feel unswerving loyalty to their clans, family is the most important factor for nearly every character. One of the show's primary villains, Naoto Kagami, is depicted as being a rudderless outcast with nothing to lose specifically because he has no family to support him.



Clear Skies Ahead.


Thanks to our partnership with Funimation, Crunchyroll currently streams Laughing Under the Clouds in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Guernsey, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, the United Kingdom, American Samoa, Australia, Guam, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Minor Outlying Islands, South Africa, and Heard Island and the McDonald Islands.



Crunchyroll streams Laughing Under the Clouds in the original Japanese with English subtitles. An English dubbed version of Laughing Under the Clouds is available via Funimation, who also release the series on Bluray in North America. In Japan, the Laughing Under the Clouds anime continues with a three-part Gaiden film trilogy beginning its release in December of 2017, as well as a live-action movie scheduled for March of 2018.



Laughing Under the Clouds is ultimately a story about persevering through tremendous difficulty and loss, a narrative choice that is reflected in chapters about love that transcends time and bonds that endure despite secrecy, heartbreak, and betrayal. If a mix of magic and history sounds like your cup of tea and the series is available in your area, please consider giving Laughing Under the Clouds a try.



Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!


Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.

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