Sequel Film Trilogy

Originally airing in 2014, Laughing Under The Clouds (Donten ni Warau) was the story of three sword-slinging brothers set in the Meiji Era of Japan. A beguiling mix of bullets and swordplay in a tumultuous time when samurai swords were becoming outlawed by the government, the successful anime property returns for a sequel trilogy of three films.

Donten: Laughing Under The Clouds – Gaiden collects the three films together, wrapping up the tale of brothers Tenka, Soramaru and Chutaro in their battle against a giant snake demon known as Orochi.

Laughing Under The Clouds has a little bit of everything for anime fans. Ninjas, samurai, magic, military action and even some romance and comedy are in the potent mix, set in the turbulent 1870s for Japan. The engaging mix would have been just another fantasy adventure in a historical period if not for a cast of likable characters and tight plotting.

Donten is packed with drama, action and interesting historical intrigue

Each movie in the trilogy is largely self-contained, building to a climactic conclusion in Conspiracy of the Military. The first movie One Year After The Battle picks up after the events seen in the original Laughing Under The Clouds series.

The Yamainu, an elite unit formed by the Japanese military tasked with stopping the evil Orochi, are drifting back into their old lives now that their mission is over. The three Kumou brothers return as shrine guardians with appearances by other Yamainu members. Each member has a special power or trait that makes them eminently valuable in battle.

The second movie is The Tragedy of Fuuma Ninja Tribe, more a side story detailing the backstory behind the twin ninja leaders and the tribe’s custom of killing off a family member as a right of passage. It’s a more personal and gutty story than the other installments, exploring the darker side of this twisted ninja clan.

Conspiracy of the Military is the proper send-off for Laughing Under The Clouds and its main characters, finally wrapping up the tale of Orochi and other long-running sub-plots. Soramaru and Chutaro discover someone using cells from Orochi in human experimentation, creating monsters with a taste for human blood.

While the three films collected here can be perfectly understood on their own terms, watch Laughing Under The Clouds as a starter. Practically all the primary and secondary characters from the anime series return for the three films. Important plot developments from Laughing Under The Clouds play into the trilogy’s story elements.

Smooth storytelling and a satisfying finale for familiar characters make Donten: Laughing Under The Clouds – Gaiden essential for fans. Packed with drama, action and interesting historical intrigue from the Meiji Era, call it a successful sequel to a fun series.

Video

Animated by Eleven Arts, the three-film trilogy arrives on a BD-50. All together, they comprise a little under three hours in 1080P video. Think of each film as two episodes of the anime series with a little padding. Shout Factory does a fine job on the 1.78:1 presentation, leaving the video alone without undue errors. The AVC encode holds up nicely, flawlessly replicating the simple animation style.

The animation is in line with the quality seen in the original television anime. Colorful art design and interesting character designs mark it as decent animation… made for television.

It’s a cut below high-end theatrical anime from other Japanese studios. Movement and fluidity are okay, enhanced by crisp line-art and perfect black levels. Shout Factory also correctly translates the proper gamma levels from Japanese standards, not always a sure thing when dealing with anime.

Audio

All three films have two different soundtracks, the original Japanese audio and an alternative English dub using the same vocal casts. The soundtracks are 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Both are technically fine with clean dialogue and fairly impressive stereo separation. Sound effects and the score have enough room to create palpable dynamics, despite lacking a real bottom.

The English dub is less impressive sonically, a result of some dialogue sounding as if it were recorded in a phone-booth. There’s no real reason to go with the English dub in this case unless you enjoy the young-sounding American voice cast.

Two sets of subtitle options, but possibly due to licensing restrictions from the Japanese content owners, you can’t pick the English subtitle track for the Japanese dialogue while the English audio plays. Optional English SDH subtitles are available on the English dub, while a different set of English subs are imposed for the Japanese audio. It’s a serviceable English translation of the Japanese dialogue. Both display in a white font.

Extras

Shout Factory doesn’t distribute a lot of anime outside of their partnership with GKIDS but Donten: Laughing Under The Clouds – Gaiden comes directly from the label. A glossy slipcover is available on early pressings. The BD is coded for Region A.

A pack of three mini-posters on heavy cardstock is included inside the Blu-ray and DVD combo package. The only special features on the BD are original Japanese trailers for all three films.

Chapter 1: One Year After The Battle Japanese Trailer (01:33 in HD)

Chapter 2: The Tragedy of Fuuma Ninja Tribe Japanese Trailer (01:33 in HD)

Chapter 3: Conspiracy of the Military Japanese Trailer (01:49 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A fine sequel trilogy to the original Laughing Under The Clouds anime sees the Kumou brothers face the possible return of the giant serpent they once vanquished.

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