When a movie takes place after the end of an anime series, often times it requires you to watch the previous material to understand it; however, Laughing Under the Clouds Gaiden doesn’t necessarily require that! Despite this, can the film provide enough entertainment without causing the viewer to get lost in its already established story?

Let’s go!

The Story

The first movie takes place both before and after the events of the anime series, which I have not seen. It tells the story of the Yamainu, a group of warriors assembled specifically defeat Orochi, a fabled snake that appears once every 300 years. The movie tells two stories: the first is of the aftermath after Orochi’s defeat and the second being the preparation to fight Orochi. Each member of the Yamainu is said to be a vessel for Orochi which is why they are specifically chosen to fight him. Should one of them begin to turn into Orochi, they fully understand that it is their duty to be killed on the spot before that transformation can occur. Talk about a rough life!

Because the story was structured around the television anime’s events, the movie was more about the characters than anything else, especially when it came to its lead character Tenka Kumou. This was a spiritual journey for Tenka which really reflected on his decision to leave the Yamainu group, the reasons why, and how his decision affected himself as well as everyone else around him. While the reasons for him reason weren’t really all that deep, they were still relatable and understandable.

Despite not seeing the anime series, I didn’t feel lost one bit with the story as the movie explained everything you needed to perfectly. In fact, it has piqued my interest into watching the television anime so I can fill in the blanks and witness the battle that they had with Orochi.

I usually like to go in-depth with the analysis of the story; however, in this case, it was an extremely straightforward story without too much depth to it. As I mentioned earlier, this movie was more about the characters since the movie does take some liberty in its expectations that the viewer had seen the anime series.

The Characters

Tenka Kumou

Tenka is the main star of this movie and is seen bound to a wheelchair. This is due to an experiment that he underwent where he fused himself with some of Orochi’s cells. He didn’t tell the Yamainu about this; however, the stress and physical signs of the experiment got to the point where they could no longer be hidden. It rendered Tenka paralyzed from the waist down as well as with partial facial paralysis. This; however, was not the reason why he decided to leave the Yamainu.

While this is something that is probably explained in the anime in more detail, Tenka’s father was the previous leader of the Yamainu and both he and his mother ended up dying. Even though Tenka’s younger brothers ended up joining Yamainu, Tenka felt a responsibility to his family as well as deep regret and sadness over the loss of his parents.

As a character that went through a deep and emotional experience, his journey to seek redemption seemed rather ordinary. He beat himself up until those around him finally had an intervention and showed him that he didn’t have to do that. Once Tenka realized that they had accepted his decision and him as a whole, the situation seemed to resolve itself.

Sousei Abeno

Sousei is Tenka’s best friend and the man he passed on leadership of the Yamainu to upon his departure. Despite this, Sousei didn’t regard Tenka’s decision with the best intentions. He was highly annoyed and disappointed by Tenka’s decision and this caused a rift between them. This added to Tenka’s depression and that served as the catalyst in the end when Sousei finally visited Tenka with the rest of the Yamainu.

As a character, Sousei seemed a bit tempered and caustic. There was no question about his faith to the Yamainu and his desire to fulfill his duty of protecting the world from Orochi. On the flipside, he wasn’t exactly understanding of Tenka and felt that his departure was a betrayal more than anything. It’s kind of sad that it took him so long to fully understand and accept Tenka’s decision.

Kiiko Sasaki (With Taiko Kumou)

She is the only female member of the Yamainu and specializes in guns. She is also Sousei and Tenka’s childhood friend. She tries to visit Tenka to talk about the Yamainu and what Sousei plans to do but she is always met with hostility from Tenka as he wants nothing to do with the Yamainu anymore. Despite how many times Kiiko tries, she can never get through to him. Kiiko also was against Tenka’s decision to leave the group but she was more emotionally upset over him leaving. She thought he was a fool for doing so without knowing any of Tenka’s true reasons.

You could tell she was compassionate about Tenka and wanted this intervention to happen more than anything but she just couldn’t tell Tenka the full reasons why. In the end, it ended up being more than an intervention and when it finally does happen, Tenka suddenly realized why Kiiko kept paying him so many visits. It was a nice “egg on my face” moment for Tenka while Kiiko just grinned in a “you should have listened to me moment” that was both satisfying and warming at the same time.

Mutsuki Ashiya

While he didn’t play a large role in the film, I had to mention him because I found him to be the most interesting character and my favorite by far. He is a shaman that is part of the Yamainu group. He can summon shikigami for spying and is also a bit of a womanizer. In fact, some of the spirits his summons during a training mock battle are modeled after beautiful women. They show a bit of his past where his own mother thought of him as a monster and wanted nothing to do with him. Since then, he has had to learn to live for himself which probably was the catalyst to his womanizing ways.

He rarely spent time with the Yamainu outside of training as he would much rather spend his nights sleeping at the house of a random woman. Still, his abilities along with his care-free and relaxed attitude made him stand out above the other cast members. Even without knowing him from the television anime series, I instantly found myself attached to him as a character and really enjoyed myself whenever he was on screen.

The rest of the cast had very small parts in the movie and really seemed like they came in for a line or two when needed and then disappeared. We did get to see Tenka’s younger brothers Soramaru and Chuutarou in action early on in the movie and we got to see a bit more of them in the flashback portion of the story where they grieved over the loss of their parents.

During the flashbacks, we also got to see Tenka’s father, Taiko. Taiko was very stern during training but was a humbled and caring man outside of that. Even though he was stern he also carried with him a light sense of humor. He was a pretty balanced character that cared for his family. Wished I could have seen more of him but being dead does have its drawbacks.

Art, Animation, and Sound

Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, Kabeneri of the Iron Fortress) handled the art and animation and I thought that they did a pretty good job with the film. It wasn’t as highly detailed as say, Attack on Titan, but it didn’t need to be. The look and feel of the film felt unique, the animation was fluid and if there was CG used, they blended it into the movie in such a way where you didn’t really notice it.

Each of the characters had a unique design to them which was necessary since the black and red motif of the Yamainu garb could have easily made them all look similar; however, each one stood out in their own way to where the matching color scheme was a non-issue.

The soundtrack was really well done and drew you into the movie in so many different ways. The music matched the emotion of each scene perfectly. Shouji Hata and Yutaka Yamada utilized those sounds to draw out the emotion and made the scenes feel important while giving the viewer a nice connection to the story.

Overall Thoughts

While it is probably a good idea to watch the anime series to get a better understanding of the movie, Laughing Under the Clouds Gaiden doesn’t really require it. They give you enough backstory to where you can understand what happened and why the characters are they way they are. The anime would just be filling in the blanks at this point.

I felt the characters, especially Tenka, were well-done; however, I wanted to see more of the characters that didn’t really get much time to shine. Again, that is probably where the anime comes into play but with this being the length of only two anime episodes (clocking in at around 50 minutes long), I felt that it could have been extended just a little bit more to add some more backstory or screen time for some of the other characters for people like me who just jumped into the series with this movie.

Despite some of its flaws, it is still a pretty enjoyable movie. Tenka’s struggles were put front and center and the rest of the movie’s story and cast were built perfectly around that. It gave you a nice connection to his character and actually makes you want to go back and watch the anime.

This is actually the first part of a three-part series. The second part is scheduled to release along with the first part on August 24 while Part 3 is scheduled for 2019. As a standalone movie, it could have done more but since there are still two more parts to come, there is plenty of opportunity for expansion with these characters. What we got here in Part 1 was still very satisfying and I would recommend anyone to check this out!

An advanced screening of this film was provided by ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio

Laughing Under the Clouds

Summary

Laughing Under the Clouds Gaiden Part I was primarily about the characters more than the story. It did a great job in the character development department but the story was rather flat and straightforward. It did bring a lot of emotion with it but I felt that even though you could watch this as a standalone film that it would have been enjoyed a bit more had you watched the television anime series that preceded it. 

Pros

  • Great character development
  • Fun action
  • Good drama

Cons

  • Flat story split into two arcs before and after the anime series
  • Could be enjoyed by itself but better with watching the anime
  • Overall Score
Overall
3.5

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.

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