Donten ni Warau – 02

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One thing I enjoyed about the first episode was its simplicity: three close brothers, carving out a living ferrying criminals to prison and keeping the peace. By the end of the second, things are a lot more complicated, not only introducing a new baddie-of-the week who wants to topple the emperor, but an entire elite unit of government officials, of which Tenka was once a member; possibly the member

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And oh yes, did we mention that both Tenka and the unit (called Yamainu…”mountain dog?”) are after the “vessel of Orochi” as is Chuutarou’s lilac-haired teacher? Or that it’s strongly implied Soramaru may be that very vessel? And that Yamainu and Tenka have opposing plans for said vessel? Yeah, it’s a lot of plot in one episode. It’s a lot of characters, too, and Yamainu is apparently one of those government squads with lax dress codes.

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But despite all this stuff coming to light, the show doesn’t forget about its core, the trio of brothers. I like how distraught Chuutarou gets when Sora gets mad at him for touching his neck, and doesn’t respond to a gift of poo-on-a-stick (?) But then Soramaru goes and gets distraught about Tenka keeping secrets from him, like the one about the vessel. Sure, there’s probably good reasons for that, but it’s another sign Sora resents being in such a protected state all the time.

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And for his part, Tenka is as playful and nonchalant as ever, but a couple of people piss him off, and we see a bit of the thunder behind the clouds. We also learn their lodger Kinjou Shirasu was/is a member of an all-but-extinct Fuma clan of ninja murderers, something Tenka is very much aware of, but I imagine because he saved his life a while back, and because they’re friends, Tenka lets Shirasu stick around to help out. In any case, he’s a nice ally to have in a pinch.

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Soramaru gets in another pinch with an enemy far weaker than his big brother. Which begs the question: will this show end up getting rid of Tenka, and making comparative lion cubs Soramaru and Chuutarou stand on their own? Beyond his easygoing demeanor, Tenka is shouldering all the family’s burdens, but as the eldest, be probably feels that’s his duty until death.

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Donten ni Warau – 01

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It’s a Castle…well, not In The Sky, but In A Lake!

Donten ni Warau whisks us back to Meiji 11 (1878), on the surface a much simpler time than the present day, but truth things are quite turbulent. With western customs encroaching on tradition, and a government that forbids the carrying of swords, crime is starting to rise as the change resisted.

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Despite its Meiji setting, the irreverent, cheeky comedy is distinctly Heisei.

The three Kumo (Kumoh?) brothers seem to have adapted to this tricky situation: Tenka, Soramaru and Chuutarou are members of a shrine family, but have taken up the duty of ferrying all the new criminals to the frightening (but also kinda cool-looking) Gokumonjo; a Meiji-era Alcatraz on Biwa Island with a Laputa Tree topper.

This woman is too cute not to be a villain, right?
This woman is too cute not to be a villain, right?

Strong, confident, and easygoing Tenka, serious, self-conscious Soramaru, and the quick, precocious, cheerful Chuutarou: the brothers make a striking trio in their traditional garb (each has their own distinctive look). Soramaru believes he needs to be stronger, and is surprised to find out he actually is—just not enough to bring down a nasty ronin.

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But his initial losses to the rogue are less about skill and more about experience; the ronin gets the upper hand because he’s playing dirty. Soramaru learns that fighting isn’t always strictly-adhered to dance; sometimes your opponent will do whatever is necessary to win, regardless of honor.

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I haven’t yet mentioned the titular clouds that loom over the city, never clearing. The cops say its an omen that portends a great calamity. Gokumonjo certainly casts a large and sinister shadow over the otherwise placid historical setting. But for now, the three brothers (well, two of them, anyway) are laughing under those clouds, and trying to stay strong at the dawn of a new age for Japan.

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