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.
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.
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.
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.
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.