Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds 3 Film Collection - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds 3 Film Collection


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :halfstar:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie

Usually Shout Factory’s choice of Anime films are centered around Studio Ghibli films, as well as standalone projects from the various Asian continents. It’s rare that that they actually touch an anime TV series, or the films or OVAs of said TV series (although they HAVE done so sparingly in the past), but this time the boutique studio as decided to do just that. Laughing Under the Clouds was a 12 episode TV show that aired back in 2014 revolving around the various ninja clans in the 1860s. The show revolved around the Soramaru, Chutaro and Tenka Kumo as they battled an ancient supernatural serpent, and the human that the serpent is linked to that fuels it, before it’s too late for Japan. The series gained quite the following (I watched it back in 2014 and loved it), but sadly a second season wasn’t green lit. However, the fan base was still rabidly attached to the idea of more adventures, so the producers decided to make a trilogy of 50-58 minute movies that continued the tales on instead of investing in another full season. The films were screened back in 2017 for select audiences, but until now no major anime studio in the United States had picked up the trio of films, until Shout got their hands on them and released them in this 2 disc combo pack.

Fair warning. The next little bit WILL contain a few spoilers from the TV show. In my opinion the movie trilogy works best after watching the TV show and THEN going straight into this set, as the trio of movies are direct sequels to what happens in the show. You don’t necessarily NEED to watch the show to understand these films, but I will say that it is highly recommended, as you’ll miss a lot of the character backstory and relationships that make the films work together so well. As such, you’ve been warned.

“Chapter One: One Year After the Battle”.
After the battle with the giant serpent Orochi, things have calmed down a bit. A year has past and all of the soldiers that have backed the serpent have been marched off to prison, and the government has sort of smoothed everything over. Due to the desire for peace and stability all swords have been outlawed, which sort of puts the Kumo brothers in a bit of a pickle, as their main source of purpose in life was living by the blade. A few of the brothers decide to live life as they can, while another has to deal with the curse of his injuries after battling the serpent. HOWEVER, not all are happy with the status quo, and another effort to bring back the Orochi serpent is underway, and this time those people have a very distinct tie to the Kumo brothers.

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“Chapter Two: The Tragedy of Fuuma Ninja Tribe”
The second film of the trilogy revolves around a set of twins who are persecuted for being born twins (back then, being a twin was considered a sign of evil), and being hunted for their birthright. They are part of the Fuuma tribe who secretly exist to welcome the Orochi back into the world every three hundred years, and they are getting ready to work with the ones looking to resurrect the beast once more. Isuke and Isame are hunted down by their clan members as one must die, but are saved by their parents and Isame is hidden in a cave so that the rest of the clan believes she’s dead. Isuke comes back to the clan to train in their twisted ceremonial rights that will make him stronger as a Ninja in order to serve the Orochi, however his own father takes it upon himself to rid the clan of this twisted ceremony, leading to a chain of events that will alter Isuke’s life forever.

“Chapter Three: Conspiracy of the Military”
The third film brings everything together, as it’s revealed who is in fact behind bringing back the supernatural serpent. The human experiments that fueled it have been revived, and the Yamainu (Japanese special unit created to kill the snake) are actually behind it. Now the three brothers have to band together once more to defeat their enemy, and hope they make it out alive this time.

The three films are definitely worth successors to the 2014 TV anime series, and actually progresses several character arcs. The three brothers actually mature as people instead of continue on with their more hopeful and younger selves from a year ago (in the story line). The battle for the serpent IS a bit repetitive since we just fought him in the show, but the build up to this battle is well worth it as the individual movies showcase different aspects of the aftermath of the series. For those wanting to just




Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




Video: :4.5stars:
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The Elven Arts animated films are nothing short of gorgeous on home video. While the Funimation show showed some compression artifacts, the movies are given a nice mid 30s bitrate and the near 3 hours run time doesn’t show any major issues. Fast movie action is clean and precise, with no signs of jaggies or other compression issue. Line art is smooth and clean, while the animated colors are vivid and rich to the extreme. Color saturation is wonderful throughout, and the black levels are generally excellent. I did notice a teensy bit of banding in the second episode with some of the darker shots, but overall this is an excellent encode by Shout Factory.



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Audio: :4stars:
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While the packaging and press release stated 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio in both Japanese and English it’s in fact a 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix for both language tracks (confirmed and checked the codec manually in my Blu-ray drive). While it’s not 5.1, the track is still quite active, with lots of ninja battles and a sweeping score. Action shows great channel separation and the dialog is crisp and clean. No sounds of distortion, and the light bass baked into the track rumbles a decent bit in the mid range.







Extras: :halfstar:
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• Japanese Trailers
• Teaser Trailer















Final Score: :4stars:

Donten: Laughing Under the Clouds 3 Film Collection is a great followup for fans who loved the TV series 6 years ago. The movies have been screened here in the U.S. over the last 2-3 years, but there were some rights issues with Rightsuf and Shout Factory that I guess must have been resolved (at least according to the rumor mill on the various anime sites). The Blu-ray set is excellently done with good audio and great video, but definitely lacking in the extras departments. As I said above, it’s a great sequel to the TV series, but for newbies I highly recommend watching the show first before diving in head first (the show can be bought from Funimation or streamed from a few streaming services). For fans of the show, definitely a good watch.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Yuki Kaji, Yuichi Nakamura, Tusbasa, Yonaga
Directed by: Tetsuya Wakano
Written by: Eiji Umehara
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: Japanese: DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH,
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: NR
Runtime: 169 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 4th, 2020
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Recommendation: Good Watch


 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I will check this one out. :)
 
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