Donten ni Warau (2011)

Laugh!

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Source: amazon.com

So I just finished reading a series of manga called Donten ni Warau or Laughing Under the Clouds in English. I wondered where were I that I didn’t find this amazing series sooner, because it’s been there since 2011 and I just found it recently. But I’m still grateful that I had the chance to stumble upon this manga, because if I wasn’t I’m sure I will regret it. Thanks to MangaRock for the recommendation!

This manga is set in the 11th year of the Meiji era, where Japan was slowly changing because of the western influence and carrying swords were forbidden. But there were plenty of people who disagreed and thus the crime rates increased. The government solution was to create a prison called Gokumonjo in the middle of Lake Biwa. The protagonists, three Kumou brothers were assigned to transport the criminal through the lake to the prison. But their main job was never only transporting criminals. They had duty to prevent the rebirth of the Orochi, the legendary snake who appeared every 300 years and said to bring calamity to humankind.

At first, I thought this manga was just a series of one shot, telling the daily life of our protagonists. But at later chapters, the pieces are coming in place to create the bigger picture of the story. When I got the idea of the story, I just couldn’t stop myself from reading it until I finished. And finishing it didn’t take a long time, since it’s only 29 chapters in total. In my opinion, those numbers are just perfect, the plot wasn’t dragged with unnecessary plot and not too short either so it didn’t feel rushed at all.

The main idea itself is quite simple, but with some plot twists here and there, the story become unexpected and full of emotions. I laughed at the jokes, but I was also surprised this kind of manga could make me cry once or twice while reading through the chapters. Those element of surprises in the manga is one of the reasons why I say the story is unexpectedly very real, totally different from the other shoujo manga with the same theme.

It also has a very fitting ending, even though it’s not the kind of ending where everyone is come together and live happily ever after, but still, this kind of happy ending is fine. The manga still maintained its realistic element until the end and that’s what makes the manga even more amazing. This manga is totally one of that makes you want to read it again and again in the future.

In addition, the art was also beautifully drawn by Karakara Kemuri sensei. Her style is become one of my favorite immediately. Not to mention that almost all of her male characters are handsome (insert heart emoji here hahaha).

By the way, this manga also came up with two other series. One is Donten ni Warau Gaiden, which consists of few side stories before and after what happened at Donten ni Warau. Another one is Rengoku ni Warau, a prequel manga set in 300 years before Donten ni Warau. Go check it out, another amazing works by Kemuri sensei 🙂

Score: 9/10

 

Nagi no Asukara (2013)

Would you choose friendship over love?

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Source: crunchyroll.com

Title: Nagi no Asukara (凪のあすから)

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Slice of Life

Studio: P. A. Works

Number of Episode(s): 26

Songs:

  • lull ~Soshite Bokura wa~ by Ray (1st Opening)
  • Ebb and Flow by Ray (2nd Opening)
  • Aqua Terrarium by Yanagi Nagi (1st Ending)
  • Mitsuba no Musubime by Yanagi Nagi (2nd Ending)

Plot:

Manaka, Hikari, Chisaki and Kaname were 14 years old middle school students from the sea village Shioshishio. They had to go to Mihama Junior High on the surface since their old school has been closed down. At first, they did not get along very well with their classmates because of the fundamental separation between the sea and land people. But soon after they joined Tsumugu to build the Ojoshi-sama for Ofunehiki festival, they started to overcome their differences and worked together with the rest of the class. But the problem was not only how they adjust to the completely new environment, they also had to deal with their complicated feelings toward each other which they feared would ruin their friendship.

Then there was a bigger problem, the salt-flake snow which was supposed to fall only on the sea, started to fall on the surface. This occurrence was predicted to bring disaster to humankind as the surface will become very cold so the land people would die because they could not stand the cold while the sea people would be hibernating until the salt-flake snow stopped falling. It was believed that it happened because the Sea God lost some of his power so he became weak.

As the situation became more serious, they decided to hold the real Ofunehiki festival with expectation that it would help the Sea God restores his power and the disaster could be avoided. But the festival itself was a disaster. There was a terrible storm just when the group arrived in the middle of the sea. Manaka ended up became the Ojoshi-sama, the offering to the Sea God instead of Hikari’s sister. Hikari who failed to save Manaka, could not make it to the surface and gone in the middle of the storm. Kaname also fell to the sea after helping Chisaki saved Tsumugu. Chisaki, being the one left on the surface, could not go back to Shioshishio as the sea people already started hibernating and all access to Shioshishio has been blocked to protect the villagers. She ended up live with Tsumugu and his grandfather because she did not have anywhere to go on the surface.

Five years later, the story continued. While Chisaki and Tsumugu has grown up as a college student, Hikari, Kaname, and Manaka did not age at all because of the hibernation. The salt-flake snow is still falling on the surface too. Once again, they had to deal with their complicated feelings toward each other which was not resolved yet and the disastrous Ofunehiki festival which gonna be held again to finish what they started five years ago.

Review:

Personally, this is my favorite anime of the respected season besides Kyoukai no Kanata. Because I really like it, I watched all of the episodes in one day. I was totally lacking in sleep but it was worth the watch. In my opinion, this anime is very well made in all components. The soundtracks fit perfectly with the anime.

For the art, it is amazingly detailed, from the environment until the character design. What I love most from the anime is the psychological development of each character of the anime. They successfully deliver complex and deep character so throughout the series we are drawn to fully understand each characters and their feelings.

And for the story, I must say that it is indeed very beautiful and touching tale of friendship and love. It can bring you into tears and smile at the same time. We can really feel the character’s emotion as the story progresses. One thing that’s bugging me is I didn’t really satisfied with the ending, in my opinion it’s kinda rushed and it could be better than that. But it doesn’t really matter, the happy ending is still delivered nicely. Even though the plot is kinda slow at the beginning, it’s still worth the watch. Very recommended!