Rule of Three Review, Bubble Digest: Laughing Under the Clouds, In Search of the Lost Future – Episodes 2-3

The moment of truth.

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These two shows have a surprising amount in common for me, despite their wildly different settings, casts, and overall tones. Both struggled to get me invested in the characters and the story during the first episode, both had what I saw as some pacing issues where I kept waiting for them to get to the point, and both kept me watching thanks to some late-episode reveals and ongoing mysteries that held enough promise for a three-episode rule. So did they live up to that potential, or did they lose their futures on my watchlist? Hit the jump to see how they look a couple episodes later.

Laughing Under the Clouds (Donten ni Warau)

Now really, how could I possibly say “no” to Shinichirou Miki playing a razor-toothed maniac?

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Actor fangirling aside (Shinichirou Miki is one of those names that’s been with me since my childhood, ever since I learned he played Kojiro/James in Pokemon), DnW really is working for me a lot more now. It’s gotten progressively more interesting each week, revealing new elements of its world, its cast, and its story that have made me care about the characters and the plot alike.

There’s a lot happening here both in terms of past mysteries and future concerns – a person serving as the vessel for Orochi, a masked man in an island prison and the “thing” other prisoners bring him – and it ties nicely into the characters’ own tangled relationships both with each other and with the new Meiji society. As with any story about the early years of the Meiji, there are a lot of people with baggage and secrets here. While I worry this could lead to some severe angsting, so far the secrets have been working in the show’s favor, helping to reveal new facets of the characters, expand the mythology, and generate interest in the immediate story.

I will admit that the pacing is quite brisk (no doubt a result of trying to fit six volumes of manga into 12 episodes of anime), leaving you little time to digest new plot points. While this can make the story a little disorienting at times, it does have the positive effect of forcing the characters to keep adjusting and reacting to new developments rather than letting them (especially Soramaru) get mired in that dreaded angst I mentioned earlier. Okay, DnW, you have my attention. Welcome to the fall watchlist.

In Search of the Lost Future (Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete)

This is a much tougher decision than it probably should be.

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Unlike DnW, my feelings toward the characters and the individual episode arcs haven’t changed much since the premiere. The cast isn’t actively annoying (except maybe Benny), but outside of the enigmatic Nagisa none of them seem to have much in the way of hidden layers or unusual characteristics. I don’t mind hanging out with them, but I don’t have any real desire to do so either. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if the in-episode stories were compelling, but they’ve got a somewhat routine “slice-of-life romance” quality to them (ghost hunts, misunderstandings, club drama) that means you really need to like spending time with the cast. And since I don’t, each episode feels a lot longer than it is.

What Lost Future has going for it are some strong SF undertones and a central story (with time travel!) that’s made me willing to sit through the slow-paced episodes just to see if I’ll learn some new nugget about the mystery at the heart of the series. I had thought the rest of the show’s elements might catch up to the strength of the premise at some point, but unfortunately they haven’t, and I’m to the point with this one where even though I’m curious, I’m also aware that reading a Wiki summary of an episode takes a lot less longer than actually watching it (also, I’m pretty sure I’ve already figured out the big mystery, which is never a good sign). I haven’t officially dropped it yet, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see this one in the Midseason Review.

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