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Manga / Laughing Under the Clouds

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"Greed. Avarice. Pride. Devouring all living things. Scorching the earth, defiling the seas. The serpent of destruction. Pay heed, for Orochi is the enemy of mankind. Seal immediately after hunting down..."

Laughing Under the Clouds (Donten ni Warau) is a manga created by Kemuri Karakara which ran in Monthly Comic Avarus from 2011 to 2014. In October 2014, it received a 12-Episode Anime adaptation by Dogakobo, that was quickly picked up by Funimation.

It's the eleventh year of the Meiji Era (1878), and Japan is on the brink of the modern age, a potpourri of Western influences and traditional leanings. A prohibition against carrying swords has been declared by the government and the samurai have disappeared, resulting in skyrocketing crime rates and overflowing prisons.

The solution? Gokumonjo, a giant island stronghold in the middle of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, which is also known for its perpetually cloudy skies. You see, there's a tale that says it's been like that for the past 300 years, and that such weather is an omen of great disaster...

Anyway, the Kumo family of Cloud Shrine has been tasked with ferrying convicted criminals across the lake to their final destination, a duty that currently lies in the hands of three brothers; Tenka, Soramaru and Chutaro, aided by their resident freeloader, Kinjo Shirasu.

With this as its backdrop, the main story revolves around the search for the mysterious vessel of a legendary monster, the so-called Orochi, said to reincarnate every 300 years in the lands around Lake Biwa and cause unimaginable destruction. Various factions seek the vessel, either to destroy it, protect it, or use it for their own gain, and the Kumo brothers are prime suspects due to their family's prolonged history of enmity towards the Orochi.

There are two prequels, of sorts, set 600 and 300 years before Donten ni Warau respectively, as well as an additional volume:

  • Utakata ni Warau explains a lot of the Orochi's background, how it can be sealed and which families are involved, as well as introducing the love story between Hirari and Botan; it consists of Chapters 2 and 3 of the main manga.
  • Rengoku ni Warau is a spin-off manga set 300 years after Utakata and 300 years before Donten. It revolves around Ishida Sakichi, a young man on a mission who encounters the mischievous heads of Cloud Shrine, twins Baren and Okuni.
  • Donten ni Warau Gaiden features chapters about what happens after the main manga ends, as well as flashbacks, e.g. about Shirasu's past. An anime movie adaptation of this sequel was announced in March 2017, released in cinemas in Winter 2017 and produced by Wit Studio.

This series contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Chutaro calls Tenka "Ten-nii"note . Both Funimation's sub and dub use "Tenny" instead. Likewise, he also calls Shirasu "Shiro-nii".
  • Ambiguously Brown: The Iga ninja clan have inexplicably darker skin that everyone else.
  • Ancestral Weapon:
    • The Kumo family swords have been passed down for generations.
    • The Abe family sword as well, which is currently held by Sosei, but used to belong to Hirari.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: After the Orochi's final death.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Sosei's list of grievances against Tenka in Gaiden is as follows: leaving the Yamainu, volunteering for the Orochi cell experiments, leaving Soramaru to Sosei, saying inexcusable things to his father, and eating Sosei's snacks when they were children.
  • Bandaged Face: Half of the fox-masked prisoner's face and body are bandaged. The purpose is twofold: first, to hide his hideous burn marks, and second, to hide his uncanny resemblence to Shirasu, which eventually culminates in a Dramatic Unmask.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me:
    • Shirasu's very protective of the Kumo brothers due to having been saved by Tenka from bleeding to death and being taken in by the brothers in the past when everyone else wished him dead because he's a ninja of the Fuma clan. He goes as far as threatening Botan with a knife just to make his point about not harming any of the brothers. Subverted when it's revealed that it was all an act on Shirasu's part. Perhaps.
    • Hirari fell for Botan as a child because she treated him nicely and like a human being, unlike others did at the time. It does become stalkerish, and Hirari refuses to accept Botan's "no" on the matter and follows her so loyally that he is even reborn again and again until they meet once more and Botan finally admits she's also got feelings for him.
  • BFS:
    • Blink and you miss it, but Takamine Seiichiro's sword looks suspiciously like a gigantic meat cleaver.
    • Kagami Naoto's Dodomeki is an impossibly cool one made of intersecting blades.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Tenka has it, which causes Soramaru some moments of Rage Against the Mentor, as he does not feel like Tenka takes him seriously. This becomes a problem when Soramaru has no idea what is going on because Tenka kept things from him in the noble idea of keeping him safe.
  • Big Brother Worship: As far as Chutaro's concerned, Tenka is the most awesome person to ever walk the face of the earth. Tenka is fully aware of it, and never misses an opportunity to relish his little brother's adoration.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Tenka. Behind his self-centered Drama Queen antics hides the fear of becoming a useless burden.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Of the two final chapters, the one originally serialised in Avarus ends abruptly with Shirasu's suicide and leaves everyone else's fates open to interpretation.
  • Break the Cutie: Quite a bit to go around, but Chutaro gets a special mention for being literally The Cutie and having to deal with Tenka's execution.
  • Break the Haughty: In an interesting take on this, Tenka essentially knew what was coming, but the point is driven home by Sosei giving him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech right before Tenka is about to be executed for treason...
    Sosei: "You've always stood above others. But you've decided on your own, and acted on your own. Nobody can follow you here. Even the exalted sun gets lonely if he can't achieve what he desires. Disappear. High, mighty, and alone."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Tenka all the way. He's just that good at his job, but he is also just that good at avoiding taking anything seriously, and his brand of humor is just plain weird.
  • Can't Catch Up: The concern of a few characters.
    • Soramaru constantly worries over never being as strong as Tenka and stresses out whenever he notices how big the gap between the two of them are. He detests how Tenka hides a lot of things from him and that he doesn't seem to treat him seriously. This is why he's so determined to become stronger by going to Sosei for lessons.
    • Takeda, who's new in the Yamainu, feels this way towards the older and more experienced members, and it's his goal to catch up to them and become more than Tenka's "replacement".
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Even the army is made up of them. The main characters and important side characters all are Bishōnen, the most prominent probably being Shirasu and Sosei, but some mooks won't just fade into the background either, thanks to being too pretty.
  • Censor Box: A black circle is used to censor "that unsightly thing" of Tenka's when he goes commando whilst talking to Shirasu in Chapter 10 in an open yukata. Taken further the second time in the manga and anime when he greets Soramaru, standing with not only a flying-in-the-wind-dramatically yukata but also the family crest strategically censoring whatever else might be flying in the wind.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Trickster Twins Baren and Okuni sport a pair of creepy ones in Rengoku ni Warau.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Kunitomo Toubee from Rengoku ni Warau looks like she's barely entered puberty and commands a gun-toting gang of warriors.
  • The Clan: Several. Safe to say, the family dynamics in this series run on several clans being present...
    • The most prominent among them are the Fuma ninja clan. Two other ninja villages get mentioned, namely the Koga, who serve masters across generations and the Iga, who follow their contracts by the book. The Fuma, however, are said to only serve the clan's own goals.
    • In Utakata ni Warau we get glimpses of the Abe family being this, as well. Possibly the Ashiya family, too.
    • And Rengoku ni Warau gives us the Kunitomo, which seems to be a hybrid of The Clan and The Cartel.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Tenka uses a tessen (iron fan) as his weapon of choice and to great effect. It allows him to pass as an unarmed civilian and be scarily dangerous at the same time.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The anime cuts out several in depth conversations that shed light on characters' motivations and plot details, which makes things seem to come out of the blue. Considering they had to cram 29 monthly chapters into 12 episodes, this was unavoidable, though.
  • Conflicting Loyalty:
    • Averted. Tenka, who had had grand dreams of changing the country for the better, but then had to leave the Yamainu to take care of his younger brothers, claims to not having been conflicted about it and to consciously have chosen his brothers over the nation.
    • And then invoked with Shirasu, with whom it's left unclear until the very end on purpose whether he was conflicted about betraying the Kumo brothers. He claims to only ever have had the revival of the clan in mind, but his facial expressions and actions can be interpreted otherwise.
    • There's also an instant where Abeno Sosei calls Ashiya Mutsuki out on possibly having conflicting loyalties, but the latter claims that while their families might have a history of enmity, his sole personal loyalty lies with the Yamainu.
  • Cool Mask:
    • Master Shi sports a face-concealing black and red mask.
    • Ashiya Mutsuki routinely wears a kerchief that covers the lower half of his face.
    • The imprisoned Fuma's fox mask is intimidating but also very cool.
  • Couch Gag: Non-gag variant. In each episode a different picture of a character (or more) is shown at the end of the ED.
  • Cry into Chest:
    • Tenka invokes this deliberately when Soramaru remembers glimpses of what happened ten years ago, so Tenka pulls him close and tells him to cry a bunch; and then grow stronger.
    • Later, Soramaru comforts Chutaro this way when the latter is still yet to let Tenka's execution sink in.
  • Damsel out of Distress: In Rengoku ni Warau, Baren voices his confidence in Okuni to be able to take care of herself when she gets surrounded and attacked. She is.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Ashiya Mutsuki, a member of the Yamainu without any significant lines prior to this, gets half a chapter in the latter half of the manga, demonstrating how he is a very capable exorcist. He also gets a lot of focus in a flashback of the Yamainu training days in Gaiden.
  • Death by Origin Story: The Kumo brothers' parents' deaths had a huge impact on the brothers' lives, such as the decisions Tenka made before the beginning of the series.
  • Declaration of Protection: Lots of them. Tenka wants to protect his brothers and the land they live in. The Yamainu want to protect the nation. Hirari wants to protect Botan. Shirasu makes a very memorable one regarding the Kumo brothers:
    Shirasu: "If you dare raise a hand against the three Kumo siblings, I'll see to your death. What these three people won't doubt, I'll doubt on their behalf."
  • Determined Expression: It's a thing in the Kumo family when they're facing trouble. Botan does it too when she's in battle or a tight situation.
  • Deuteragonist: If one takes the Kumo brothers as the protagonists, since each gets about the same amount of page time, Shirasu is the deuteragonist who gets increasingly more and more page time as the story progresses. This is driven home by the last pages of the manga being about him, or rather his absence.
  • Disney Villain Death: Invoked with Shirasu, who steps backwards over the edge of a cliff after everything he had lived for is gone for good. His brother, the person he's lived for all this time, is dead; the Orochi is defeated, his clan decimated; and he cannot go back to the Kumo Shrine, which he might or might not have considered his home. He also is the closest thing the series has to a designated villain. However, with his Hidden Depths, it's almost impossible to see this as a good thing to happen. In the main manga it's left unclear whether he actually dies, however Gaiden shows that he survives but returns to the Fuma permanently.
  • Dope Slap: ..and kicks, too. A beloved method of communication within the Kumo family when knocking some sense into someone.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Inverted. Soramaru gets to see the face of the prisoner with the fox mask first, recognises it, and then the mask comes back on.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Fuma as a clan are this, as everyone will make sure to remind everyone else for the first half of the manga how dangerous they were, though they suffer Villain Decay due to being rather ineffectual as a whole, except their two Heads.
    • The Orochi; everyone who's ever even heard of it fears the Orochi.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: It's easy to discern who belongs to whom based on the character design.
  • Dressed in Layers:
    • Shirasu, apparently, as he rips off his usual clothes and reveals his ninja dress underneath at one point. This is averted later on, when he actually leaves the room to go and change clothes.
    • Most of the characters in Rengoku ni Warau, as is appropriate for the fashion of the period.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Kagemitsu in Utakata ni Warau has long hair and soft facial features, giving him a feminine look. Lampshaded in his debut when Hirari hears what he sounds like and gives him a confused look while thinking, "A man."
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Subverted. In the backstory told in Utakata ni Warau this is what it looks like when Hirari sees Botan and promptly declares his eternal love for her, but it is later revealed that when he was a child, Botan was the only one who did not treat him like a pariah.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Botan who first appears in Episode 1 in contrast to Chapter 2/Utakata ni Warau. Her appearance in Episode 1 is actually from some scenes in Chapter 7 which were moved here.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit:
    • The isolation cell the mysterious prisoner with the fox mask is held in is always dark.
    • And the sky above Shiga Prefecture is always clouded, due to the Orochi's presence.
  • Evolving Credits: The ED several times:
    • Episode 6 onwards, Tenka is removed from his usual spot following his execution.
    • Episode 8 onwards, Nishiki is added in after Soramaru takes her in. Also, since this followed the episode that adapted the Utakata ni Warau events, Botan, Hirari and Kagemitsu are also added in.
    • Episode 10 onwards, Tenka is added back in, albeit in a different spot, after he's revealed to still be alive.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: In the manga, the Kumo family have completely black eyes with white pupils. It works stylistically but can look a bit creepy.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Ashiya Mutsuki's eyes are rarely seen. They only open when he's being more emotional than usual or being badass.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Nishiki pretends to do one so she can remain at Soramaru's side and take the Kumo swords.
  • Famous Ancestor: Ashiya Mutsuki is a descendant of the powerful exorcist Ashiya Mangetsu, seen in Utakata ni Warau. They seem to have the same powers, power levels and also look a lot alike.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: The crows living at Gokumonjo will do this whenever the mood demands it.
  • Freudian Excuse: Averted. See Parental Neglect below, which, while it did happen, only served as a motivation to change things for the better. The means to do so were all of Shirasu's and Kotaro's devising, and in fact, Kotaro is shown to be the less emotionally stable, despite having gotten the love Shirasu so desperately craved from their mother. Each desired what the other had and they are shown to have bonded over it instead of despairing.
  • Genre Refugee: Kagami Naoto seems to be a refugee from a shounen fighting series brandishing an Impossibly Cool Sword and spouting things like wanting to face some really strong opponent.
  • Gentle Giant: Inukai Zenzo, one of the oldest members of the Yamainu. He's very large but treats the members kindly.
  • Given Name Reveal: The revelation of Shirasu's real name serves as a moment that signals how the shit is about to hit the fan, as it coincides with another major shocker in the manga. It's revealed much earlier in the anime, which reduces the impact.
    • Done again (for the audience only though) in the Gaiden flashback where Shirasu and his twin's true names are revealed. Turns out they were never really both Koutaro and just carried the title together. Their real names are Isuke and Isame.
  • Godiva Hair: Okuni when she is being tortured by the Iga ninja.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Soramaru is a sweet, caring and honest kid, but beware if you have done something bad...
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Botan who is the most graceful female character in the series and sports purple in her hair and clothing.
  • Hangover Sensitivity: Tenka in Chapter 4/Episode 2 respectively. He spent the previous night drinking (with Shirasu) and is made to go to the doctor's that morning for hangover medicine. Later revelations show the hangover is just an excuse for medicine that is for something else entirely.
  • Harmful to Minors:
    • Soramaru watched their parents being murdered at the tender age of five, and then his big brother getting badly injured. Tenka did his best to make him forget.
    • Some of the big families also seem to have rather questionable ideas about what constitutes a proper upbringing of their children. See also Rite of Passage below.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Lampshaded with Tenka and Hirari..
    Hirari: "Did you tell anyone this?"
    Tenka: [thinks of Shirasu and Botan] "Uh... No?"
    Hirari: "Oh god. Who is it? Spit it out."
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the last chapter/episode it's hinted with Kagami. Despite being a manipulative jerk towards Chutaro beforehand, during the final battle he sends Chutaro a piece of his weapon to help him fight. He observes the Orochi's defeat and everyone's rejoice before silently walking away.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Played straight and averted. Soramaru receives the family heirloom swords from Tenka, which marks him as the closest the series has to a designated hero, but due to the prohibition on swords and the swords in question being rusted and bent, he cannot actually use them. On the other hand, the Yamainu (kind of heroic, if you squint at it), who are allowed to carry swords, as well as various criminals (less than heroic), who aren't, sport all kinds of swords.
  • Heroic BSoD: Soramaru gets several instances of great depression and brooding. Chutaro's not left without, either, especially after Tenka's execution where he's visibly shaken even weeks after it happened.
  • Hey, Catch!: Chutaro uses some kind of iron balls with spikes, which he hurls at targets.
  • Hidden Depths: Almost everyone, except the occasional convict mook, is a fully fleshed-out three-dimensional character with their own motivations and background stories. This is one of the strongest points of this series.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: The Fuma are usually good at blending with the environment, but as soon as they come out, the white hair and purple outfits just scream "I'm here!"
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Fuma Kotaro, though it's not really the historical one as the story is set over 200 years after he is supposed to have lived, which makes this a case of a current leader to be named after a former one (as apparently was traditional in the real world Fuma clan).
    • Though only a minor side character in the story, Iwakura Tomomi was indeed the Minister of the Right during the Meiji Era.
  • I Knew There Was Something About You: Said by Shirasu towards Botan when she tells him some important information about the Kumo's swords.
  • Implausible Hair Color: Whether it's the Kumo brothers' and Takamine's black hair with red highlights; Sosei, Hirari and Kiiko's light brown/blond hair; or Mutsuki having grey hair despite being in his twenties, there's plenty of this to go around.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Kagami Naoto uses a kind of Whip Sword that comes out of his sleeves and consists of many sharp detachable sections held together by screws and bolts, which rotate in all directions and can also be used individually for throwing. It is also absurdly sharp, cutting through whole tree trunks.
  • Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Tenka does this so he can spy on Chutaro, made additionally funny because he tries to pass Soramaru off as his infant. A flashback later in the series reveals that Tenka's done that before in order to (half) pose as Chutaro's mother.
  • It Runs in the Family: Nishiki and Shirasu, the two Fuma the Kumo take in, are as different as night and day, yet both are shown or stated to be bad at cooking and washing clothes.
  • It Was a Gift: Tenka gives their family's heirloom swords to Soramaru, who treasures them and aims to become worthy of them.
  • Just Between You and Me: Shirasu lays out his motivation/plan before Botan as he tries to dispose of her. Also doubles as Have You Told Anyone Else?.
  • A Lady on Each Arm:
    • Or rather, a voluptuous shikigami on each arm, if you're summoner Ashiya Mutsuki.
    • In Rengoku ni Warau, Oda Nobunaga is introduced like this.
  • Lady of War: Kumo Okuni is hiding a katana within all the layered finery she parades around. And she very well knows how to use it.
  • Legacy of Service:
    • One of the ninja clans, the Koga, have this towards their masters, since they follow 'people' as opposed to 'money'.
    • The Fuma have one towards the Orochi.
  • Literal-Minded: Chutaro is just that naive. Played for Laughs.
    Soramaru: (finds Chutaro literally in the floor of their house with his head poking out) What the hell are you doing!?
    Chutaro: [Ten-nii] said stay "in" the house. Boy, acting like an adult is tough.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Sosei sports a Samurai Ponytail which further accentuates his very pretty face. He returns to short hair in Gaiden however.
  • Loony Friends Improve Your Personality: Tenka did wonders to Sosei's outlook on life, way back when they were training in the Yamainu. Tenka's cheerful personality helped Sosei to be a bit more optimistic.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Hirari gets his arm blasted off by the Orochi in Utakata ni Warau but just claims that the Orochi's poison cauterized the wound.
  • Meaningful Echo: A rather touching one from Hirari, first said in episode 7/Utakata ni Warau and repeated in the last episode/chapter. It's a sign that his memories have returned and that he finally remembers Botan.
    Hirari: Jump, Botan!
  • Nerves of Steel: Shirasu and Abeno Sosei both qualify due to their calm demeanor. Fuma Kotaro, too, as he's also very composed.
  • New Meat: Takeda Rakucho is the youngest and newest member of the Yamainu. He is a bit hot headed and acts on his own, but he's neither disliked nor cannon fodder, and even gets an opportunity to shine in the final.
  • No Sense of Humor: Abeno Sosei, according to Tenka, due to being The Stoic who focuses on his duties and won't tolerate any messing around.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Hirari towards Botan in Utakata ni Warau, as he's always hugging or holding her, to her (and Kagemitsu's) annoyance. Even 600 years later when he doesn't even remember her, his body still does this by default, to his confusion. And of course he goes back to intentionally acting this way once his memories return too.
  • Older Than They Look: Kagemitsu back in Utakata ni Warau, to Hirari's surprise. When first meeting, the latter snarks that it's time for children to go to bed and Kagemitsu snaps that he's 20 years old, the same age as Hirari.
  • One Twin Must Die: Revealed in the Gaiden flashback to be what the former head of the Fuuma ordered for Isuke and Isame also known as Shirasu and his brother upon birth. It obviously wasn't carried out.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Happens frequently with some characters, such as Hirari losing his arm from the Orochi.
  • Only Six Faces: Many of the characters' faces all look a lot alike, to the point where in the manga especially it's sometimes difficult to distinguish those with similar hairstyles as well.
  • Orochi: Well, duh, yes. Though all it has in common with the original myth is that it's a giant snake, personifying all the negative emotions in people. Basically, the Orochi is a stand-in for selfish individualism.
  • Parental Substitute: Discussed by Soramaru and Tenka when they spy on Chutaro and Botan. Soramu suggests that Chutaro's fond of her because she's like a mother to him, and Tenka notes that it could be due to him not remembering his own mother.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Shown in a side story to have been the case with Shirasu, whose mother was more interested in his twin brother whom she had been supposed to have disposed of but whom she kept alive hidden away. Also due to Shirasu killing his father which didn't sit well with her.
    • Sosei had a good serving of that, too, having been raised in isolation thanks to being a potential vessel for the Orochi.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Botan who is quite ladylike and wears and is associated with pink.
  • Promotion to Parent: Happened to Tenka, who took over all the parental duties after their parents' death.
  • Redemption Rejection: Chutaro does his best to convince Kagami Naoto that it's not too late for him, but Kagami refuses on the ground of not having anything else left but his hatred. Him subtly helping Chutaro in the last episode/chapter hints he's changed his mind.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • The good friends Tenka and Shirasu, respectively. Tenka is Hot-Blooded while Shirasu is more mysterious and has Nerves of Steel.
    • Tenka and Sosei, who are former teammate and now rivals (from Sosei's perspective anyways). Besides Tenka being Hot-Blooded, Sosei is more level-headed.
    • Isuke and Isame or Shirasu and his twin in the Gaiden flashback count as well. Isuke is calmer and more calculating and observant than Isame, who tends to aggressive outbursts and speaking without thinking.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Botan and Hirari. The former is a shikigami whose sole purpose is to seal the Orochi and so reincarnates every time it finds a new vessel. The latter is cursed to reincarnate with only the vaguest memories of Botan and to seek her until they can finally find a way to defeat the Orochi.
  • The Reveal: The story runs on big reveals:
    • When Soramaru finds out who killed his parents — the prisoner with the fox mask, aka Fuma Kotaro... And then who really did it. Shirasu, also aka Fuma Kotaro.
    • What the prisoner with the fox mask was really doing in Gokumonjo.
    • Tenka being a proxy Orochi, due to experiments conducted on him by the government.
    • What the deal with the Kumo family swords is. 300 years ago, the Orochi swallowed the spell that could seal it as well as the swords, which melded together within its body, so now the swords can be used to separate the Orochi from the vessel.
    • For manga readers, after reading the Utakata ni Warau chapters, there's Botan being reincarnated as Chutaro's teacher and Hirari also being reincarnated as a policeman. Their first appearances in the anime aren't particularly significant as their importance isn't known at those points.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Sasaki Kiiko's weapon, in contrast to most of the other Yamainu members who prefer swords.
  • Rightly Self-Righteous: Tenka who has a good sense of moral judgement and knows it. Some might wish he would finally shut up about it.
  • Rite of Passage: The Fuma clan's coming of age rite consists of killing another member of the clan in a duel to the death. Shirasu killed his father, though not on purpose. Changing this is also a big part of why Shirasu made it his goal to become the next head of the clan as a kid.
  • Same Clothes, Different Year: Flashbacks have the characters all wear pretty much the same clothes they wear during the main storyline, and Donten ni Warau Gaiden has them still wearing the same clothes one year after the end of the manga.
  • Samurai Ponytail: Sosei sports one and comes from a samurai lineage. He returns to short hair in Gaiden however.
  • Sarashi: Chutaro wears one, but it's common amongst other characters, too.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: Played with, Kagami Naoto wears a sharkskin scarf and gets his ass kicked by the main cast on a routine basis, though he is no slouch in that department himself — it's just that he keeps picking fights with the wrong people.
  • Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: The Orochi. It revives every 300 years by taking on a new human vessel and then unleashing itself.
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: One name... Kagami Naoto. Got nicknamed "shark boy terrorist" by fans (after Tenka calls him "shark man" at one point) and sports the possibly most stripperific outfit of the series, bordering on Fan Disservice. The good guys, on the other hand, wear perfectly sensible and practical outfits.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Sasaki Kiiko is occasionally hinted to have feelings for Tenka, whom she's known since childhood along with Sosei. She blushes when he compliments her wearing a Western formal dress and she's very distraught after he's presumably executed, to the point that Sosei forces her to take a break so that she won't burden the Yamainu. Also in Gaiden, she offers to accompany and take care of Tenka during his travels, and he agrees to it. Sosei even basically calls him a "henpecked husband" afterward.
    • Nishiki and Soramaru, starting with their exchange before he leaves the prison and escalating further when he offers her a place at his home. Soramaru shows concern for her wellbeing (physical and mental/emotional) while Nishiki often blushes around him and follows him around. In Gaiden, she (tries to) make food for him and he comments how nice she looks with a flower in her hair.
  • Single-Minded Twins:
    • Averted with Shirasu and Kotaro. They do, in fact, share the same name and consider themselves as one person split in two bodies, but they end up showing rather different personalities and Shirasu is clearly the one in charge.
    • Then played straight with Baren and Okuni in Rengoku ni Warau.
  • Slasher Smile:
    • Kagami Naoto is a poster boy for this. He constantly sports one to indicate his psychotic and violent nature.
    • Tenka's got quite an impressive one, too, when you manage to make him angry.
  • The Squad: The Yamainu, the Minister of the Right's personal squad.
  • The Squadette: Sasaki Kiiko. Also the closest thing to Ms. Fanservice in this series, considering her open-in-the-front uniform with just a flimsy piece of torn fabric acting as a modesty bra.
  • The Stinger: One more scene is showed after the ED, normally to set up for the next episode. Sometimes the reveals are done here.
  • The Stoic: Abeno Sosei lives this trope, as he is mostly a Perpetual Frowner with only rare occasions of angry outbursts and smirking.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Ashiya Mutsuki, who traffics with shikigami, seems to have golden eyes, though they are routinely less obvious. His ancestor, diviner Ashiya Mangetsu, had them, too. The latter's eyes also double as Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness.
  • Sweet Tooth: Fuma Kotaro, as revealed in an omake in the manga. Shirasu as well, who apparently makes good sweets (but is otherwise unable to make anything else).
  • Technical Pacifist: Tenka will cheerfully beat the living crap out of you while laughing maniacally and proclaiming himself to be the law, but he will not kill you even if you're a mass murdering psychopath.
  • Theme Twin Naming: The Fuuma twins, Isuke and Isame aka Shirasu and his brother, the two heads of the Fuuma
  • Thicker Than Water: One of the themes running throughout the story, such as the Kumo brothers' bonds and the Fuma clan's loyalty.
  • Those Two Guys: The two policemen who ask Tenka for help every time one of their escorted changes manages to get away. Which is often.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: The reason Tenka wants to find the Orochi's vessel first is to try and separate the two, as he does not want to have to kill an innocent vessel.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The villagers employ those when they want to help out in the final battle to show their worth.
  • The Unfettered: Kagami Naoto wants to kill God (which is what he calls the Emperor) and purge the government for betraying the ideals he used to believe in.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: During his time at Gokumonjo, Soramaru never notices that Nishiki's a girl while she's disguised as a prison guard. He's thus surprised when she reveals her true identity in her ninja gear later on. She retorts that she never said back then that she wasn't a girl.
  • Verbal Tic: Chutaro ends most of his sentences with "ssu" in Japanese. Both Funimation's sub and dub uses "sir" instead.
  • Was It All a Lie?: It is ultimately left open and clues can be found for either answer. When prompted, Shirasu does not answer directly, instead saying..
    "Just as you have a home, so do I. So long as I live, the Fuma will never die. Forever."
  • Wham Episode: Episode 9/Chapter 21, respectively, where Shirasu reveals his true intentions.
  • Wham Line: Delivered by Shirasu when they reveal the Fuma's plans to revive the Orochi.
    "The law of the clan is absolute."
  • What You Are in the Dark: Soramaru has such a moment when he infiltrates Gokumonjo and has the opportunity to be alone with the man who killed his parents. It serves as a character establishing moment, as he only punches the prisoner and tells him to rot in there, as killing him would be too mild a punishment.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Fuma Kotaro, who has white hair and is the Big Bad. Both of them.
  • White Mask of Doom: The creepy isolated prisoner aka Fuma Kotaro in Gokumonjo sports a white fox mask.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Kagami Naoto invoked this. He went on a mass-killing spree against the government he used to believe in and be so loyal towards, but which he feels has betrayed its own ideals.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Done by Shirasu when he purposely got himself injured so that Tenka would take him in, leading Shirasu to gain the trust of the Kumo siblings and use them for his plans.
  • Youthful Freckles: Though an older teen instead of a child, Takeda has some freckles, is the youngest in the Yamainu and is more inexperienced and hotheaded than the other members.

Alternative Title(s): Donten Ni Warau