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A story of ghosts and gunpowder
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Beneath The Clouds is a webcomic set in Heian Japan. It is part of the Spider Forest webcomic collective

Genza has walked many paths in life: nobleman, outcast, father, exorcist, and monk. He's offered a chance to to redeem himself by undertaking a perilous journey to Heian Kyo. Will Genza be prepared to confront his own demons in order to save the life of the man who exiled him, will his daughter Masako make a new life for herself in the city, and does a stranger met on the road offer a chance for a new way forward?

Beneath The Clouds updates Mondays and Wednesdays. The first page can be found here and the author's website here.

As of July 2019 a Visual Novel The Long Rains based in the same world, can be downloaded for free at itch.io.


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Tropes:

  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Subverted, Genza is an old man and gets beaten up pretty badly when bandits attack their travelling party.
  • Anachronistic Clue: The comic's tagline is "A story of ghosts and gunpowder".
  • An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost: The evil spirit possessing the Emperor is an ikiryo, the spirit of a living person.
  • As You Know: A character on an Exposition Diagram page remarks:
    Don't you know that illness is caused by wandering spirits of the dead?
  • Bandit Clan: The party runs into a bandit ambush on the road.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Shut up, Eiji"
    • "Tenth son!"
  • Coming of Age: Masako starts the story as a naive teenager unsure of her place in the world.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Juro and Eiji kick and distract each other while sword training. Bushido wasn't invented until the 1600s.
  • Country Mouse: Juro at court. Masako as well, but to a lesser extent.
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  • Deadly Decadent Court: The Heian Imperial Court.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Eiji.
  • Death Is the Only Option: The ikiryo possessing the Emperor is Genza's living spirit and he will die when it is exorcised .
  • Downer Ending: The ending of Chapter Nine. The exorcism ceremony fails. Masako is forced to banish the living spirit of her father, killing him. The Emperor is dead and fires are ravaging the city. Juro and Eiji are a lauging stock at court and have no choice but to return to Hitachi with nothing to help their family's fight against the Kiyohara.They also have no idea what happened to Masako,and Juro has searched for her for weeks.
  • Due to the Dead: Genza's duties as a Buddhist exorcist include performing cremations.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: Proto-samurai Satake no Juro features prominently in artwork. He doesn't appear until late in Chapter Three, and the two main characters are a teenage girl and an elderly monk.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Juro's father, Lord Satake.
  • Expy: The character designs for Juro and Eiji are younger versions of Tajoumaru and The Dead Samurai from Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted, as the Satake clan have discovered Chinese gunpowder. Justified as they can't figure out how to use it without blowing themselves up. They decide to offer it to the Emperor in exchange for support against their rivals, the Kiyohara.
  • Follow That Car: A variant in Chapter Eight:
    "Follow that palanquin!"
  • For Your Own Good: Genza wants his daughter to have a comfortable life in the capital, not a dangerous life in the provinces.
  • Good Parents: Masako and Genza work together happily and they've travelled together since she could walk.
  • Historical Webcomics
  • Horse Archer: The Satake samurai.
  • Holier Than Thou: The ikiryo accuses Genza of being a "hypocritical priest". It has a point.
  • Honor Before Reason: Played straight by Genza, who holds a funeral for murder victims even though this puts his companions, including his teenage daughter, at risk. Subverted by Juro and Eiji, who ambush the bandits from a distance rather than fighting them with swords.
  • Ill Boy: The Heian Emperor.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Satake clan.
  • I See Dead People: The two main characters can see ghosts, but only during their exorcism rituals. However the ghosts can possess Masako during the ceremony, giving them the ability to interact with others.Masako also sees the ghost of her late mother during an exorcism ceremony.
  • Jidai Geki: Heian Period (794-1185).
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Juro's name means "tenth son".
  • Murasaki Shikibu: Most of the female characters are Genji fangirls.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: The court messenger Masahiro is fond of this. It ends badly for him.
  • Missing Mom: Masako's mother died in a house fire when she was very young.
  • Naginatas Are Feminine: Juro teaches Masako to use a naginata because "if they can't get close to you, they can't hit you." She puts the training to good use.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Genza did to get exiled, it's never mentioned.
  • Overprotective Dad: Genza rebuffs Juro's attempts to court Masako because he wants his daughter to have a comfortable life in the city, even though Juro saved their lives, and Genza admits that he's a good man. To be fair, Juro's province is at war.
  • Powers via Possession: When Masako is possessed by a spirit, her eyes glow and she is capable of inhumanly fast reactions. As the ghosts are often angry, bitter and disorientated, it's more of a liability than a help, and the effect only lasts for a short time.
  • Redemption Quest: Genza was a rich courtier before his exile. He is offered the chance to redeem himself by curing the Emperor.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Genza's bitterness and resentment created a living spirit to torment the Emperor who exiled him. He sacrifices himself to exorcise the spirit. It is implied that Genza's sacrifice redeemed him, as he's reunited with his late wife in the afterlife.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Juro is impulsive, enthusiastic, and blunt , Eiji is reserved, calm, and sarcastic, though they both have their moments.
  • Rich Bitch: The Heian courtiers, who entertain themselves by baiting provincial visitors and comment that a house fire doesn't matter because the property was owned by a peasant.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: The wealthy courtier Nobutaka and the provincial warrior Juro are both interested in Masako. Subverted in that while Juro is poor by the standards of the Imperial Court, he's still a lord's son.
  • Road Trip Plot: Most of the cast travel on the Tokaido Road from near modern day Tokyo to Kyoto (Heian Kyo).
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Eiji, who bickers constantly with Juro, technically his superior officer.
  • Scenery Porn: Parts of the journey along the Tokaido Road, especially Mount Fuji.
  • Shirtless Scene: Juro's topless sword practice.
  • Shout-Out: One of the court ladies remarks "Is there someone new?" and various characters from Studio Ghibli films appear in the backgrouds of city scenes,
  • Sword Pointing: Masako does this at the end of the bandit attack. It impresses Juro, even though she doesn't know how to use it properly.
  • Sun Tzu: Juro quotes the Art of War occasionally, for example when giving Masako helpful tips to prepare for the Emperor's exorcism ceremony. It doesn't impress her:
    Masako: "It's a religious ceremony!"
    Juro: "Do you want to win or not?"
  • The Dreaded: Ikiryo, rare spirits caused by the bitterness and jealousy of living people. Genza says that "a thousand armed men are no protection" against them.
  • The Makeover: Masako gets one in Chapter Seven. It doesn't stick.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Nobutaka gives Juro a fairly epic one in front of the entire court:
    Nobutaka: "Let me guess, the Hitachi clan's losing the latest turf war?...Ladies and gentlemen - another rustic begging for an audience with the Emperor! You haven't figured it out yet? If the warrior clans unite you're a threat! The Emperor wants you to fight each other! It's what you do! It weeds out the feeble! We'll employ whoever wins! Give up and go home!"
  • Together in Death: Genza is reunited with his late wife.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Genza agrees to try to save the Emperor. However he does admit to himself that he'd like to refuse "just to see the look in his eyes", before admitting the thought isn't worthy of him as a monk.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Juro, apparently.
  • Wham Line: "It looks like you!"

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