We’re halfway 2016 but I can’t help but feel I’ve missed a memo at some point. I mean, live action adaptations have been a constant thing in the Japanese movie industry, but with over a 35 of those projects having been released or announced in these first six months I feel like we’ve hit a new height.
You could say that it’s a thing for a lot of romance series to get adapted when they’re nearing the end, but this time around it’s the big names such as Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist, Gintama, Tokyo Ghoul, Isshuukan Friends (One Week Friends), and Sangatsu no Lion (March Comes in Like a Lion) that are on the schedule. When it comes to the big ones you can debate that most of them were somewhat expected, but there’s a lot of random stories that have seemingly slipped under the radar only to suddenly show up in front of us with announcements. This time around, we’ll be laughing under the clouds.
Donten ni Warau(Laughing Under the Clouds) is a six-volume manga series which started in October 2010, and ended May 2013. It received an anime adaptation nearly a year and a half later, as well as a stage play which debuted February 2015 and got a second run recently. Earlier this year, the next part of the project was officially revealed to be a live action adaptation.
With the ban on carrying samurai swords and the increasing violence and crime, the 11th year of the Meiji era is nothing near 100% calm and in control. Left with infinite complaints and people’s dissatisfaction with the ruling, the government can’t do anything but open a new big prison island. Receiving the duty of transporting criminals over the waters to the prison are the three Kumou brothers. But a manga wouldn’t be a manga if there weren’t stories to be told, and so Kumou Tenka, Soramaru, and Chuutaro, are confronted with both dramatic and unforeseen changes to their steady lives.
Now, I’m not really too confused when it comes to the news of a Donten ni Warau live action adaptation, but the casting for it has always kind of been on my mind. Who would they cast? Would they stick to the ages of the boys, or would Chuu and Sora suddenly be a bit older? Do they even have the budget to cast some bigger names, or will we be getting more rookies? Will the CG be at least decent, or will this end up a disaster before it’s ever even started? To be honest, we’re a few months further and apart from the reveal of one casting, the director, and the scriptwriter, I’m not any wiser.
But let’s take a look at the brothers.
Youngest and first on the list is Kumou Chuutaro (bottom). He looks up to his older brothers Soramaru and Tenka, and tries his hardest to support them with their jobs such as helping them by tracking down fleeing suspects, and laying out traps. Only being 12, Chuu is still very naïve. He doesn’t have the skill to fight like either of his older brothers, and has a habit of crying easily.
As the middle brother, Soramaru (middle) is the most serious and responsible out of the three. He knows that if he doesn’t keep levelheaded, both of his other brothers would just fool around all day. While being serious and rather mature for only being a 16-year-old, he still struggles being the middle child. Carrying his late father’s weapon, Sora lives with the goal to try and earn his older brother’s respect by one day surpassing him in.
At 24, Tenka (top) is the oldest and strongest of the Kumou brothers. Having been the head of the family since the untimely death of his parents, he cares a lot for his younger siblings and wants them to have a normal as possible youth. Tenka is very popular among the townspeople, and always gets into light-hearted conversation with whoever he meets. His smiles, laughs, and (bad) jokes are part of his personality, yet hide his inner worries.
As revealed earlier this week, Kumou Tenka is set to be played by Fukushi Sota. In age, the two make a nearly perfect match with Fukushi currently only being a year younger than our lead boy Tenka. By the time this movie will see its release, their ages will match completely. But apart from that, I’m a little worried. Surprised as well. Aside from Fukushi’s acting skills not really being up par with the role (imo), we need to remember that Tenka is a main lead. A position he shares with his two younger brothers, Soramaru and Chuutaro. For Tenka to be cast (and revealed) separately, I’m kind of concerned the story will have more focus on him rather than Sora who is essentially the main main boy. I could also be looking way too deeply into it, and this is nothing but Fukushi’s agency not wanting their guy to share the spotlight with anyone else. It might just be the PR team wanting to reveal the brothers one by one, or perhaps some other cast’s agency acted up. If I’ve learned anything through these years, it’s that literally anything is possible by now. But in the case of Donten ni Warau, the fact that the three brothers weren’t revealed at the same time is pretty odd.
Then now what?
But it makes me curious. While it’s pretty certain Chuu will be played by a young kid (if they keep him as a 12 year old), Sora’s actor should have at least some industry worth with all the screen time and focus he’ll get if they remain truthfull to the manga. With Fukushi in place, the actor for Sora can be anywhere around his as well as the actual character’s age. Considering all that, it gives us nearly a 7 to 8 year bracket of young actors to look into. At one side, they could easily go for someone who just looks very young, but with the sudden boom of actors born after ’96 it wouldn’t be weird for one of those rising stars to take away the lead boy role. While Kitamura Takumi is a personal fave, and could probably pass as being related to Fukushi as Tenka, there’s a lot more of them out there to consider.
Next to the main cast, there’s Kumou family housekeeper/Tenka’s closest friend/ex-ninja Kinjou Shirasu (right), a character incredibly important to the progress of the story, as well as Abeno Sousei (left) and his Yamainu squad who are essential to the fights. If they even get that far, there’s also somewhat of a second story running along the main which focuses on Abeno Hirari and Botan. And that list doesn’t even include the proper antagonists yet.
With all those roles left to fill, while at the same time wondering if all of the characters will make it into the movie, there's sure a lot of young actors and actresses who could easily fit.
Recording for the movie started at the end of June and runs till the end of August, with a release planned for next year. The script was penned by the same person responsible for the anime series’, Takahashi Yuuya, and the project will be directed by Motohiro Katsuyuki. More news on the cast and production should be revealed later this summer.