Laughter Land: First Impressions: Trial

Title: Laughter Land
Company: Langmaor
System: PC
Release date:10-27-06

When comparing a dull life of parental restrictions to the grand tales of adventure and heroics, who would refuse a paradise of never-ending fun and games? Richard is offered the chance to exchange his day-to-day boredom for the kind of fantastical journey he has always yearned for, but what he finds is beyond even his most wildest dreams.

While only intending to amuse himself at the town festival, Richard’s life is changed forever when he is approached by Guillered, a charming but secretive pierrot. The lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur as he reveals the existence of Laughter Land, an idyllic utopia for boys who never want to grow up. Before Richard even has a chance to agree, he is whisked away before he knows it, and the impossible comes to life: talking stuffed animals, magic, jungles filled with enormous beasts―but the storybook atmosphere of Laughter Land is too good to be true.

Guillered explains to Richard that each boy is given a red jewel upon entering, which represents how pure and child-like his heart is, but he neglects to mention that the red jewel can become dark with maturity, and once it becomes entirely blue, then the jewel’s owner is considered an adult. Adults, or “Blues”, are forbidden to stay in Laughter Land, given only two options: execution, or exile to the slums, where they can be sold into slavery or forced out onto the streets.

From the synopsis alone, all is not as sweet as it appears to be, and the real enjoyment is in the suspense as to how the protagonist will change and grow―will he take responsibility, but curse himself to become a “Blue”, or will he enjoy his time as a “Red”, without any concerns beyond his own desires? Unlike other Langmaor games, made infamous for their shock value, Laughter Land‘s true horror relies on neither sexual brutality nor monstrous violence, but in the ticking clock that will eventually go off, as the true nature of the plot is exposed and Richard will inevitably take action, whether for better or for worse.

With delicate, watercolor artwork, fantastic costumes, and especially adorable character designs, on an aesthetic level alone it has set itself apart from the overt, perhaps overbearing, masculinity of other yaoi titles. The music, while pleasant enough, unfortunately doesn’t meet the same standards of its illustrations, as it is rather average and not particularly memorable.

While not as popular as other works by the same company, partly because it is one of few Langmaor games which have not been brought overseas, I would consider it to be their crowning achievement. It has easily the most lavish presentation in terms of art and paper dolls, without the minimalist treatment earlier titles suffered from, and the story is the most intricate they have to offer. If yaoi-ge are ever to be considered again for translation, not only does Laughter Land have the additional perk of being a product of a company with a previous overseas agreement, but it should also be considered for its sweet yet sinister plot, as an unexpectedly, yet delightfully, dark story.

Characters:


Richard “Dick” McBane
Though his heart is in the right place, Richard’s innate sense of curiosity and adventure leads him to decisions he later regrets. While he has his moments of skepticism and at least tries to think before acting, he often agrees to commitments before seriously considering the consequences. He is rather mild-tempered and agreeable, though he becomes easily frustrated with the strange laws of his new home, eager to know more.


Guillered
Capable of traveling between worlds, Guillered is responsible for bringing all the boys to Laughter Land. Although his exact intentions are left to speculation, he attests that his purpose is only for the happiness of everyone. At least, his sweet, playful demeanor does seem entirely genuine, and his kindness is far from suspicious.


Roddy
His infectious optimism and adventurous urges make Roddy an invaluable friend, as he is always willing to help others in need. Each day means something new and exciting on the horizon for him, and he constantly looks for a companion to accompany him on his journey.


Ioan
In spite of his youthful appearance, Ioan is remarkably intelligent, working as an apprentice librarian, and often found fervently studying in the company of his familiars. He is very shy and easily flustered, with a gentle and peaceful nature: even something as small as injured mice or withered plants deeply upsets him.

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