Gintama: A Personal Review
What is Gintama?
Gintama is an anime (based on the manga by Sorachi) set in the Edo period of Japan, when aliens (known as the Amanto) have invaded the Earth. Sakata Gintoki, Kagura, and Shimura Shinpachi run an “Odd Jobs” business in Edo trying to make a living. Working as the “Odd Jobs” or “Yorozuya,” this trio meets and befriends many people, and adventures ensue.
Gintama has been given a rating of 10/10 for me personally, but this does not indicate a lack of flaws. There are dozens of imperfections but overall, the amazing aspects of this anime are so wonderful and astounding that the flaws are easily overlooked.
The characters of Gintama have a special place in my heart. They are some of the most beautifully written, unique, and strange characters in anime. Each character is so tragically flawed that it is real in an unrealistic way (if that makes sense), and it is their flaws and the ability to be more than their flaws that make them so intriguing. Many characters are also wrapped in layers and depth that are slowly uncovered and peeled back as one delves deeper into the anime.
A perfect example of the flaws, layers and beauty of the characters would be the main character himself.
The main character is Sakata Gintoki, who I could talk about forever. At first glance, Sakata Gintoki appears to be a lazy (but attractive), good-for-nothing, sweets-loving, nose-picking, pathetic excuse for a samurai. After being used to bold, determined, young and shining shonen heroes such as Naruto and Luffy, I was both surprised and excited with Gintoki’s character. He is like a breath of fresh air; something new and refreshing.
It is evident since the start that Gintoki is flawed, exhibiting traits that aren’t usually seen in heroes. It appears that he always takes the easy way out, has no ambition nor motivation, and isn’t the best role model. This, however, only scratches the surface of the complexity and realism of his character.
Once Gintoki is placed in threatening or serious situations, you are completely astounded by him as his true colours are shown to be that of a mesmerizing and wise hero who will protect what (or more particularly, who) he loves at any cost. Delving in even deeper, you begin to both sympathize and empathize with him as his past is revealed to be not particularly pleasant but unlike most protagonists (or antagonists), he does not complain about his past, seeking retribution. His past remains in his past, and he focuses on the present.
Gintoki is funny, he is flawed, he is heroic, he is amazing, and he is real. There is a raw realism to his character that makes him so relatable, because people don’t go around all the time preaching happiness and optimism. Sometimes they’re lazy. Sometimes they don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes they’re flawed. Sometimes they seem hopeless. But when the situation calls for it, their true colours will be revealed and their strength will be shown.
Something very interesting about these characters is that some are loosely based on historical Japanese figures. For instance, the Shinsengumi is based loosely on the real Shinsengumi that existed in Japan during the Bakumatsu period. (i.e. Okita Sougo, the best swordsman and manslayer is based on the historical Okita Soji, the top swordsman of the Shinsengumi.) It is interesting to learn of Japan’s history while watching a lighthearted adaptation of people who once existed in Japan.
One more thing to note about the Gintama characters is that right off the bat, they are strong and confident in their abilities. This is interesting for me personally, because I’ve watched many shows where the main character has to train and grow to become strong. In Gintama, even a fourteen year old illegal immigrant girl has monster strength (there is a reason for that…).
The characters of Gintama are a huge part of what makes the anime so compelling and masterful.
I’m sure people who know something about Gintama believe that this anime has no plot. I personally never understood that opinion. Yes, Gintama is separated into a dozen short arcs, but there is an overall central focus of the government, rebels and issues (such as discrimination) with the Amanto in the anime that is becoming more and more prominent (especially in the recent chapters of the manga, but I digress).
Normally, I am a huge fan of a central, developed and main plot for an anime (one central goal, like getting your limbs and your brother’s body back ehem ehem), but Gintama is an exception, because it’s formula regarding arcs and plot works wonderfully.
There are small arcs that can range from 1 episode to around 9 episodes. Often, the comedic ones are much shorter than the serious action arcs. A great thing about how this is formulated is that anime fans who want to watch Gintama but do not want to invest too much time can watch an arc here and there without worry. Although some arcs are interconnected or may overlap slightly, generally one can watch a random episode and understand what’s going on.
People who enjoy comedy and lightheartedness can simply watch the comedy arcs. People who enjoy action and angst can watch Gintama’s astounding serious arcs. People who want the full (and best) experience can simply just watch all of it.
Gintama’s comedy arcs:
Huge Warning: there are some crude jokes and its comedy can be a bit inappropriate at times. (I.e. D*ck jokes)
The comedy of Gintama is heavily based on anime parodies or references, so Gintama is great to watch for avid anime fans. (They’ll be able to understand the jokes easily). Regardless, there is information included with the subtitles that explain the jokes. Sure, the parodies are great, but they are not my favourite part of Gintama’s humour.
This anime’s sheer amount of things outrageous and unexpected is what sometimes makes me fall over laughing. Sometimes it can be so idiotic, so laughable and so hilariously “derp.” Gintama never ceases to surprise. One begins to expect the unexpected and just to catch you off guard, Gintama gives the expected which is unexpected, and the unexpected then ricochets and hits you right in the face, leaving you speechless then breathless with laughter. One also gains great insight regarding the characters.
Gintama’s serious arcs:
They are masterpieces, and that is an understatement. The emotion, the depth, the atmosphere, the suspense, the angst, the sorrow, the tears, the intensity, the epic-ness, the fights…they all far outclass any other anime I have seen thus far.
Like the comedy arcs, they are filled with the unexpected, but they are always unexpectedly genius. Great examples include Yoshiwara in Flames (my personal favourite), Shinsengumi Crisis, Shinigami, Courtesan of a Nation, the Four Devas, and the Benizakura Arc (which astounded people so much that a movie adaption of the arc was made).
There are not enough words to describe how beautiful the serious arcs of Gintama are, so I’ll leave it at this; after watching the serious arcs of Gintama, I am no longer satisfied with most other anime.
I honestly (I will not lie) found Gintama boring at first. I tried to get into it, and it was boring, so I gave up. A few months later I tried again and gave up. Then I decided to watch a serious arc first (I had watched about the first twenty episodes already, so I knew the characters well) and was thoroughly impressed. Slowly, I began choosing and watching different arcs until I watched all the episodes, and now I’m watching the ones being released in subsequent order.
So, if you guys start off without being particularly interested, don’t be discouraged. If you want action, it begins in the 50s of the episodes.
Soundtrack (Ops and Eds):
The Gintama soundtrack is unique, filled with personality and distinctness. The Gintama openings have been beautiful with depth, wonderful animation and beautiful songs, and many of the Gintama endings have either been just as captivating, or cute. The OST can sometimes be hilarious (Baka Ouji’s OST) or devastating.
Like the anime itself, the music perfectly encompasses how diverse Gintama is, and how it can range from a serious, sad work of art to lighthearted and comedic to epic and brimming with action.
Not the best animation per se, especially the older episodes. The new episodes, however (Gintama 2015) are of stunning quality, colour and motion. Every character is also gorgeous (no matter how quirky they may be), so that’s a plus. The fight scenes are beautiful and just about perfection, but sometimes during comedy or lighthearted arcs, the proportions are a bit off for the characters.
10/10. The rating of the anime. The main character’s birthday. (yep, Gintoki’s birthday is October 10th). Go watch Gintama, and you won’t regret it.