You couldn’t pay me enough to watch 350+ episodes of anything, let alone some 2000s parody anime. That’s what I’d tell my friends when they’d sit me down and harp to high heavens about how amazing Gintama was. They’d go on and on about how I’m sorely missing out on some of the best entertainment that the Otaku World had to offer, solely because of my rigidness. And I couldn’t imagine why because how good can a comedy anime be to warrant that kind of devotion?
Turns out, a lot. I sat down to start the show around summer last year and here I am, finally done. And boy, do I have a lot of thoughts. I mean, after nine full seasons, it’d be odd if I didn’t have anything to say but whatever. Because I’m not usually a slapstick comedy fan, I didn’t go into this expecting much. Though it turns out? I was pleasantly surprised.
But first, a little background. Gintama is the anime adaptation of the manga with the same name by Hideaki Sorachi, centered around a samurai and his cohorts. Originally set in Edo period Japan, the mangaka decided to mix science-fiction elements with the historical setting since they believed it would benefit how their characters grow as the plot went on. And that’s how the aliens came into play.
So, let’s get this straight: You have forbidden samurais, a hostile takeover, a giant dog, and three people just trying to make ends meet while unknowingly starting an insurrection against the invaders. All while going through hilariously surreal circumstances that make fun of some of the biggest anime of the era. And yet still having a cohesive enough plot to keep you invested? Gintama is truly something special, so let’s see break it down.
Gintama: What’s The Story So Far?
So, to say that I was shocked when I realized that there was a plot to Gintama beyond being a parody of various anime is an understatement.
It starts absurdly enough. Welcome to Old Japan, aliens known as Amanto have taken over and the Shōgun just gave up, striking up a deal with them, making the Shōgunate itself no more than a puppet government.
Enter Gintoki Samata, a strange ex-samurai who now works as a freelancer, doing everything from delivery to security to pay his rent. He comes across Shinpachi Shimura while aiding him in saving his sister, Tae, who decides to take Gintoki on as his mentor (also, the freelancing would help out with the bills). And when super-strong teenaged alien Kagura joins them, the trio becomes known as the Yorozuya, literally, the ‘We’ll Do Anything’ gang.
It’s during these many errands that they end up meeting the Shinsengumi Police Force who teams up with Gintoki when it comes to pursuing criminals. Because even if Gintoki seems like an aloof and eccentric hippie? Turns out he is an exceptionally enigmatic person, even being acquaintances with Kotaru Katsura who leads the Anti-Amanto resistance group, basically a terrorist organization.
The show seems all over the place in terms of story, but that’s just the nature of Gintama. However, when we get to meet Utsuro, somehow all those loose ends get tied together. And it’s up to Gintoka, alongside his friends and foes alike, to save the world.
A Masterclass In Balancing Acts
Whatever I went in thinking about this parody show, it turned all those ideas over and presented a show that’s somehow both comedic and well-written. I mean, you can count on one hand all the references it makes to the Shonen of the time, like Naruto Shippuden, Bleach, and Dragon Ball, to name a few. And in between those puns and jokes, there is a genuinely engaging story taking place.
Gintama is a juxtaposition of writing in the best of ways. Its funny moments clash with its more heartfelt moments, and yet it never feels like one overpowers the other. It’s amazing how balanced both the plot and parody are, working in harmony to deliver an anime that is equal levels stomach-achingly funny and tear-inducingly earnest. The show knows how to keep the watcher entertained without letting any of its jokes go stale. For someone as picky as me? That’s a feat worth mentioning.
And Gintoki is a great protagonist. He’s uninspired, jaded, and just wonderfully weird all at the same time. It’s no wonder people are so drawn to him; I mean he isn’t perfect but that’s what makes him so interesting. How he interacts with the people around him, the shenanigans he gets into, and how the past he has already lived and lost affects his present, it’s just A+ character development. Especially for something meant to be a parody.
Is Gintama Worth It?
Somebody described Gintama as ‘the anime for when your dreams are burning around you’ because of how relatable Gintoki’s regrets and hope feel. And honestly? I get it. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Gintama is worth watching 375 episodes for.
Have you tried Gintama before? How was your experience with the show? Let me know in the comment section below!