If you’ve been around anime for a while, you are almost certainly familiar with GinTama. You may not know it, but you’ve likely seen a GIF or random out of context screen shot of some random comedy. This show has been running in anime format since 2006 and had a recent season release for Winter season this year and a continuing season for Autumn of this year. The thing about this show is that its akin to a Japanese equivalent of the Simpsons but that synopsis belies the fact there is so much more. Taking place in an alternate universe Edo Peroid (1860’s) in the same era give or take of Rurouni Kenshin back when he was a crazy killer but also focusing on and including the Shinsengumi as major characters.
While the Shinsengumi were the original focus of this comedy anime, it instead focuses on the ronin Gintoki Sakata, proprietor of Odd Jobs Gin as he and his team of Odd Jobs employees make their way in this alternate universe where instead of America coming by and using a show of force to open up Japan’s borders, its actually aliens, called Amanto who invade, with samurai banding together to fight them off. This gives us the setting of a traditional samurai period piece with characters based off real samurai (please note the name similarities above) with modern and futuristic aspects such as vending machines, cell phones, cars, rocket launchers, and space ships.
The rest of the main cast of Odd Jobs are Shinpachi Shimura and Kagura. Shinpachi is a young up and coming samurai and the son of a late dojo owner who alongside his sister try to restore their family’s school (albeit only for a little while before the premise dies off and is returned as a self aware trope). He typically serves as the straight man of the comedy joke, being the only sane and/or serious character to better contrast and accentuate the other’s gag humor. Kagura is a tomboyish alien of the Yato race typically wearing Chinese style attire. Yato are a hyper violent and endangered race of individuals who are characterized by their immense power and sensitivity to sunlight, hence her use of a parasol, which also doubles as a powerful melee weapon and machine gun (think Penguin from Batman). Special mention goes to Sadaharu, a daemonic massive dog who is very kind and nice but tends to nom people’s heads.
The supporting cast include a number of interesting and interrelated characters. Tae Shimura or Otae, Shinpachi’s ultra violent cabaret girl older sister, who serves as a role model for Kagura as a strong independent woman but tends to create dark matter when she cooks. Old Woman Otose, Gin’s landlady, took him in after finding him starving eating food from her husband’s grave and tends to keep him on the straight and narrow, even if she gives him a hard time about his late rent payments. In the Shinsengumi, we have the Chief, Isao Kondo and Vice Chief, Toshiro Hijikata as the predominant characters. Kondo seems on the serious side of things but is really an idiot often mistaken for a gorilla who is obsessed with and often stalks Otae in highly illegal ways. Hijikata serves as the Shinsengumi’s straight man, often referred to as the Daemonic Vice Chief. He created the Shinsengumi Articles of Bushido, which were rules to which the Shinsengumi members had to abide by or commit seppuku. On the other end of the spectrum is the Anti-Foreigner Faction terrorist (or JOI patriot depending on perspective), Kotaro Katusra or Zura as he is often called. You’ve likely seen memes or references to his line, “It’s not Zura, It’s Katsura!” Obviously due to his anti-government stance Katsura is often at odds with the Shinsengumi and it is only due to their mutual incompetence that they are stuck in a stalemated game of cat and mouse.
There are dozens more characters but I’ll try to keep this article short. There is a number of comical references and tropes and gags the show makes and I could just as easily just have posted 50 GIFS to give a brief snapshot of how funny the show is from episode to episode. Above you see that there’s a number of comical aspects from pop culture references such as Nintendo Wiis, Mario, Obama/Will Smith references, over the top violence (I mean come on, samurai fighting with rocket launchers is pretty funny) and a number of other aspects make this show pretty entertaining, especially if you understand Japanese culture. The show presently has 328 episodes spanning the past 11 years and I found them all entertaining and fun, especially the early ones that had translator notes that explained the jokes. The TL Notes died off around episode 200 or so when they shifted to 16:9 and improved their art style drastically but by then I learned enough to get the jokes. Most of all, beyond the jokes is the story line for serious arcs. Gintama likes to throw you for a loop by including surprise feels into episodes, where you think its another one off gag episode but end up realizing that it was really a heart warming episode about love, loss, family, friends, or some combination of above. This random aspect leaves you really entertained with the show not getting stale, even when it does “filler” episodes. My favorite example of this is where they do a review of the characters rankings of popularity. This ends up becoming a mini-arc where the characters begin 4th wall breaking and attacking one another to drop each other’s rankings. This is an example of the sort of humorous outside the box comedy I love about Gintama. Have you watched this show before? Do you find it just as entertaining or am I just insane? Let me know in a comment and leave a like! Please! I’ll give you 300 yen!!!