Before I start on this there is something to quickly clarify. In total there are four different series of Gintama on the anime list. For whatever reason the MyAnimeList database counts different seasons of an anime as separate entries (I guess it’s easier that way for people to comment on seasons that that end up being aired years apart). The Gintama I have watched is the first of the four (which is the longest by over 150 episodes).
I started watching Gintama after I finished watching Haikyū!! some two and a half months ago. I took a break early on to fit in Erased, but since then Gintama has become what I watch between getting home and starting dinner for hub (yes, I know, I sound like a 1950s housewife). It has become an incredibly loyal friend after a day of hitting my head against metaphorical walls.
Now, the reason that I switched to Erased so early on is because Gintama is the ultimate slow burner. I read someone saying online that Gintama is a series that if you give it a lot of patience it will pay off. It’s true.
I think it was around episodes 30-40 where I started to laugh out loud on a regular basis. I started quoting it at work to blank stares. I started humming the hard boiled detective song for a week solid. I even have fan art of Elizabeth and Sadaharu as one of my rotating desktop backgrounds at work.
By the end of watching this show I fell for Gintama in a big way. The only reason I wasn’t sad when finishing off episode 201 (which was a bizarre Christmas themed episode aired in March 2006) is because I know I still have over 100 episodes left in the whole franchise. At the conclusion of this episode it seems like they know they’ll be back they just need time for the manga to tear ahead again.
For all their fourth-wall breaking jokes about their imminent cancellation this is an incredibly popular franchise. I even remember seeing a lot of Gintama franchise when we went on our trip to Tokyo SkyTree. If I had actually watched this before my honeymoon I probably would have spent a lot of yen on merchandise (lucky escape for my bank account).
It’s hard to describe why I love this show. On the most basic level it is the absurd sense of humour. I don’t know why, but on the few times that Gintoki (the main character) dresses up as a regret-filled centaur called Makoto I just lose it completely. Sure there are misteps and there are episodes that don’t quite work (such as the episode that spoofed Saw). It’s hard to imagine a show that ran every week for 4 years not having an off episode here and there.
Another reason that it works is that it is not overly serialized. It therefore means they can spend a few episodes in a video game (called Monkey Hunter) as they try to get screwdrivers removed from their bodies as implanted by aliens. Ditto it allows for an episode where they pretend to be barbers.
However, that doesn’t mean that Gintama can not be serious. I would say there is about a 60/40 split between funny and serious episodes. The actions in these episodes have consequences that remain for the rest of the series (including Tsukuyo (pictured) who quickly became one of my favourites).
Sure, being the type of show it is, there is never any real present day tragedy for the characters to deal with. However the entire show is built on sadness. In this world Japan was invaded by aliens, which included a large amount of bloodshed. There is forced prostitution, poverty, dead parents and so many other sad things that the victories always feel well deserved.
This basically came out as a stream of consciousness instead of having any real structure. Pretty much like this series to be honest. If you are an anime lover who has not seen Gintama then you really need to get yourself over to Crunchyroll right now and start watching. If you are an anime novice – maybe wait a little as you’ll get so many more gags if you start watching other famous anime series.