“The Amanto, aliens from outer space, have invaded Earth and taken over feudal Japan. As a result, a prohibition on swords has been established, and the samurai of Japan are treated with disregard as a consequence.
However one man, Gintoki Sakata, still possesses the heart of the samurai, although from his love of sweets and work as a yorozuya, one might not expect it. Accompanying him in his jack-of-all-trades line of work are Shinpachi Shimura, a boy with glasses and a strong heart, Kagura with her umbrella and seemingly bottomless stomach, as well as Sadaharu, their oversized pet dog. Of course, these odd jobs are not always simple, as they frequently have run-ins with the police, ragtag rebels, and assassins, oftentimes leading to humorous but unfortunate consequences.
Who said life as an errand boy was easy?” – MAL Synopsis
So outside of my Spirited Away review, I haven’t done an anime review since the very beginning of May and there’s a reason for that! The only anime that I’ve been digesting during that period was Gintama. I watched like the first 50ish episodes all the way back in Fall 2019 and I’ve been meaning to finish the entire series for a long time. So here I am. About 7 weeks later and 151 more episodes down. I’ve finally finished Gintama (the first series). This review will be covering the first 201 episodes of Gintama before they took a one-year hiatus. Spoiler alert, I loved it.
Gintama is hilarious. This is by far and away from the funniest anime I’ve ever watched and one of the funniest pieces of media that I’ve consumed period. Through 201 episodes, this show made me at least chuckle multiple times per episode. And the vast majority had a moment, or multiple, that had me laughing out loud literally. It kind of threw me for a curveball how funny this show was and the type of humor it uses. Gintama isn’t grounded in any form of reality. There are constant 4th wall breaks, constant parodies of other anime and other media, a lot of Japanese and American pop culture references. Which on consensus when people recommend Gintama or are bullish on starting it. People often sight the abundance of Japanese pop culture references that someone not from Japan would understand. That’s true, but two things combat that. One is depending on the subs you watch there will always be a connotation explaining the majority of the pop culture references on screen. Second, a lot of the references are anime references and it gets to the point where the show is referencing and parodying itself more than anything. So don’t let that be a deterrent. What made Gintama’s humor all work for me is that anything can happen in this show. Which makes it surprising and also not surprising when said events or gags do happen. Every episode I had that constant thought of “something wild is about to happen” and also “wtf did I just watch, I can’t believe something THAT wild just happened” I love it. The gags are great and they help characterize each member of the cast. While at any given moment someone can or will say something so stupid it’s funny.
As the series goes on how the characters will act or what kind of joke they’re about to make becomes predictable in a good way because It meant that I really knew and understood these characters and I was fully engaged in the show and the world. Each character has their own gags about them and things that they say often. I love how the gags are long-running. A joke that’s said in the very early episodes will casually carry on for the rest of the series. A random joke will randomly make a comeback or get referenced 5, 10, or maybe even dozens of episodes later. A joke will unknowingly to us, the viewer, foreshadow a more serious set of events that happens way later. I love that sort of attention to detail within the comedic writing in this show. That excellent writing carries over and matters a lot when the show gets serious and when it’s time to evoke another emotion outside of laughter. Comedy is the gateway to every other emotion and Gintama nails it. Also as a side note, this show has some very vulgar comedic moments. So many sexual or grotesque jokes. Not saying they aren’t good, but it’s always funny to me how vulgar this show can really get at times with its gags.
The overall story is a fun ride. In most episodes, we follow the Yorozuya (or Odd Jobs) while they help someone with any matter of issues. Another episode might focus on one of the Shinsengumi (the police of the show) and see what type of ridiculousness they get into. And then you get the occasional episodes following one of the many great side characters in this cast. Before I even get to the character section let me say. Gintama has the greatest cast of characters in anything I’ve ever watched. Even the most minor characters that were only in less than a handful of episodes are fantastic. Back on track through. Out of the 201 episodes, there are only maybe 35 maybe 40ish “serious” episodes. Serious meaning the tone of the show gets darker, more dire events occur and a main villain for that arc is introduced. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the gags or funny moments are gone. I actually think the funniest moments in the show are during these more serious episodes and arcs because of the tonal juxtaposition. These episodes/arcs are great and make watching all the humor-focused episodes beforehand even more worthwhile. Those episodes breathe life into the cast. Making the more serious stuff hit harder than I think it would have. With that being said though, there are only like 4 “serious” arcs (each about 4-7 episodes) and a handful of more serious 2 episode mini-arcs or stand-off episodes. That’s not to say everything outside of that is all fun and games, because each episode has its fair share of down to earth heartfelt moments. Mainly because that’s kind of Gin’s go to the end of episode thing, to give a nice “moral of the story” type speech that never gets old. But the majority of the show is a comedy and there are even a couple of hilarious long comedic arcs and a good few multi-part comedy episodes. Mixed in with all of that are yearly traditions that the show does like the recap episodes or the Christmas episodes that are enjoyable every time they come around.
As a full package, these 201 episodes have it all, they manage to stay semi self-contained within their own episode or arcs. While also building towards future events in the show and fleshing out past events and characters. You can pick a random episode and watch it or even if you wanna only to watch the more serious stuff you can. Events in the show all matter but most of it is really just a context thing for gags and what not. I would advise watching every episode though. As an aside, the futuristic feudal Japan that aliens have taken over is such a unique backdrop. That’s used somewhat not enough but simultaneously a great amount throughout the show. It really heightens the ridiculousness of everything when a character will randomly travel to another planet or some weird alien shows up. But at the same time even though there are constant reminders that aliens rule the nation and swords are banned. We mainly interact and see humans and so many damn characters wield swords. They even joke during one of the recaps how the show really lost its initial premise which is funny but not fully true.
Gintoki is one of if not my favorite character ever (I know I say that kind of often). A lazy silver-haired man child in his 20s who has dead fish eyes and loves to read Jump. The leader of the Yorozuya is always cracking jokes and acting childish but he plays a lot of roles in the other cast members’ life. A great friend to most, sort of a son to Otose, and almost a fatherly but definitely a mentor figure to Kagura and Shinpachi and a rival to a few, among other things. Every stand-alone episode and end of longer arcs has him giving his inspirational speech filled with wisdom gained from the rough life he had growing up and the trials and tribulations that he went through. Speaking of which, I love how all of those details are hinted at and drip-fed throughout the series. By episode 201 a full picture of his past hasn’t been revealed but there’s been enough given away to hint at stuff and it’s all interesting. Gintoki embodies everything I love about this show. He’s hilarious but can evoke every other emotion with his actions and words. Basically, everything I’ve praised in the paragraphs above, are my reasonings as to why I really love Gintoki as a character. He does it all within this show and he is the glue that keeps every aspect of this show together.
Shinpachi is the first one to join Gintoki in episode 2. I like Shinpachi enough. Often the butt of a lot of jokes and often catching strays or just straight-up shots from Kagura for no reason. He’s the designated straight man of the show 90% of the time. He is very self-aware of that and makes very funny jokes about it all the time. But it got to a point (around the 150ish episode mark) where I found it kind of grating and annoying. Every joke he would explain and deconstruct it. As the series went on it got progressively more annoying. There are a lot of other scenarios where other characters play the role of the straight man during a gag and it works great. But when Shinpachi is in a scene it’s more than likely he’ll be the straight man which is kind of sad because when he’s actually part of the gag or the one acting weird it’s always hilarious. I wish they broke the mold with his character a bit more. Since has the second most screen time, according to himself, in the show. Besides that, I love his interactions with Gin and Kagura as well as the rest of the cast. There’s always a need for that level-headed character in comedies, but toned down a bit I think I would enjoy his character a lot more.
Kagura is very close to being my favorite character. She acts like Gintoki in a lot of ways. Their personalities are very similar and they often partake in my favorite past time which is clowning Shinpachi. Hell, there’s even an episode where Gin is sick and she takes up his role. Costume, mannerisms, and post problem resolution insightful comments and in all. But she also has traits that make her stand out. She’s more brash, aggressive, and very childish. Which all makes sense seeing as she’s probably only about 13-14. Which adds a lot to the very father-daughter relationship she and Gin have that’s shown off heavily throughout the series. Oh and not to mention she’s one of the few remaining people of her species (Yato) who are super strong, have skin tough as steel, and carry an umbrella that triples as protection from the sun, a weapon, and a god damn machine gun! I really liked Kagura and the more I think about it, the most heartfelt and tear-jerking episodes center around her. She’s really one of the emotional cornerstones of the show. Learning about her past and the remaining people of her clan is always a treat and sets up a lot of future events. I think it’s safe to say she might be the funniest character in the show. Her jokes and gags never cease to make me audibly laugh. Kagura is just the best.
Gintama has the greatest cast overall in anime. I loved 2/3 main characters and I’m impartial to the other. But these side characters are pretty much all phenomenal. The main trio of the Shinsengumi are hilarious. Hijikata, Sogo, and Gorilla-san (When I first wrote this, for the life of me I really couldn’t think of his name.) are great. Hijikata is like the other side of the coin to Gintoki and they clash all the time. The arcs revolving around him and his hilarious predicaments are very well done. His character quirks are so weird and unbecoming of what you’d think his character would be initially. Like this dude is a Mayo fiend. It’s actually disgusting how much mayo he ingests during his screen time. This makes it all the funnier that he’s voiced by Zoro’s va and is personality-wise a lot like Zoro in some ways. They even have the same moniker, as Toshi is known as the Demon Vice-Chief of the Shinsengumi. It’s hilarious. Sogo is a sadist who seemingly lives to mess with Hijikata and make his life hell. I enjoy their relationship a lot. The backstory to it and the subsequent story arc that accompanies that backstory is heartbreaking. Sogo is also always budding heads with Kagura. Seeing as their both the youngest in their respective groups and both have very aggro (in different ways) personalities it makes sense. Also, it’s interesting how much respect Sogo seems to have for Gintoki. He’s always calling him Boss and their interactions are great and never hostile. The last of the Shinsengumi members is their boss Kondo aka Gorilla-san. Kondo is so stupid it’s hilarious. His main thing is being in love with Otae (Shinpachi’s sister) and constantly stalking her. Another good funny character but I don’t have too much to say about him. The main Shinsengumi members are great.
Katsura is firmly in that third spot on my favorites character list for this show. The dude is hilarious. If he’s not correcting people on his name (even when being interviewed on live tv undercover) he’s up to some stupid high jinks in the name of the anti-foreigner faction of which he’s the leader of one of the many factions. His past and connection with Gintoki are interesting and seeing the drip-fed pieces of their upbringing and time during the war was very has me very hype for the eventual full reveal. All his gags are funny and he has some of the most absolutely hilarious self-centered episodes. But where you find Katsura you’ll also find Elizabeth. Which is his “pet” who’s just an uh. Well, I think the journey of finding out what Elizabeth is, is well worth watching this show on its own. so I won’t spoil it. It’s peak comedy though. Two more side characters that get a good amount of screen time are Otose and Otae. Otose being the owner of the bar under the Yayuroza place. Gin and her relationship are really sweet and her interactions with the Yayuroza as a whole and the bar staff feel very motherly. Otae is Shinpachi’s older sister and basically Kagura’s older sister too. Once again her interactions with the main cast are great. I like the subtle chemistry and romance she has with Gin.
So look. I’ve talked about 10 characters to varying degrees and that doesn’t even scrape the surface of the cast. I’ll just say as a whole I loved this cast to death and I can’t wait to spend more time with them and the eventual new editions as the series progress. Unfortunately, this review would look like a college essay if ran down a list and elaborated on some of my other favorites. But I do feel like I should at least briefly mention the main villain that’s not in a lot or even a vast majority of the series so far but has a pretty big impact, Takasugi. The dude is just interesting. I want to see more and I need his full backstory asap. He’s always sort of the main threat looming just around the corner. Can’t wait to see more of him. Also, Tsukuyo is the best girl no debate, but I’m not even gonna talk about her.
Gintama’s animation is okay most of the time. Like a lot of other long-running shounen. The animation only really turns up for hype or big moments. Which this show is very self-aware of. They often make jokes about going over budget and what the budget was spent on. I will say the animation being alright, for the most part, didn’t really bother me because for one, once again, this show is very self-aware of that fact and has multiple episodes where they joke and gag on that. There’s literally an episode that for the first half of it, the animation is just the storyboard with a few things added. But that goes into my second reasoning, which is, this show is mainly comedy. There’s a lot of action but it’s mainly comedy. So I can excuse the okay animation at times because I don’t need or expect like Unfotable or WIT Studios levels of animation for like a poop joke or a DBZ, or Bleach parody. Also, I find it hilarious that for basically every episode during this series 4th year. They were either hyping up a movie version of the first serious arc (Benizakura). Which in turn they had gagged about a handful of times years before. And also telling the audience that the show is finally converting to digital and not being in 4:3 aspect ratio anymore. Then this run of the show literally ended a month before that aspect ratio change lol.
As an avid anime watcher, it’s so funny to me when I watch long-running shounen and they each have their patented songs for a specific moment. Gintama is no different. But the overall soundtrack is great and is always great no matter how many times you hear that melancholy piano beat when a sad moment happens or the knock-off Imperial March beat, among others. The openings are great. Some of my favorite ever. Voice acting-wise I already touched on the Hijikata/Zoro connection. But man while all the voice actors here are great. They all stand out in their own way and breathe life into the cast. And I really liked Kagura’s voice actor. Gintoki’s voice actor is just stellar. Being a comedy that’s this random. There will be a lot of utterly stupid and bizarre situations the characters will be in. Gintokis va (Tomokazu Sugita) is so damn versatile it’s mind-blowing. The vocal range that he can accomplish while always still being Gintoki is just pure talent and I don’t know if there’s a voice actors award out there. But he should be one of the most decorated if so. Overall though, amazing voice acting through in through from everyone.
So yeah. This review is very long so I’ll keep this short and sweet. I sectioned off about 2 months almost to just watch this and I would (and will again soon lol) do it all over again in a heartbeat. Gintama is a masterpiece. If you haven’t watched it. Watch it. If you don’t think you’ll like it. Watch it. If you watched a few episodes and didn’t like them. Watch it again. If you watched and consumed all and everything Gintama already. Give it a rewatch.
Gintama – 10/10
Writer Notes – I think I’m gonna start adding this to the end of each of these reviews just to give an update on what’s to come. Just to avoid another content drought like this one without updating. Sooo I’m currently watching 86 and that review will be up probably this weekend or early next week. After that, it’s back to Gintama! Only 51 episodes this time so it should only take me a few weeks to finish. I think I’m gonna watch the Benizakura stand-alone movie and do a more spoiler-heavy review on that sometime this weekend tho so stay tuned for that!