So while I was writing up the episode recap for this week’s Jojo and trying to make some headway into the belayed DMC5 post, it finally happened. After nearly 2-3 years from the announcement about Gintama having reached it’s final arc, the 16-year old manga epic has come to a close as of a couple hours before the writing of this introduction. I’m not exactly sure how to describe this feeling I have in me right now.
Now, me talking about Gintama is a bit rare for a couple of reasons. As anyone who is aware of the series would know, it is incredibly long and it’s a special case of longevity when you remember how around half of it is comedic while the other half of it tells an actually serious tale of redemption and the weighted history of its characters. So much so that it could be its own series. It’s because of this divide and constant switch between the two aspects that form the series’ greatest strengths, and its greatest weakness in terms of allowing newer fans to access the highs and lows of the series. I personally can tell you that I have skipped a significant number of arcs and episodes and focused on the comedy just to get to the ones that had some of serious parts regarding the main cast’s past. My experience with the series is admittedly fragmented, yet it is a series that I can say that I immensely enjoyed but avoided talking too much about it due to this incomplete experience I had with it.
This isn’t so much a review, more like some late night/early morning ramblings and getting some stuff off my chest on this series that I’ve been wanting to address.
I’ll probably repeat myself a lot from my previous discussion on Gintama from a long way back but I feel like talking about the whole thing again now that it has officially reached its end. My introduction to the series started with the series’ chapter 2 from an english Shounen Jump volume that conveniently started running it alongside with Chunin Exam Naruto stuff, Yu Yu Hakusho in the finale of the Dark Tournament, Yugi dueling with Bakura, and Judai fighting a dude with Cyber Dinosaur. It would be a while before I started reading the series for real when Onemanga was still a thing and having a blast with it until I took a break from the series for a couple of years. Even from just chapter 2, the overall narration of the series changed significantly as Shinpachi, while remaining the straightest straightman in the trio, became a bit more comedic as the series went on, and surprisingly competent in combat, but Gintoki even in chapter 2 showed a lot of character as he screamed about his ideals hinting abut the burdens of a man who went through many a experience in life. Never did I think to expect he’d have such a past as I would come to learn, or that his ideals to live the way he desires and fight for what he cherishes would be expressed that early in the manga.
I returned to the series after stumbling upon some clips of the anime and used Yorozuya Soul to look up the arcs to watch animated while I resumed my manga catch-up. You could tell how re-invested I was now that more of the serious arcs began further expanding the stuff that I enjoyed the most, which was the reasons behind Gintoki’s past, what drove him, and the inevitable battle with him and Takasugi approaching. At some point in my reading though, I tapered off yet again. I think it was around the Red Spider Arc that I took a break before retroactively crying my eyes out during the Shinsengumi Crisis Arc, an arc that happened prior but skipped over initially. To a lesser extent, I also watched the episodes of Mitsuba’s arc but I clearly remember reading that one. Then for the 3rd time, between a less significant time-frame, I came back to watch the Kabukicho Four Devas Arc with that catchy as hell Spyair ending song and how Gin’s history with Otose was even more admirable from what I thought of it. Another sort of time later, I returned to watch Courtesan of a Nation with utter glee as well as going back to watch the Baragaki Arc. Soon after, the Shogun Assassination Arc kicked off a chain of serious arcs that slowly raised the stakes before it
COMPLETELY WENT BEYOND WHAT I WAS EVER EXPECTING.
To summarize what happened, one of the newer characters ends up dying, the long awaited battle between Takasugi and Gintoki takes place, and the nature between what happened between them before the events of the series is elucidated. All that and then it turns out the central figure of Gintoki’s past is now the true enemy of the entire series and Takasugi becomes an ally as a galactic war takes place and everyone imaginable takes part in it in a spectacle that admittedly, for me, took way too goddamn long and I took yet another break in the middle of this war and “final” arc since it took a couple years to finally end. Now that I caught up with some of the last bits where the said final villain was redeemed in the end, the series has come to a close where it mostly leaves every character as they were.
It’s a complicated feeling I have for this series. I definitely enjoyed it, immensely at that, yet I did not have a 100% experience with it which bothers me. Despite not talking about it a lot, I do have a lot of appreciation for a series that introduced so many characters and managed to draw out some legitimate emotions from me ranging some sadness, incredible hype, awe of its scale, and without a doubt, a ton of laughs. It’s also tough to recommend anyone without a lot of time on their hands because it takes a while to get going and get genuinely attached to said characters and getting used to its humor and comedic arcs as well as sticking around and appreciating the serious ones. It’s one of those weird relationships where the more you enjoy seeing the character in silly as shit situations, the more seriously you take them in life-threatening and badass moments and vice versa, you see someone who can kill 50 men do something ridiculous and silly. It’s a very bizarre dynamic that takes a while to cultivate but enriches your enjoyment in full.
The only thing I can say about the finale arc that I mostly skipped was how jarring it was for me to accept that “Shoyo” was the villain all along. I was perfectly content with the plotline that had Takasugi be the endgame of it all where the two students that clashed the most fought for their diverged ideals of what Shoyo wanted but I guess spending an extra year or three allowed Sorachi to write up a finale to make sure most of the cast survived and the power of hope, friendship, and love overcome it all. With how much I enjoyed the scenes involving the Amanto War during the time Gin, Katsura, Takasugi, and Sakamoto, I expected the end to involve them be the ones to end it off and it does turn out that way in the end but the theme of “moving on” kept strong I suppose. Regarding that, having so many of the cast be ridiculously powerful when motivated would set up this exactly sort of grandiose stage to contain it all. Think about it, when even Shinpachi and take down some serious goons, you know that the rest of the cast who can level entire buildings with their attacks could not have Earth be the playground for the majority of the last arc’s set piece when you got an innumerable badasses on the playing field.
I feel nostalgic for this series anytime I watch its opening and endings, which is what I’m doing right now. This is exactly the sort of series that appeals to my incredibly specific sort of appreciation for character interaction between an enormous cast and a ton of in-jokes among them and it’s sad to see them all go. It’s a level of attachment I simply do not share for some of the other large Shounen series that refuses to end like the last generation’s Big Three. Jojo almost falls in that category but at least it has the excuse of changing up its cast in subsequent parts. I’ve been wanting to talk about that last paragraph for quite some time now but never found the time but with Gintama’s end, I decided to stay up a couple hours to finally get my ramblings down. So long Yorozuya, it’s been a blast, I doubt I’ll ever find a series like it again.
Now, I should really get to talking about Bamboo Blade and Kekkaishi.