Gintama is awesome. It has been a while since I read any of it, over a year or 2 in fact. I have gotten around to re-reading a couple of volumes in the last couple days. It amazes me how it can still make me laugh as much as it does. I am not a big fan of a majority of anime comedy for pretty obvious reasons. but things like Chromartie Highschool and Gintama really blend with my sence of humor. They play everything so straight faced and with such great timing that it just works.
I remember in high school when I first heard of Gintama I did not know it was a comedy. I just thought it was another shonen series I would probably never get around to seeing. Then a friend of mine started talking it up and saying how good it was, I remember there were particularly ecstatic over the Death Note parody episode. I watched a coupled episode and was not too drawn in, because quite honestly when it is trying to tell its serious sotry or not doing kind of a series of one off stories it is not that good. I hate to be the guy that says you have to watch/read to a cretin place in the story before it gets good. With Gintama though, It is kind of forgivable because it has to set up its characters so that when there is character related comedy you understand it. I think once you get past the first 7 or so episodes and or the first volume and a bit of the series you are in the clear for a good time.
Explaning the plot of Gintama is rather pointless seeing as most of the time the series is doing one off stories that don’t really connect to one another thematically. But the basic out line of the story for those who don’t know is about Gintoki. He is a jack of all trades and gets through life by doing odd jobs in the crazy version of Japan he inhabits. Where the past and future are one, people dress in kimonos but their is air-ships and aliens. Gintoki also has two younger compatriots, Shinpachi and Kaugra that live with him and help(or hinder) him in doing his freelance jobs. There is also an over arching story about dark pasts and figures from them that intend to do evil but that is not really center stage to the point of Gintama, nor what makes it so good.
Gintama is the only manga series I know of that can do parody well, especially when it is doing parody’s of other shonen series. It knows how to capture the flavor of what it is poking fun at and at the same time make it really funny and clever. Here is one example of it doing parody really well. In this clip from the anime there are two characters are having a boxing match in the style of Hajime no Ippo(Fighting Spirt) and/or Ashita no Joe.(Tomorrows Joe) They fight in the same over the top style like they would in those shows but here they are having a boxing match to see who’s fan club gets to be the official fan club of an idol girl. In situations like the fromaly mentioned Death Note parody episode. They capture they style of that very well too. In showing exactly how silly it is to have characters think back and forth about how they are out smarting one another. Though here its not life and death they are fighting about but as to who will get the meat! And really inset that way more appealing anyway?
The parody in Gintama is awesome, but even better then that is the character and story driven gags in it. What makes it work is Gintoki is kind of the straight man to the crazy world and people around him. While Gintoki is often times part of the comedy he is the one we are siding with. While Shinpachi may be the audience identifiable character, Gintoki is the character who you are suposed to see as the main character. Besides Shinpachi stops having relevance as the audience character after the first arc of the story. All the best comdey in this series comes from the characters doing crazy things or doing things that you would not expect from them. One of the most memorable gags from the series I can think of is the “Neo Armstorng Cyclone Jet Cannon”. The characters are building a snow sculpture that is clearly shaped like a penis and Shinpachi seems to think so too but all the other character just keep remarking “Oh! thats a really good Neo Armstorng Cyclone Jet Cannon sculpture!” We laugh at it as kind of a “Oh, haha its a pretty good penis joke in a shonen manga” but then later in the series you see the real Neo Armstorng Cyclone Jet Cannon! That’s when it comes all the way around again to awesome funny because it really was just the Neo Armstorng Cyclone Jet Cannon all along.
Gintama may not be for everyone, like I said it does have its slow parts especially the plot at the beginning. But even when it has those points later on in the story you know those characters much better and even the intense parts can be funny and sometimes even genuinely engaging. There is so much I want to say about this seires but most of it would amount to “Oh man! There is this really funny part where X does Y and this crazy thing happens”. I’d really like to avoid spoiling every good joke so I will leave it at this. Gintama is a really great comedy. If you are at all a fan of anime and comedy, especially if you like shonen series. You will most likely get a huge kick out of Gintama!
- You can buy Gintama on DVD from Sentai Filmworks here or watch it straming on CrunchyRoll here.
- The manga is available from Viz Media here (though they only published volumes 1-23. I understand if that is off putting but I assure you that you will not be disappointed.)