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Gintama: The Motion Picture Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Only those that like the series/manga will come to see the movie. I wonder how much truth there was in that…

What They Say:
Odd Jobs Gin has taken on a lot of odd work in the past, and when you’re a Jack of All Trades agency based in a feudal Japan that’s been conquered and colonized by aliens, the term “Odd Jobs” means REALLY ODD jobs. But when some more than slightly suspicious secrets from the shadows of Gintoki Sakata’s somewhat shady former samurai past and a new pair of odd jobs collide, the action is bound to get so wild and demented that only a feature film will do it justice!

Sit down, strap yourself in, and make sure you’re not wearing anything too tight or constricting as the junior half of OJG takes on the task of tracking down a tenacious terrorist while their silver-haired slickster of a partner seeks out a certain sword in the stunningly side-splitting and screwy Gin Tama!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as it features a pair of 5.1 language tracks in lossless form using the DTS-HD MA codec. While a good part of the series is obviously dialogue based, it has its areas where it goes big and they play out very well using the surround channels. When it deals with dialogue though, it’s primarily a forward soundstage based feature that has a good sense of depth and placement to it while also bringing in a very rich sound mix and warmth for the music and action effects. The film plays a lot like the series in that it hits a wide range of styles at times and the audio presentation captures it well. In a lot of ways, the soundtrack here is the best part of the film as the action scenes, particularly when it comes to the guns, uses the whole soundstage very, very well.

Originally in theaters in 2010, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature is the only thing on the disc as there are no extras, so it has plenty of space to work with when it comes to its just under one hundred minute runtime. The film plays to a lot of different styles when it comes to how it looks on screen, from dark and serious samurai material to more comical bits that go bright and over the top. It can go from simple and static to dark and busy with a lot of detail in the blink of an eye and the transfer captures it well with the slight feeling of film grain to it. Some of the background colors don’t look as solid as they should, but there’s no visible banding and the smoothness of it overall works well. It’s a good looking transfer that lets the animation shine through with all its variety.

The packaging presentation for this release is very straightforward as it uses a somewhat dark looking and practically blurry image of Gin kneeling with his sword out, serious expression to his face, set against a black background with the autumn moon behind him. The logo is the same as we’ve always seen and it looks good overall, but the character artwork leaves you feeling iffy on it as a whole. The back cover plays to the same style as the TV series releases from Sentai with the block segments where it uses bright colors to separate things up. The character artwork is solid and engaging and it has a cute tagline that definitely works for it. The summary covers things fairly well but did feel like it was just one long run on sentence, which is strangely appropriate for the film. Add in some shots from the show, solid production information and a clean technical grid and you have a good looking back cover that works better than the front. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for the release is very simple with just a good, expansive piece of illustration artwork of the team in action where it has a good angle for the view. The illustration style works very well in giving it a richness and texture that lets it stand out and the colors are strong and very appealing. It sets the mood well for at least part of the movie, though it certainly could have used some sort of instrumental music instead of just dead silence. Submenus are quick and easy to load and the language setup is a breeze. The show defaulted to the Japanese language track with subtitles as per our players’ language presets.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Five years after the OVA debut and 201 episodes on TV, Gintama gets its own movie. And all that I could think at the start of it here as it plays to a few different styles is that they’re doing a nice job of giving it a very Monty Python and the Holy Grail feeling. When it comes to this property, I’ve seen the fifty odd episodes that Sentai released in their four collections, which were subtitled only whereas this release is bilingual, and I watched some of the simulcasts but gave up since there were about a hundred and fifty episodes between where I left off and where they started up again in 2011 and it just plainly wasn’t accessible at that point. Which is part of the appeal of the show as the series is very insular and self referential while it still mocks plenty of other things. In a way, it’s one huge series of in jokes after another. Even the opening of the movie here talks about whether they should do a bit of background or not since the only people who would come to see it in the theaters were already very familiar with it. It’s a cute gag and works well, but there’s that oversized kernel of truth to it as well.

For the feature, there’s a lot of gags to be had, especially at the beginning, including some nudity that thankfully gets the mosaic treatment. The main focus of the film though is to do a new telling of the Benizakura story that was done, just tightened up, with a bigger budget and likely some changes. The arc was one that hit in the late 50’s of the anime series adaptation and came at a time when the show was starting to work more serious material into it so that it would be more than just gags but also a dramatic series while still retaining the right winks and nods and self referential and mocking material. The film captures that transition well here with the humor at the start and then digging into the meaty material as Gin’s past comes to haunt the present.

And it happens in a pretty rough fashion as he ends up in his first confrontation here where it takes the others coming in to save the day and stave off the attacks on him when he was just going through a normal odd job. It’s quick and brutal as they’re all taken down relatively quickly, but it allows us to get to the past more quickly, to see when Gin was far more dangerous than he seems in the present. Things have been light and fluffy with only a few dashes of real violence, but it’s here where we see his dark past and what he did as the White Knight years ago. The flashbacks are well played to build up the drama and intensity well since it lets us see the changes he’s gone through and just how different of a man he is now. But also the weight of the darkness that exists in his past.

The focus in the present on the sword, a very intriguing sword that bonds itself well to its user, is what brings all the disparate elements together and it allows us to have some good back story on what it means to create and wield a sword in general, and one as powerful as this. There’s the interesting statement at one point about how, in this age of cannons and guns, that a high tech sword would come into existence that exceeds everything else because of how it integrates itself with the user. Seeing Okada wield the sword is certainly a sight to see, reminiscent of the Akira film in some of its visual cues, but it works well to paint the image of power to it. With Gin understanding all of it, it makes it easy to see why he takes it as seriously as he does, even in his kind of laid back approach to things.

While there’s the whole story about overthrowing the shogunate and so forth, I have to admit that the story to the movie didn’t really grab me, much in the same way that the TV series had a hard time holding my interest when it got serious. I had more affection for it when it just kept to being silly and episodic. What I did find with the movie is that I really enjoyed it just from a visual sense, seeing the cast in a big situation like this and going at it with abandon. But also when it retained its humor as well, such as the spitting contest with the phlegm that Kagura gets involved in or seeing Elizabeth going all out with her weapons. The softer moments with Gin work well too, but the action side let Shinpachi shine a lot which made him very fun to watch. The overall narrative simply didn’t click for me, but I enjoyed the individual scenes without really being interested in the story as a whole. Which sounds weird, but I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Gintama since the first TV series DVD set and it’s extended into the movie as well.

With this being the first time that Gintama has been dubbed into English, we did sample that track throughout the film. There aren’t any standouts in terms of actors that don’t work well, but with having seen so much of the show in Japanese, nothing really felt “right” either, but that’s simply because I’m bonded to the original cast. They do rough things up in the dialogue a bit at times, which can be disconcerting since the show deals with coarse language in a playful way. The “Gintama 2” bit after the credits in particular shows this as the Japanese track has a lot of things bleeped out for comedic effect. The dub has then swearing like drunken sailors. For me, that just didn’t work and left me cringing a bit as it didn’t feel right.

In Summary:
Bringing in just under $13 million in its Japanese theatrical release, the film did well enough and certainly pleased its fans. Sentai’s release here is a solid one overall and definitely gives the film the attention it deserves with a very good and fun bilingual track where the cast just gets to run the gamut of emotions and jokes. The characters and property overall is one that I like because it does go big, weird and fun in so many ways, but it’s also one that I have a very hard time really being a strong fan of. It hits a lot of very good marks, but it never won me over in a way to make me a fan. The movie made me laugh quite a few times and I liked the way it was able to really show off, and it is a huge love letter to the fans to be able to do something like this with a good budget. Fans of the film and the property in general would do well to grab this and enjoy it to the fullest.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 29th, 2012
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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