The Odd Jobs are back with more gut-busting shenanigans
What They Say:
It’s the era of Feudal Japan, and times are a-changin’. With the Amanto’s invasion of Earth, society took a drastic turn and the age of the samurai quickly faded. The nation’s capital of Edo has become home to people and creatures from every walk of life. Take a stroll down its familiar streets and just above the bar Snack Otose, you’ll find the home of our main trio.
Yorozuya Gin-chan is a vaguely established business run by sweets-loving freeloader Sakata Gintoki. He, along with glasses-wearing straight-man Shimura Shinpachi, the devilishly-strong yet childish Kagura and their dog Sadaharu make up the Yorozuya. This motley crew takes on an excess of jobs from the large cast of friends and freaks spread across Edo and beyond.
The long-running king of Weekly Shonen Jump comedy, Gintama finally makes its way state-side with a physical Blu-ray release from Funimation. With 250+ episodes on its coattails, this release is targeted at fans of the series. Unfortunately, licensing for US distribution has jumped around over the years and finding previous episodes on physical media is hard to come by. So if you aren’t caught up to this point, I suggest streaming the earlier parts on Crunchyroll or sailing the high seas. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on one of the most consistently funny anime to ever do it.
Sunrise veteran Katsuyoshi Kobayashi makes his return as music supervisor, with former co-director Shinji Takamatsu taking the helm of sound direction. One of Gintama’s secret weapons has always been its music. Gintama’s mangaka, Hideaki Sorachi, is a master of tonal shifts – he’ll have you laughing one minute and crying the next (and then laughing again a few minutes later). Kobayashi’s music has always been pin-point in matching the atmosphere, and often elevates the impact of dramatic scenes. And once you’re 200+ episodes deep, you grow a sense of familiarity with certain sound queues, character themes, and other mood-specific background music.
This is probably the nostalgia talking, but there are so many tracks on the OST that hold a special place in my heart. Some of my favorite tracks include the emotional piano arrangement “Koko wa Samurai no Kuni da”, the groovy beat on “Ah Kimochi Warii, Futsukayoi da na Korya”, adrenaline-pumping jam “Sesuji Nobashite Iki te Kudake Yotsu!!”, and the show’s main theme “Temee Raaaa!! Soredemo Gintama Tsuiten no Kaaaa!”.
Aside from the OST, Gintama has always had a good reputation for its opening and ending songs. Gintama themes stick to a tried-and-true formula of upbeat and catchy melodies that defines the sound of most Jump series’. The first opening is “Day x Day” by BLUE ENCOUNT, a fist-pumping jam that’ll have you chanting “Day by day by day by day” until you’re out of breath. Ending one is a little more light and fluffy. “Destiny” by NEGOTO feels a bit stiff at first, but by the time the chorus kicks in, you’ll wish you had some glow sticks to wave around as you bop to this wonderful tune. CHiCO with HoneyWorks are no stranger to anime openings and “Pride Kakumei” lands a spot on their ever-expanding portfolio. The band brings an unmatched energy and CHiCO’s powerful vocals elevate this song from good to great. Ending two is “Saigou Made II” by Aqua Timez, which adds another one to the long list of infectious Gintama themes. Kobayashi has a talent for choosing some great earworms, and the batch included in this span of episodes includes some of the strongest.
With the announcement of Gintama making its return in 2015 (under the title Gintama°) a red flag popped up in the form of a studio transfer. Anime juggernaut Sunrise would hand over the future production of Gintama to its relatively new subsidiary studio, Bandai Namco Pictures. While many were worried, especially with some fan-favorite arcs around the corner, Gintama’s director, as well as some other key staff would make their return for Gintama°. Thankfully, Gintama’s return looks as sharp as ever.
To add some context, years ago during my original viewing of Gintama, the visuals weren’t an element of the show I paid much attention to. Having watched it on Crunchyroll’s free video player (which has since been upgraded massively) or through some less-than-honorable websites, I’d be lucky if I ever saw Gintama in anything above 480p. But with this physical release in 1080p HD, it’s like the fog has been lifted. This rewatch has made me appreciate how crisp and clean this anime looks most of the time.
That’s not to say the animation or art is superb, but for a show that ran an entire year without breaks, I can’t deny that it’s consistent. While this batch of episodes didn’t contain too many battles, the animation does take a step up when it needs to (i.e. during the finale of the Shinigami Arc). But people aren’t here for the fight scenes (okay maybe some are), they’re here for the laughs! BN Pictures litters this season with goofy reaction images – so many that I probably doubled my watch time just to stop and screenshot funny facial expressions. Personally I think Gintama’s original run with Sunrise had more personality in its character animation, but BN Pictures does manage to elevate the art with their still-shots. Overall, I’m satisfied with the way things look.
This Blu-ray + DVD combo pack is bursting from the seams with 7 discs (3 Blu-ray, 4 DVD) holding 26 episodes of Gintama goodness. The sleeve and front cover highlights our silver-haired hero Gintoki, while the reverse cover features the female leads chatting over lunch (though Kagura is the only one stuffing her face). A small art book is also included, with some beautiful spreads of your favorite characters.
The menu is pretty standard fare, featuring a static screen with the cover art of Gintoki. The Shogun’s theme plays in the background as you skim the menu, though there isn’t much to navigate aside from audio setup and an episode list.
Sadly, there are NO extra features included in this release. While 26 episodes is a lot of content in and of itself, I feel like there’s a missed opportunity here. Gintama is no stranger to the 4th wall and unapologetically promotes the physical release within the show. Episode 274 explicitly has Odd Jobs attempting to boost Blu-ray sales, so it’s a shame they don’t go the extra mile and give us some bonus content.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Let’s get this outta the way because it will inevitably confuse some people. This Blu-ray release is listed as Gintama Series 3 Part 1. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to find physical releases before this one, and older DVD’s split up the seasons differently. I’ll hand over the mic to Ginpachi-sensei for a quick breakdown:
The original run of Gintama, animated by Sunrise, ran for 201 episodes from April 2006 to March 2010 (Series 1). Gintama would return a year later as Gintama’, running 51 episodes from April to 2011 to March 2012 (Series 2). After its hiatus, the series was handed over to BN Pictures and Gintama° ran for another 51 episodes from April 2015 to March 2016 (Series 3). This Blu-ray contains the first 26 episodes (Part 1). As a result, Series 3 Part 1 covers episodes 266-291. Alrighty, you got that? Cool, now let’s move along.
By the end of Gintama’, it looked like the show might finally be coming to an end. Gintama has a tendency of trolling its fans with fake endings, but this time seemed as sincere as it was ridiculous. Titled “We’re Sorry”, the main cast spend the final episode apologizing (quite poorly) for all of the fake outs, toilet humor, and blatant parodies. Sorachi even makes an appearance (in his typical gorilla form), to give his own apology. Of course, this is all tongue-in-cheek and the show ends with its true message – “We’re sorry we’ll never give up (on dirty jokes)”.
So after a three-year hiatus, how did Gintama make its triumphant return? The only way it knows how – by apologizing for their own incompetence. Episode 266 opens with Gintoki holding a press conference to apologize for yet another fake ending. But this is no ordinary press conference – it’s a spoof of Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura’s bewildering apology from a year prior. The opening gag of the new season would come to shock editors across Weekly Shonen Jump. Gintama was back and ready to dish out more of that crude humor we’ve come to love.
Series 3 Part 1 comes as a mixed catalog of one-off episodes and short, two-to-three episode arcs. Personally, I don’t think these aren’t the strongest episodes of the series, but they’re a great warm-up before the emotional weight of Part 2’s narrative. Despite them not being my favorite, I still got a lot of enjoyment from this group of episodes. You can’t really call anything in Gintama filler, but these episodes give off the vibe that they’re easing on the gas pedal for now. Gintama’s laidback, episodic formula actually gives it some advantages as a long-running series. Most other serialized franchises get muddled by power creep and narrative turns that leave its cast in the dust. Because Gintama’s main plotline only surfaces every now and then, it gives us plenty of room to flesh out its characters, even some of the really obscure ones.
We see appearances from Princess Soyo, Zenzou, the remaining members of the Four Devas, and we get two episodes focused on Anpan-eating detective Yamazaki, as well as two episodes starring Seita, the son of the courtesan of Yoshiwara. Not only are low-key characters given some love, but a few wacky, brand new characters are introduced. From sentient sound effect Ham-san, to a dead cat with half of Gintoki’s soul stuck in its asshole, these extremely obscure individuals become the center of attention across their own multi-episode arcs. My personal favorite is Korokono, a flagrant parody on Kuroko no Basket and the shadow fourth leader of the old Joui Rebels.
It’s important to note that Gintama is and always has been a character-driven show. All the time we’ve spent laughing at the ridiculous residents of Edo helps deepen our connection to them, which is why our feelings resonate so much more when things get serious. While this batch of episodes is more likely to make you shed tears of laughter, there’s a nice mix of heartwarming material thrown in there. Both of Seita’s episodes deal with family dynamics, and his resolution to connect more with Tsuyuko and his adoptive mother Hinowa is downright adorable. We’re also treated to a flashback arc focused on Sakamoto and his right-hand Mutsu. It doesn’t matter that we’re almost 300 episodes deep, Sorachi finds a way to hit us with new details about characters we’ve known from basically the beginning.
In terms of story-driven arcs, the Shinigami arc is the best Series 3 Part 1 has to offer. It’s a bittersweet tale of political corruption and family, and gives us some more insight into Gintoki’s bloodstained past as the “White Devil”. This arc has the best looking art in this collection and leaves us with a chilling setup for the show’s next major villain. The tale of the Executioner marks the peak of this season’s first half.
Now I’m not gonna end this review on such a melancholy note. I want to talk about my favorite gag arcs and episodes from this collection! (I realize these episode titles are extremely long, but they’re part of the charm so bear with me).
“You Can Hide Your Porn Mags, But You Can’t Hide Your XXX” has Gintoki assisting Shinpachi in hiding his dirty magazines with…stimulating results. Leave it to Gintama to focus an episode on such an embarrassingly relatable topic.
“When Compared to Time in the Heavens, Fifty Years of Human Life Resembles Naught but Dreams and Lottery Tickets” gives us a classic Gintoki vs. Hijikata episode. A lottery ticket worth 300,000,000 yen causes Hijikata to see the world as a deadly Fist of the North Star rip-off. As he and Gintoki fight over the ticket, the two end up in a precarious situation and end up heisting a bank together.
Maybe my favorite gag arc of this batch is the Confessional Arc. With Tama becoming extremely popular at Otose’s bar, Gintoki decides to pull a quick scheme to rake in some money. He builds a makeshift chapel attached to the bar and uses Tama as a front for fake confessionals. But with every new customer, his plan tumbles further and further out of control, until by the end, he’s left Edo in a state of emergency – the Shogun has gone missing. But he hasn’t really gone missing, he’s simply lost his memory…and joined up with the Joui Rebels. The 2nd half of this arc has Zura *ahem, excuse me* Katsura takes the Shogun (or as he calls him, Sho-chan) under his wing, only for the Shogun to one-up Katsura as a leader in every sense of the word.
Gintama° really tries to nail every trope in the book with this collection, as we see a gender-bend arc, a ‘Freaky Friday’ soul-swapping arc, and a frozen-in-time arc. While these story setups feel overplayed, they fit Gintama like a latex glove. All of these scenarios are perfectly plausible in this ludicrous world, and I’d happily watch Gintoki and the gang tackle any plot thrown their way, no matter how contrived.
Gintama° Part 1 isn’t the best the series has to offer, but it’s a strong return nonetheless. The lack of extras or special features is a bit of a letdown, but there’s enough Gintama content here to please just about any fan. It isn’t exactly hard to find an excuse to rewatch Gintama, so if it’s not already in your collection, I whole-heartedly recommend these Blu-rays to any other esteemed followers of the Odd Jobs Code.
Dolby TrueHD English & Japanese 2.0 audio, art book, Funimation promotional trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
Run-time: 650 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080P High Definition (HD Native)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
LG 55UH6090 60” 4K UHD Smart LED TV, Xbox One X Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 4K, Sony STR-DH550 Receiver 5.1 Surround Sound System, Sony SS-MF600H 200w Tower speakers (x2), Sony SS-SR16 60w surround speakers (x2), RCA RT2300 70w center speaker, JBL SUB500 150w subwoofer