Edo faces its darkest hour – this is the peak of Gintama’s serious side
What They Say:
Hideaki Sorachi’s Gintama is a beloved part of Weekly Shonen Jump’s long running history – a series that seamlessly blends its comedic foundation with hues of drama and narrative undertones. But as we approached 300+ episodes, the past that haunts Sakata Gintoki has caught up to him. His reputation as the “White Devil”, his ties to Takasugi and his former teacher Shoyo, and the Amanto invasion of Earth – everything that’s been alluded to across this long journey finally rears its ugly head.
The dismantling of the current shogunate has left Edo in a state of disarray. The city we all know and love is rapidly being transformed and the usually happy-go-lucky citizens have lost their reason to smile. In order to protect their way of life, Edo’s residents will need to fight. Comedy will have to take a backseat this time around. Including two of the most highly regarded arcs in all of Gintama, Series 3 Part 2 is essential viewing for dedicated fans of the series.
Both English and Japanese audio are presented in 2.0 Stereo for this release. The solemn tone that saturates these episodes means we get a boatload of heart-rending music to go along with it. Katsuyoshi Kobayashi’s music direction has always landed its mark, and that seems to be the case for Series 3 Part 2 as well. While a handful of songs from the original OST land in appropriate places, the new OST elevates the dramatic atmosphere of this season with several highlight tracks.
The sparse piano melodies on “Disciple of Shoyo” and “Last Address” add a layer of tragedy to their respective flashbacks. The ambience of both tracks helps paint the full picture for characters like Takasugi and Isaburo, shaping these would-be villains into sympathetic anti-heroes. And with the reveal of big baddie Utsuro, it’s only right that his theme carries a terrifying weight with it, as we’re swept up by swelling organs and horns.
Now let’s talk about the Opening and Ending themes. In my opinion, the openings are rather weak. “Beautiful Days” by OKAMOTO’s gets repetitive really fast, the chorus drags along as it lists every day of the week as a beautiful day. The upbeat nature of the song ages poorly as we transition into the Shogun Assassination arc. Unfortunately, the beautiful pop-art style of OP1 is not enough to keep me from skipping it after only a few listens. The second opening, “Know Know Know” by DOES is better and matches the tone of Farewell Shinsengumi, but I feel like its chorus also teeters the line of being too repetitive.
Thankfully, the Ending themes for this release are amazing. “Glorious Days” by THREE LIGHTS DOWN KINGS carries a consistent energy with high-octane instrumentation and infectious vocoder work akin to Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas. Unlike “Beautiful Days”, I can’t help but cheer the chorus of “Glorious Days” every time I hear it. “Acchi Muite” by Swimy doesn’t break any boundaries with its sound, but its tight melodies and thematic lyrics make it a perfect sendoff for both the Shogun Assassination and Farewell Shinsengumi story arcs.
Running at 1080p High Definition, this is the best Gintama has ever looked. With action sequences permeating the majority of these episodes, Bandai Namco Pictures had a lot on their plate going into this. Thankfully, the fight scene animations are the best they’ve looked since the Four Devas arc. Gintoki vs. Takasugi is possibly the best animated segment in the entire series, with plenty of other top-contenders littered throughout this release.
Not only is the animation top-notch, but the art direction in general is the greatest it’s ever been. Close-up shots are extremely detailed and expressive. Gintama has always excelled in creating dramatic tension with superb voice acting, and now the art is just as effective in depicting those feelings. There were high expectations for BN Pictures to deliver for this part of the story, and they undoubtedly passed with flying colors.
The artwork on the cover is similar to Part 1, with Gintoki baring a serious look on his face to coincide with the darker tone of this release. The reverse cover shows the Yorozuya, along with Katsura and Kondo, engulfed in the flames of war. There are seven discs in total, with 25 episodes split between three Blu-rays and four DVD discs.
I’ll address my complaint with the Blu-ray formatting here as it seems like the most appropriate section. The first eight episodes are mainly standalone, while the rest are split between the Shogun Assassination and Farewell Shinsengumi arcs. My biggest gripe comes down to the arrangement of these discs. SA episode one comes at the end of disc one and FS episode one appears in the last slot of disc two. It seems like a huge miscalculation to split these up, when they could have very easily contained SA and SF on their own discs. As two of the most highly regarded parts of Gintama, the fact that you can’t watch them each in one-go on a single disc is pretty infuriating. For the sake of rewatchability, this is an extremely disappointing oversight.
The menu is pretty run of the mill. A static picture of the cover art with the same menu theme as Part 1. Each disc has a simple selection of ‘Play All’, ‘Setup’, and ‘Episode List’. The final disc includes an option to watch promotional trailers.
Unlike Part 1, this release comes with a Funimation digital copy. Also included is a mini art book. No other Extras are contained on-disc, aside from promotional trailers.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The rambunctious city of Edo has seen brighter days. Over 300 episodes, from Yoshiwara to Kabuki, we’ve come to know and love the wacky inhabitants of this city. The characters of Gintama represent numerous walks of life, but they’ve always felt like a tightly-knit family. Whenever something or someone sought to tear them apart, we laughed, we cried and we fought alongside them. Time and time again, Yorozuya Gin-chan served to protect that way of life. But with the culmination of the Shogun Assassination and Farewell Shinsengumi arcs, the people of Edo face their greatest crisis yet.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of this Blu-ray set, I’d like to cover the episodes proceeding the fallout – a calm before the storm, if you will. Episodes 292-299 consists of several one/two-shot episodes. In typical Gintama fashion, these episodes cover a range of goofy topics. The Yorozuya look for a wardrobe change for the new season, Kondo goes on a gorilla-centric crime spree, and Tama sympathizes with a malfunctioning vending machine (aptly named Tobako-san). We see some old faces (Gin-san’s prisoner mangaka friend, Shachi) as well as some new ones (Saitou Shimaru, the Afro-clad Captain of the Shinsengumi’s Third Division). My personal favorite of this batch is the Feigned Illness Arc, where Kagura’s plan to gain sympathy from her friends gets horribly derailed, leading to her alleged death and funeral. Get your laughs in while you can, as these are the last comedy-focused episodes before things take a dramatic turn.
And now we’ve reached the turning point of Gintama as we know it. The loose story threads connecting this series have finally been tied together, leading to an all-out war for the throne of Edo’s governing body. The Bakufu currently running Edo comes under fire with an assassination attempt on Shogun ShigeShige. In order to protect the Shogun, the Oniwabanshuu clan, led by hemorrhoid-ninja Hattori Zenzou, devise a scheme to fake ShigeShige’s death and escort him out of Edo. In a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse, the Oniwabanshuu, Shinsengumi and Yorozuya must fight against the oncoming barrage from the Kiheitai (the anti-bakufu group led by Shinsuke Takasugi) as well as the Harusame (an Amanto crime-syndicate who intends to replace the current Shogun with their retainer, NobuNobu).
While this arc is densely packed with battles, the story isn’t carried by how they fight, but why they fight. We learn about Zenzou and Sarutobi’s long-standing connection with ShigeShige and why they dedicated their lives to protecting him. Zenzou is willing to throw everything away, so far as to go down as Japan’s most hated criminal. Whether the Bakufu stands or falls, the Shogun has done his part. For Zenzou and the Oniwabanshuu, ShigeShige the Shogun is no longer necessary. Now, it’s about protecting ShigeShige, their dear friend.
The most important encounter of this arc, and perhaps the entire series, takes form in Gintoki versus Takasugi. A clashing of former-comrades, this fight carries the emotional weight of two samurai burdened by their war-torn scars. Amidst their ferocious battle, the past that connects Gintoki and Takasugi is revealed in full. Word spreads of a wandering rōnin taking in underprivileged kids and teaching them the ways of a samurai. The teacher of this school is Yoshida Shoyo. This soft-spoken man is unlike any samurai Takasugi has met before, and likewise, his brand of samurai differs from the traditional bushido code. This is the legacy that Shoyo instilled in his students – no matter what your background is, there are no prerequisites to being a samurai. Your personal brand of bushido is just as plausible as any other. Takasugi and Katsura find themselves enamored by Shoyo, and for the first time in the series, we see Takasugi is genuinely happy as he laughs with his fellow classmates. When Shoyo and Gintoki are forced to leave town, Takasugi and Katsura follow suit. These are the humble beginnings of Shoyo’s disciples.
But it doesn’t last long. The oncoming Joui Wars, sparked by the Amanto-led Bakufu, uproots the free-reign of Japan’s samurai. And with their defeat, Takasugi and Katsura are forced to watch in agony as Gintoki is given a choice – kill Shoyo and live on, or let all of them die by the hand of the Tendoshu. This is where the ideals of Shoyo’s disciples diverge. Back in real-time, Gintoki and Takasugi beat each other senseless, unable to forgive their past mistakes, and namely, unable to forgive themselves. Every punch lands with intense agony and self-loathing. While Takasugi fights to dismantle the Bakufu that stole everything away from him, Gintoki fights to preserve the way of life that Shoyo granted to his students. This is the emotional climax for both characters. Gintoki’s brand of samurai really speaks to the main theme of Gintama on the whole.
Before their quarrel is fully-resolved, the Tendoshu step in to clean up the remaining forces. Although Takasugi and the Kiheitai narrowly escape, the protectors of Edo are left to suffer the consequences, as the newly formed government under NobuNobu takes hold. The Shogun Assassination arc ends on a somber note, with our protagonists being handed their first major defeat of the series. Unable to protect their way of life, dark days are all that await the cast of Gintama.
The Farewell Shinsengumi arc begins with Edo at its lowest point. With the ruthless NobuNobu instated as Shogun, the Shinsengumi have been deemed traitors to the government. Their leader, Isao Kondo, gives himself up to the Mimawarigumi and is scheduled to be executed. From the depths of despair, our heroes must rise up once again to protect their way of life. The remaining Shinsengumi join forces with Katsura and the Joui Rebels to save Kondo from his impending death. Similarly to ShigeShige and the Oniwabanshuu, formalities are dropped in order to save a precious life. The Shinsengumi as a police force may have been eradicated, but the Shinsengumi Code lives and dies by the man that brought them all together. The Shinsengumi, led by Hijikata Toushiro and Okita Sougo, take on the Mimawarigumi, led by Sasaki Isaburo and Imai Nobume.
But the pretext of this battle was planned by Isaburo in order to drag out the true antagonist of the series. Enter the Tendoshu, led by a mysterious man of unimaginable strength. The Shinsengumi and Mimawarigumi put aside their differences to escape the Amanto onslaught. Nobume and Okita attempt to fight the Tendoshu leader, but even their combined strength isn’t enough. When Gintoki arrives on the scene, he’s met with a terrible revelation. The man controlling the Tendoshu forces is none-other than his former teacher, his true named revealed to be Utsuro. In a traumatic daze, Gintoki and company barely escape, but it remains a mystery as to who exactly Utsuro is and how he escaped death all those years ago.
With Kondo successfully rescued, the Shinsengumi and Mimawarigumi aid one another in their escape. While the Shinsengumi were the emotional center of this arc’s beginning, it’s the story of Isaburo and Nobume that drives it home. A co-founder of the Roshigumi (which later became the Shinsengumi) and a child assassin, their backstory reveals a twisted fate that brought these two together. The tech-savvy Isaburo has a tragic past that connects him to his cellphone and the girl who later became his vice-chief. From sworn enemies to comrades, these two developed a bond much like that of a father and daughter. The Mimawarigumi have always been at odds with our heroes, but the quirky antics of Isaburo and Nobume have always felt right at home with everyone else. Gintama continually finds a way to humanize its cast and uncover their stories in a new light.
The Shinsengumi and Mimawarigumi manage to escape, but not without immense casualties. The remnants of each police force combine into one and take their leave from Edo for the time being. The Shinsengumi have been a staple from Gintama’s beginning, but their send-off leaves hope for a brighter future, as they entrust the safety of Edo to Gintoki and the Yorozuya gang.
With that, we’ve reached the end of the most infamous saga in all of Gintama. After watching this segment of the series, it’s safe to say that mangaka Hideaki Sorachi, with the help of Sunrise/BN Pictures, have created something truly special. Despite its heavy tones, Sorachi still manages to sprinkle in his comedic flavor, with the return of characters like the hard-boiled detective and inserting a random Ginpachi-sensei segment. Gintama sports an enormous cast of endearing characters, each of them giving us a different reason to laugh or cry. The stark contrast of these arcs compared to the rest of the series is exactly why Gintama fans get so invested. It’s a series that proves no matter how bad things get, we can always emerge out the other end with a smile. We care about the well-being of these characters, hoping one day they can return to their care-free lives, flaunting their own brand of bushido along the way.
Regardless of the lackluster presentation of the physical release, this batch of Gintama episodes is a must-have for any fan of the series. Shogun Assassination and Farewell Shinsengumi mark the beginning of the end for this beloved franchise, and having them both conveniently in one Blu-ray set is wonderful. This is the peak of Gintama – one of the best all-around experiences that shonen anime has to offer.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Digital Copy, art book, trailers
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: C-
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Run-time: 625 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p High Definition (HD Native)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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 sub-woofer