Gintama and the Shogun Assassination Arc
Note: This post contains major spoilers for the Shogun Assassination arc, very
MAJOR spoilers. Don’t read this post if you still haven’t watch the arc.
Gintama. It has always been known for it’s comedy first and foremost, but Gintama’s drama had always been deceptively good, and this latest arc just convinced me even more.
I ended up stumbling upon spoilers just before I get to the arc, and the spoiler involved a character’s death. I mean, Gintama and deaths? This is one strange mix and other than being enraged for seeing the spoiler in the first place, I’m honestly not sure what to think of it. Though while it may be an accident, being aware of the Shogun’s death constantly kept me on the edge of my seat, as the confirmation kept me wondering just when will he die.
Now that when I think about it, it may also be inevitable too. Gintama being both a shounen and a comedy is it’s greatest weapon, but also it’s greatest weakness. Being a shounen, Gintama can mix in drama and seriousness to spice the show up rather than just being an “episodic comedy”, while episodic comedy is good for shorter anime, Gintama is a long-running series and this approach is one of the reasons behind it’s longevity. At the same time, this approach is also a weakness because in order to continually take these serious arcs seriously (no pun intended), aforementioned, death is inevitable.
Because otherwise, it’s just impossible to treat them seriously after seeing the characters with bloodshot-eyes about to murder the hell out of each other, when in the end, all the good guys will just survive. Indeed, throughout 300 episodes, there haven’t been a single death in all the serious arcs (the good guys, at least) they had so far. With the predictability that everyone will live, Gintama’s serious arcs made it through sheer character investment, excellent fight scenes and great writing. Unfortunately 300 episodes isn’t anything to sneeze at, and at some point, Gintama just has to “pull the trigger”.
The best thing about this is that the death doesn’t seem pointless, because if anything, this arc represents changes. With the current Shogun gone and the new one taking over, I also have a feeling there will be a significant shift in how the politics and the in-universe of Gintama works. After all, the next arc is quite literally called “Farewell, Shinsengumi”. Will the police system be abolished? What other changes will the new Shogun make?
Watching this arc, I really forgot how good shounen action can be. Seriously, you can talk shit about shounen all you want but there’s a reason why action is always so synonymous with shounen, because quite frankly they just have the best grasp how action genre works. Unlike other anime, shounen action has a good grasp of basic psychology in a fight. When an opponent is too strong, you struggle or even might need to gang up on him. When an opponent is too weak, you can beat him in a moment’s notice or you can choose to take him lightly. When an opponent is about equal your strength, there will be a very competitive back-and-forth. It all seems simple but can be surprisingly tricky to execute.
And Gintama, even before this arc, is a master among masters in this aspect of shounen. Even better, it’s different than it’s peers in that it’s fights are actually short (longest fights I had seen lasted around 3 episodes, but so many shit progressed in that 3 episodes I could had sworn it about equates 30 episodes in other shounen). This arc also instantly reminded me why I like Gintama’s action scenes so much-emotional and bone-crushing impact. I immediately realized I’m in for a long ride after the scene where our main characters were fending off a huge group of Yato clan, the Yato clan is the strongest combatants in the universe and the characters were having trouble just fighting one of them, much less a group-their dominance is established well, which goes back to what I said about psychology in shounen action. You can feel the characters are literally fighting for their life, augmented by the fact that I had already been spoiled by the Shogun’s death, so I know for a fact that death -is- possible in Gintama, which really fuels the intensity of these fights. Zenzou and Gintoki were in near-death situations a couple of times, and even Takasugi, Taka-fucking-sugi is hospitalized and in critical condition. He’s not dying, but I assume we definitely won’t be seeing him on screen for quite a long while, with other character possibly replacing the main antagonist role.
Speaking of Takasugi, in an arc all about changes and the breaking of status quo, Gintoki and Takasugi, the main protagonist and antagonist of the story finally faced off, something which had been teased since immemorial times. The fight feels super personal, violent but despite that, surprisingly thematic rather than just pure actionfest. For one, there were huge flashbacks in the fight, something which I think is actually perfect as the flashbacks really enhanced the emotions in this fight. We know these two characters are former friends, and we had already been invested in both of them ever since their debut in the anime. The flashbacks also showed a lot more of their past, especially the relationship between them and their mentor, Shoyo (even better, Shoyo’s face is finally shown clearly and he’s even voiced this time!), and they really did a good job of humanizing Takasugi.
At the same time, I’m also kinda worried. Death in Gintama is like a borderline the anime needed to cross at some point, but in doing so, it probably won’t be able to go back. Will I still laugh at the jokes? I most definitely will. Will I still find the jokes as funny as before, while fully aware that one of the characters we know and love is dead? Will I still find the jokes funny, while fully aware that death -is- possible in Gintama? This arc represents changes-possible changes in the in-universe political system, changes in character dynamics, and majorly changes on how we perceive Gintama. All these progression and changes however, is it also signifying that an actual ending to this wonderful series is just around the corner? Honestly, I’m just not sure. There are a lot of question marks with how things had been proceeding, but whatever it is, I’ll keep an eye on it-because whether if it’s comedy or drama, Gintama has shown it can juggle between the two with utmost quality.
And the fact that I’m writing more than 1k words in this post alone just proved how invested I’m in the characters, realizing I took it for granted only after a character is gone for good… I shed those manly tears, because quite frankly this is one hell of a tragedy. While knowing about it beforehand, it honestly doesn’t make it any easier to watch everything transpired. That damn gorilla author… he is a fucking genius. God bless Hideaki Sorachi.
Shige Shige, you will forever be remembered as the guy who was involved in a few of Gintama’s most hilarious episodes (hair salon, pool, ski resort, etc…). Rest in peace, we love you.