12 Days of Gintama – Day 5: A (More) Serious Look at Gintama
The serious arcs are definitely another defining trait for Gintama, but the occasional seriousness is also the reason why Gintama’s characters can still be treated with respect even though they are engulfed with the trashiest comedy possible 90% of the time.
Gintama’s vibrant world allowed it’s diverse cast of characters to breathe, but it’s the seriousness that are responsible for fleshing out these lovely characters. One of Gintama’s successfully formulaic pattern is to introduce new characters during comedy and lighthearted episodes, and later flesh them out in serious arcs. The comedy is funny enough for viewers to remain hooked in, and they learn more about the characters by the time the serious arcs emerge.
Another thing that Gintama has over other anime is that despite Gintoki being the protagonist — he is actually not always the main focus of the show, strangely enough. While other shows revolve around the protagonist most of the time, Gintama often shares that spotlight with other characters and groups. For examples, arcs like Shinsegumi Crisis Arc and Thorny Arc are heavily Shinsegumi-centric arcs with minimal focus on Gintoki and the Yorozuya.
Outside of arcs, you also get a lot of episodes with perspectives from a wide variety of characters, not just Gintoki. This enriches Gintama’s world even further, because it feels like Gintama’s characters are actually living in it. It gives the impression that even if something crazy is happening with our protagonist, something else is definitely happening with other characters in other places.
Sometimes the point of view switches to the live-in android at the Otose’s Snack House, working, struggling to understand human emotions and just trying her best to live her life. Sometimes the point of view switches to the Shinsegumi officer, Yamazaki, combating his mental stress and anxiety from his spy duties with a mountainous amount of anpan,
and also accidentally sparking the anpan into his superior. The ability to delve into the lives of other characters may not seem like much on paper, but does an extraordinary job in bridging the connection between the characters and the world.
Gintama’s characters are good, because while life may seems fun and exciting for them at first glance, those rare moments of seriousness and invulnerability tell another story — all the characters are carrying an emotional baggage that they don’t normally show, not in most of the comedy and lighthearted episodes, at least.
But Gintama’s serious arcs help reveal all the hidden emotions characters have been hiding beneath the facade, they help us understand their thought processes and motives and they help us reaffirm the dynamics and relationships they have with other characters. Only in Gintama can characters make it seem like they just want to beat the hell out of each other, yet are actually such a tight-knit group of friends.
And indeed, with everyone getting their equal share of focus, it’s easy to care just about every single character in Gintama, which is no easy feat considering the massive cast. In any case, this aspect of Gintama allow us to treat these characters seriously as well, in addition to the gags they bring to the table.