12 Days of Gintama – Day 7: On Gintama’s Characters – The Importance of Character Engagement, and Not Skipping Episodes
When an anime is long, you get the benefit that you can add more and more characters, and in addition, to be able to spend ample time for all of them too — investing in the characters, showing different sides of them, developing them and turning them into more complex characters rather than just being a comedic one.
That’s the one thing why Gintama’s characters are always so memorable. Obviously they do have the one thing that’s helping them the most — length. But because they allocated a massive portion of their show on lighthearted episodes, they can focus a lot of these episodes on the characters alone — development, flashbacks, relationships with other characters, etc… That’s why when we get to the serious arcs, we care for the characters more deeply due to the time already spent with them.
Admittedly, watching Gintama is a sort of a Stockholm Syndrome. Like I stressed in an earlier post, it’s important to watch everything to get the full Gintama experience, but even I understand that Gintama kicked in at totally different time for different people. Maybe Gintama started getting fun for you at episode 25 (the Death Note food parody), or maybe Gintama started getting interesting for you at episode 58 (start of the first major serious arc); since Gintama offers almost everything in existence, there has to be something, anything that interests you!
One thing that needed to be understood — like every other long-running series, the first dozens of episodes or so tend to be the least interesting, because they require time to set up the world and of course, the characters. Basically, long-running series needs a lot of time for the introductory phase, and Gintama is no exception.
To those who can slog through Gintama’s slower parts (which in hindsight was fairly entertaining in their own rights, just pale in comparison when against the absurdity of later episodes), you can reap the benefits from enjoying the full Gintama experience — one of them obviously, is emotional engagement in the characters.
One key element in Gintama is how characters showed their serious, realistic sides during serious arcs, something they don’t normally show otherwise. But if you skipped all the episodes that introduced them, you are missing out on the investment, and it’s difficult to care about the characters no matter how emotional the story is. At this point, your perception of the characters is that they are just one-dimensional running gags, which isn’t the case at all.
That’s why character investment in this show is important, to help you get the whole Gintama experience. And that’s why watching the entirety of Gintama is important, to garner the aforementioned investment. To people who only watch the best standalone comedy episodes just to get some laughs, you are missing out. That’s one way to enjoy Gintama, but not the only way; and is also a poor one that skipped a lot of what makes Gintama such a great show.