12 Days of Gintama – Day 8: The Straight Men (tsukkomi) of Gintama
In the most standard manzai comedy skit, it involves two partners — a boke delivering the joke, and the tsukkomi with the punchline. The boke/tsukkomi duo is largely equivalent to the funny man/straight man, as you can see. While manzai is largely a performance, it’s dialogue-heavy style easily finds it’s way in most Japanese comedy anime, and as one might suspect, Gintama is no exception.
In such comedy, the tsukkomi has to be the calm and logical side who corrects and calls out on all the stupidity, clumsiness, misconceptions and various ridiculous statements made by the boke. Tsukkomi is an important part of the equation who sets the punchline, and essentially telling us why the joke is funny through his voice of reason. Boke tells joke, but tsukkomi makes the joke — this is manzai 101.
That’s exactly why I always have an appreciation for the tsukkomi characters as well in Gintama. Your favorite characters will definitely be one of the boke, as it’s just so easy to love all those goofy idiots. I mean who doesn’t love himself some dorky terrorist who for some reason owned a giant, humanoid duck (?), compared to the guy whose only redeeming feature is his glasses and is otherwise bland as hell?
Thing is, tsukkomi characters have always been the backbone of Gintama all this time. They deliver the punchline for the boke, so that they can shine in front. For every Gintoki, there’s always a Shinpachi and for every Hijikata, there’s always a Yamazaki. While some characters work “double duty”, it’s the pure tsukkomi characters like Shinpachi and Yamazaki who deserves praise, as they are the pillars of support behind all the chaos in Gintama. In fact, it’s not even an exaggeration say that they are the sacrifices who complete the jokes.
And the fact that I saying all these now means Gintama is definitely doing a great job in portraying it’s tsukkomi characters. As tsukkomi characters, they -should- be bland and boring. They shouldn’t be getting attention so that they don’t overwhelm the boke’s presence.
Indeed, just like with everyone else, characters like Shinpachi and Yamazaki won’t be my absolute favorites, but they are excellent tsukkomi characters. They are bland and boring, and rightfully so for their needed roles, but more so than ever, they are the very reason why we even come to like our resident sweet tooth samurai, the gorilla police, the masochistic kunoichi and all kinds of fun, quirky characters.