12 Days of Gintama – Day 11: Gintama’s Fights are Raw, Visceral and Desperate
Have I told you before how much I’m a fan of the action genre? This is not just limited to the anime medium as I have watched quite a fair share of action films — I’m particularly a huge fan of martial arts films. As for anime, the battle shounen genre is always something I have a soft spot for, as this genre is exactly the one that got me into anime in the first place.
And as a shounen anime, how does Gintama’s fights hold up in that regard? Well, pretty damn good, actually.
Gintama’s fights are amazing. And it’s kinda interesting too, because for all the sci-fi and wackiness the show is known for, the fights almost always return to it’s roots — samurai fights. Hell, sometimes it even resorts to plain, simple slugfest.
Gintama believes that fights shouldn’t last forever, and the characters shouldn’t possess strange abilities and there shouldn’t be random power-ups. Gintama believes in the simplicity of violence. Because of that, Gintama’s fights are more akin to fights from martial arts anime than your typical shounen, and it’s an approach I’m quite fond of.
Just from the fights alone, you can already feel Gintama is a shounen that reject traditional tropes. Gintama’s fights are not long, but brutal and visceral in it’s depiction — and perhaps this is exactly why the fights are short. You can feel the desperation from the characters in these fights, their faces a bloody mess as they do everything they can just to survive. Indeed, since the fights are short, each swing from their sword, and each punch they threw feel like their last one; and this rings especially true if they are facing one of the stronger villains in the anime.
I feel like “desperation” in battle shounen is a lost art. Too often a shounen protagonist is losing a battle, only to get a “power upgrade” and come back even stronger. This never happens in Gintama, and it’s always pretty good at showing desperation. Hell, Gintoki, our resident shounen protagonist wins a lot of his major fights through outside help. A few of Gintama’s major fights involve teamwork between unlikely allies as well, and the teamwork aspect reminds me a lot of One Piece’s fights too. Except in Gintama they don’t possess superpowers and they don’t fight against giants but ordinary-sized but still absurdly strong foes.
All these help remind us that Gintama’s characters, especially the good guys, are really human. They are strong fighters, but they have no superpowers; they are tough, but not invincible. The characters aren’t almighty and the invulnerability makes their fights more a battle for survival rather than a battle to best their foes. They come out of every single fight bleeding like a stuck pig, and even near-death at times. The characters in Gintama aren’t gods, they aren’t any sort of abominable half-human half-otherworldly creature either. Indeed they are humans; they bleed, and they die.
Because of all these, Gintama’s fights feel authentic. The emotions are raw, the fights are visceral and the choreography is desperate. Characters rain down bone-shattering punches and blood-spluttering slashes one after another; they fight like every day is their last, and such high-paced, intense fights, in a way, served as the perfect culmination for the story’s dramatic arcs.