By its pilot: Gintama

Gintama: Don’t write “kin tama” by mistake
Episodes 1-2: “You Guys!! Do You Even Have a Gintama” parts 1-2
Year: 2006
Director: Takamatsu Shinji
Seiyū: Sakaguchi Daisuke (as Shimura Shinpachi); Kugimiya Rie (Kagura); Sugita Tomokazu (Sakata Gintoki)

Initial research:
> Sugita Bias. This man is seriously my only celebrity crush.
> I’d rather not make this the second ever thing I do, since I’m afraid it’ll turn out too much like the first ever thing I did (Rurouni Kenshin). I assume it’s taking place in the same time period. But it did start airing 10 years after RK. Maybe it will be a good pair.
> I made the roommate pick a series for me, so I really have no choice but to watch it. It’s also been recommended to my mom (a budding anime fan) by a coworker. In all, things are looking good.

Summary: Meiji-looking guys are chasing a hot anime guy through a bamboo forest for reasons. Then they run out into traffic. Turns out Japan was invaded not by foreign aliens, but by alien-ass aliens. Most of them look more or less human but have horns or cat ears, and they are all apparently thugs and also they brought modern-day trappings to 19th century people. It’s been twenty years since the invasion, but still the humans seem remarkably well-adjusted. For example, hot anime guy (Gintoki, which, obvs, his hair is white) is addicted to sugar and shounen manga, and drives a scooter.

Appears that Gin was some kind of badass and still is, but now has a wooden sword and is mostly pretty lazy unless he’s getting paid, at which point he turns on the wits and charm—ah, no, he’s not a prostitute. He runs a business called Yorozuya (Odd Jobs) Gin-chan and has two employees, who seem to be more like people who hang around him and sometimes help out.

The ever-reliable assistants.

This two-parter demonstrates the series’ episodic structure (at times proudly announcing which characters will not factor into future episodes), so there is no more plot setup requiring mention. Ostensibly each episode will feature a new Yorozuya client and a new set of stupid problems for the gang solve. Gin’s other allies are introduced—though ally is a generous term—including ninja sexkitten Ayame, lone wolf Katsura (and it is Katsura, I assure you), and of course, the Shinsengumi (who forego the blue haori entirely and are clothed rather more like Miles Edgeworth than samurai).

He’s one of their best swordsmen.

Genre: comedy, sci-fi, samurai
Notable tropes: Accidental MisnamingAction Girl/All Chinese People Know Kung-FuAnti-HeroLampshade HangingMeaningful NameNo Fourth WallRed Oni (no, I am not forgetting anything), The ShinsengumiWooden Katanas Are Even Better.

The review part: The art is nice behind some pretty sloppy animation, but I’ve seen worse. It’s high-contrast and colorful to match the world, and cohesive in spite of the nuttery it presents. The music is generic rock approaching metal or rockabilly at times, infused with “spacey” effects to drive the point home. It doesn’t stand out, but it doesn’t need to; the visual and story backdrops are so strong they don’t need the support.

The writing is the episodes’ primary strength. There’s a title card that says “the plot thus far”—five and a half minutes in. They lounge around in a living room reminiscent of the Bebop interior, down to the napping dog. Which, while we’re at it, is described as a “giant, mysterious space creature” when it’s clearly just a huge Akita. Then there are some meta comments like “. . . sounds like some kind of evil anime organization,” or my favorite nod, “Why can’t I have a Bankai or something like that.”

As for characters: Shinsengumi. These bitches is everywhere. But dumbass!Kondou here is a nice twist. I’m sure it’s too early for character-building in a comedy series, so there’s little to say on that for now. The self-proclaimed Straight Man (Shinpachi) blows his lid way too often for me to hang with that; Gin seems far more put-together and observant. For example, he’s first to figure out the location of the alien device meant to destroy Edo, and he hangs a few lampshades (sometimes wittingly, sometimes less so). However he does appear to enter every room by kicking in its door (the entrance to his establishment is only a curtain, perhaps just for this reason), so who’s to say how capable or sensible he is. While there’s little to know about these characters yet, many are highly personable and will certainly lead to shenanigans.

As a linguist I can tell you it kind of *is* Zura.

Gin’s two Red Oni can spend too-long stretches of time shouting, but otherwise it’s generally well-played, with energetic and vibrant performances. There are a lot of other voices I know, like Kobayashi Yuu (Ruka in Steins;Gate, Sasha in Attack on Titan) and several Bleach captains, so the whole thing feels familiar at every turn. I only know Nakai Kazuya as Hyoro-kun (Chihayafuru) so it’s . . . interesting to hear him being taken seriously as Hijikata. And then there’s Sugita. (Marry me.) All told, the acting is the secondary strength of these episodes; the writing wouldn’t come off near so well if the delivery were half-assed.

You dumb shit. . . .

Cheese factor: It would fail if it weren’t so self-aware. But this thing knows exactly what it is, and is not afraid to let you in on it.
Reminds me of: The Seireitei, if it were being invaded by Cromartie High School.


Overall: [4]. The characters are fine I guess, but it’s the dumb world that would keep me coming back. I’m decidedly intrigued and could easily see myself getting into this one. I am concerned about how long the gag can keep going. It would either have to evolve, or its characters would—or preferably both—to remain fresh. I’ve read that the creators wanted each episode to have a different genre, so I guess they’re on top of that. This thing doesn’t have Loads and Loads of Episodes for nothin’.


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