Well, I’ve made up my mind. I just finished episode 150 of Gintama, and it was indeed awesome. The perfect way to close off the series, no matter where you are in the series. Still, with this I’m going to drop this series. It’s the same with Ranma 1/2: I’d rather remember the classic first part, rather than stick with it for a few good episodes in a sea of mediocrity, especially since the good episodes don’t even come close to the standards that the series set in the past. But this review isn’t about the three digit episodes of Gintama, you can read about those here. This post instead is a review of the first 100 episodes, and a series that stands among the Law of Ueki and the Excel Saga as my absolute favourite comedies in anime.
Gintama is about a group of people who are willing to take any job for money, in a setting in which the earth has been taken over by evil aliens who settled in to live there after their victory, while the humans still live around as if it were feudal Japan. It’s structure is mostly episodic: most of the episodes are standalone stories in which the lead characters meet someone, or have some objective to overcome. While this formula can get incredibly boring in the wrong hands, the creators of Gintama turned it into gold.
Thanks to an amazingly witty sense of humour and a nearly limitless amount of creativity, the creators really manage to make the best out of this series’ format. In its jokes, it takes absolutely nothing for granted, and there are a number of absolute classic episodes that just deliver one brilliant joke after the other. The humour varies from parodies to character-based to downright random, all with their own highlights.
But what really sets Gintama apart from nearly all other comedies is its attempts to be serious. Usually, comedies fall apart horribly when they try their hands at some serious drama, which most often fall apart in horribly dull and cheesy messes. Gintama however only turns better when it gets serious. It knows exactly how to build up its stories, make them relevant and develop its characters. Its sense of dialogue in particular really is amazing: deep, meaningful, inspired and very detailed. Gintama was a series that could make me weep manly tears again and again.
Granted though, this series’ brilliance doesn’t last 24/7. Gintama does have a fair share of lesser episodes that, while nice to watch, border on the cliché, milk their jokes a bit too far or just fail in what they set out to do. Especially the first episode was one of the worst things that the creators could have picked to start off the series, because it ranks among the weakest of the series, but overall the entire first part of the series is hard to get into.
But when it does, the good parts really get better and better, and this trend continues for 100 episodes. I really recommend this series for anyone looking for a good laugh, because this series is just about everything comedies should be outside of compactness. The episodes after 100 are a lot less impressive, though. While they still have a good episode here and there, they just lack the creativity that made the first 100 episodes so awesome.